Friday, August 14, 2009

Flex Time

The last 3 to 4 weeks were terribly tiresome. The application that we were building was already running on a stiff deadline and we had entered into the meat of it at this point. It was thrilling to execute everything that was earlier planned. I kept foraging my desk draw for the invaluable information I had had hurriedly scribbled some weeks back. They help me to remind myself of what exactly was discussed. Somehow, no soft copy could do that for me.

Anyways, working late night continuously has helped me gain some decent level of fluency in coding with Flex. The Java Web Services were pretty straightforward.
Also, since I was at times given company by my colleague who is from Orissa, I have learnt how to swear in Orriya. I often swear at the Flex builder for being so shamelessly slow or at some of the insipid methods or definitions in ActionScript.

Somehow a few of the bigger challenges have been taken care of. There are a few more to go before we reach the comfort zone. Of course, when the testing phase is on it could all come down – but then that is a different story altogether.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dhoni - Astonishing

Due to various reasons I was not following cricket so closely for the last 2 or 3 years. What I missed was the big wave of the IPL 2008 and the T20 World Cup which India had won.

Along with all that I had missed the growth of Mahendra Singh Dhoni to where he is right now. I wish to hear from some of my cricket fanatic friends on how Dhoni came up to be captain surpassing people like Dravid, Sehwag and Yuvraj.

Anyways as I try to catch up with more cricket now, I can easily tell that I am not surprised a bit about his batting abilities. His level of consistency really astonishes me. When you look at the scorecard, his scores would almost always be atleast in the decent 40's.

Somehow he strongly reminds me of Michael Bevan, former Australian batsman. It will always be a pleasure to watch the game of such class players.

What real experience gives you

A good friend of mine once told me something about work, something which I already believed in and I found it so nice to know that he shared the same opinion.

To quote him:

"I take up any task at work as if it was my first assignment. It makes me cautious and gets rid of any complacency. I get my confidence to grow as the work moves on"

I pretty much do the same. It helps me in a few things -
1. It gives me room to pay attention to detail
2. When I work with someone new, they immediately find it easy working with me.
3. Chances of failure would be minimal

This is what, I think, experience had really taught me.

Now, to explain why I am telling all this. It is because of this incident that happened at work all along last week. There was a key portion of our project which had both technical and functional challenges to tackle. The requirement was not clearly defined and the scope was too vague to say the least.

We had been discussing this over and over for the last 2 weeks, and had been merely recording our discussions and kept pushing it over to the next session as it was never really nearing completion.

This is the point when this person from another team was shifted to our project. Since all the other resources were tightly held up with tasks, we decided to assign this task to this new member of our team.

He was a confident person, but anyone could easily sense the air of pride around him. He asked a lot of questions, but nothing really related to the project. But that was totally fine, as long as the work gets done.

But what stumped all of us was the first discussion we had with him in which we tried to explain the task that we had just assigned to him. He never really seemed to listen to what we had to say and quickly jumped to provide the solution. He was clearly trying hard to impress, so we could forgive him for that. But it was his tone and attitude which was totally looking down upon us which pissed us off.

We decided to hang on with him for now on the hopes that he would settle down as he starts facing the wave from the top management. Sadly, that was all one could do even if you wanted to help him.

It happened exactly as we had expected - One tech discussion were he presented his approach and he was totally ripped apart. Now, he was ready for us to work with. He is not as unapproachable as he was before. I am glad that it all went fine.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Could it get any better?

In one of my earlier posts, there was this interesting comment from a friend of mine:
“.. it is not often that people write about how wonderful their days were..”
- which I think is perfectly true in most cases. So my dear friend here goes.
  1. At work, we made a presentation of a small system (which we had been building in the last few weeks) to the Finance team and they were totally bowled over by the perfect way we had trapped the system requirement in our design. Yeah baby!

  2. There was this other project which had to be designed based on the R&D done over the past few weeks. Working non-stop for 2 days at a stretch, I had proposed a design architecture factoring in all scenarios – and it got approved. Fist Bump!

  3. Good riddance of the cold – I am now healthy as a horse. So is everyone at home.

  4. All my iPod’s are fully charged, and I am listening to ‘em as I type this.

  5. My phone line is restored, internet is back.

  6. I caught up with some old friends online and also some people from my previous employment. It was so nice to see emails from all of them. Fills me with pleasant memories

  7. My friend who was hurting from an accident is now quickly recovering.

  8. I hired another guy to get my construction work at home and that will be taken care of.
Funny how things can take a turn around in just a few days.
Now I wonder – Could it get any better?...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Newest Blog -

I am a big time dreamer. Seriously…I feel like there is this guy inside me who meticulously weaves all these vivid illusions that feel so real and authentic.

If one could compile all the dreams I have had, we could make a hundred movies on almost all genres. More than just the number of dreams, it is the sense of exactness and the attention to detail given by this guy inside me.

I decided to write about it and went on to create a brand new blog devoting it entirely for some of the strangest, funniest, erotic, horrific and mostly nonsensical dreams I have had.

While setting I up I wanted to use a nice looking template. I had to spend quite some time to get that up and working. So much so that I think I should post a note on my technical blog about it.

But anyways, please do visit my new blog extension at:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Could it get any worse?

The last two weeks were probably the worst days I have had in a long time now. When things go down, they go down together.
  1. At work, we lost a good opportunity which came our way, due to the incessant stupidity of a few managers. They never learn.
  2. At home, the construction work that we had started a couple months back went on a standstill.
  3. I caught up with a terrible cold and was sick all these days, giving company to the rest of the victims at home.
  4. A friend of mine met with an accident and had bruised herself so badly. Another friend of mine (who owes me money) never returned my calls.
  5. My phone line at home went bust and along with that went my internet too.
  6. Back to work, I was asked to help another team with some R&D on a “product” they were building and things looked a little bit, or I should say pretty much hopeless. I need to wait and see how that comes along.
Burdened with all this and more, I woke up to this Saturday morning praying to see some change of luck. My prayers were answered with a power failure, goddamnit. I called up the service guys and find out that the power wouldn’t be restored until 5 in the evening. Load shedding – they call it. Yeah I heard them right.

Not having anything to do and not in a position to go out anywhere, I had to find myself something to keep me occupied. I sifted through the newspaper but could never really focus on any news. I found this Sudoku puzzle.

I have never tried one before, so I decided to give it a shot. I realized an hour later, how miserable I was. After spending all that time and thinking that I had solved almost 60% of the puzzle, I found I was wrong all the way through. I knew I had to backtrack but I did not know from what point I had to resume. I then noticed something – Below the puzzle there were these words: DIFFICULTY RATING and beside that were five stars, of which only one, was shaded. DAMN! That was one of the easiest puzzles, and I went through with it for so long, and was left with just a messy piece of paper, pencil markings all over, so brutally treated that it would tear the next time you write on.

I did not feel like eating at all. Anything I tried to eat, tasted so bitter. I would have listened to some music if only I had charged my iPod. I picked up a book to read which I had left unfinished for almost a year now. I had to read through some of the earlier pages to remind myself of the plot and to get re-introduced with the characters. The story could not get any more predictable; at one point I even felt that I could have done a better job. The story writer just was not capable of keeping secrets. She had littered clues all over the place like a stray dog.

I then remembered where I had bought this book. It was a roadside shop near Harvard Square. I should have left it were it belonged.

I was patiently waiting for the power to be restored, wondering if a day could get any worse than this. I hope not…

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Opportunity Lost

I am typing this out of complete irritation on what happened over the last few days at work. A Singapore client, who had recently shifted away from us, came back with one last request for an urgent requirement. A website needed to be revamped, scheduled to be completed by July 2nd. Since the new support team based out of Beijing would need some time to ramp up, they emailed us with whatever requirement information they had.

The first email arrived on Thursday the 21st of this month. We promptly had a conference call to discuss the feasibility of the changes and to hash out our initial doubts. The call went well and we were informed about the rough timelines targeted. The stakeholder from the client side asked us to explore and provide options on different approaches to quickly get this website revamped.

Our Project manager promised to send the estimates either the same day or on Monday, the 25th. Within the next 4 hours, I went through the style guide, wire frame and specs that had been provided and came up with a reasonably fair estimate. Again, to explain the estimation techniques followed by people here I would need to dedicate an entire post here. Anyways, I was open for any change. The estimation went for a total of 11 revisions in the next two days. Every time they wanted me to revise, the request was to increase the man days. I am quoting my manager here - “Can you please make the coding and unit testing as 31 days instead of 22?”

This approach defeats the whole purpose of estimation. He never really tells me what he fears about the project when I ask him and now, I don’t even know what his real intention is – does he want to take up this project or not? I personally, would never even think of letting a project like this pass by, especially when there are over a dozen resources warming the bench already.

While things were at this state, next arrived the big blow. It was decided to get this reviewed by another project manager. Trust me this “other guy” is a real scumbag. The only credential he has to himself is that he was actually an employee of this client company in Singapore. As expected, he let his whims and fancies to cut loose and started babbling. He felt the already bloated estimate was too “optimistic” and was so confident that it can never be completed as per our estimate. Now that hurts. But what hurts more is the way the rest of the ass holes swayed their head in acceptance.

I usually reserve a separate worksheet for jotting down the assumptions and to point out the questions if any. It is a common practice followed in all estimations. He looked at that and said you may first have to clarify all these points before you can send the actual effort estimate. When informed that the estimate is already overdue, his reaction was fantastic. To quote him exactly – “So what? They sent the request last Thursday, right? You can even reply after this Thursday. Who cares? …”

Who cares??? I am like – “Goddamnit I care! … What has gone into him?” Does this dipshit not realize the phase we are going through? We could at least cut on some operational costs for the next couple months.

After almost a week since the initial request came, the only reply that went from our side was this –
“We have a few assumptions and questions. Please arrange for a conf call. We can then prepare the estimates.”

SAD! PATHETIC! – I felt like screaming.
It has been three days since and there has been no reply from her.

God, I miss my previous company in this aspect. Those guys were smart and encouraged me in that front. Not even in the faintest dreams can I see them letting this slip through. They would have devoured this opportunity.

Maybe I am wrong in understanding this whole situation. Maybe the client was testing the waters. Maybe all she wanted was an estimate to benchmark with. But STILL, there was at least some chance for us to get some billable work for a few weeks.

The point I would like to stress here is – WE NEVER EVEN TRIED. We missed this one right under our nose. And I hate it when I come to think that I could not do anything about it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

La Cucina

A couple of weeks before, our office held an event – La Cucina – a “No Fire, No Heat” cookery competition. Teams of 3 members had to nominate themselves and prepare any number dishes within an hour without using fire or heat in any form.

On the last day for nominations, out of nowhere my friends Joseph (aka Joe), Dinesh and I decided to “file our nominations”. We desperately needed a team name and a theme. We decided to prepare some nut and fruit recipes and called our team the Chipmunks. (After Alvin and the Chipmunks)

The competition was right after Election Day, giving us 1 full day to prepare. In our case it was 1 full day to sleep and while away time (after casting our vote, of course!). The only preparation we did was to Google some recipes later that night. But Joe had called upon his friend, who has studied catering, for some ideas.

Thursday – competition day. Ideas on recipes to prepare - I came to office with a few; Joe had lots; Dinesh had just one idea – to run away.

There was not much work for any of us (same as the last few weeks) and we sat down to discuss and plan. Joe was his usual self - started babbling – he suggested that we prepare some 6 or 7 dishes with some ice cream, milk shakes. Dinesh and I quickly plugged his mouth and brought him back to reality. I made one point clear – We cannot impress by making tasty food; if at all we had a chance, it is by a clean presentation. After some sensible discussion we settled with the following items to prepare:

Cheese Balls using nut powder.
A lemon drink with some mint
A decorative vegetable salad
A fruit salad

We went out shopping during lunch. The weather was considerate enough to not give us sunstroke, but was so mean to take us to the verge of it. We came back poorer, tired and drenched in sweat. But the competition was in the evening, so we just had some time to prepare some pamphlets. I prepared a menu card, giving our dishes some names and some goofy “facts” about chipmunks.

Pulling out sufficient copies of our menu and wearing our backpacks loaded with groceries and fruits, we entered the arena. The event organizers verified our ingredients list – the rules do not permit any alcohol, pre-cut vegetables/fruits etc.

Dinesh and I started with the mint cooler and cheese balls leaving our Michelangelo (Joe) to carve and sculpt his masterpiece. I constantly kept cleaning our table and ensured we did not make a mess. Joe was unstoppable as he went on to prepare the fruit salad.

We then cleared the table and just when we had the last 10 minutes, started laying the table cloth, napkins and the silverware and started arranging the dishes. Our presentation looked really good.

A few of our colleagues took a lot of photographs, but we later realized that these people had taken valiant efforts to portray their consummate skills in blurred photography.

Below is our menu and a photograph.

Chipmunks Menu

Monday, May 18, 2009

Training and Knowledge Transfer sessions with the Chinese

For the last 2 weeks we were providing training and knowledge transfers to a team of engineers from Beijing. These people would be supporting one of the major accounts that we were supporting till now.

The team comprised of 4 engineers who arrived to the ‘warm’ welcome of the Chennai summer. Not used to such conditions, they found it a real challenge to make it to the office building after getting out of the car. They saw to it that they never went out during the day time. They got their lunch delivered and served at one of the conference rooms.

I had to do a KT for 2 systems and train a couple of them. They both appeared very friendly and kind. I could sense a fair amount of nervousness, but that is reasonable given the fact that they have not worked in .Net before and also do not have much knowledge about the business. They spoke in low voices and struggled hard to understand our accent which by the way was mutual.

The girl to whom I initially started the training could not follow what I was saying and I had to slow down while I spoke. But still it appeared as if I was difficult for her to follow, so I started writing down while talking. She was able to understand better now and that is how the remaining sessions went by. Almost an entire notepad was over within the next few days. After each session she borrowed my notes and copied them over.

As per plan, I explained everything I knew about the system and emphasized on areas of caution where issues were faced frequently. Also, I gave them the list of items that are pending or partially completed and items that have been completed but are in User Testing status. The overall training went smooth and everyone was happy. The girl to whom I did the knowledge transfer gave me a small present – like a souvenir – a Weifang butterfly kite with some terrific artwork. I liked it and it was so nice of her.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Why so many different coins?

An interesting topic came up in today's tea-time chat with my colleagues. It all started when the tea shop vendor hesitated to take the new 10 rupees coin. Not having any other cash we had to convince him for a few minutes and finally he took it though a little bit reluctantly. I don’t blame him, it was a Friday and my friends and I were dressed in our weekly ragged casuals which made us look all the more suspicious.

 But anyways in an effort to forget the damage caused to our egos, we discussed about the government and even better – the RBI and about how many different coins they have introduced in the last few years. I had been outside India for the better part of the last three years and had missed to witness the release of many of these coins. 

The more recently minted 1 and 2 rupee(s) coins are really funny; with some really smooth hand gestures imprinted in them; gestures that are more commonly used by people to indicate that they would be using the bathroom to do the one or the two.

 Apart from embarrassments such as the one that happened to us tea-shop owner, different kinds of coins for the same denominations would only make it difficult for people who are visually impaired to keep track of. I really do not know what would cause the RBI to mint such different coins in a short span of time.

Project Separation

Similar to how things are in many cases in the industry right now, our company, which is a captive center, lost another account. The client account, an insurance company based out of Singapore, which recently was sold out of the parent corporate company, decided to get its systems supported from another company in Beijing.

Though a lot of reasons are attributed towards this decision, which was so suddenly announced, I can surely tell one thing with a lot of confidence – the decision was not based on any poor performance from our side. There were no loose ends in any delivery or in quality and the managers and stakeholders were clearly pleased and satisfied with the services.

There were corporate political reasons beyond the control of the managers at the client side and the shift happened. Now came the phase – project separation. This was a new experience for me. As an individual many times, I have moved around different projects and twice totally different companies. But never have I been a part of an account getting shifted. So after having been done with wo9rrying about what was coming next, a part of me was just curious and excited to see how this whole separation thing goes through; and it sure had a lot of comical moments.

Our delivery manager called upon a meeting to announce this to much of all our surprise.
MOM and takeaways after the meeting:
1. Singapore client is gone. (What the …? Really?)
2. They are shifting their projects to a company in Beijing, China (Yeah, All I care…)
3. We would need to do a knowledge transfer to this Chinese firm (Oh shit!)
4. The shift is only due to the corporate decision at the client end, not us. (Hmmm…)
5. And don’t worry, there are some projects in the pipeline, so you will all be settled soon (Lets see about that)

We came out talking to each other, as usual, making jokes to hide our surprise. In a subsequent meeting, the plan was revealed:

1. People from the Chinese vendor are already at the Singapore office and are receiving KT.
2. The coming week they would be at our office and would require us to do an extensive knowledge transfer and training session for 2 weeks.
3. During this 2 weeks, any production issue, would be primarily supported by us and the new vendor would be secondary support
4. The 2 weeks after that, we would go to secondary support mode and they would be providing primary support.

The plan looked okay to us, given the fact that we were never given any training on the systems and had to work our way up. Also, I strongly believe that any team with some decent technical background can easily support the current client applications.

We were now preparing for the KT. The stakeholders from the client end had prepared a reasonable schedule and we reviewed it. After highlighting a few points we accepted that. Things looked fine till now, but soon turned around.

A couple days before the scheduled arrival of the team from the new vendor, we were called upon and instructed NOT to give a good KT. We were advised to even misguide them. It appeared so stupid to me and a few others. Why should we do such a thing? And when we asked, the answer given was that this is a waste of time. If we were training a resource within our company then it makes sense, but why should we train someone else?

That was OUR next question, why should we?, if we are not going to do a good job? After all we are still going to be in the same business aren’t we? There are very good chances for us to cross path in the future. It is sheer foolishness to burn bridges.

While this was going through, there came another instruction to be extremely pessimistic in our estimations. While it makes sense to give out estimates with some extra buffer, there was one really simple task that was estimated at 20 man days! It would have hardly taken a developer 4 hrs to complete the work. All right, I agree that we have to be cautious; maybe we could add some buffer for that. But even then, how can one explain the 20 man days thing? 

And when I asked the manager, who proposed this oversized estimate about this, he simply kept telling that this is a task that could cause a lot of other impacts and hence needs a lot of analysis. What the hell? I wonder what these sudden impacts would be which pops up just now and not till just the day before until when we had taken up similar tasks and completed even without sending an estimate.

I just could not avoid arguing with him on this one until I got a convincing answer. Now come on – I am not an all innocent, never utter a lie kind of prick; but certainly I would need myself to be able to defend the situation. And when we send such an estimate to a client whom, btw, we have meticulously trained on getting his ass kissed with each project, shit is bound to hit the ceiling, for sure!

And on top of all this, if we tell him the reason for the high estimate, which is as flimsy as a wet toilet paper, it certainly is not going to be taken well. The counter argument is that after all he is a client whom we have already lost, what is there to gain, why should we impress? 
I don’t want to please or impress him, but what about our dignity of work? Okay, forget the dignity shit, what if we get to a point where we may need to work with him again?

After all this gawky behaviour by my immediate manager and some people above him, I realized that such client separations are not new just to me, it was totally new to them too.

I really hate it when managers take some instructions too wrongly into their heads and overdo and overreact. Maybe I am wrong in my thoughts, maybe I should learn to be as dumb and unreasonable as this moronic manager I am working with. I am curious to know how such project closures are handled elsewhere...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Legendary Actor Nagesh is Dead

Nagesh - The Legendary Tamil Comedian is dead. Truly it is an end of an era.

He was not just a comedian; he was a great actor, probably better than even the lead role actors.

I personally was a BIG fan of his acting. No one can match his innate talent, timing and dialog delivery. Acting came very naturally to him and there will be no one ever to reach even half the way up to the height at which his accomplishments are.

There are so many performances from him that will stick in our minds forever. He has entertained Tamil Movie fans for so many years and his loss is irreplaceable.

I remember how I used to decide on whether to watch an old movie – by looking at the titles and if there was Nagesh, it meant it was a YES YES!

He has this uncanny ability to totally lift the movie up even with a few minutes of his presence.

His movies Ethirneechal and Server Sundaram, Poova Thalaya will be evergreen favorites. I watch Thiruvilayadal over and over again just for his scene – by far the best comedy of Tamil cinema.

No one can forget his stellar performance from the movie Nammavar as Professor Rao.

The greatest superstar of Tamil Cinema, may his soul rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Onnukku Onnu Thunai from the movie Nandalala

The only that thing that strikingly reminds me of, after listening to this song is this dialog from the movie Music and Lyrics:

Sophie (Drew Barrymore) - “A melody is like seeing someone for the first time, the physical attraction, SEX. But then as you get to know the person – that’s the lyrics, the story, who they are underneath”

I think that statement would suit for all songs and especially this masterpiece from the maestro. When I first heard it, I don’t know how I managed to completely ignore the lyrics, maybe because of Yesudas sir's voice or the soulful melody. I kept humming the tune all day long today at work, not exactly knowing the words.

Tonight when I heard it again, I specifically paid attention to the lyrics and realized that this might probably be one of the best songs I have heard in recent times, better than even Ilayaraaja sir’s other songs. The song touches many aspects of a common man’s life - loneliness, poverty, relationship, spirituality, Love and many more, all in a simple, pleasant and yet powerful way.

I don’t know who the lyricist is, but this is one powerful song that I am sure is going to haunt me for a long, long time. I love Ilayaraaja for the genius in him and for all the magic he has weaved over all these years. I think no one can blend the “charanam” and the “pallavi” as he does and this song is no exception.

“Intha bhoomiyil anaathai yaar… anaathai yaar…”