Saturday, November 3, 2007

...and we finally appeared for the ISTQB!

After months of …oops I mean after 7 days of preparation, we were ready (At least we thought we were) to appear for the ISTQB! The “We” comprised of Salil, Pranav, Hrishikesh, Om and Yours truly – Me! We were not only good friends but project mates too…. and now let me rewind some 10 days back when it all started.

It was a late Wednesday morning. I was sitting in my cubicle trying to read some functional specification. There was a murmur on our level consisting of people blabbering away software jargons, discussing timesheets, WSRs, etc etc. Suddenly in all this murmur, I heard a calm clear voice asking me – Mate, are you gonna appear for the ISTQB this month? I turned around to see the face of the voice. It was Hrishikesh. I replied ‘Yep’ and asked him the last date of enrollment. Again, very calmly he said – The last date is …Tomorrow!!…. I thought if we missed this time, the next exam was in Dec and then we would miss that too coz we all are very good at procrastinating. And hence I wasted no time in enrolling both of us online. As I was about to pump my fist in the air for taking the first step, a gentle tap on my shoulder made me turn back. It was Salil looking at both of us. He said he’d been listening to our discussion and he too wanted to have a go at the ISTQB. Well, me, the ‘form-filling expert’ did the needful. And then there was a smile on our faces – a smile that indicated we had done something extraordinary. Yes! We had at last, finally, after so many months, managed to enroll for this exam. This was a proud moment. We all stood up in our cubicles praising each other. Then suddenly a thought crept across our mind - We needed to shell out 4000 bucks each – Exam fees! The smile vanished quickly.

Post lunch, Salil, Pranav and me went to the bank for making the drafts. The pretty lady at the counter handed the drafts in the name of the Indian Testing Board. We felt successful already. Pranav, who had submitted his exam fees was THE guy for “dropping the draft” at the SQTL. Hrishi was gonna submit his exam fees later in the day.

Next day, we learnt that our excitement was so contagious that a fifty guy in our project team, Om, had succumbed...I mean applied for the exam too. Om is reputed for waiting to the last minute of everything and he again stood true to his reputation by submitting his exam fees on the last day. He too had entrusted the draft submission duties with Pranav who did his job brilliantly.

There was no turning back now. We had to study and pass or flunk and lose 4000. If we pass, our benign company would reimburse the exam fees. Akash told us that the Foundation level exam is child’s play. It relaxed us a lot but only for a while coz soon Salil scared the hell out of us…He opened the Pandora’s box. It was a Word document containing a mock ISTQB question paper. He asked me five questions. I got them all wrong. I was perspiring profusely. Salil calmed me by saying no one could answer any of the questions. Immediately an emergency meeting was called. We discussed various options – nah not of studying but of ways to withdraw from the exam.

Akash, the guy, who had told us that Foundation Level exam is easy peasy lemon squeezy, again came to appease our jangled nerves. He said – Don’t worry; the exam has 100 % pass record. We were silent for a minute. Then he added a very important part – “ Guys, you know that you have to mark your answers in pencils. Right?”. He continued to explain his infallible out of the world logic of why they ask us to use pencils only? He said that in order that the results are 100 %, the examiners rub off the wrong answers to pass the candidates! All 7 of us in the cubicle burst out in laughter so big that the whole floor was looking at us. I guess we had woken the floor up out of a deep slumber on a drowsy afternoon!

The next week was spent in studying and reading whenever possible - In the bus, at home (rarely), during work. Everyone was asking random questions to each other at any possible time - lunchtime, coffee breaks and would you believe – washrooms too!! There was exam like atmosphere in our project. Even SameTime – online chat messenger was not spared…Questions were bombarded on it too. Oh how can I forget Orkut…. I was scrapping questions to all (written with a wide grin on my face).

I also learnt that one of me mates, Geeta, was appearing for the exam on the same date! That meant six of us now! Hrishikesh called the exam center 2 days before the exam for our time slots. As luck would have it…all five of us were scheduled for the same time slot at 1:30 pm.

Fast-forward – Sunday Exam Day: When Salil and I reach the venue at 12 pm, the 11:45 pm batch is writing their exam. So we settle comfortably in a room at the venue. Soon Pranav, Om and Hrishi join us. We study for a while but couldn’t concentrate as everyone is asking questions and no one seems to recall anything. Typical exam time blues! Geeta calls me after her exam. We all head down to meet her. She says that the exam was for 90 minutes! That means an increase of 30 minutes but the 40 questions only. She says the exam is very confusing.

As I stand in the line to get in to our exam room, I am reading some chapter and I ask a question to the people standing the line. Me mates stop me saying – “Enough now, no one remembers a thing. We don’t know why we are here!”. Everyone is laughing. Well atleast, I did my part to lighten the atmosphere.

We enter the basement room and manage to find seats such that all five of us are next to each other. The exam begins and I soon realize why Geeta meant the exam was confusing. There were 4 options and we had to tick one. Out of those four, two options seemed so correct that I had to reach for my wallet to toss the coin for deciding the answers! I finish the exam in 45 mins and decide not to hand in my answer sheet so early. So I sit there in my chair observing other people. I see many candidates scratching their heads and looking perplexed. I believe they were thinking of tossing the coin too! After that I start watching the revolving fan in the room. After all, what could I do? I couldn’t look sideways all the time at other people. Someone behind me hands the answer sheet. That gives me courage. I get up and hand mine too. Hrishikesh and Salil look at me as if I am committing a crime. I feel guilty. But heck, I can’t sit there for 30 more minutes. I come out. Salil and Pranav follow me after a while. We discuss answers. Some of them same and some way apart. Hrishikesh and Om come at the end. We congratulate each other for nothing. Still laughing about the exam we make our way to a nearby restaurant. We think of the day when we had filled the exam forms and now! Then we realize that overall it had been a very good experience – a memorable one at least!

Next day, Salil, sends us a message “ The exam fee for reappearing is 2500 bucks”. We decide to bash him. The exam results will be declared after a fortnight by emails. We decide, we won’t tell anyone of the exam until we pass!.....The waiting game is still going on...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dive Agar - A weekend getaway from Pune.

7 guys + 2 cars + 1 weekend = A totally outrageous weekend getaway. I am talking about last weekend, when some blokes (Salil, Hemant and me) decided that it was time to head to the beach. In no time, we found four more blokes thinking alike. The destination was Dive Agar – 150 kms south west of Pune.

Hemant, Abhijit and me reached Salil’s place on a cold Saturday morning. Time - about 6:30 am. Pranav, Salil, Amit and Abhishek joined us. Of them, Abhishek and Pranav- two crazy ppl were in my car along with ‘Truck Driver’ Salil. ‘Truck Driver’ is an honorary title, ‘encomium’ would be a better word, for Salil and Hemant, in appreciation of their superior driving skills.

We decided to take the usual and most popular path to Dive Agar – Chandni Chowk -> Mulshi Lake-> Tamhini Ghat-> Mangaon->Mhasle->Dive Agar. Weather was …well perfect for driving. It didn’t turn one bit inclement any time. We stopped just before Tamhinis for quick breakfast and soon continued our way through the long enchanting Tamhini Ghat. Whilst on the way, I was getting invaluable driving tips from, 'Truck Driver' Salil. Mind you, they were helpful!

Break Point, Tamhinis – Dunno what this spot/point is called, but all of ‘em stop here. It’s like you automatically press the brake pedal once you get here. The view is one of a kind. The mighty mountains are folded to form deep gorges in between them. The last time I was here was in Summer of 2006. Now it was just past the monsoons and I could clearly make out the difference. See pics below…

Summer of 2006

Oct 2007 - After monsoon

After a few clicks, we were on our way. I expected the drive to be bumpy. But surprisingly enough, most of the Tamhini Ghat was good to drive except for a few rough patches in between. We were averaging 60 kmph all the way. After 5 hours including some stops in between, we saw the familiar arched Dive Agar entrance welcoming every visitor to the beach town of Dive Agar.

Salil had booked a cottage with the Joshi’s. It was a clean room lined up with neat beds. No TV. No Fridge. No Phone. Why would anyone need it when you’ve come to enjoy the beach? And I would recommend everyone visiting Dive Agar to stay in such cottages offered by local people, as they are cheap, clean and comfortable.

Okay, so after a rest/refresh time of about 15 mins, we went to have lunch at the Bapat’s. Again, this was organized by Salil. He knows his stuff well, this guy Salil. Coz we had one awesome Vegetarian lunch. No one talked a lot during lunch. It was a sign that everyone was hungry! We hogged so much that some of us were unable to get up from the chairs after the lunch!

It was scorching hot in Dive Agar. So we decided to rest for a while and then go to the beach in the evening. With all of us full after a good feed, it was time for some PJ’s and pulling of legs (literally and figuratively). But soon the tiredness and sumptuous lunch had its effect. Slowly everyone drifted off to sleep only to be awakened twice by a power outage. The fans stopped spinning then and it got humid which evoked a few cries of desperation. But the stoppages were only 5-10 mins, which didn’t disturb the sleep pattern of many.

Evening, refreshed by a cup of tea, we headed to the beach. Parked our cars by the beach and then as we saw the clean beach of Dive Agar, everyone was ecstatic. I had come here about year and half back, but to notice that it hadn’t changed a bit – it was still so clean as it was last time, was so satisfying. Alrite now we were 7 of us and there was a bat and a ball. That would mean only one thing - Beach Cricket!! No teams- we were all playing numbers – a cricket game in which all the players bat and bowl in sequence. Three varying length sticks made for three stumps. Bowlers bowled, fielders fielded on imaginary boundaries and batters enjoyed hitting it to all parts of the beach. It was a unique game of cricket where fielders were sledging bowlers and likewise. It was fun. Everyone was laughing all along the way. Beamers and long hops were the order of the day. The third game was played under bad light, but no one was willing to stop. Eventually after the last batsmen got out in the third game, it was so dark, that we would have to turn bats to be able play cricket in those conditions!

We had planned for beach dinner. It meant we had to organize stuff and so we decided to implement ‘divided we do better’ strategy. Hemant, Abhijit and I bought dinner and other things mandatory while Salil, Pranav, Abhishek and Amit gathered paraphernalia necessary for beach dinner.

We drove to the beach. The time was about 9:45 pm and it was pitch black. I could just see the white foam of waves hitting the shores. Our lantern was the only source of light for miles, I guess. And the only sound was of the waves. It was pleasant and calm out there. We arranged the dinner and the 'mandatory things'. The lantern was kept by the side. The ambience coupled with balmy breeze and cold sand multiplied the relaxing effect on our tired nerves. Soon after an hour, everyone opened up (figuratively) and started revealing their dear secrets. This was the time for venting out suppressed emotions. And one by one all the frustrations in everyone’s life were out in open. Amit, Abhijit and I took countless midnight strolls on beach. The cold seawater was soothing. Others slept on the beach gazing at the stars and may be contemplating life – lives of software engineers!

We finished our dinner by 1 am. Headed back to our parked cars. Somebody thought of playing some music. It turned out to be a good idea. All of us sat down on the unpaved road by the cars and listened to music in the light of the lantern. Nice setting that one. When we reached our rooms, it was 1:45 am. Dead tired, we slept like logs.

Day 2 and we were up by 830 am. A good home made breakfast at Joshi’s and we walked to the beach. It was 930 am and very sunny. This time, we played Frisbee for about 40 odd minutes. After that everyone jumped into the waters. With all the time in the world, everyone just enjoyed being in the cold salty water.

We were back to the rooms by 11 am and then after a visit to the famous Suvarna Ganpati Temple, we started our journey back to Pune.

By the time, I reached my place, it was 8 pm. Needless to say that I slept as soon as I hit the bed. It was a trip unforgettable. Some pics from the trip at this link

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

India - Twenty 20 World Champions!

I don’t know where to start. The feeling is yet to sink in…. Yesterday, 24th September 2007 - Monday was one of THE best days of my life. My beautiful India was up against the traditional rivals Pakistan in the Twenty 20 World Cup finals!What could better than this? I think nothing...This was easily the best that any cricket lover could get in the year 2007. Not even the World Cup 2007 finals were close to this. This was being watched/followed by at least a billion people all over the world. Hell it had to be some game and it was some game…
I will make a modest attempt at describing the scenes in my Pune. All the events that began yesterday morning promised a day unforgettable for years to come. Let me start of from the time I walked into the office yesterday morning…

Monday Morning: I plod into my office thinking about leaving early today. And as luck would have it, there was not much work for the offshore team (that is us) to be done today. I meet my friend in a corridor and when I ask him about the time he’s gonna leave today, he answers firmly, very confidently – “5’ o clock bud. No chances at all!” I smile at the thoughts that I am not the only person going home early today. As our project team gets together for a breakfast in the cafeteria everyone is discussing nothing but – of course cricket. There is buzz everywhere – everyone wants to talk, everyone wants to share his/her excitement about today. One this for sure – it is gonna be absolute chaos if India pull off a win today!

Monday Afternoon: – No change in the atmosphere…Everyone is still talking about cricket - In the elevators, on the steps, during lunch, in the washrooms, on phones! ….It is cricket everywhere. Just then, I receive a mail. It’s from Dad…. His company has asked the its employees to ‘officially’ to leave an hour early just for the match!!!…. A note for outsiders – This is how serious cricket is in India. For Indians – This is expected. Cricket comes above everything else… I forward that mail to everyone in our team. Just then I get a mail – rather everyone in our office gets a mail. It’s about today evening. They (our company) are gonna show the cricket on big screens in two buildings! Me mate, Hemant sitting in a building a mile away from mine, pings me saying we would watch the match on the big screen rather than going home. After a bit of hesitancy, I say Yes! After all, it’s best to watch with a group of people and what could get better than watching it in the big comfy auditorium of ours!

Monday Evening: – I glance at the bottom right corner of my computer. Time now is 5pm. Only 30 minutes left for a hell of a cricket match. I call my friend - Rama, in the other building and tell him to check out the auditorium and hold a couple of places. I call him again after 10 mins and hez gone crazy. In a while I would too, after hearing what he said. He says – India has won the toss and India’s gonna bat first! I can't wait a minute now in my cubicle. Tushar and me literally run out like schoolboys after the end of the schoolday. The Englishman in my adjacent cubicle is not at all surprised. He knows it's all about Indians and cricket.

Rush to the Auditorium: Tushar and me are still huffing and puffing as we reach the elevator lobby on the ground floor of GLT 2.0. A lift comes down. About 20 odd people get in. The auditorium is on the 6th floor. Only one button is lit up on the inside. No prizes for guessing where everyone is heading. The lift stops on the third floor. There is boo in the lift. No one wants the lift to stop until it reaches the 6th floor!! And as the lift doors open on the 6th floor, Tushar and me start running – it’s a sprint I guess, to the Auditorium on the left. We thought we are the only ones running. Looking back we see a bunch of others following us – running of course! As we enter the dark auditorium, we realize, its full! The big screen is a beaming live pictures straight from Wanderers, Jo’burg, RSA! I am so excited that I trip over something in the dark. I realize it’s a chair. Just then Rama shouts from the very back of the auditorium. Hez got some spaces for us! I thank him profusely.

Indian Innings: The auditorium is full. But still people are coming in. Now, they start sitting on the steps in the aisles. The match starts. Everyone is clapping and the first ball arouses a scare in everyone. Yousuf Pathan is nearly run out. The decision is referred to the third umpire. As the replay is being shown here on the screen everyone realizes that Yousuf Pathan is safe. There is very big roar... so big that people outside come in running. It’s like as if we have won the match! Well, I think, I made the right decision of watching the finals here with everyone on the big screen. Yousuf Pathan hits a big six and there are screams everywhere. People are still streaming into the auditorium. The steps on the aisles are full. They now start sitting on the space in front of the big screen before the first row of chairs. That space is filled in a minute. The auditorium is jam packed – would be an understatement coz if some more people would have come in, they would have to use the walls and ceilings! There is absolutely no space. The atmosphere is wonderful. Soon a wicket goes down and everyone is quiet…. Every four and six is cheered like a victory. As the sixes and fours dry up, everyone cheers the twos and threes!! In between the Indian innings, everyone is excited about Yuvraj and Dhoni. But they fail to perform. No frigging issues with that. There was Gautam Gambhir at the other end who batted brilliantly. What an effort that was….75 off 54 balls! This southpaw is a star! …In the end, Rohit Sharma’s clever stroke play helps India post a respectable 157 on board. I am thinking – Will India be able to pull of another win? My thoughts go into a negative territory for some reason. The lights are switched on in the auditorium. The mood now is bit down. Everyone fears that this total might not be enough. I hurriedly make my way to the coffee machine. There is queue there. People are pondering on the match waiting in the line. Some are busily analyzing the match over cappuccino and lattes. I am just thinking how hard we have to bowl. Tushar is on phone. Rama thinks we are going to lose.

Pakistan Innings: I head back in the lit auditorium, again amazed to see the number of people. I hadn’t seen so many people in this auditorium for any seminar or presentation. I sit back calmly waiting for the innings to start. It does…. First over – Fifth ball, the auditorium goes up screaming as Mohammad Hafeez tries to steer the ball to third man, but straight into the hands of Robin Uthappa! Now, my thoughts go back into a positive mode. The next over is mess from Sreesanth. Imran Nazir butchers him. It’s 21 from that second over. Third over – RP Singh sends Kamran Akmal’s off stump cartwheeling. Pakistan 26/2! India’s gotta chance. With every wicket, the crowd is going berserk. We are shouting, chanting – Ganapati Bappa Moraya every time a wicket falls! The previous time, I had experienced such an explosive atmosphere was in Crown Casino, Melbourne watching World Cup 2003 (India vs. Pakistan, March 1, 2003).
I thanked myself again for staying back and watching the cricket in the auditorium. The biggest celebration was for Shahid Afridi's wicket. Shahid Afridi spooned the ball in the air and was comfortably caught by Sreesanth running from Long off… or was that mid off. Whatever, I can’t remember. It was a good catch. With Pakistan 77/6 and Shahid Afridi gone for a duck, everyone knew that it was India in the driver’s seat (as the commentators love calling it). But then there was this guy – Misbah-Ul-Haq. He proved why he is dangerous. With some brilliant batting helped by Sohail Tanvir, he brought the target down to 13 off last 6 balls. I couldn’t take it anymore. I thought of crawling and sitting down between the chairs. Misbah hit a big six and there was a silence in the whole auditorium. How could India give the cup away like this I thought? Joginder Sharma comes in running and Misbah tries to scoop it behind the wicket. The ball goes up. I think it is running off to the boundary. But Sreesanth takes a comfortable catch! There is an eruption in the Auditorium. Pakistan all down. India has won the match! India has won the Twenty 20 World Cup! Yes, We are World Champions! I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely ecstatic. I hugged someone– dunno his name. It didn’t matter. Everyone was celebrating. Screaming. I almost fell on the floor! All of them were celebrating - The security guards too!! It was the best moment. Everyone congratulating each other and Team India!

Victory Lap on the roads: Hemant, Kshitija and I were heading home from office. We took the North Main road. Suddenly we saw flags everywhere. People were celebrating the victory. I yelled out loudly – “Go India”. The guy in the car across the road responded back! There it started. I started shouting and screaming at every group of revellers on the roads. They were doing the same. There were bikes everywhere with boys and girls shouting and chanting “Chak de India, Cheers India, Go India”. Some were carrying Indian flags. It was a beautiful sight. Seemed like the match was in Pune and the crowd was just coming out of the stadium!! We decided to take MG Road today, as it would be crowded! And it was! There was a group of people celebrating. We parked our car and then went there. What scenes! There were Indian flags and the familiar Dhol Tasha music. Soon it began to get crowded and everyone was enjoying. Others who didn’t want to dance lined up on the sides of the roads and watched the fun. The revelers stopped all the vehicles and soon MG road was jam-packed!!! A car driver got so excited that he stopped the car in the middle of the road, turned off the engine, opened the boot of his car and turned up the music. The crowd went wild. All of ‘em started dancing and screaming like madmen. A two-wheeler stopped in the middle too. The guy stood up on the vehicle and started waving the Indian flag. It was absolutely amazing. Soon there were more flags and more people. I could see the young and the old, the rich and the poor celebrating together. How wonderful it was to be in India at time like this. Cricket, or for that matter any sport, UNITES! And there is no better example than today!!! I cannot describe how energetic and amazing the scenes were. In the end – I was tired and bruised and my body started to ache. But then, who cares. Days like these don’t come every day. Congratulations Team India!! You beauty!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How to increase office productivity and efficiently use office space – Shift to GLT 1.0

Last Monday we shifted to GLT 1.0. I knew I would be allocated a place in some passageway lined up with workstations given the crunch for space in this building. But to my pleasant surprise, not only was my place not in a passageway but my cubicle was one of the most spacious! Others in my team didn’t share the same good fortune as me. They were being put in a cubicle meant for 4. Nothing wrong with it until you add three more people to it. That makes 7 in cubicle meant for 4! How would they sit? I will tell you how. Put one person each in between two people and you get one of the most elegant looking combinations of people in one cubicle. There is a very small problem though – If someone has to get out, he/she will have to push the chair of the person on either side to get out. However, given the super advantages of such modern design, we can comfortably ignore this problem.

Super Advantage No 1: Looking from outside of the cubicle, it seems that the employees are sitting on the top of one another. That is just an illusion created by this fantastic arrangement of people. In reality, every person in these cubicles has his/her own computer and everyone has got a chair to sit! Isn’t that an efficient utilization of office space?

Super Advantage No 2: The arrangement of people is so very ergonomically brilliant. Employees can lean and place their elbows on their colleague’s chair, which is at a distance of about 2-3 inches or sometimes touching their chair. And employees are really loving this.

Super Advantage No 3: Two people share one phone. That means one person can’t keep talking for hours on the phone! How well thought of!!

Super Advantage No 4: This one is really good.These cubicles should be called Green Cubicles. Why? Coz they save energy and in turn reduce greenhouse emissions. Let me explain…. You see, the three squeezed… err…efficiently arranged people in between the normally comfortable four have got wonder monitors. Their monitors immediately turn OFF whenever there is a power outage. The monitors turn ON when the generator kicks in. Normally the time period is 3-4 secs. But as you know monitor consumes almost 80% of the energy. Multiply that with some 100 odd monitors like this in this building and imagine the energy saving! I think this ingenious idea should be incorporated in offices worldwide! This would really take care of Global Warming.

Super Advantage No 5: Apart from saving energy, the guys on the green machines can enjoy a break for 3-4 seconds. This way the guys can quickly take break from work and relax. I call it a quick refresh method. Much better than having a smoko/coffee break. No wonder the guys in these cubicles don’t get out much! Hmm that adds one more advantage – Productivity!!

Super Advantage No 6: Teams in such cubicles don’t face a problem of communication and their interpersonal skills are automatically improved. Employees are so close to each other that it naturally harbingers a feeling of unity and warmth (pun intended). Brilliant innit?

I never thought that so many advantages were hidden in these cubicles. Someday next week we will be shifted again to a different level in this building and I will be a part of such cubicles. Or I might be sitting in some passageway where I can meet lots of people on their way to the rest room or pantry. How exciting! I am feeling wonderful now at this opportunity of social networking!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sinhgad – A trek on the weekend.

I hear the rain outside. It must be around 5 – 5:30ish in the morning. I start drifting off to sweeeet sleep when my mobile ring wakes me up. It is Kshitija calling. As decided the previous day, we were gonna depend on this foolproof method of waking each other up. That way we wouldn’t fall prey to the Snooze key and end up getting late or not going at all!!… I look at the mobile and it is nearly 6am. I wake up rather sleepy eyed thinking about how would I have loved to laze around in my bed for some 4- 5 hours more. That thought really holds on for a while and I start cursing myself for saying ‘Yes’ to Sinhgad trek this week. But just after a cup of hot tea I think I am ready to go. After a quick shower, I get down to the parking. Me mate, Hemant comes down and just as we sit in my car, it starts raining heavily. We proceed to pick up Rahul who is sheltering himself from the rain under a shop. After that we stop by a bar/café in front the majestic gate of good ol’ Bharti Vidyapeeth where I did my Electrical Engineering some 5 years back.
The girls come and we decide to go in one car. We reach the base of Sinhgad in about 35 mins.

We start our uphill climb. I notice that the weather is perfect - drizzle and gentle breeze. We walk through a dense canopy of trees – lush green. The view is refreshing. We click a half a dozen snaps on our mobile handsets. Just then we realize that we had taken a wrong turn! We head back and see the familiar stony path leading up the way to historic fort.

As we climb to a higher point, we stop for a breather and look around. What a view! The mountains are all green. At a distance, we can see the Khadakwasla Lake. It is still drizzling. The fort is hardly visible with the clouds covering it. We resume and suddenly, Rahul and Kshitija notice a short but steep climb. They decide to go that way. Others, including me proceed by the normal way. After about 10 mins, we get to a point where we think, Rahul and Kshitija would emerge. We wait for 5 mins but no sign of them. We continue our climb. The only sounds we hear are of rain, waterfalls and the wind. On Sunday, this would have been impossible with hoards of people going up. Glad, we are trekking today.

On the next turn, I look up and see Rahul waving at us from the top. They had reached their some 10 mins earlier. There is makeshift shop selling snacks. We stop by under it. Kshitija meanwhile is busy in taking pictures on her mobile for the ‘Pattern’ theme photography contest. I am again amazed at the view…. it seems that view gets better the higher we get. I had never enjoyed Sinhgad trek so much!

There are rocky climbs all along the way now and though I would say the difficulty level is low on any other day, today it was a medium coz of the rain factor, which had made it more slippery.
As we near the top, I am thirsty, but others advise me against drinking water until we reach the top. We begin the last phase of the climb. Sinhgad is visible from here. This last part is steepest and there is another way to go past it…but we decide to take this one just for the fun of it. The path is so narrow and slippery that even if one of them slips, he/she would cascade the effect downstream. Not that we would end up in a gorge or something, but nevertheless, we would be hurt badly. Arite so we proceed to the top. Rahul then Hemant and then me followed by Kirti, Kshitija and Neha…As we climb through the narrow path surrounded with vegetation, I realize, it is time to close the umbrella and climb with two hands otherwise it would near impossible to get through it.

We stop once on the way to negotiate a slippery climb and that’s it, we reach the top! It is foggy up there but the view is so beautiful. It is almost mystical. There is another group at the top…about the same age as us. They are clicking pictures of a snail. Others get busy clicking it too. The snail is famous now. Some others are enjoying “Butta” which is baked corn.
We see a fort map by the side. It shows all the major points on the forts. As we enter the fort through the old and dilapidated remains of Kalyan gate, it gets even foggier. The visibility reduces to almost 5 feet. It is awesome.
There is sudden rush of people heading down. Some are regular trekkers and some are like us.

We get to first point and decide to go over the edge. It starts raining and gets windier…We get to the edge and see only clouds! The rain gets heavier and we disappear inside a small shack cum eating point. We are freezing cold now and decide for a cuppa hot tea and what else but hot Bhajis! Coming to Sinhgad and not eating Bhajis is a sin! It is so windy that we are worried that the roof of the shack might get blown off! But it doesn’t. As the steaming hot tea arrives with a plate of Bhajis, everyone digs in! Ummmm…delicious! You hafta come here to taste em! …We give our lunch orders Zunka Bhakar (Jowar Bread) and Pithala (thick paste of gram flour).

As the food is getting ready, we explore the fort and come to one point where we couldn’t help stopping. It is not specific point. But today, there was something about this particular place that we all decide to stop and enjoy. The wind is so strong that we can literally lean against the wind and not fall!!All of us become kids and jump around trying to click that one perfect snap where all of us would be in air. We managed to capture one after a dozen attempts but one of them is still on the ground.
As we proceed further, a small path would lead us to wind point. This path is foggy but beautiful all along the way. We come to the wind Point. There, apart from the wind, the view to be enjoyed is that of the deep valley. But today, we can see only clouds!
We come back to the shack cum restaurant and have a delicious Zunka Bhakar meal.
It is almost 1:30pm and we decide to head down. We take a decision to go down via jeep The downhill ride by the jeep is dangerous due to bad roads and our driver made it even more dangerous. All the way, he drove like he was playing a video game. As we reached the base, we had to walk back almost 3 kms to reach our car!!

Finally, all in the car and we reach Pune by 315pm. Never before had I thought that Sinhgad would be so beautiful. I had always imagined it being a sweaty climb sans fun. But today was just perfect thanks to the weather!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Review - MyN73 Music Edition!

Rewind: A month and half ago after countless taunts from my chums on my Nokia 6230, I finally decided that it’s time to go for a new phone. And yes, I had reasons to dispose my faithful Nokia 6230. Trying to switch Bluetooth ON would switch my phone OFF or it would just go into Freeze mode! The other one was very fricken irritating. I just couldn’t charge the phone! It was a matter of luck and not time to see the charger finally fit my phone right and start charging.
I love gadgets and so I wanted a mobile which could do more than just make and receive calls. Of course smart phone would be my choice. So when I started looking, it got confusing even though I am pro-Nokia. There were some super phones in Nokia N-series and E-series. Apple iPhone and iMate were appealing too…Specially iPhone was really tempting with its looks and features. But $ 565 USD was a bit too much now…Hence after a lot of thought, I finally zeroed in on Nokia N73 Music Edition. And after reading innumerable N73 reviews for 2 weeks, I decided to buy it…And I am so in love with it…Here is my review

Cost: 16450 INR
I will start off with the most impressive feature of N73.
The camera of course…3.2 Mega pixel Camera with Carl Zeiss Optics, Tessar lens!! Do I have to say anything about the picture quality now? Photos come out just superb. With 20 x Digital zoom for pics and 4x for Videos, the zoom does work well. Videos are good too at 15fps.There is Review button at the side of mobile. Quite handy that one. It gives a quick access to the images and videos in the Gallery.

N73 has to be the best camera smartphone of the N Series at least as of now.
Plus you have got options like -Adjusting the White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Color Tone, Light Sensitivity and the Scene modes like what you get in your digicam.

Although there is no difference in hardware in N73 and N73 Music edition, the latter comes with enhanced features for music. It ships in with 2GB Mini SD Card filled with some 100 songs out of which 95 are crap. Try deleting them on your phone and it won’t work! The way out is to connect the phone to the computer and simply CUT the 90+ rubbish songs and paste them on you computer. It frees up a lot memory on the card. N73 does support a lot of music formats (mp3, WMA, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+). I haven’t tried listening to all the formats on the phone but MP3, WMA and AAC sound very good indeed. The phone has got Integrated Stereo speakers and the Stereo does sound very well. The Music Edition comes in all black looks and it does look very sinister.

Smart phone that it is, it comes in loaded with all the applications like Office stuff – Word, Power Point, Spreadsheets, Viewing PDF files, Visual Radio, 3-D Tones, Movie Director, Real Player, Life Blog et al.
The 3-D Tones is nifty little utility to enhance your tones by adding effects like Circular, Fly By, Zig Zag, Meander, Doppler Effect etc.

Next thing to like about N73 is the large 2.4-inch QVGA screen of N73. It makes pictures and videos look clearer on them than other smart phones. The screen resolution as given by Nokia is 352X416 pixels makes the pics look excellent on the screen.

I have heard some people saying the saying the keypad is smaller and it makes texting harder. Yes, the keypad is smaller but for a person like me who texts a lot I got used to the keypad after just couple of days and I don’t find it a problem at all.
There is a dedicated music key on the right side of N73 ME for quick access to all the music on your phone. Music is neatly organized by Song Name, Playlists, Artists, Albums, Genres, Composers just like your iPod.

The light sensor at the top of the phone near the secondary camera adjusts the brightness of the screen with respect to the ambient lighting. And this light sensor also blinks (flashing blue light) when the Phone is in ‘Sleep’ mode. This flashing blue light is irritating at times and can be turned Off by going to Settings->Phone->Display->Sleep Mode-> On/Off. Mind you, switching this Off will eat into your phone battery.

Let’s now come to the GPRS part of it. Holding down the 0 key will get you connected to the World Wide Web. When I activated my GPRS connection from my service provider, I was unable to connect to the net for the first few days. I thought it was a problem with N73. But then after repeated calls to my service provider, I realized that that they had goofed up. They reset my connection and now GPRS works fine on N73. There is nothing to be done other than just saving the Configuration Settings sent by your service provider.

Net Applications: I have downloaded Google Maps and S60 Internet Radio. They work like charm. Especially Google Maps with its powerful Satellite imagery looks very good on the large screen of N73. Internet Radio is bit slow at times. But that is all dependent on data transmission rates. With a faster EDGE connection, it should work good.
There is an option to upload Images directly from your phone to the Web Album of your choice.

Games: My N73 came pre-installed with Sudoku and Snakes. The Snakes on my N73 is in 3D. I was amazed to see it. Nokia has come a long way from the Snakes that it had on one of the older phones. This 3D Snakes is not only good to watch but surely will help you kill time.

Battery: The battery is pretty powerful. With normal use (10-15 mins of calls a day, 15-20 mins of surfing, taking pictures and videos for 5-10 mins and playing music for 10 mins a day on the phone speakers) will make the phone go on for 2.5 to 3 days. But with heavy use of the screen (like seeing the images and videos on and on again) will suck your battery. My battery was out of charge in just 1.5 days when all I was doing for those 1.5 days was keeping the camera on and shooting pics and videos and playing them over and over again.

The only two things missing in this phone are – WiFi and GPS. I would have really really liked to have them on my phone. But I had to buy a phone within a certain budget and hence had to settle without these features. Although GPS was really tempting, I had to think my way out of it by asking myself – Do I really need GPS? The answer was ‘No’ coz I do not hike every other day and neither do I get lost everyday coz I know my way around the city.
For the Wi-Fi part, I had to be content with my GPRS connection. I know GPRS isn’t the solution to Wi-Fi but then again there are some compromises to be made when your budget is tight. So for me the only thing to be disappointed was no WiFi in this Phone.

Now comes the most important part – The bugs!
Ofcourse with a smartphone like this, there ought to be bugs and I had expected it. The question is how many bugs and do they really impact the way you use your phone. I do not think so. Here’s why
Bug 1: When a song is playing and I click ‘Next’ in the Track Menu, it doesn’t start playing the Next song. Instead the current song is stopped. I have to go back to the Song List and click the new song again. Maybe this is just with my handset. Does it bother me? Not at all…

Bug 2: Sometimes, when I open the Gallery to see the pic or a video or start a game, I get a message – Memory Full. Try closing some applications.
This is irritating. I have to either go back to the phone menu or switch the phone Off and start again. But this has just happened twice until now in 3 weeks. Hence, not much of a problem.

Bug 3: Sliding the backcover of the phone starts the phone camera. Once, I got a message – Hardware failed. Please restart the camera. I came back to the Phone menu and the phone just froze up. I couldn’t switch the phone off. I had to remove the battery and put it back again to restart the phone. Fortunately this has happened only once.

These are the only bugs I have come across until now in my Nokia N73 ME. Chances are these are specific to my handset only. But in no way do they lessen my pride and joy of owning N73 ME!

All in all, I am happy with my choice.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thoughts on the wonderful last week

I loved last week. It was interesting and relaxing.
Relaxing - For a change, we were not as busy as we were since past 5 months. Reason: There was a processing delay as some data validations failed. It meant less work for us and a much needed breather. Yes, there was some Test Execution and rather boring statistical stuff to be done. But I welcomed it with a big smile. After all it was a refreshing change than those last few months, which were spent busily worrying in front of the black and green Z/OS world. There were no stressing deadlines and few -infact only one strenuously long to compose observation/query email. So it was “Leave office at normal time” nearly everyday! I had almost forgotten that we work 9 – 6. How good it was to leave office when it was not dark outside. Nope! I am not afraid of dark! But it reminded me of those wonderful times of last year when we were new in the project minus much responsibility. A lot has changed since then. Anyways, lets not delve into that now.

Now towards the interesting part -There was a buzz sometime back that they were gonna reshuffle the people around various office building of ours to get so called best business combination. Dunno what that means exactly and I am also not curious on finding the reason behind it. Maybe, their idea is to align Development and Testing teams together so that Testers and Developers could argue or if they want, fight with each other physically on the floor rather than in Quality Center...I am kidding....Aight…so last Monday it was confirmed in the Weekly Team Meeting that we were moving to GLT 1.0 next week i.e. Tomorrow. That really upset me. I had started liking GLT 4.0. The campus is neat and the cubicles are spacious (heard that the cubicles in 1.0 suck big time). More than the campus and cubicles, I was gonna miss my crush @ GLT 4.0. Yeah that beautiful eyed girl on some level. Hence the news of the shift was really upsetting until Friday when I learnt that their team’s moving too! That really got me excited and anxious. Oh those hypnotizing eyes of hers are killing to say the least… And, we are not moving tomorrow. The shift is delayed by 2 weeks! YAY!
Also, after much research I bought Nokia N73 Music Edition. This sexy black smart phone rocks. More on that later…

Sometimes, a thought sweeps across my mind. What if the last week was a lull before the storm? What if all hell breaks lose this week? What if tomorrow’s again a Manic Monday? Manic or Merry Monday – all the questions will be answered this week.
Plus that beautiful eyed damsel on my mind is not helping me relax as I hit the sack now. Good Night World.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

…And now cometh 'The Monsoon’

Friday, 22nd June 2007: Thunderstorms and heavy rains were the order of the day, at least for the latter half of the day on Friday. It was raining so heavily that when I looked out of my office window, I couldn’t see anything but rain! The IBM building in our campus was barely visible. The raindrops were crashing horizontally, vertically, diagonally and in every possible direction on our office facade! Inside, it sounded like some thousand drums were being beaten about at the same time. It was an awesome feeling to be in the cozy comforts of the office and watching the heavy rains outside. The view outside was so spectacular that most of my colleagues were soon lined up near the window and with all the blinds pulled up, they enjoyed the sight of rain, a welcome change from the scorching hot sun. Some just stayed in their seats and admired the view from their cubicles. It rained like this for 30 odd minutes. Then it stopped. The view outside was fantastic. Everything was spick and span. The buildings were shining, the trees looked much greener and brighter and the cars parked outside were shining clean in the evening sun.

It again started at 19:30. Rains were much heavier this time. And it was very dark outside. Some were waiting to get back home. But the phone calls from home were stopping them. Every phone call was the same.... "Don’t come now – It’s flooded here and the power supply’s gone!"
I had work to do and I smiled at the thought that at least today it worked out right. It was always better to work in office that night than be outside in the rain.
We left around 2200 hrs and boy, were the roads flooded. As much as it was good to watch the rain from inside, it was worse outside. It is a typical sight in monsoon, in nearly every city in India -The streets are flooded and the footpaths are muddy, sometimes even under water.Walking is a pain and driving becomes a nightmare especially if it’s a two wheeler. Most of the city is powerless....On our way back home, I watched all of it…As I neared home, a part of road was under water and the traffic was diverted to the other lane.
Monsoons are the toughest times to be in India specially places where it rains the heaviest.

No surprise, the next day’s front-page news was about the rains. It rained a whopping 40 mm on Friday! There were losses of lives and property too. Very sad to read about it.
And the weekend was ...well... washed away in rains. That heralds the start of rainy weekends for some four months now…..And just as I say this, I hear the rains again! Monsoon has surely begun in India.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Indian Reality TV - Song shows....Absolutely disgusting!

Televised reality singing shows have become as ubiquitous in India as the Personal Computer! Nearly every soap channel in India have their own song shows/contests.
Some bring their participants from the streets and some are classically trained. However esoteric the source may be, the shows are no less of any well-directed drama these days. Take for example the stupid Idol series, which had its roots in Pop Idol of UK. It soon inspired American Idol, Australian Idol, New Zealand Idol, our very own Indian Idol and many more. I have watched a few episodes of the Idol series….some out of compulsion some out of curiosity.
Talking about Indian shows apart from Indian Idol, there are nearly half a dozen shows telecasted on almost all popular TV Channels. …
Zee TV 's got their insane Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge series going for sometime now. The Sa Re Ga Ma Pa series got so famous that Zee has introduced it on its regional language channels too for e.g. on Zee Marathi. What’s more they even had Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Kids Challenge!

Sa Re Ga Ma brings singers/mentors in the form of some big names from the Bollywood or Indian music industry. Each mentor has his own participant on the show and the participants battle it out in the middle. Sometimes instead of the participants, the mentors battle it out and criticize/argue each other like school kids. In addition to the singing skills of the participants we also get to witness some brilliant altercating skills of the judges. It adds spice but it gets hell boring after a while.
One of the prime reasons, I hate Sa Re Ga Ma Pa is irritating Mr Himesh Reshammiya. He is one of the judges on the show. Boy,this guy sucks big time. He makes my skin crawl.I just love to hate him and his songs. He sings through his nose most of the time and his songs are a torture. I guess they should be used in prison cells or courts. The accused may instead prefer to live in solitary confinement rather than listening to such annoying crappy stuff. His so called songs have got a very few lines and he sings them over and over again in a song which is very irritating.

The other reason I hate Sa Re Ga Ma Pa is that 99.99% of the songs being sung are Indipop or Bollywoodish. And Indipop = mediocre. Same goes for modern Bollywood songs. No one even attempts to sing different.

Coming back to Indian Idol…The only good part about this show is that the first coupla rounds are at least interesting in the sense that there are some crazy candidates coming in and demonstrating something more than singing skills. They dance, act, cry, beg, dress wierdly and do all things possible! Well, at least that makes me laugh.

There was this guy on some Indian Idol show….He starts to sing…Ahem!! ….I mean he was making an attempt to sing but was miles away from melody. Anu Malik stops him in between and says,.” Dude, this is Indian Idol. You can’t sing. There is no way you can even participate in any competition.” The guy goes “ Who’s here to win or participate? I just wanted to see and meet you”. LOL! That was funny.

One more...A guy in Indian Idol 2007 walks in with a disheveled look. He starts singing and Alisha Chinai asks him to stop. The guy doesn’t. He keeps on singing. Alisha goes nuts….And to add to the humor…Anu Malik and Alisha Chinai tell the other judges that they would go for a short walk until this guy keeps singing. They literally walk out and come after a while and the guy is still singing!!…Anu Malik goes “अरे तुम अभी तक यहीं हो ?” (Oh, Are you still here?). Then they pass their verdict that he can’t go to the second round. This guy walks in to shake hands with all the judges and just as he finishes shaking hands with the judges, he grabs the Indian Idol Ticket for the next round and runs out of the room! The security stops him. Anu Malik comes out running and snatches the ticket from this guy and says “ Indian Idol कोई मजाक नही है” (Indian Idol is not a joke)!!
Incidents like these make it more interesting. But after the first few rounds, when most of the participants are short listed, Indian Idol gets monotonous like the other song shows. They all sing the same stuff - Indipop songs and some ridiculous tunes from Bollywood.

I hate Australian Idol and American Idol for the same reason. They all sing pop songs! Come on ppl. Where is Rock? Nope, we won't get to see that in India atleast. All the telecasters/producers want is TRP ratings. And audiences in India want popish tunes all the time. That means there are going to be more useless disgusting shows like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and Indian Idol. Hell with that...I will stick to VH1. A true music channel playing all kinds music ranging from Rock, Metal to Hip Hop, RnB and Trance… except of course shitty Indipop. Thanks VH1. You Rock.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

An alrite weekend

Friday night: Like a normal person, I love Friday nights. This Friday night was at ZKs- A popular restaurant/lounge/sports bar owned by the cricketer Zaheer Khan. Retro music after a long time made it a fantastic night out.

Saturday Morning: It started with its usual shock value when my alarm went off at 7 am on Saturday!! I am going for Java Classes since the last month and half on Saturday. That spoils my binge on sleep. Can’t help it. There’s no other time suitable on the weekend for my teacher and weekdays are very unpredictable for me. Being in Software industry where almost everyone loves working late hours, I don’t know my ‘back home by’ time. It varies everyday and most of these days it is consistently beyond 8:30 pm. Thanks to Test Execution phase. So had to settle for 8-12 slot on Sat morning.

Yesterday’s lessons were on the String class. It was as usual…we (Ashish and me) asked fewer questions than expected. That incited our teacher and we got a kind of a dressing down you can say. And incomplete assignments, rather untouched assignments had already annoyed her. You see, every week we have these assignments to do. We write them down with great pleasure on Saturday. But when it comes to doing the assignments at home, we don’t even manage to open the book to read the assignment. We normally open our books the next Saturday at 8am! We call that “A weekly review of Java” :D.

There is one more guy, Shripad who comes in at 10 am for Advanced Java.
We have sort of a break when he comes. Yesterday was no different. We discussed the current hot question in the software industry…Which is better? Java or Now this kind of a question is very similar to the “Manual Transmission vs. Automatic Transmission” in Automobile industry. You know that it’s a never-ending debate and it was same here. Although I am not an expert in either of the technologies, I can safely say…both are equally excellent. But hard-core Java supporters will always find more than one thing in that can be done in a better way in Java. …Pro guys aren’t behind. They manage to strike back with equal force. Anyways, I am not going into the technical details of each language. If you want more details on these, check them out here…or here ...

Here’s a distinct advantage of being a Software Tester. Who cares about the technology? It might be coded in Java, COBOL,,C++ or any other language. We just love to see the application crash. Creative destruction is the right way to put it. I so love the term Black Box.

Siesta: I absolutely love this part. I try to make for my lack of sleep accrued over the last 6 days in part one of this Siesta. Part two is on Sunday. Oh yesterday was sweet…Slept for 3 hours straight.

Saturday night: Saturday nights are sin if we don’t go out. Hemant, Abhi and I went for quiet dinner to a nearby popular restaurant. There I came across one of the weirdest species of Maitre d’ restaurant. We ordered the appetizers and waited for 20 mins. This guy, Maitre d’ hands us the menu for main course. After 5 mins he asks us “ So what about the order?”. We, almost unanimously ask him “ What about the appetizers? It’s been ages since we ordered and there’s no sign of it.” What does he do? He walks away with an unconcerned look without even bothering to offer a simple apology. We decided right then – No tip for this idiot. He was one of the weirdest human beings I have ever seen. Not once, did I see him smiling to any of the people there in the restaurant. Maybe he was a robot. But robots do have some basic etiquette. And this guy was miles away from etiquette.. So that rules out the possibility of a robot. Maybe he was just like that. Anyways…the dinner wasn’t so bad. We discussed love life and how unlucky it is to fall in love in India. Some stupid things you might say.
Coming home we decided to sleep on terrace coz it gets bloody hot at night in the flat. When I came up on terrace, Hemant and Abhijit were busy watching “The Girl Next Door” on Hemant’s laptop. Nah, it’s not the movie that we were interested in. We just wanted to watch the lovely Elisha Cuthbert. Anyways we fell asleep midway thru the movie and that was mostly due to the soothing cool breeze at night.

Sunday morning: Started with Sunday Times and classic music on VH1…Me, directly opting to read Sports news and my favorite Bacchi Karkaria and Swaminomics column. After being online for a few hours, I realized it was time for lunch. Oh yeah, I managed to download Java Docs on the third attempt. The previous two somehow managed to fail brilliantly at 60 %. Blame my ISP for that.

And then came Part two of the Siesta. Wish I could do the same on weekdays. Listened to heavy metal on Sunday evening while blogging this one...and went out with for dinner...alone! None of me mates were free and there was no one at home. So had no other option but to eat out alone. I would say, I enjoyed it. More on this later.
That completes my this weekend. Not a sensational one but satisfactory nonetheless. The thought of Monday morning is giving me jitters now.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I gotta get myself organizized

I have to write my pending diary for two whole weeks. I have to reply mails. I have to practise Java. I have to buy toiletries… and I was gonna join the ‘elusive’ gym. And all this has been accruing for sometime now thanks to my lazy self. Last 5 months have been a whirlwind of activity, mostly office activity. I work for almost 10 hours a day and adding the traveling time makes it 12 hours. That’s half a day lost in work! That makes it 60 hours a week…I was thinking for the past 5 months that I am the only soul in the world whoz got no time to go to the gym or study Java after working like this.

Today I realized that I am the only one to blame. The ‘whinging’ me should do some lessons in Time Management… Oh yeah, I was also gonna appear for ISTQB this March, but you see…me and my procrastinating self made it impossible for me to even for apply for the exam.

And so the title of the blog…'getting myself organizized' which was borrowed from young Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver when he said - One of these days I gotta get myself organizized.

And I announce with big pleasure that today is that day:D
I have studied Management during my Engineering and hence I know that the first step in starting any activity is ‘to plan’.

So, I have devised a very simple (cough cough) foolproof plan to get myself in some bloody action. It’s a five-point plan and here it goes…

1) I need to stay off the computer - I come home after work and the first thing, I do is go online for reading articles and writing stuff…mostly personal blogs like this one. I need to stay away from it and do pending stuff. (Something inside me is saying...You are gonna have a real hard time giving this one up)

2) If I must be on the computer, then it will be only for coding/studying or updating me iPod. Or lets put it other way - I will code one program each day. It sounds hard. But I will give it a try.

3) I am gonna get up half an hour early and exercise. (Oh my sweet sleep)…Nah, I shouldn’t complain…. Oh yeah, I should sleep half an hour earlier for that... There I go, I solved this one right here right now.

4) I am gonna plan the whole week ahead on Sunday every week. (What did I just say...Plan the whole week!!!...HAHA...I am gonna have real tough time this Sunday)

5) Lastly and more importantly, I am gonna follow this plan strictly. (I can't stop myself smiling as I typed the last one)

Lets see, how it goes….At least, I made a plan. So that deserves pat on the back and I will do that myself for time being.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

…Power Saving, Again!

I love this topic. (Refer my earlier post on Power Cuts)… And the reason for this post is an excellent article that I read on web on power saving that can be achieved by simple shut down of the ubiquitous computer… Think that shutting down computers won’t contribute much to the grid…think again! You’ll be shocked at the amount of electricity wasted just for doing nothing…. Have a read. Worth your time.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ah, those buggers - Telemarketers - डोक्यात जातात रे हे लोक

It’s about 3ish on a Friday arvo and I think of getting a Latte, as work’s busy like anything since morning and I need a break…. Just as I was about to CTRL+ALT+DEL and make a quick dash to the coffee machine, my mobile starts playing Eye of the Tiger – Survior song (That’s my ring tone). It’s an unknown number… I was expecting a call from my friend, so thinking that it was him, I answer the call with a very excited ‘Hello!’. My excitement turns to utter disgust when the voice at the end says “Good Afternoon Sir, We have a new special Credit Card for you”. Without letting her completing her sentence, I say politely, “M’am, I do not need any new special, ordinary or extraordinary card. Thanks”. I also remember telling her to take me off their list for the 101th time. They (X bank) had called me about 100 times before and I had told them to take me off my list. But nothing’s happened for the last 100 attempts. So I had given up…. Anyways, I get back to my workstation with a Latte. The phone rings again. This time there is no one talking. I hear unintelligible noises in the background. Then a lady says, “ Sorry for the wait, Sir, Actually we have a very special Credit Card scheme from X Bank”. Furious at the second call in just 5 mins, I cut her midway before she starts throwing crap and this time, I decide to be a little rude. I go “What the hell is going on? This is the second call in 5 mins…Call your manager”. The lady says ‘Sorry’ and hangs up. My colleague, Rahul, gives me a bemused look and asks, “ What’s wrong?”. When I tell him about these bugging calls from a call center.…he gives me a big smile. He knows that everyone working in our software company have been a victim of such calls.

I recall a funny incident a long time back when I had just joined the company. We were in some meeting room in Viman nagar Office. My Project manager and my TL along with my team are discussing the weekly updates and the meeting room phone rings. No guesses here. It’s the same bloody old call center calling again to sell some Credit Cards! My Project Manager calmly responds back saying that we are in a meeting. There’s a smirk on his face and we all are smiling. The call relieved the heavy duty project related atmosphere in the room. But that was then when it was the first call I had experienced. Now, it’s quite different. These days, I get a little more than irritated when I get the calls. Can’t help it….There has to be some law to be able to stop these bloody call centers calling again and again offering the same old foolish stuff on phones-Credit Cards and Personal Loans…

I am also impressed with the new innovative ways (Pure lies) of selling employed by some call centers….Thursday morning, I get a call from a liar…err a telemarketer…She goes ‘ Good Morning Sir, Thank you for applying for a Y Bank’s Credit Card”! I was stunned….I mean, I can’t remember to the faintest of my memory if I had ever called Y Bank or visited their website, leave alone applying for a credit card. I go, “ I never applied for a Credit Card!” and she replies plainly “ Sorry Sir” and hangs up!!….A preposterous reply, which makes it very clear that she lied ...

I never used to hate telemarketers/cold callers so much as I have started hating them off late. In fact I worked for a call center in the spring of 2003 in Melbourne, Australia and let me be honest here; I had my worst stint there selling phone cards. I was there for a brief period of 2 weeks. From day one, I realized, that’s selling’s not my cuppa tea . I am cognizant about the fact telemarketing isn’t easy at all. Harsh targets and the flak that these guys get from the customers make telemarketing and cold calling a mentally stressful job. But that doesn't mean using‘lies’ to get your way. I never lied when I was making calls for those two weeks. Neither did any of me mates. Anyways, I am not going into the ethics of telemarketing.

…But it’s about time I come up with some brilliant ways of tackling these pesky callers.

Maybe I should try that Jerry Seinfeld line next time I get a telemarketing call

I can't talk now, but why don't you give me your home number and I'll call you tonight". When the telemarketer hesitates, he continues "Oh, do you not like getting calls at your home from strangers? Well now you know how I feel" before hanging up. "

I guess, humor should work!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Driving in India – Indian Driving 101

I was in my car, SWIFT, this afternoon waiting at the lights. There was a Ute in front of me and a SUV behind me. The lights were red. The traffic was standing impatiently and honking the horns for no reasons as they always do in India. I was enjoying some good ol Metallica in me car. And was not worried about looking at the lights, coz I was gonna move when the guy in front of me starts moving. After a minute or so, the traffic starts to move. Nothing wrong. I shift to first and start moving too. But wait, I notice that the lights are still red! What the hell was wrong with the guy in the front I thought, or should I say, guys, who started zooming past me ignoring the lights totally. …. Well I did stop when I saw red lights…. but with the impatient idiot behind me honking his horn, I had no other option but to break the rules and go along with the traffic…As I started slowly, the truck driver on the opposite end was signaling to me that I should move!! I gestured back asking him to look at the lights! …. He ignored me as if nothing was wrong….

…if you think that is one off incident, you are completely wrong, coz when it comes to driving in India…It is your worst nightmare come true.

I take a deep breath every time someone mentions driving in any Indian city during peak hours…for driving is no longer a pleasure on Indian roads; it’s become a nightmare.

There’s one Holy rule of driving on Indian roads that is assiduously followed by almost all the drivers and it is – There are no rules and if there are, break the rules.

Keep this in mind - you can break the rules anywhere and get away with it almost all the times. No one seems to care about it. Not even the cops.

Here are a few important guidelines/warnings for tourists planning on visiting India and planning to drive! Yeah, these things would also help even if you are not going to drive coz you are going to walk, right?:) So it’s better to be prepared…

1) You can see all kinds of vehicles on Indian roads and also don’t be surprised to see cows, buffalos, elephants, camels, dogs, cats, sheep, donkeys, pigs, etc in the middle of the roads … Thank God Dinosaurs are extinct! I am waiting for that day when a UFO lands on the the road and aliens come out of it and start walking on roads too. Coz there is a high probability of this happening on Indian roads than somewhere in remote wilderness.

2) Cricket is a national passion and any outsider would know this just by driving in India…Playing cricket on roads, low flying kites and hoards of pedestrians walking on the roads are normal sights. So don’t panic….

3) Do not wait at a T- junction. If you expect that someone would slow down and allow you in or you hope to see the traffic subside, you will be completely wrong. The key here is not to wait at all. When you come to any junction, just drive as if no one is coming from left or right. If there is someone coming from anywhere, you both will figure out who goes first when you meet in the middle of the square…The trick is to have loud horn or great manual transmission driving skills.

4) Honk, Honk and Honk…Honking is a characteristic of Indian traffic. It doesn’t mean that you are insulting anyone. Honking is letting other person in front of you know that you are coming at breakneck speeds and that he/she/it has to give way to you immediately. How immediately the other person has to get out of the way depends on the loudness of the horn. Horns are quite creative too. A baby crying or an “ I love you” will still be heard in traffic although it is banned now.

5) Pedestrians don’t have the right to cross roads. So don’t wait for them.

6) In India, footpaths are meant for Hawkers and two wheelers. Pedestrians walk on the roads mostly on left lanes…sometimes in the right lane too. So don’t worry if you see a pedestrian walking non-chalantly in the fast lane with his back facing the traffic. Quite normal in India, these things. Drivers have to make sure they avoid them.

7) Zebra crossings and lane markings are just some beautifully drawn designs on Indian roads. There is no functional use of zebra crossing or lane markings. No one travels in a lane and the zebra crossing means that your car or two-wheeler should ‘cross’ the zebra crossing mark or totally cover it.

8) There are speed limits boards set on various expressways and freeways. Unlike other countries, you have to be consistently over the speed limit by about 20-30 kmph. Whenever you see a speed-limit board, take that as challenge and prove to the Road Transport Authority that you can break it.

9) If you are driving a two-wheeler and there is a traffic jam, do not worry, you can use the footpath and find your way through. Just make sure you honk to get some pedestrians off the footpath.

10) In India, no one will notice you if you break the rules, but if you do not, everyone will and you will be severely rebuked by others for following the rules. So flow along with the traffic. If one of them breaks the rules, you should too.

11) Auto Rickshaws (Small taxis) are at the forefront when it comes to breaking the rules. You will see an Auto Rickshaw making a U-Turn suddenly in the middle of the road or stopping in the middle of the road. Indian drivers are the most alert drivers because of such things.

12) Two-wheelers like motorcycle and scooter riders are very scientific. They drive like sine waves i.e. driving in a curve like fashion. For an illustration of sinewave check out this Merriam-Webster link. You will rarely see them driving straight. They also try to fill up spaces between two cars or trucks.

13) Overtaking means that you have to somehow get in the front of the other vehicle. Officially you have to overtake from right. But if you find other vehicle overtaking on the right you can overtake from the left at the same time. You can also drive on the wrong side just for your convenience and you can overtake in wrong lanes too.

14) Trucks are efficiently used in India than other developed countries. They are loaded more than mathematically maximum possible limits. Hence, I say they are efficient. Yeah, there are cases of trucks overturning, but who cares.

15) Public Transport Buses are crowded these days. There are 6-7 people hanging out of the buses. When I used to travel in buses, there were only 2-3 people clinging to the exit doors.

16) There are all kinds of fuels used in vehicles. Apart from petrol, diesel and LPG, there is kerosene mixed with petrol or diesel or just kerosene. Did you say pollution? What is that?

17) Parking is no headache in India. You can park almost anywhere where there is free space and what’s more parking is free of cost!! Isn’t that wonderful? You don’t have to worry about handicapped space or an entrance. Just park if you find an empty space.

18) And the last and the most important one…Remember when you drive in India, drive as if you own the roads.

So make sure you get your manual transmission skills sharpened up. And All the Best.

Indian drivers, please let me know if I have missed anything.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! OI! OI! OI!

Australia! You bloody Bewdy! You did it again!

Winning the World Cup is THE ultimate dream for any team. Winning three times in a row, is just unbelievable. But when the team is Australia, everything becomes believable.

Gilly’s batting yesterday was nothing short of a demolition. Nah, It was demolition for sure. What else would you call that innings!! 13 fours, 8 sixes in 104 ball, 149!… For me, SL had lost the cup even before they came in to bat…Throughout the world cup, Aussies have been doing what they do best…i.e. being aggressive from the word go. Most opposition teams lose the game even before it starts. Case in point: Semi Final 2 Australia vs South Africa….SA tried to be aggressive...foolishly aggressive, from the start but failed miserably. They should have realized that when Plan A doesn’t work out, it’s time to throw Plan A outside the window. Instead they continued on their ‘being aggressive’ plan and were soon 27/5. Rest is history. I thought at least SA would give a tough fight to the Ozzies, but thanks to a dull, boring display from SA, it means that SA isn’t any better than other teams when it comes to facing Australia.

The way the Australians played their games in World Cup shows what exactly why they are a great team. Their powerful batting lineup, which is powerful not only on paper but powerful on grass too, annihilates any bowling attack in any bowling conditions around the world. Such is the depth of the batting, that even when the top order fails, the tail enders bat like batsmen, unlike some subcontinent teams, where tail enders do justice to their title very beautifully. Let’s put it this way, there are no tail enders in Australian team. Everyone bats!!

In the bowling category, names like Glen McGrath ( Ho Ha Glen McGrath ..say Ho Ha Glen Mcgrath) are enough. His immaculate line and length needs no description. Add to that, the superb swing from one Mr.Blond Bracken and the sheer pace of Shaun Tait and it makes a very good bowling attack. Hogg continues to impress and Symmonds and Clarke bowl some perfectly decent overs. Sad to see Pigeon retire from International Cricket but having said that Shaun Tait has been a revelation. Though this bowling attack is not as great as the batting, they are supported by some very brilliant fielding from…err… almost everyone in the team!! McGrath at the age of 37 still dives to stop the ball - Compare that with 23-year-old Munaf Patel who runs…Sorry, jogs across the ball lazily and throws underhand!! That’s not shameful…that’s embarrassing! …Oops, I get carried away in comparisons…Sorry to say , but Australia can’t be compared to any other team. Theirs is just a class of their own...where players play for their team….They are proud to represent their country not their endorsements. ( There I go…I can’t stop comparing…This is just out of frustration).

Many of my mates, were barracking for all other teams, but Australia They said it had become boring to watch Australia win all the time. But was there or is there a team who could beat the mighty Aussies?!!…Nope, I think, after all the one sided affairs. Not even a single match was interesting.

Luv them or hate them, Aussies deserved to win the Cup and they did!!…and I am not surprised, if they do that again in 2011.

Friday, April 20, 2007 real let down!, they say is the one of the best online shopping portals. I thought so too until a couple of incidents, rather the only two incidents, that I have tried to shop on

Incident One: Winter of 2004 – Melbourne, Australia:
I placed an order on Amazon for a book – “A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport" by Ramachandra Guha.

Estimated time of delivery to Melbourne – A maximum of 2 months.
I waited for three months! Still no sign of the book or an email from Amazon.
I mailed them, and got an immediate reply saying:

Our quality assurance process has indicated that although our system shows your item has shipped, when in fact is hasn't. We immediately contacted our sources in an effort to locate a replacement copy, but were unable to do so. As a result we are unable to fulfill your order. We have initiated a refund and you should receive confirmation via email within the next 1-3 business days.

Though frustrated, I didn’t bother, coz they had apologized sincerely in the mail.

Anyways, I got the refund after a week or so, when they had promised 1-3 days! Needless to say that I lost a few dollars in transaction fees. I dismissed it as a case of bad luck.

Incident Two: Summer of 2007 - India.
I asked my friend Hemant, in Buffalo,USA to get me a DVD- "Metal – A Headbanger’s Journey" from the US. Yeah, he ordered it online from Amazon.

Estimated time of Delivery to Buffalo : 3- 5 business days.

It so happened that me mate was returning to India in 10 days and the DVD was not shipped to him by that time. Which he said was strange coz all the stuff that he had bought on Amazon was delivered to him within a maximum of 5 days....Okay, didn’t matter, coz one of his friend was flying back the next week. Well after a few days, his friend, informed us that the Amazon guys had come but since he was not home, they didn’t deliver the DVD and instead kept a note saying they were at his place that day.
What was more annoying was the fact that they normally keep all the missed deliveries at the Community Center. This one, for some reason, was not kept at the Community Center and there was no communication from till date.
Yesterday, I told Hemant, to cancel the order.....

I wouldn’t recommend people not to buy from just because of these two incidents. Although, I would advise them to be cautious when shopping with Amazon.
And I know that these might just be cases of pure bad luck…But as they say-“ First impression counts” or “ The first impression is the last impression”....For me, the first two were bad! So I wouldn't even waste time thinking for the third one....(Jeffrey, Are you listening?!) ... I know what I am gonna do next… stick to my favorite and familiar online shopping portal-Ebay!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

SET Max - The Greediest of 'em all

Cricket’s premier event-World Cup 2007 is being staged in West Indies and this time SET Max has bagged the telecasting rights in India...In a cricket crazy nation like India, anything minutely related to cricket generates tremendous interest. Hence the business of telecasting cricket in India is big, very big!

Now let me get back to SET Max – Since they hold the legal rights to telecast the live cricket, they sure are going to rake in some moolah from advertisers. I read in an article that the ad rates for some India specific matches went up to Rs 6 lakh (Rs 600,000) for 10-second spots!! It’s all fair upto some limit but what really pisses me off is the way the Set MAX programs the advertisements.

Commercial breaks are scheduled to be shown in between overs or other breaks. SET Max, with its unquenchable thirst for money from ads, jumps into advertisements just as the last bowl is bowled.

Now whether the batsman reaches a milestone, a screamer of a catch is taken or the ball crosses the fence for maximum, SET Max doesn’t care about it! It wants to make money!! Imagine a batsman scoring hundred…We normally expect to see the jubilant batsman celebrating in his own way and the spectators giving him a thunderous applause or a standing ovation. But if you are watching cricket on SET Max and the batsman reaches the three figure mark on the last ball, do not expect to see any of these things but advertisments!! Fair dinkum!! Ask anyone who watches cricket on Max.

Their return back to the live cricket is equally worse. On most of the occasions, the bowler’s half way through his run up or sometimes the batsman’s played a shot!!
And yeah, Thanks Set Max for showing the replay of the last ball after returning from the Commercial break!! What’s the use of watching the replay?!! The magic of the moment is lost…What is to be enjoyed live is TO BE enjoyed LIVE!There is no fun in watching a replay as compared to watching it live... But No, Mr Max doesn’t seem to care about the intricacies of the game or those special moments!

One more thing that illustrates the greediness of Max is that when they return back live from a commercial break and if the players are waiting due to some reason like Sidescreen problems or the captain is making field adjustments ,etc, SET Max again returns to the ads!! Now if it's gonna be a big break, it is acceptable... but in such cases, the game resumes in some seconds.

Oh Yes, I forgot to mention SET Max has its own umpire counting (rather wrongly counting) the balls in an over!....Let me explain...on numerous occasions, Max has been guilty of going into the ads after 4th or 5th ball!! and when the directors realise that the 'Over' is actually not over, they come back live! *laughs out of disgustion*

Whichever way you look at it…making money this way is unfair!! There are viewers watching CRICKET, not ads! Really cracks me up, this thing by Set Max.

Set Max alone isn’t to be blamed for this.It’s been happening in India ever since cricket was shown on TV,live. And who is suffering.You and me, who watch cricket at home! Unless there is someone who steps up into this, the cricket viewers in India will continue to suffer.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Power cuts – Summer 2007 in Pune,India.

It's April-That signals the start of summer in India! Well, should say, it is already here…Coz there was this news the other day that mercury crossed the 40 degree Celsius mark in the first week of April! Which means that this summer is gonna be bloody hot and couple that with the fact that there are going to be power cuts due to power shortages this summer! This makes matters waaay worse!

Take today....From morning, the power’s gone off 3 times in 3 hours! And the supply was OFF for a good 30 mins on two of those occasions. Let me tell you, it gets terribly hot and sweaty in 5 mins without a cooler or a fan. So imagine, 30 mins! And it’s more irritating when you are working on the computer.Specially for people like me who are not used to pressing ‘CTRL + S’ every now and then. Reason: For five days, I work in an AC office where the power outages and brownouts are taken care of. So that makes life harder on weekends when working from home. (** Note to self: Press ‘CTRL+S’ after every minute**) Alrite, I did that just now…

State Electricity Boards alone can’t be blamed for the Power Cuts. We, the citizens, are also accountable.Consider this...

  • How many people in India pay the electricity bills on time?...Or do they pay it at all?!!
  • How many of us try to save electricity?…Or even bother to give 'Saving' a thought?

Well, if we can’t do these simple things, then there is no use blaming the authority.Nothing will change if people don't follow the system.

There are a couple of painless ways that we (Software Engineers/Computer Users) can implement in our daily routine which will go a long way in ‘Saving’ electricity.

Shut down the computers before leaving home everyday. Tell me a very good reason why you wanna just logoff…. Coz u can log back in again in quickly next day! Gimme a break!!I don't buy that nonsense.With hi-end computers these days,it takes only a minute to log in. It’s ridiculous when people say that they need to get to their inboxes faster. Come on! Honestly, do these people really start working the minute they log into their so called Workstations. I have seen people reading/checking/forwarding mails for the first half an hour. Yes, some people are very busy.But how many …I say, about 5% of them.Rest, 95% can manage to wait for a minute. Isn’t that a reasonable demand?

Switch off the monitor!!!! It saves about 80% electricity…It is a fact! So the next time you need go out for a smoko/coffee/cuppa, please switch off the monitors.It makes a huge difference. For detailed analysis of the savings, click here.

Pretty simple.Aren’t they? But hardly followed!Anyways, I did me bit by writing about it and Thanks to you blokes/sheilas for reading it. They say “A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step”. So I will be really glad if atleast a single person hard codes these two simple things in his/her subconscious mind and uses them daily. Cheers!

More tips on saving electricity...Visit following links



3) Energy Saving tips- ACs

4) Energy Saving tips-Refrigerators

5) Saving Electricity (Good website detailing everything about electricity from the basics to 'how-to' stuff and some pretty neat energy saving tips too!)