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.