AR speaketh...

The questions, the answers, the thoughts, the ideas and the other crap that make me, well, me.

Friday, June 30, 2006

What is in a mane?

Foreword: As the world is gripped by the Football World Cup fever, I found the time to sit througha short presentation on Wimbledon. Particularly, about the (then) up coming match between Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal. This is about what I saw.

Picture a young, muscular youth with a flowing mane of hair on a tennis court, sending down thunderous volleys with disdain. A rebellious attitude that borders on contempt, which is clearly visible for the power serves of the players around him. Had this been written a decade and a half ago, we would be talking about Ande Agassi. As it turns out, today, Rafael Nadal answers to the same sobriquet. I now know that Agassi lost to Nadal in what was a no-contest. I just hope Nadal is man enough to carry the burden of the tradition he has unwittinlgy taken from Agassi.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What’s love got to do with it?

Foreword: No, I have not relegated my cynicism; and no I am not going to launch into a laboured diatribe for or against relationships. Also, I am not going to dole out advice for the broken hearted. I’m going to tell you a story and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. If you know me, you wont expect it to be saccharine sweet and it will not be, trust me. But then again, this will perhaps be less caustic than most of what I write. Am I mellowing down? Hell, no! This is just the exception that proves the rule.

A couple of days ago, I met a friend who got married recently. Lets call the couple ‘He’ and ‘She’, for the purposes of discussion. He is a friend from college, a true genius, an uber geek, if there ever was one. He is the kind of person who can talk to a single flip-flop within the memory, cajole the hard disk to voluntarily disclose some piece of information it is zealously guarding, and cause the computer to generally behave like an intelligent, faithful dog. However, beyond the virtual world, his obvious poise and panache begin to falter. He is not the best person to give you a minute-by-minute account of the Brazil vs. Croatia game. He cannot even locate his newly rented house, without first knocking on every door in the locality.

She is a software engineer too. She knows which game is on when, and who are the favourites and why it is completely stupid. By self-admission, she can execute any allotted task at work in a zillionth of the allotted time frame. She is worldly-wise too, at least she can locate the newly rented apartment, monitor his replies and translate them for lesser mortals, in between juggling armfuls of sudoku and other such intellectual pursuits.

They are more ‘need each other’ than made for each other. While he fulfills the creative, motive aspect of the couple, she takes charge of the practical. While he explains the DCOM based communication framework he has been designing, only to be interrupted by the driver to ask whether they would like to go left or right at a busy intersection, and immediately gives a perfect geometric idea of the directions he would like him to take, she patiently says, “Left”. You can see the pride in her eyes when he is explaining something like that, and you can see it in his when she skillfully answers the waiter’s questions at the restaurant.

I have had the chance to have dinner with them, and watched him order with aplomb (he is a major foodie) and get completely confused about the quantities and the dishes he has ordered. I have seen her rescue him from the situation with equal zeal. Between all this, they did not hold hands, or gaze into each others’ eyes, or even sigh. Yet, I could see that they were plainly in love.

Sometimes I think love is more about respecting the other person for what (s)he is and compensating for their shortcomings than anything else, but then I watch “Sex and the City” and go “nah!”.

Despite all that, Mrs. and Mr. Baba, take a bow! I think you guys make a wonderful couple. I’m sure you will have a beautiful life together in between numerous communication frameworks and sudoku challenges and traffic directions. Let chaos (theory) reign.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Hero

Acknowledgement: A heartfelt thanks to Gaurav Nanda for planting the seeds of this idea in my imagination.

Foreword: Heroism is perhaps the second most popular attribute that the masses look for in a public figure, the first, of course, being an ability to make a comprehensive ass of oneself. The teeming millions lie in wait for the next sacrificial lamb to come along and do what he does best, provide a momentary respite from the boredom of existence. Perhaps it is towards this end that we have mythology and comic book superheroes. What, then, is this crap about? Well, since most mammals on the organic computer designed by Deep Thought have had some kind of representation in the inter-galactic assembly of the supremely stupid, I feel it is my duty, as a bonafide member of the community of software engineers a.k.a. geeks a.k., somewhat less charitably, a. nerds, to start a fable about a superhero of our own. Hence, ladies and gentlemen, I present, the man of meal…

Despite what the immortal bard of Avon said about the importance of names or the lack thereof, I find it necessary to name our hero appropriately. After all, he is going to be a celebrity of sorts and what celebrity worth his, er, name is nameless? Hence the urgency to find a suitable name for our man, one that is both awe-inspiring and pertinent. After profound portentous thought, I have settled on the name “GCMan”. Those who belong to the Java programmers community will promptly realize the relevance of this name, for the others, let me elaborate. ‘GC’, or more correctly, ‘gc’ is short for garbage collector, which is really a process that does the house keeping stuff for all Java programs. Likewise GCMan will help us clean up our house, figuratively and literally.

Before we launch into the heroic deeds that GCMan is destined to do (by design), it is important to give him a personality. Since it has been my privilege to bring him to existence in a Barahma-esque sort of way, it must be my responsibility to give him a personality too. As I look around, I find no one more suitable to model him on than, of course, myself. Hence GCMan turns out to be myopic to the extent of being semi blind, has a bad digestion and an incredibly caustic wit, spiky hair and is developing a paunch. His love life is a disaster and consists of murmuring sweet nothings to a hard disk with lots of bad sectors on it, which remains as frigid as ever in response. The closest he’s ever come to having sex has been on a fateful bus journey*. For the record, he wears his underpants inside his trousers.

Having firmly established his personality (or the lack, thereof), let us now turn our attention to building a legend around the man. A word about political correctness here, it can be argued that GCMan could as well have been "GCPerson" or even "GCWoman", and still be as effective (and with regard to the Java gc, "GCWoman"would be more accurate, since you can ask the gc to clean up but you cant make it do anything). However, the argument is clearly wrong since in the course of his adventures, GCMan is likely to meet bugs, both the software and the real varieties, and it does not inspire a lot of confidence in the poor developer to have GCWoman standing atop his desk, both feet firmly on the keyboard shrieking like a beetle on steroids at the first mention of a bug.

The beneficiaries of GCMan’s acts of selfless bravado are his brothers in arms, the programmers. His sightings are as awe inspiring as those of Big Foot or Yeti, the abominable snowman, punctuated by gasps of good-natured disbelief (“It’s the pantry boy, no, it’s the printer repair guy, oh no, its GCMan!”), eager anticipation (“I wish somebody would bomb this building”, it being a Monday morning) and most commonly with aggressive passiveness (“Eh?”). Among his many acts of magnanimity are inducing an exceptionally long, loud and odoriferous bout of flatulence in the boss while he was warming to the point of dropping developer productivity, rescuing a brand new coffee machine from a different wing (it had a neat row of LEDs), causing the QA manager’s hard disk to blow up when he was in the middle of detecting a potentially crippling bug and refilling the coffee pot.

This is just the beginning. Pretty soon the entire developer community will be leading richer, fuller and more satisfying lives because the testing community is going extinct. Though GCMan has nothing to do with this (I wouldn’t be too sure of that, his body odour has amazing powers) we will celebrate this as another victory of the spectacled crusader.

Rejoice and watch out, for coming soon to a cubicle near you is GCMan!

(Watch this space for all the dirt on his latest exploits.)

*On that fateful bus journey, he sat next to a girl and accidentally spilled hot coffee on her. The girl screamed, “Fuck you!”

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