Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Solving the unknown

It is rather cliched, but it is the hard truth.  There are many things in life that I have no clue of, and I really don't care.  At the other end of the spectrum, I know a lot of things which adds no value to the system.  Ask me a question What happened in the 1992 cricket world cup between India and Pakistan? Pat will come the reply, "Oh yeah, it has got that Miandad-More episode".

Dei, do you remember that dialogue in Sivaji?
Of course, when Rajini is asked by his mother as to what he does in the US, our thalaivar (leader) comes up with a classic

SoftwareSyssstemsArkitect!!! (All in one fluent rapid motion.  That is the beauty of the response, and only Rajini can do it).

By the way, for the un-observers, it is Software Systems Architect.

There is no question of "Which one?", for the question and answer is supposed to be implicit.  The fun lies in giving the answers to the implicit questions and striking a special bond with the questioner (nobody cares at the end of the day is a different matter altogether!).  

Cricket statistics of any bowler, batsman, fielder, twelfth man, and whoever is associated with the game even remotely, is right there waiting to shoot out of your brains.  Movie trivia, all the tidbits about all the beautiful women in the world, controversies, gossip and as I said, any junk that can be accommodated within that limitless confines of your brain processes the data by placing a "TOP PRIORITY" tag.  Everything else is placed outside this boundary, which means, it is not included in you.  The reaction time is less than a few nanoseconds and the initiator and the initiated do not have a surprised look on their faces, because both of them belong to that elite club of knowing everything about what is not important in life. 

There comes a moment in life, when you ponder, and wish that you could have assimilated useful information  equivalent to at least one per cent of the unwanted junk that you accumulated with so much ease, and also, with a great flair.  This elusive moment is what is called as a passing cloud, though not confronted often, but when confronted, can cause great damage to your central nervous system, and not to forget, your pocket.  As I set foot out of my house today, the early morning snow dampened any little spirit I had in going to work.  It is not a Monday morning, but nevertheless, it is a weekday morning, and the white sleet was in no way going to lift your spirits.  Anyway, I had to start my car, and drive a few paces down the road, and I see that treacherous yellow light blinking, as though the car is fighting for its life.  As the expletives exploded in my head, laced with a few intermittent prayers invoking all the wonderful Gods that my mother prays to with so much fervor, I knew the situation called for something more dramatic.  I had to get hold of a car mechanic as soon as possible and listen to whatever capradaprajaprapapra (If you don't understand this word, that is because, I could not figure out what the mechanic was saying) he has to say.  So, I scheduled an afternoon appointment (yeah, trust me, I did this) with the nearby mechanic.  As soon as I told him that the engine light was on, I could sense the excitement in his voice.  I knew I was going to be milked.

So, as I met up with him to keep up my appointment, and learn the fate of my car, it was as though a patient was waiting for a result from his doctor.

Me: What do you think is wrong?
Lord Mechanic (LM): Let us run the diagnostics and see.  There are 2000 car codes, so I really can't comment.  What is your car?
Me: 1998 Honda Civic!
LM: Oh cool, that saves us a 1000 codes.
Me: OK (there was no relief!)

After about ten minutes, LM pops out from his garage, after the scary inspection
LM: We got the codes from the diagnostics.  They give out 306 & 1700, I can tell you that 1700 is due to 306.  If you solve 306, you will be fine.
Me: Great, I understand everything.  What should I do now? 

LM: There is a misfire on cylinder 2.  You have to change the spark plug.  It will be better if you change the spark plugs on all the cylinders.  We also have to change the distributor rotor, and the complete spark plug set of wires have to be replaced.  You should also get a fuel injection service, and the fuel filter has to be replaced as well.  Basically, you car needs a tune up! (There goes the multiplication problem.  If there is one problem in the car, others will follow suit).

Dude, looks like I can get another car now! You just have one question whizzing in your head,

Me: Fine, how much is all this going to cost?

LM: I don't have the figures off the top of my head, but hold on!

This is when you appreciate his database skill set, as he selects a multitude of items, keeps pressing that enter button with an authority that can drive even Larry Ellison crazy.

LM: It's not much.  It is going to cost you 500$ with labor, but I am going to give you some good discounts.  He dilly dallies around with all possible coupons (actually, he made quite an earnest effort) and came up with 400$, and added that overall, it would cost me 448$ inclusive of tax (buy even a 1 cent item, you will have to shell out a few pence extra in tax).

Me (with that absolute dumb ass expression): Is this absolutely required?

This is one question for which LM grabs you by the scruff of your neck, stomps you under his feet, and squashes you without any mercy.  Mind you, all this effect is the result of the look he gives you for this stupid question.

LM: I would advise you to go ahead with all this.  If you don't do this now, you never know what can happen to your ignition system.  It can fail you any day.

So, here I was, with no idea of what he was saying.  I didn't even know whether he was really going to do what he was saying.  How I wish I could just buy the spark plugs and fit it myself.  Anyway, the trump card works.  I sulk, but there is no choice.  I throw the paper that I had into the waster paper basket.  It had a good laptop configuration - Intel dual core 2.1GHz processor, 4GB ram, 320 GB Hard disk and so on for 400$.

I had made my choice, rather, unwillingly, and forcefully!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Filling up the space

It looks like as though it is a long time since I put up anything on this blog.  Well, actually, it is a long hiatus, for no apparent reason.  The absolute lack of creativity in me couldn't find any motive in churning out those fortnightly posts, but finally found that there is no easy path out than to compose one of those ultra boring posts and get back to the blog world.  One might wonder what I have achieved in the last couple of months, but you just have to look at me, not even skim my brains (if ever I had one), and you will realize that there has been not a single value addition.

Anyway, what did I do? There are not many updates, but there have been those inspirational occasional bursts of reading (yeah, not talking about writing!), juxtaposed by deep (really deep) sleep and lazy slumber. On many days, rather on many nights, just before I get to sleep, I hold on to a book, as though I am praying for mercy, for the welfare of my kith and kin, and hang on to it as though it is the single biggest obsession in my life.  After some time, well into the morning, I get up from a dream world, see the smirk on my wife's face, Switch off the lights before you go to bed.  I had to get up in the middle of the night. You do this every time you hold that book.  Either you don't read before you go to bed or change the book.  I am thankful that she is not holding a stick or something to whip me for my idiosyncrasies.  I get up in a daze without an idea of where I left off the chapter and wishing that the next day would be better suited to my progress.  The day remains the way it was before, and my wishful thinking remains, jutting out to the next day and the day after.  But, the consequences certainly were not disastrous, as I trudged along to the finish line of Yiyun Li's The Vagrants, and felt as though I had scaled the tallest peak in the world.  I did not have a lot of expectations from The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown, and my opinion did not change after I finished the book.  A lot of friends told me that it was a very average book, and I had to agree with them, even though it has a racy plot.  I think it is time for Dan Brown to move on to other themes and save us the misery of re-reading the same things over and over.  But, my best read book in recent times has to be the autobiography of Monica Seles, Getting a grip, for you get the feeling that the contents are pouring out of her heart.  It is very well written, with very nice anecdotes of her playing career, and of course, very inspiring.

Then, coming on to India's most successful author in recent times, Chetan Bhagat, and his book, Two states, I have to admit that he fills his book with all the ingredients that would make an Indian youngster go gaga over his book.  It is not a classic, or a literary masterpiece, but has the necessary contents to finish the book in one sitting.  All his books have been that way, and I am sure, all his future books are going to be that way.  He is not the sort of guy who wants to test the reader's intelligence, and if that is his style, so be it.  With an intense emotional portrayal of all his characters, I am sure he will never get a writer's block.  My current read is about a man who is undoubtedly the face of his company, The second coming of Steve Jobs.

Oh, yes! I wanted to get into the visual world.  So, I thought it would be a good time(actually I have been waiting for years to do this) to invest in a DSLR (a Nikon D3000 to be precise) camera and begin exploring the nuances of the digital world.  But, whenever I look up a technical term to improve my picture taking prowess, a weird thought enters my mind.  Let's say, I am trying to understand what shutter speed is; my mind wanders and wanders like a cloud, and finally envisions the upcoming Martin "Sorakesi" directed movie, Shutter Island.  My skills definitely ought to go to nought! Sigh!

It's the end of the year, and it surprises me as to how fast this year has gone by.  It is as though only yesterday that I wrote this post, but then a year has gone by, as though the pages of a book have been flipped in a second.  Also, this year, the oft used I has been seamlessly replaced by We.  It is a transition that has taken some time getting used to! So, that's been my life, and I hope I get to write some more useless stuff on this space more frequently.  But, then, with so many useless things to do, I am guessing it is going to get less and less frequent.

PS: Happy Holidays!!!