Saturday, April 21, 2007

हिंदी में ब्लोग?

मेरे दोस्त बलबीर ने कहा कि अब हम हिंदी में ब्लोग कर सकते है। यह, गूगल कि बड़ी अच्छी सुविधा है
और यह ट्रांसलेशन इंजन बहुत अच्छी तरह काम करती है!

शाभाश गूगल

Terminating Arthur for now

For the last three weeks, I've been trying to get Arthur to do something funny. That hasn't happened, and I'm also running out of story ideas - so Arthur stands terminated for the time-being. Hopefully, if I call pull-off a resurrection (oh, how he would hate to hear this word), I'll re-instate him again.

Pseudo Engineering

I was watching a programme on Animal Planet yesterday. The objective of this programme was to get four engineering students to engineer some artifact of nature. In yesterday's programme, it was the Spider web.

The Spider web is an amazing work of nature. Strands of some spider webs are known to be stronger and more elastic than a steel strand of the same thickness. In addition, the 'architecture' of the spider web, it's spiral construction, and the entire biology behind it, are all simply amazing.

But back to the programme. The four students had to build a spider web on a 60'X40' scaffolding. Yes, you got it right - a 60 foot-by-40 foot scaffolding. The team would then 'trebuchet' a 25 pound weight into it, and the web had to be strong enough to catch it. Further, beyond the obstacles posed by the task, the students also had to contend with the winds blowing in the Sydney harbour.
Needless to say, I was mesmerized. "What a cool assignment", I thought, but as the programme progressed, I just got more and more frustrated. The programme was not about engineering a web. It was about showing the 'cool' side of engineering, with cute babes (and hunks, for those inclined), and some 'action' - like having people bungee jump from a 60 foot scaffold or hurl washing machines in the air. Why am I so disappointed? Because while there are no two words about engineering being cool, there is a lot of sweat that goes into making it look cool. There is a lot of math - for instance, you are aiming at a web, that is X feet away, with a trebuchet that can throw a ball of weight M with a force of J Newtons. You have wind blowing at an angle theta with a velocity of v kmph. Now, what are the angle/distance/power metrics for your trebuchet so that the ball hits the centre of the web? Calculating this is engineering. Not random testing the final version by firing away to glory, or having your only claim to math being a spreadsheet that never gets used.
Maybe I'm being too harsh. I don't know. Why don't you tell me through the comments link?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Awesome joke

Stallman, Linus and Knuth walk into a bar

Stallman says - "God said I made the GREATEST editor ever "

Linus says - " God told me that I made the divine OS , the GREATEST kernel ever ... "

Knuth says - "Wait a minute, I don't remember saying that "

Unit of freedom

What is the unit of freedom in your country? Perplexed? Read on...
The unit of freedom is the smallest group of people in your country that enjoys freedom. For example, if you are in the United States, the unit of freedom is the individual. If you are in Communist China, the unit of freedom is the party. And if you are in France, the unit of freedom is a union. (I'm kidding.) And if you are in Pakistan, the unit of freedom is the local mosque.

So, what is unit of freedom in India? That is a no-brainer. The unit of freedom in India is the mob. It is the mob that is free - to avenge some weird insult to ridiculous pride by stoning glass buildings, it is the mob that is free to prevent a Hindu girl marrying a Muslim boy, and it is the mob that is free to slaughter farmers in the name of development. It is mobs that decide what insults national pride, it is the mobs that decide who is on the right side of justice, and it is the mobs that decide who has a right to live.

You disagree? Post your disagreements in the comments below.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Personality CMM

For anyone associated with Software Engineering, the three letters CMM either evoke knowing smiles or unknowing deference, depending on whether the person has gone through a CMM review or not. Well, that was the Software CMM. On similar lines, we have the People-CMM and now, CMMi - Integration CMM for system companies that do both hardware and software.

Needless to say, these CMM models have kept many consultants in business, provided opportunities to many researchers to add to their list of papers, and has in fact, created a new haves/have-nots situation w.r.t software companies.

All the models have the same five levels: Initial, Repeatable, Defined, Managed and Optimizing (wiki here). Each level has a list of processes (KPAs) that must be in place for an organization to attain that level. I won't go into the details here, except state the obvious - the latter levels are 'better', and the higher the level an organization achieves, the more mature it is supposed to be.

This got me thinking - aren't people the same? There are people who defy age - they are 3-year olds as long as they live. And there are some who keep improving even when they are in their 90s. Not very different from the CMMs. Therefore, I present to you, my contribution to the CMM stable: The Personality CMM

I'll describe the Pr-CMM in greater detail in the coming posts. For now, here is a broad definition of the five levels:

- Initial: These people think that the world revolves around them. Needless to say, they are most immature. You cannot trust them, you cannot believe what they say, and in short, they are best avoided.
- Repeatable: These are people you can trust. But they come in with fixed personalities that don't ever change, not for the better, and thankfully, not for the worse under normal circumstances. But put them under stress, and they revert to the first level faster than a snake's strike.
- Defined: These people are those you can trust, and in addition, they have some goals, some principles and values in life. They listen to others, get feedback, but may not necessarily incorporate feedback that they don't like.
- Managed: These people believe in measurement. Along with all the good qualities of level 3, these people measure their lives, keep tabs on how they are progressing, and generally are extremely likeable people.
- Optimizing: These guys follow all processes of level 4, and in addition, strive for continuous improvement.

So, which level is your personality in?

Postscript: No, I am not serious. I agree that the human personality is too diverse to fit nicely into a set of five buckets. Still, considering the pace at which the CMM craze is picking up, particularly in Indian software service companies, I just _had_ to pen this.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What marriage does to normally sane people

Nearly all my friends are married, and most of them went over to the dark side only in the last two-three years. So, for some time now, I've been trying to find out what marriage does to normally sane people (read guys), and how it changes them.

Results show that a tiny minority remains unmoved, while most people change substantially, and a small minority undergoes a complete metamorphosis.

However, one change common to all married friends of mine is what I call the "good-host-syndrome". Nearly all of my married (male) friends are affected by it. Suddenly, the guy who would slap you on your back, throw a few Kannada curses at you and push you down on a worn out couch, now welcomes you into his home most politely, apologizes for the plush setting, and asks his wife to cook goodies for you. Oh, and the wives aren't far behind. They enquire many times if you've had enough to eat, if the salt was right, and they are insitent in apologizing for the wonderful cuisine they've prepared for you. Seriously, this gets embarassing, particularly for someone who fills his plate with cold dinner (Thank God my mom doesn't read my blog!) at midnight. And, it does not end here. God forbid if you go out for dinner/ movie/ trek/ bowling/ museum/ lunch/play/any other activity, the friend has to pay, even for you!

I'm not saying that my friends weren't hospitable before marriage - I mean, come on, what else can you expect from Bangaloreans, but their change has been nothing but radical. Earlier, the hospitality was a heart-to-heart connection. Now, it is a heart-to-heart connection, but with overflow!

A futher subvertive effect of marriage has also been noticed on single people. Single men who have come in close contact with married couples have taken on some of the hosptiable attributes, and they behave in the same way!

I was in the US recently, on work, and I had a great time outside of work as well. The reason is simple - married friends and infected single friends!

Thanks to them all! :)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The cricket debacle

I didn't want to write about this. Really, believe me, I'm totally tired of watching, listening to and reading the same analysis over and over again. Come on, it is not like we had a national disaster! OK, the team lost. Get over it. And it is not even the Indian cricket team! Would you be as disappointed if a Wipro coding team lost in an international software competition? [Substitute an appropriate company if you work for Wipro ;)]

Anyways, in the discussions and articles that analyzed reasons for India's defeat, I didn't see two reasons I think are central to the debate: the lack of a sporting culture in India and the lack of respect for hard-nosed, nose-grinding-on-the-mill-stone work.

I think the first is more basic. As a country and as a culture, we lack sporting instinct, and love for sport. Blame it on the hot weather, blame it on excessive academics, or on over-indulgent parents, but the truth is that we don't really care about sport. We have weird notions of national pride and state pride, which we want to see satiated everywhere, but we don't love the game for what it is. We don't understand the discipline it takes to succeed at sports. We don't go to our children's school games with a video camera, we don't cheer for a school/ college/ city/ state team when it is playing, we don't broadcast school games live on local TV. We don't fight for schools to have good grounds, we don't ask for good coaching at the school/college level, but we all want the national team to dive like Michael Phelps at the start gun. Remember though, when I say we, I don't mean just us - I'm including the establishment, the government, everyone. Let's face it - as long as we don't care about sport, barring the occasional world cup win or test series victory, we'll only draw blanks. As the saying goes, if we have one finger pointing at Dravid and co., we'll have four pointing at the rest of us.

Next, I must highlight the lack of respect for hard-nosed work. As the saying goes, "Success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration". Bhimsen Joshi apparently stood in waist-deep water, practising his singing for over four hours everyday to become one of the doyens of music. Sachin is said to have stood in front of the mirror for hours - not checking his hairstyle as some would accuse him of doing - but perfecting his swing. In Microsoft's TechVista, Prof. C.N.R. Rao had a lot to say about hard work and deferred gratification. But these are not the stories we tell our youngsters. These are not the heroes we celebrate. We love the Dhoni six, as technically flawed as it may be, we love Sehwag's flaying shots outside the off-stump, and have the standard excuse when they get out to rash shots: "Arre yaar, voh dil se khelta hai", as though that is the Ganga jal that purifies all sin. As ever, form over function. (Note: Even as you read this, please please remember that I am NOT saying that Sehwag or Dhoni didn't work hard. I'm only saying that as a public we don't care about the work ethic that goes into anyone's success. )

I've seen parents who came to a cricket camp I attended as a child, shouting at the coach, asking him to give more turns to their son to bat/bowl. I still recall the howls of protest that went up as the coach asked us to run around the field, to stretch, and to run up and down the pitch. All we wanted to do then was swing the bat, and throw the ball. Everything else was secondary. And there was a not-so-implicit hierarchy: batsmen belonged to the Brahmin class, bowlers were the Kshatriyas, the wicket-keeper was the shudra, and the fielders were the untouchables. Imagine the sort of cricketing ethic we would have learnt here. And no, I'm not blaming the coach - it was the parents, the friends, and the onlookers, who were always more happy when the player hit three or four sixes, as opposed to taking a crucial, match-winning catch.

Appreciation for hard work, appreciation for the people doing the grunt work that keeps the machinery running, appreciation for people who put the team before self - these are not attributes we teach our youngsters. Until these change, we may see occasional successes, never repeatable ones.

[Postscript: I know this may upset some of you - if you are going to flame me, please keep in mind that I'm not claiming that these are the only reasons or even the most important reasons for India's defeat. I'm only saying these are reasons that I did not see mentioned.]