Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Publishing problems

Have been trying to get my earlier post published for about 2 days now. My client is an impoverished organization constantly cost cutting and providing extremely frugal resources to its employees (you can rest insured).

I can't publish my blogs from office and at home I exploiting aol as much as I can (I can be skin-flint as well). So, it times out at home as well on a few occasions.

In this publishing melee, somehow, my blog got published with some weird text. I don't remember writing the last few lines in my blog. I promptly corrected it and republished.

Any guesses why it happened?

The weird text is here

Somehow, Slashdot and wired also classify as a blog and both are just full of new info about the digital woreach blank page with a finished page. Even though the first draft was wretched, with every consecutive editing, the "slug tape" would be removed and replaced with better footage. Soon it gets hard to tell which parts are the slug tape that needs to be swapped out. Writing is like editing with slug tape. Then again, writing is also like hitting your head against a wall—it feels good when you stop!slug tape that needs to be swapped out. Writing is like editing with slug tape. Then again, writing is also like hitting your head against a wall—it feels good when you stop!

Friday, January 27, 2006

The best blonde joke ever

You will die laughing. Just read this joke

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Shor off karo, please!!

A silent war is simmering beneath the surface in the IT world. You hear about it through whispers, grapevine and through canteen discussions. But it somehow doesn't make it to the list of open issues that plague the Indian software professional. I am talking about the Big Wide Onsite Offshore Divide.

Each party thinks of the other as the bona-fide enemy. It is not just that "This XYZ person is not doing the job well". Its that "Offshore is moron". It's "Onsite is lazy". Depending on which site of the ocean you are, you get clubbed (with a big one) and branded (the club has metal embossing) into a category.

Sometimes there are things that naturally come to each group, just coz of the location and the kind of work.

At offshore, you tend to come late ( around 10 am), stay late, gossip around a lot. At offshore, you are punctual, coz the firangs expect you to be there by 9 am. But then, you never stay beyond 6 pm. At offshore, you could never dream of scheduling a meeting at 9 am. Onsite, you are not expected to do coding, so sometimes, you have some really incompetent people sitting there and dictating terms about design and development to far more qualified people at offshore. With the time difference as well, offshore needs to sweating longer hours to support the nawabs in cooler climes.

Thus, requiring to pander to the w and f of onsite, especially when, the perks of staying onsite ( read salary in $ or £) are tremendous, offshore is very resentful of the onsite folks. Everyone wants to come onsite, capable or not. No coding to do, give orders to onsite, earn big mullah, put client interaction in bold on resume - the advantages are too many to resist.

But its not an easy thing to handle - being onsite. We, desis, are good at logic and all that, and that makes us good developers/coders. However, our education system is not geared for optimal social skills. English being our second language, talking in English to resolve an issue or conflict, or clarify a requirement is quite a daunting task for us. I constantly see people doing what they are not naturally capable of doing. Issues pile on, and wrong requirements and taken down. But these are soft problems - something that isn't obvious, through statistical analysis of project metric data. Though there are soft-skills courses for conversation skills, conflict resolution, negotiation skills etc, how does one bring out the importance of a skill learnt over a life-time and and only through cultural exposure, in a few hours of training. Just as a case in point, how many Indian managers you know use humour to diffuse a tense situation. Anda.

So, you might be a great techie, but that doesn't validate your claim to onsite. There are many incapable guys are onsite, but we don't need equally verbally-challenged people.

Meanwhile, guys at onsite, should understand, what their primary responsibility is. Learn to talk, handle and manage people well. Talk to client as if you are talking to a friend and not reading an essay. There are some totally insane guys here, who might as well have been ploughing fields with bullocks in UP.

Also, onsite should understand that coding is not something to run away from. Respect the developer for his skills and try to make things easier for him/her. Know your domain well. Get your hands dirty in development, or you will never be convincing enough, in front of the client or offshore team.

And for God's sake, both of you stop fighting. :-))

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Maxim us, maxim me

Damn, I would have immediately dropped my Sun and jumped at this

Pity, the launch is in India and I can't lay my hands on those two

Monday, January 23, 2006

Picture victure

Thanks to an inveterate movie buff as a roomie, have been catching loads of movie since the last couple of weeks.

Roman Polanski's Ninth Gate, is a total disgrace. Some movie directors have just made this fat name for themselves, that they and the movie studios can peddle any trash in their name (like Dan Brown the author). I have caught The Pianist which is a decent movie, but Ninth Gate is just a terrible piece of film-making. Johnny Depp is wasted.

Clockwork Orange is a film that I wanted to watch for a long time. It is provocative, without a doubt. Certainly, very innovative use of language with weird, wonderful characters. I think the acting by Malcolm McDowell is top notch. However, I wont call it the best movie I have ever seen. May be one needs a bit of back reading to be in the know of what the director is trying to convey through the gruesome and repulsive violence)

Had a relook at Batman Begins. It didnt strike me that Liam Neeson himself was Ra's Al Ghul until my roomie told me so. The animation series I have seen always had Ra's as a Chinese guy, hence I was easily fooled. But anyway, the DVD was without any good features (no inside info, director's cut, interviews, nothing), hence was a bit disappointed. My earlier post about Batman and Ra's is here

I was expecting a lot out of Mystic River. But I found it desparately trying to be award winning good cinema. The central idea of the movie is extremely unconvincing (spoiler follows) - that the two kids should kill Sean Penn's daughter in a ghastly manner. Also, if the kids have made her car suddenly swerve, shouldnt she be saying more than 'Hi' to them. Also, the episode during the childhood of the three friends is given just too much weightage - just to get a sombre tinge to all the proceedings. But really, (more spoilers) the abuse could have in no way have fundamentally affected the lives of the three men- just Tim Robbins' Dave

Sean Penn's acting is flawless and without a doubt, deserves an Oscar. I am not so much convinced about Tim Robbins. He just acts like a lunatic. Also, I don't quite get Clint Eastwood's fascination for slightly quirky characters, just for the sake of it. In Million Dollar Baby, he is into Gallic. Here, Kevin Bacon's wife calls him up all the time but doesn't talk on the phone. Hello!

Also, sometime back, I watched and very much liked Home Delivery. Now, some of friends have given my supari for recommending the movie to them. Hmmm, my brain. Something's up.

Up and down we go

Sort of having a tumultous time here. The micro design is just about to get over. And offshore is setting up environment. For good or bad, I am playing a central role in sending the datamodel, ddls, alter scripts. It was extremely hectic last week, when I had to jump out of train from York (went there on business meeting) after 6 hours of gruelling journey and come to office to deliver the latest ddls.

On top of that, we have some incorrigible resources, who do not learn to thing on their feet when something goes wrong. Just blame the other guy. So, with the massive reconciliation activity we are doing, there were issues and offshore put their hands up, saying we can't do anything, because there are some teeny weeny issues.

Anyway, after a lashing, things have fallen in place and after about 4 days, we are on the way to setting up an environment offshore. Now, we have to get the latest stuff from them and update our datamodels.

New project is kicking off and PM is not letting me go. I wanted to go Feb end to India but have been told that latest I can go is March end - when macro design of this new project is over. Seems a stretch now, but lets see. With the way things have been going with this account, I don't think anything substantial is going to happen by March. If it does, it surely will be worth posting here for recycling. And I think you will have to pay the buyer to get rid of the junk deliverables

For some reasons, however, it sort of makes it ok for me to stay till March. I am giving it a thought.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I just ran

A touching post by Dhammo about running the Mumbai Marathon for Manjunath.

Article in IE is here
and my aimless attempt last year is chronicled here

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Teen Rajdhani Bhramanika

Extremely brief travelogue of our tour to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. It was quite hectic as we covered 3 capitals in 4 days. As some one who has been to Paris will tell, Paris can't be covered in 2. But still wasn't there to really savor every bit of it, but just to have a glimpse. When I am visit these places later - with family, then I know very well, what to see and what to skip.

Paris is absolutely a must see. Everything about the place is overwhelming, over the top, grandiose. The neatly pave roads, the clinically cut trees, the magnificent gilded monuments, the expensive fashion stores - its like KingKong. But still its a lovely city, inspite of the French arrogance, the people are nice. And the Eiffel Tower is really huge!:-)

Brussels is skipable. I didn't have high expectations, after a guy in my earlier project (Belgium company) said that it was like Delhi. And yes, the city is quite plain and average. However, Grand P'alace is very grand and European Quarter will give you the buzz. But the rest is a let-down. The Manneken Pis (Pissing boy) a huge one. Never thought the most popular tourist attraction in Brussels would be so tiny and tacky.

I can see myself settling in Amsterdam, even if that is a remote possibility. No, the red light district is not the incentive I am after. The place is just beautiful, and truly has a warm endearing character. English is spoken on the streets, cyclists ride dangerously and have the right of way (Clap! clap! clap!), canals everywhere reflect the city lights at night. Yes, there are historical buildings as well, but its far better to just roam around the city and take in the sights and sounds.

It's just a fascinating place.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Nahi Chalta Hai.

In the last few years, I have become a huge fan of processes and systems. I sure sign that I am getting old. Normally, junta cribs that all this browbeating about quality and use of metrics, standard documents, reviews, checks, audits are just a big impediment in the actual delivery and rather than used to any genuine positive effect, are employed more by companies to get highly coveted labels like the CMM, PCMM, ISO, Six Sigma and the like.

I tend to disagree. The people who claim the processes are useless, are the ones that make them useless.

Anyway, what I really wanted to discuss was in terms of quality of deliverables and processes implemented to ensure optimal delivery, a company cannot move to best level without trial by fire. That is almost a given. You have to pass through Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 to get to Level 5.

I use the word company. But really, I want to make the point to compare how government and the establishment functions in the two countries - UK and India. In UK, as pointed out through an earlier example, things run pretty much close to CMM Level 5. In India, we are very close to go past CMM Level 1.

There are a number of factors and all true (India is a large country and there are many truths). These guys have the money. But to get to CMM5 is incredibly tough. CMM Level 5 says that you not only have to be the best, but you have to constantly keep improving. UK has great politicians (watch the extremely dignified, intelligent and witty debates in the House of Commons). A not so effective opposition right now, but a vocal backbenchers MPs from the govt itself, keep the PM and cabinet in check. Then there is the media (as good as in India). But main thing is the system is full of people, out there trying to make things happen, trying to better it for their lot, constantly improving.

So, on the roads, you find thick paint stripes, for every thing - no-parking zone, cycle path (is marked by green colour patch along the road), bus way, turn signs, cobbled pathways in city center or pedestrian zones. Along the roads, there is hardly any water logging. The pavement slopes gently at each intersection so that the disabled and the old have no trouble crossing. Very minor things, but which need deliberate thought and action

In fact, the emphasis here is on integrating every possible citizen into the mainstream. He should be able to freely move around, travel and work inspite of his/her handicap or age. That is why, you see so many old people whizzing around in disability scooters. What's more the disability law mandates all the banks/utility companies to send out mails in braille or in large letters in case the person poor eyesight. There are mikes at every counter in banks/railway stations. Just think about how old or disabled people have to live a life of confinement and desolation in India. Never able to leave the house, not getting heard and generally ignored all the time.

Probably, all this will come in India in a few years time. It will come with wealth. But right now it is important to get educated, smart and dedicated people in the government, in public sectoy. People who are not satisfied with CMM Level 1. People who are not ok with Chalta Hai attitude.

Nahi Chalta Hai!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ticket please

I have always harped about how it isn't so good here. Well, it's just that I am not objective at times. I am not going to talk about all the rosy things here, but just one. What the episode highlights, I will bring out later.

So, I was on a train to London on 23rd evening. I was on my way to Cardiff (Norwich-London-Cardiff 3 hours) to be at my cousin's place during Christmas holidays.

A tall, fat, ugly, black guy took a seat just on the other side of me. The TC was on his way soon and asked this guy for the ticket. The guy says, I bought the ticket, but lost it at KFC. The TC goes, OK, since you dont have the ticket, you have to pay up. Guy says, I don't have money. TC asks for his home number and address, so he can call and verify with someone if you really bought the tickets. The guy gives a phone number and address. TC goes away, comes back after 20 min and tells the guy there is no one at that number. The guy writes down the address again. The TC again finds no one there.

Basically, the guy is just playing around, he hasnt bought any ticket, doesn't want to pay up and still wants to go to London. The TC in all of this dealings, is calm and to the point. The black guy hassles him no end and shouts, screams and swears, is clearly lying, but TC won't come down to his level or start a slanging match.

Finally, TC warns him that he has to pay up or get down at Ipswich station. The guy cockily says "No, I wont get down". The TC warns him again. The guy is adamant. TC calls Ipswich station. "Ipswich, this is the ticket checker on the London train from Norwich. We have a passenger who needs to be taken off the train. The coach number is C. We will reach there in 5 minutes.

At Ipswich the stationmaster, an assistant and 2 policemen immediately gather around our coach. The guy has realised that his game is up. So, walks upto the door. But, now he has company. He is screaming and ranting, but there is only one place he will spend the night. Our train is off without any delay.

The TC comes to us and apologises for losing his cool. Hello, we told him, you did no wrong. You were a paragon of virtue. TC in India (we didnt tell him this) would probably have slapped and punched the guy (if not atleast caught him by scruff of his neck), the police would have gathered and saafed their haath, there would have been incredible commotion. Trains would have got delayed and everyone would complain and crib and have a jolly good time.

What is great is that for everytime the guy tried to play a trick, the TC just stuck by the book. For every excuse, TC followed the rules laid down to the T. When he found he had no option, he called for help. And he was sure, there would be support.

I don't want to generalize, but isn't it that we don't follow the laws or abide by the rules, or do our duty as a citizen because the system lets us down? Why would I wear a helmet, if the traffic police rides a bike bareheaded. Why would I want to register a complaint about an offending motorist, if the police will probably hassle me no end. These are small things, but basically make us cynical and bitter about the system.

Well, the episode, with many others shows you that in UK, the system works. You can proudly engage in the system and not worried about 'repurcussions'. You have issues, they will get addressed. You want to stick to your guns if you are right, you will get support. Only remember, not to abuse your power, coz there will have consequences for that too.

Lazy Bum

Have been extremely lazy in the past couple of weeks in making an entry here, what with the holidays (had to spend time with my kids and buy expensive gifts for my wife) and project micro design work. But lots has happened meanwhile that I want to write about. Important thing, I have been progressively losing my will to work in this place and right now, am in auto-pilot. I have touched upon my woeful plighthere and here.

Have already spoken to PM about sending me back- send me back, send me back, send me back for good. It shouldnt be a problem, coz in the worst case scenario, I plan to go AWOL.

Weather continues to be awful, but thats old hat. Anyway, will have new blog entries soon.