Saturday, March 25, 2006

Meetings: The Practical Alternative To Work


We all attend meetings, everyday, and if it is a Friday then I have as many as 4 of them. How, at the end of the day, I still have my sanity partially preserved, is still a mystery to me. Why the techies are subjected so many meetings is a point, I believe, one of my fellow tribes(wo)men will certainly write a technical paper upon. More or less all meetings fall into the following categories:-

1 Status Meetings
They are the regular weekly status meetings kinda thing which are scheduled mostly on Fridays with a sinister intent of dragging people out of their work so that things get delayed n no one can leave early n enjoy. The agenda of the meeting remains unchanged over the period of time. If Dates, Names of people involved and Numeric figures are removed then the MoM of all such meetings would look damn similar, even across organizations. The conductor or such meetings is usually a person from the higher branches of the hierarchy tree. So well versed in his/her job that (s)he could conduct a meeting in coma. Highly qualified, with a degree from The Indian Board Of Alternative Medicines for a proven track record of curing insomnia. Attendance is usually compulsory for all stakeholders (it basically means anybody who is somebody has to attend). Yawns galore on the floor!!!!

2 Reactive Meetings
These are usually conductive in response to certain distress situations. Something has gone terribly wrong and a meeting is called to discuss the contingency plan. Participants are highly charged up and will all move into the meeting room with a mug of coffee in their hand. The most notable thing is the number of people who don't have a clue bout what's going on and are still very enthusiastically involved. Hats and Wigs off to them!! (I believe that technically a Wig is also a Hat). The saddest thing about these kinda meetings is that the official time for jokes and gossip is sacrificed. Shucks!!!

3 Technical meetings
We don't need no gyan on that. These are the kind of meetings we call, and thrive upon.


Techie's guide to surviving meetings

1. Make the best possible use of the designated time in meetings for cracking jokes n gossip (i.e. before the supremo walks in) to your full advantage. Make sure you go through sites like this & this (Warning: NSFW) and update yourself with the latest jokes of a certain flavour. This will ensure your colleagues look forward to having you and you secure invites to even those meetings in which you have as much role to play, as much as Mallika Sherawat had in 'The Myth'. Please keep in mind that the jokes should be replaced by 'intelligent discussions' on the latest Ekta Kapoor soaps on the telly, in case the sex ratio at your workplace is in favour of women.

2. You may choose not to answer the question put up by the other people in the meeting, for the fear of the abundance of stupidity attached to it, which might rub off on you in case you decided to handle them, but you should never neglect the questions put forward by the boss at the meeting. Also it is a good idea to maintain a straight, thinking look on your face and nod your head in agreement whenever he/she speaks something.

It is a best practice to utter something every 9 mins. Why 9?? Lemme explain.. See, out of the sixty minutes of a 1 hour meeting, 10 mins will be wasted coz boss will turn in late and no one will start until then (Utilize this time for exercising the mantra in point 1), then halfway down the meeting there will be a brief period of 'Collective Attention Loss' in the meeting. So count those 5 mins off too. Remaining - 45 mins. Divide it by 5 (5 = the no of participants/the no of chairs/the no of plants/the no of people awake/ the no of times boss caught you yawning/the no of whiteboard markers in the room - whatever fits the bill, suit urself. Don't ask me "Why 5?") which results in 9. Also, I personally think, 10 minutes is too big a period to keep ur mouth shut and not yawn. Add to it, the fact that it won't allow anyone to say "It's been 10 minutes since u spoke a word". That person will definitely feel awkward in saying "It's been 9 minutes since u spoke a word"

3. Speak Intelligently. No no, I am not asking you to tax your brains on preparing notes for meetings. HELL NO!! Leave them for doing some actual work. All I am saying is that what u speak should carry the message to the listener that the views are a result of intelligent inquisition and meticulous analysis. Just make it 'seem' that way. Go thru the list of words below:-

Root Cause Analysis (RCA)
Fish Bone Analysis (FBA)
Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI)
Competency Level Assessment (CLA)
Key Process Indicator (KPI)
Critical To Quality (CTQ)
Return On Investment (RoI)
Snags n Spikes
Best practices
Benchmark
Reverse engineering
Retrofitting
Repeatable process
Quantifiable
Lessons learnt
Highlights n lowlights
Consistent
Optimised
Performance tuned
Peer review
360 degree feedback
Wholistic view/thinking
Futuristic thinking
Avoidable bottlenecks
Congestion points
Sigma level
ISO
CMM
pCMM
Showstoppers
Hotfixes
Quality consciousness
Version control
Quickwin
Breakfix

Make sure you include one such word in EACH of your sentences. The more the merrier.
The thumb rule, dear readers, is :-
Each verb should preferably be preceded by a powerful adjective. (Don't expect me to go into the details of verbs and adjectives. I remember as much about high school grammar as u do and Wren & Martin were never my favourite authors)

Sample this:-
"After pertinent FBA and RCA we have disembarked on the justified conclusion that the drop in CSI can be advertently attributed to PSC and low CLA."
In simple terms - "Client is pissed off coz we screwed up"

TIP - Using abbreviations serves the purpose of making the sentence complicated and making it difficult to decipher.


4. Carry some printouts to the meetings. Printouts, mind you, not newspaper. That would make it look too obvious. You could print out the cricket match scores (they fit perfectly in Excel sheets) and ponder over the match in the meeting, you could print the lyrics to your fav song and read them , you could print the jokes as mentioned in point 1 and go thru them n prepare yourself for the next meeting... What the hell!! you could print this blog and read it just in case you forget these pearls of wisdom.

5. Last and certainly not the least - GEEKSPEAK
If confronted by an imposing question to which you have no clue, if cornered by a comment which you just dont know how to handle - "Have no fear, geekspeak is here". Start talking in technical terms, left right and center. Use the nerd lingo with a genrous amount of abbreviations thrown in. Remember, Geekspeak is your Excalibur, your ultimate shield, your impregnable armour.

With all that gyan my dear geeks, go, the world is yours to conquer.

THE GEEK SHALL INHERIT THE WORLD
Amen !!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man



So who is this person?? A faint resemblance to Gurudutt perhaps, but still not sure aren't you? A distinguished thespian and filmactor, an exemplary playwright, a notable singer, a patriotic freedom fighter, an excellent tailor, an eminent activist and the list goes on... Ladies n gentlemen please put your hands together for Mr. Avtar Kishore Hangal.

On Monday the President honored Mr Hangal with the
Padma Bhushan, for distinguished service of high order in the field of Arts.

Funny how no one, to whom I showed this pic to earlier, could tell me who the person was. Somehow we have always seen him in the role of an aged person. Sometimes as the teacher Master Dinanath, or as the humble domestic help Ramu Kaka, or the wise old man of the village or something similar. The very thought that this man was once young seems kinda alien.

Born in Sialkot in a family of Kashmiri pandits, Mr Hangal's family soon moved to Peshawar where he was introduced to theatre by his father. His theatrical pursuits led him to join the Shri Sangeet Priya Mandal where he perfomred some of his earliest plays. Apart from theatre he also did plays and songs on Radio. To support his family he took up tailoring and soon became the highest paid cutter in Peshawar. The leisure time was devoted to music n theatre. After Partition he came to India. He started his film career with Guddi. It was Hrishikesh Mukherjee who was responsible for "dragging him into films" as Mr Hangal himself puts it. After that there was no looking back.

Many memorable roles in more than
200 films like Namak Haram, Kora Kagaz, Aandhi, Sholay, Chitchor, Choti Si Baat, Naram Garam, Saath Saath, Bawarchi, Shaukeen and he still continies to amaze us with appearances in films like Lagaan and Paheli.

I remember watching him on the TV in which he narrated a very humourous incident. He was in the hospital under treatment and had called for a barber for a shave. While talking to the barber he incidently asked him about A K Hangal and the barber said something like "He died way back".

Hangal Sahab, to your good health and many more memorable roles.
Cheers!!

Compiled from:-
http://www.mumbaitheatreguide.com/dramas/features/ak_hangal.pdf (Must See!!)
http://www.mumbaitheatreguide.com/dramas/groups/ipta.asp
http://www.hindu.com/fr/2005/05/13/stories/2005051301140300.htm
http://www.rediff.com/movies/nov/15ak.htm

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Weekend That Was...

Had a party on Saturday and we decided that contrary to the normal tradition, this time we wont have any of the wives at the party, and what a blessing that decision proved to be. Well the excuse for the party was that the project went live and we rolled out into production on the wee hours of Thursday morning. *Drum Roll* YUHUUUUUU!!!!!

Another month or two and then I should be heading home. Bharat Ma aur meri Ma ke paas. GAWD....I cant wait!!!

So with the messy things behind us it was time to celebrate and the proj lead M decided it was time to party. Wow!! At company expense. BIGGER WOW!!!! Well the better part of Saturday was spent in cleaning up, now that roomie is in India I had to do it alone so it took up twice the time.

The highlight of the evening was a certain telugu gentleman in the team, who got piss drunk and told everyone how much dowry he got, after which I made a stern resolve to look out for a Telugu gal, preferably from the Kamma or Reddy caste. At least, give it a serious try. So anyone who is readin this and knows such a single gal between 23-26 with a pleasing personality n reasonable intelligence may please drop in a mail.

Other notable event was the beer drinking competition b/w yours truly n the PL M which I won (bows to the applause) and hence secured a dinner invite. A bachelor has to invent new ways of getting himself invited for dinners, you see. Sadly, after that no one but me seemed interested in the event. Gotta think of some new trick now. Suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Hawa Hawa & Bombay Autos (Arbit Post)


Was listening to www.desi-radio.com in office the other day and suddenly in between all those Himesh Reshamiya sung songs (I think the RJ or whatever at the website is not paid well by the site owner hence he is trying to settle scores by cueing such songs) there comes up a voice which I could faintly remember, which is kinda long forgotten and and tucked away in some corner of the mind... the voice of Hassan Jehnagir.. the song Hawa Hawa and it ushered a storm of memories...n I am not the only one who experiences such emotions when they hear songs from the bygone era. Bloggers of notable repute have had reminiscences here n here....Days when there used to be audio cassettes and not Cds. 20 bucks apiece. in shiny decorative(and rarely sleazy) covers.. which could be used later for recording some other songs.

What a rage this song was.. total jhakaas/kickass/raapchick/bindaas/dhinchak song. I cant find words which describe it more aptly.

That brings a question to mind... whats with the song with repeated words ... like Hawa Hawa, Oye Oye, Tamma Tamma or (Tu cheez badi hain) Mast Mast???? Is it the repition of words in quick succession which ensures that the songs register in our mind and thus become chartbusters??

Arguably the favourite patrons of such songs is the clan of Auto-wallahs. The other notable ones being Dhoop-Chaun-Barbers-Association, Road-side Romeos Inc. and Nerds-Not-So-Anonymous United.

Now lemme yap about the Bombay autowallahs.. these guys have a cult of their own.. Their brotherhood is more powerful and widespread than the Harley Davidson Owners's Group worldwide …you have to travel in a Bombay auto to know what I am talking about ... Believe me it is nearest to Formula 1 that your will ever get...

They are a jazzy lot... decorate their autos tastefully… neon lights, plush seats(some of 'em), strategically placed rear view mirrors (ahem ahem) and music... know the Laws of Reflections from Physics better than the professors at MIT and carry the latest mobiles. Imagine, I was talking to a frnd on cell while in an auto and when I was done the autowallah remarks "I am not satisfied with this model" and I am like "Dude I didn’t spent more than a month's take-home salary to hear this"....Anyways if u do manage to strike a convo with one of these guys (which doesn’t require any special skills) you wont even know when u reached ur destination. May God bless their free spirit which is echoed well in the thought "Have Auto, Will Drive - through n over anything"

When I first landed in Mumbai in the rains of 2003 (talk about perfect timing) I was greeted by Daler paaji's "Kala Kauwa" in an auto, among other things like potholes (big enough to have a 2BHK constructed inside them and still have place left for a front yard), slime, and the humid sweaty weather. It took a while for me to realise it was our very own Dilli-da-Munda Daler. Atleast something was familiar in this new city.

Salman Khan called the shots (pun intended) with "Tere Naam" henceforth... every autowallah had a casette of this movie.. some even had a CD.

"Andaaz" came in as the next chart (and commuter ear) buster. So wherever you go 'Ho Rabba Ishq Na Howey' followed you.. Much like the pug in the Hutch commercial.
Akshay kumar encore(and Salman too not left behind)... this time with "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi"
"Laal Dupatta Ud Gaya" and "Aaja Soneya" became the anthem of the three wheeled speedsters... That was the rage when I left the shores

Can anyone tell me what’s the latest these days?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tandoori Nights

As I was sending this pic to my family today I felt like posting it here. No, I am not planning to turn this into a food blog and Yes, I do send pics of my cullinary exploits(among other things), like the one above n the one below, back home esp for my Ma. So that she is (re)assured that her "laadla beta" is doing just fine with his cooking, which he is in the process of learning. Yeah, I heard u mutter 'Mamma's Boy'.

This pic was clicked on Saturday and this was the first time I was tryin my hand at Tandoori and the results were rather appreciable, as you can see. [Pats himself on the back]

Here is the recipe for Tandoori Chicken, my style(which basically translates to low-skill-low-resource style):-

8-10 Cloves (Laung)
10-15 Pepper (Kaali Mirch)
3-5 Cardamom (Elaichi)
1-2 Badi Elaichi (Sorry I don't know what it is called in English. You see my profession, doesn't require me to have a vocabulary greater than 3000 words and doesn't allow me time to take it above 3000 words)
Roast the above ingredients a lil on a pan and grind them under a rolling pin. (You may also use a food processor but I can't. A bachelor like me really would not have an idea what a food processor can be used for. Neither do I own such fancy appliances. The money saved this way is used in other highly neccessary comodities like beer)
Mix the spices in a cup of yogurt.
Add Salt, Red chilli powder,Garam masala n Chicken masala acc to taste. Whisk it well. Marinade is ready.
Clean the chicken pieces n make slits on it with a knife so that the marinade can penetrate deep. Rub the mixture on the pieces and when they are coated properly let the chikcen pieces marinate for about 6-8 hours.
Preheat the oven at 225 deg and place the chicken pieces in it... preferable in a skewer.
Turn the pieces every 10 minutes.. adding the marinade to it if it gets dry. If the meat starts to leave water then dab it with a tissue n remove it so that the pieces are dry.
In about 40 mins, with two coatings of marinade and turning the pieces around every 10 mins, the chicken should be ready. Brush the pieces with a liberal coat of butter.

(Tip: Butter will appreciate the taste of any dish in the world
It is tips such as this, which have enabled the smooth transition of my Struggling-to-make-its-existence-felt paunch into a Fuck-me-I-am-famous paunch)

Remove from oven, garnish with sliced cucumber, tomatoes n chillies. Sprinkle a pinch of Chaat masala and a dash of lime on the dish.

Well, as they say [Accent=Latino]"Share it with someone you love".[/Accent], and I share it with you dear readers.
Bon App├ętit!!

Warning:-
¤ The author shall in no way be held responsible for any health complications arising due to consumption of any dish prepared keeping the above guidelines in mind.
¤ In case the adventure spirit gets better of you, keep Gelusil, Digene or Zintec handy.

And before I forget..Recipe for Gulab Jamuns:-
Get a pack of GITS Gulab Jamun Mix. Follow instructions at the back of the pack :-)


¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

EDIT 13 Mar '06
Do you people also observe that food tastes better after 1 day? Esp Daal n Veggies.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

And My Fav Books are:-

1 E-CRM: Business & System Frontiers By M.P. Jaiswal, Anjali Kaushik Rs. 207/-
2 The IT Professional`s Guide to Managing Systems, Vendors and End Users by Plotnick, Neil Rs.350/-
3 SAP Project Management by Ghosh, Joy Rs.650/-
4 E Business: A Beginner`s Guide by
Elsenpeter, Robert C. Rs.325/-
5 The CRM Project Management Handbook by Michael Gentle Rs.1166/-
6 Building Java Enterprise System with J2EE by Perrone Rs.570/-
7 Database Management Systems Designing and Building Business Applications by
Gerald V. Rs.225/-

Since it is March, I thought I would share with you guys some of the books I love... In fact, am so fond of them that I have bought them twice, in March 2004 n March, 2005. I have receipts to prove the same :-P

Though this year I won’t be able to buy these books again, I sincerely hope that this list comes in handy to some of you.
Happy Reading!!!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Email

One of the most essential forms of communications in this era is the Email. It has clearly crossed the line from being a "useful communication tool" to Mission Critical Communication Platform and a De-facto Information Repository. Take away email, and an employee's ability to send forwards and communicate, collaborate n coordinate (whats with all the co* words??) with customers, vendors, fellow employees and others is severely hampered, the former issue leading to severe cases of nerve damage due to proffessional trauma and cerebral inactivity. In fact, overall productivity is reduced. Phrases like "Email's down, I might as well go home" are not all that uncommon, you know.

A click of a button and a person thousands of miles away is a privy to your thoughts. Its fast, reasonably safe and comparitively cheap. And for a s/w engineer, like me, it is an integral, indispensable, indelible, inalienable, inalterable, inarguable, incessant, inconvertible and inbuilt(OK enough ins) part of work. Coz most communication in a project happens through mails. (Lets keep it for a later post, why I think Lotus Notes/Microsoft Outlook, MS word and MS Excel are THE most important tools for project development n execution in any technology/domain)

Did u hear the story of a software engineer who was marooned on an island for a long period and then one fine day a gorgeous blonde comes over from the other side of the island and displays how she applied her skills to produce some of the most amazing things one could expect to find in such a desreted place. And then when she tells him, with a suggestive wink, that he could turn his wildest fantasy into reality he is overjoyed at the thought of being able to check his mails. :-)

Well so much for the email fondness. Now on an average one must be sending out atleast 30 mails a day, and that is a conservative estimate. If you happen to be a Project Leader, Project/Account Manager or any branch higher in the corporate tree, then sending out mails is perhaps all you do the whole day, with the notable exception of holding meetings on project issues, Six Sigma, Change Management and other such efficient time wasting subjects. In such a case, the figure assumes epidemic proportions, often leading to huge network traffic accompanied by crashing of mail servers. I dont even want to guess. Some email bloopers that we regularly commit

1 Please revert back ...
Yessss I will revert 'back'... since I cant revert forward... guess I dont have much of a choice, do I?
2 Please find attached herewith...
Oh it is attached herewith??? I thought it was attached to the tree outside... or maybe the commode, where all shit coming from you rightfully belongs..


3 Where can I find these Apples?
This one is a jewel ...was the subject of the mail ...it was a laugh riot in the team while the lady was actually asking where she she could find the Applets

Now there is a little bit of personal touch involved with our email ids.. the official protocals of any corporate house dont leave much room for creativity with stringent rules like <firstname>.<lastname>@your-sweatshop.com or the other way around...But for the personal mails, one can come up with a sea of imaginable n unimaginable ids...Often we see birthdates, zodiac sign, pet names and stuff like that in ids... which give u as much idea about the person as id such as WellHungGuy or SexyEyeCandyBabe...

Emails have progressed tremendously over the years. A measely 2 Mb account 5-7 years ago to huge 2 Gb accounts now... I started off in 1999 with a petty 5 Mb account in Yahoo (hence lalitsingh99, which has stuck with me eversince) and still feel content with the space n features it offers and dont feel the need to switch.

Some things just get better with age!!!