The Ostrich Attitude

Sometimes, when the gravest of problems stare us in the face, we choose to ignore it just because we find that we can’t do anything about it. And in most cases, we just ignore it and carry on with life — laughing, dancing, acting — as if everything is going to be set right, somehow. We just repose our faith in the omnipotence of Time — innocently believing that it is going to use a magical formula to answer all those questions, solve all those problems we haven’t a clue about. I wonder if it is called complacence, callousness, or just plain powerlessness.

To use a metaphor, I often see people using in Computer Science, if a problem is intractable, we would just create a perfect model of the universe, where we just elide a large class of problems by definition, hiding them in the assumptions section hoping nobody will notice that those assumptions don’t really hold in practice. Our simple model of eat, sleep, work (in that order) and party with your salary cheque without a worry for anybody else fails miserably when real life asks questions which we neither comprehend nor seek to do anything about — because our limited vocabulary hasn’t prepared us for something of this magnitude.

Even if sometimes we are aware of the problem, we realize that there is very less that we can do about it. In principle, we know what is do be done. We can just issue a few instructions and hope everything will be hunky-dory very soon. In principle. In practice, execution is far tougher (and this is not limited to the scope of this exposition). In practice, we realize that our brilliant ideas, and one-stroke solutions fall inadequately in a quicksand, the logistics are so complicated that we just propose, we never prove. We console ourselves with the false assurance that somebody will implement those ideas for us. And one day the false assurance comes back to haunt us.

The problem, in most cases, of course, is going to have many facets. What we observe and what we try to cure is only the symptoms. The real thing lies deep down — in the deepest recesses of people’s minds, and they have been implanted not by one statement, one event, or one person, but by years of internalizing the environment and people’s reactions to it. The problem, in most cases, is deep-rooted, inexplicable, irrational, and very very dangerous. We just observe simple deficiencies, deviations in behaviour and we just hope that it will all be alright in Time. We can not do much more because being able to look deeply into people and reason is something we haven’t figured out very well. Science falls short on this great promise — we have learnt to built machine that work faster than us, but we still can’t understand ourselves. We just scratch the surface, make up some explanations, propose some solutions we can’t even validate and claim victory. And soon, we cower in the face of defeat.

And if everything fails, we escape. We provide explanations, we run off on work, we circumambulate in order to avoid the problem, we evade not just with alcohol (that is the easy one!), but we do with sleight of words and actions.

And then one day that problem we’d hoped so dearly would somehow solve itself, gets out of the box and slaps us across our face. And with all our accomplishments, our competencies, our arrogance, pride and confidence, we feel helpless. We wish to hide ourselves in the pillow, unable to fathom the why, how and how to of the problem.

Powerlessness. Helplessness. Cluelessness. A welcome feeling?


Lesions from Cooking

[Now cross posted on Desicritics]

For just under one week now, I have been the proud owner of a gas cylinder, a stove and a refrigerator, and I daresay my life has been completely revolutionized. That I have learnt oodles of nuances about cooking is sadly a statement I can not make as yet. However, as one interminably perseveres along the solitary and arduous path of cooking (thankfully I have a roommate for company!) for one’s survival, one gradually begins to realize that there are probably more lessons about life in the culinary arts than Deepak Chopra can possibly pontificate. It is a journey beset both with teething problems for the tongue.

To start off, one begins learning to make choices and trade-offs. With the limited knowledge and experience of the lead protagonists, it is evident that trade-offs have to be a part of the equation right from the beginning. One learns to accept reality and live with it. Self-appraisal teaches us that one should not bite more than one should eat, or cook. It’s best to get your fundamentals right — eg., how to roast a toast, and toast the occasion.

One learns early in the journey that things are not going to be easy. One is neither born nor can cook with a silver spoon. It requires tremendous foresight to make sure that the kitchen is well-stocked, and one can only acquire such perspective through experience. Not a virtue one can expect to find in bachelor housing. The absence of the most innocuous of objects can be a sore point when you need it. Small, dark, black balls can be infinitely useful especially if they happen to be called cumin seeds (jeera). Rains may bring down the mercury, but they certainly don’t help the cause of the amateur cook. He (especially if it’s a lazy he) feels beleagured, cheated by the rain gods, with fast finishing supplies has to battle hunger, and finally does the obvious — drops the item from the recipe.

One learns to persevere — just slug it out. When its a matter of life and death (Ok! Hospitalization), one cares not for the simple pleasures in life — for instance, dinner can consist of more than mere omelettes. Half burnt omelettes. Half-burnt omelettes that look like a perfect equilateral triangles (for want of a better shape). Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande – the words ring in your ears, tear your ear-drums apart, test your tenacity, humiliate you, try to break your back and upset your stomach, but like a Spartan warrior you doggedly keep fighting all instincts, all temptations. Like a sanyasi, one has to resist the apsara’s smile, with a toll-free number promising home delivery. If one has to achieve nirvana, however, one has to eat rock, metal and egg.

Hardships are, of course, part of any journey. Small cuts and bruises are passe, there is danger of getting burnt. The weapons one has to resort to are deadly — the can cut even the holder of the weapon. Salt is always at hand and on the burns. What’s all the brouhaha about nuclear weapons?

There is the ecstasy of the omelette actually turning out to be eatable especially when the bread also got toasted the right red — a feeling unparalleled in the dictionary of human emotions. At the same time, there is enough crying, running noses and sneezing (onions and chilly powder) to fill a full season of Ekta Kapoor’s. I am sure Indian satellite television head honchos haven’t yet got hint of the melodramatic quotient of it all, else there would have been a flurry of Kaun Banega Captain Cook with King B and Big Khan both compering it together. And not to forget people sms’ing their favorite garnishing to 8888 and winning exciting prizes. Or perhaps a Kitchen Idol, whom millions of Indians cheer and vote for from the comforts of their living rooms (thankfully smell is a sensation that has not yet been televised).

Finally, as the denouement draws near (and the omelette gets made) one has a sobering realization under the Bodhi tree, err. Chimney. One realizes that one is responsible for one’s actions. Passing the blame around is not an easy task when you have volunteered willingly for such calamity (though one can certainly pass the plate around). It is all our doing — we have to take responsibility for our actions, and suffer on our own account (next morning with a knotted stomach). Cooking is the ultimate leveler, with immediate feedback loop and completely ownership, division of labour and accountability for actions — a manager’s dream, an epicurean’s nightmare.

A humbling experience. Of course, it’s easy to succumb, to eat out, to order pizza, to resort to maggi. But then, one has to remember, that as Rudyard Kipling Robert Frost once rightly said:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

[Many thanks to Dipika for proofreading this]

Lines of Code

A quick way to find the lines of code under a subdirectory:

find | grep “.cs$” | awk ‘//{print “\””$0″\””;}’| xargs wc

It recursively finds all the files under a directory, passes through a grep filter (which you would have to update based on your preferred language of development), awks it to enclose it with quotes and then passes to wc using xargs. Neat!

My current project now has about 31k lines of code, out of which about 9.5k is mine. Messy!

[Thanks to Robin for help with the commands]

A Humbling Experience

It is a humbling experience to meet people who are really great. And it is easy to differentiate them from the fakers. It is like the traditional rich and the noveau-riche.

The quality that separates them is that the really great don’t talk about themselves but rather listen to what the other has to say, even if (s)he might just be starting his/her baby steps. They try to find value in what somebody achieves, rather than compare them with their own colossal achievements and dismiss them as a fly on the wall. They make an effort to be good listeners — I think that is the real mark of greatness just as true power is in not exercising it.

On the other hand, the impostor is pompous, garrulous about his own little achievements, giving a huge persona to his diminutive stature, not realizing that it is really their smallness that gets reflected every time they try to wax eloquent about their minuscule achievements.

True, greatness lies in humility. I feel privileged to have met Tony Hoare, Butler Lampson and Leslie Lamport.

V for Vendetta or ?

Ok. Another Day went by. And Saint Valentine didn’t smile.

But lot’s of fun stuff to do. Running all over the building creating puzzles and serenading included. Much more interesting than the mush people do (reproduced below for the convenience of my readers ;-) — A really funny article). And what Google did, which was certainly not as intelligent.

Back to V for Vendetta (2005) for the rest of the year.

The Hindu: Love was certainly in the air

Bangalore: Mush was the dominant flavour in Bangalore on Wednesday when the young crowd went all out to celebrate Valentine’s Day. They were seen with their Significant Other soon after the day broke. Walkers and joggers in both Lalbagh and Cubbon Park tactfully averted their eyes, which was tough because every tree, bush, grove and even bench were filled with couples. In fact, as the day progressed, these spots were even shared by two and three couples strapped for space.

Those who couldn’t ensconce themselves in a quiet spot decided to hit the road. Gift shops and coffee shops did brisk business as couples exchanged trinkets and sweet nothings.

As for roses, their prices tripled, and one could not choose the colour.

A single-stemmed rose wrapped in cellophane did not come for less than Rs. 25. Balloons, red please, another youthful favourite, sold for an inflated Rs. 28 apiece.

Mobile service providers made a killing. One glum Romeo was heard complaining that his message took over one and a half hours to reach the other end by which time he had received a frosty phone call.

Some married men actually found themselves buying roses and chocolates for their surprised wives.

A Memorable Day

Some days are just memorable — having twenty-five friends home on your birthday is definitely very good reason.

The bumps hurt the back, but feel like a felt touch on the heart. You remember the ‘rosy’ face and the creamy eyes. The stupor gives you unbridled joy and camaraderie.

Thanks guys! Love you all !

Ego Search

Have you ever tried an "ego" search?
Search for yourself on Google/Yahoo/ I was pretty happy to find that I was above "Krissh" on google, but not on (which is kind of sad! I thought they had improved when they came out of the Beta, especially after reading this).
Try your ego search.
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