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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

"AC Chalu Hai"

Friday, September 30, 2005
Had been to see ‘Salaam Namaste’ in the heartland of Chembur last week. The movie is passable…and is saved to a large extent by Preity Zinta’s flat belly. There’s nothing more I’m willing to say …egg-jactly ;)

More than the movie, it’s the theatre which is worth writing about. It was really really forbidding…paan stains everywhere, not a single ‘intact’ windowpane, and looked like it hadn’t been swept since Indian cricket’s last big celebrity endorsement deal. Suddenly, the 50 buck price tag for the ‘balcony’ ticket was a bit too steep...Had rejoiced when I bought the ticket. Would it actually have any ventilation inside? What about the movie screen? Would it be sewn together down the middle? My roving eyes could make out really tough looking characters waiting to get in, and then they rested upon this
...

Laughed for around 5 minutes or so.Very innocuous if you look at it, but when viewed against the backdrop of the theatre as a whole, it comes across as a smart marketing move. The powers-that-be at this theatre know that the appearance is not enough to assuage your worst fears. Hence the reassuring proclamations. Two of them. It was as if they read my mind, and immediately rushed that sign out that very instant. Spooky.


posted by Tapan at 7:54 PM

The A Div Chronicles : Episode 6 - Tripping The Light Epileptic

Sunday, September 25, 2005
Horizons was the annual RAIT fest, which would run for 72 hours non-stop. The day time was fine, lots of events…but the single biggest attraction at night was the ‘LD’ (Laser Disc) show. A sloping steps waala classroom would be converted into a ‘theatre’, and movies would be screened non-stop for 20 bucks a pop. A good way to kill time till the first train in the morning. A word about this ‘theatre’ is in order here. The windows would all be covered with black chart paper, and totally sealed. No air-conditioning.
The fans worked if you were lucky. So the discomfiture was directly proportional to the number of breathing creatures present.

Doesn’t take a genius to imagine what it would be like to watch a let’s say… (nudge nudge wink wink) movie in such conditions (everybody breathed heavily…and the mixture of sweat, carbon dioxide, and lust in the air made you even more light-headed than you already were…). Which is exactly what I’m coming to next…

(This is based on hearsay…dunno whether the following happened or not…if it didn’t, the guy who thought it up was a master of behavioural sciences. Good stuff either way.)

Once upon a Horizon, people (a large majority of which were mint-fresh FE’s) had been watching movies non-stop till the wee hours of the morning. Then it was time for some educational stuff. Mid-way through a particularly enlightening movie, one poor FE started having an epileptic seizure, frothing at the mouth, convulsing, the works. The LD show guys were totally at a loss, and scared out of their wits. They went up to the guy’s ‘friends’…

LD Team : Arre bhai log, isko jaraa sambhaalo yaar…take him outside
‘Friends’ (eyes riveted on the screen, not missing a single frame, absorbing every ounce of knowledge) : Abbe usko baahar feko yaar, theek ho jaayega apne aap…hum log ko pichchar dekhne ka hai…

The LD team then took the guy outside, and nursed him back to some normalcy.

This incident just goes to show that the brain when soaked in testosterone becomes totally immune to social obligations. Macabre.
Maybe it had something to do with the air they were breathing.

Footnote:

(Another incident based on hearsay)
The air definitely had something to do with it. Once an educational CD started skipping, was totally scratched beyond repair. The LD guys declared the show over, and asked the people to go home. Nobody budged. Was around 5 am.

Pupils : We want to see the movie…
LD Team : Arre nahi chal raha hai…kya karega?!!
Pupils : Jitna chalta hai wahan tak dikhao!
LD Team : Khaali 2 scene theek hai chalega kya? 5 rupya?
Pupils (almost climaxing) : Yesss!!!!!!!

And so for the princely sum of five bucks, the pupils got 10 priceless minutes of some more gyaan.

posted by Tapan at 6:58 PM

The A Div Chronicles : Episode 5 - Guerilla Journal-fare

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The journals were one aspect of engg college which I really don’t remember THAT fondly. Just thinking of all those trees who lost their lives for NOTHING makes me weep. The journals emanated from a master source. Each class typically had one enterprising or studious soul, who would source stuff from seniors’ journals or painstakingly write the experiment descriptions himself. The rest of the class was content to kick back, watch the wildlife, and then jump in as soon as the master blueprint was ready.

Getting the journals ‘signed’ by the profs was an exercise in diplomacy, tact and oily talk. A couple of days before the obtainment of that all important signature, junta would suddenly find a newfound interest in attending lectures. Point to be noted my lord, just merely attending the lectures wasn’t enough, being ‘visible’ was. People would sit somewhere mid-class, so that the prof could see their faces. Whenever there was any eye-contact, we head-banged like no tomorrow, just to show that we ‘understood’ the concept. This was a fail-safe method to ensure that the prof remembered our maps while going through our journal a couple of days hence. (This is a true story…. I used to sit on the last bench in my 1st sem, and attended ALL lectures by a certain Prof. She pulled me up one day in the practs, and told me that she had never seen me in class, and gave me a 12/25 in ‘Term Work’. I vowed revenge. She came back in the 3rd sem, and boy was I ready for her. Would sit every other lecture, in the 4th row, and head-bang whenever her eyelashes just as much turned in my general direction. Result? 24/25 in ‘Term Work’. Heh-heh.)

Now that the preparatory steps were done, the main step was to ensure that we got a signature on D-Day. There were some profs who had really exacting standards. For eg, If you wrote the date as 17/7/2000 instead of 17-7-2000, they’d scratch off the whole experiment(“Who told you write date like thees? I not tale you again …gate lost”). We got stung a couple of times like thees...sorry... this. So we decided on the following strategy.

“Distract the profs by talking weapons grade bull while they are signing the journal, and high-tail it out of there once you’ve got the signature.”

Prof : Show me the journal…

Guerilla Journal Warrior : Here it is …

Prof (Scanning, warming up) : Where’s the title? Where’s the date?

Guerilla Journal Warrior : Which book should we refer for (Subject Name)?

Prof (has to answer) : (Book1) …(Book 2)

Guerilla Journal Warrior(rapidly turning pages, maintaining eye contact all the while): The subject is very tough …

Prof (ticking away like a robot) : No…you have to refer good books…not stuff like those guides which you people read…

Guerilla Journal Warrior (helpfully turning pages) : How should we study this subject …it’s so confusing

Prof : (gives a long how to study strategy – but not a verbose word is absorbed by the warrior, whose mission is very clear)

Guerilla Journal Warrior (pointing to the end of Expt 1) : Your sign

Prof : Oh yes… (Signing)

This was the general idea. There were only so many times that we could ask the ‘books’ question above. Some more ingenious smoke screens which we came up with were

1) "The lecture which you took yesterday...had a doubt..." (Ask freshly manufactured doubt, feverishly turning the pages as the Prof explains)

2) Where do you stay? (Then launch into a woeful narrative of how long it takes you to get your scheming ass to college…every ounce of sympathy was vital…)

3) “Nerul madhye daasancha khoop traas aahe na?” (Rough translation from Marathi - There are a lot of mosquitoes around in Nerul right? Must be a pain...)

4) Are your kids going to become engineers? Please Ma’am …don’t make them…look at us…(forced 'gunpoint' laughter) Ha Ha Ha…

5) “Aapan rahaayla kuthe?” (Rough translation from Marathi – Where do u stay?)
Prof’s answer – “Kaa? Tula Maajhya ghari yaaycha aahe ka?” (Rough translation from Marathi – Why? Do you want to come home?)
You should have seen us positively asphyxiated from the fake laughter we coughed up for the above exchange. Took a while for the peaches and cream to dispel the blue. We'd wait for some such PJ from the prof, and then laugh as if it was the funniest thing since would-be Computer Engineers having Workshop in the First Year. Prof’s ego massaged, the signatures would flow smoother than those shown in any ad featuring scantily clad hussies selling pens, with husky orgasmic voiceovers more at home in an ad for prophylactics...(will save this and more for a later rant)


posted by Tapan at 7:57 PM

The A Div Chronicles : Episode 4 - The Magic Of Mangesh Sadan

Wednesday, September 14, 2005
This is an addendum to the ‘projects’ episode below. We had to submit projects for 3 semesters continuously. By some curious stroke of luck, we had 3 different professors for these 3 semesters. No prizes for guessing what comes next.
Yes…filch one project, show the same thing to 3 different profs, for 3 different subjects.
Code re-use at it’s zenith, what? (Steal once, Show anywhere…)

One such project we were blessed with was titled ‘Mangesh Sadan – Rent Management System’ by our group’s resident geek, Gaurav Jagavkar (trivia time - he is the guy who’s credited on the main page of my website). This guy had done an Aptech Course after his 10th Std, and had prepared a Rent Management System in Visual Foxpro for the course back in 1995. We shamelessly used it in engg college a good 4 years later, to tide us over these trying times.One time, this was lent to another group to pass off as their own just before a demo, and these guys didn’t know head or tail about rent collection, let alone Visual Foxpro. Demo time. Confidence abundant as always…much needed for the perils of the ‘Precarious Prof Questions’. After all, a cool mind comes up with the most amazing explanations.

Prof: OK, show me the system…

Group (scrambling, fumbling, clicking here n there…cos it’s the first time for them too) : Yes sir, this is the first screen sir…this is the second screen sir…

Prof : OK, fine…show me the code

Group (slightly on the back foot) : Umm…ok sir, one minute…

Group (clicking everywhere…where IS the ****ing code?!) : Sir, here it is…here it is…

Prof (pouncing on the first thing he sees) : OK, what does this line do? - “SET TALK OFF”

Group (about to crash onto the stumps…) : Sir…

Prof (triumphantly…) : Yes, yes, yes?!!!

Sourabh Dhage (an ARDENT Raj Babbar Fan) : Sir, we have used sounds as alerts in the application. The system plays back various sounds like beeps, bell rings, whistles etc. to alert the user at various stages. Now none of our computers have sound cards here in college. Hence we have turned off this feature sir…

Prof : OK…go.

As you would have rightly guessed…the actual
definition of SET TALK OFF is as below (thanks to MSDN)

SET TALK Command - Determines whether Visual FoxPro displays commandresults.
Parameters
OFF
Prevents talk from being sent to the main Visual FoxPro window, the system message window, the graphical status bar, or a user-defined window. Note that for in-process .dll automation servers the default setting of SET TALK is OFF.
Remarks
Some table processing commands return information, or "talk," about their status while they execute. Talk can be directed to the main Visual FoxPro window, the graphical status bar, or a user-defined window.

posted by Tapan at 10:48 PM

The A Div Chronicles : Episode 3 - Anil Kapoor And The Price Of ‘Name’

Saturday, September 10, 2005
This post is dedicated to a character called as Amol Gajare, part of our raanti gang at RAIT.

This guy has a resemblance to Anil Kapoor. At least that’s what somebody (wonder who could that be…?) had said aloud in the First Year of Engg, and that name stuck.
Check the below photos out to see what I mean…I bet you'll have a hard time figuring out who's who.



So much so that as time went by, he was simply known as ‘Kapoor’. The lines between fact and fiction gradually blurred, and he was very rarely, if at all, referred to as ‘Amol’.

Anyone asking for ‘Amol’ was met with a hostilely blank stare…

One fine day, a friend called Balan wanted to ask Kapoor something about the exams.

A transcript of the telephonic conversation that ensued:

(Phone ringing at Kapoor’s place)
Amol’s mom : Hello?
Balan : Hello Aunty, Kapoor hai kya?
Amol’s mom : Kaun?!!!!!!
(Balan hangs up immediately, frantically dials yours truly)
Balan : Hello, apne Kapoor ka naam kya hai?
Me : Amol re…
Balan : OK..Thanks!!!!
(Phone ringing again at Kapoor’s place)
Amol’s mom : Hello?
Balan : Hello Aunty, Amol hai kya?
Amol’s mom : Haan hai…ek minute…

posted by Tapan at 11:07 PM

The A Div Chronicles : Episode 2 - The Mysterious Case Of The Missing Scroll Bar

Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Back in RAIT, we had to submit ‘code projects’ for certain subjects every semester, in groups of 5-6. The projects required infrastructure like a decent PC to code on, and a printer to print the code and results, to be attached in the ‘journals’. Scavenging a PC was easy enough, but circa 1999, owning a printer was a big deal. Being able to afford ink cartridges was an even bigger one.

One guy, the alpha male, used to fish out a senior’s project, memorize the screens, and then explain the flow to the rest of the group. The same guy would arrange for an original set of printouts, and the rest of the group would faithfully get it Xeroxed, and that was that.

Once upon a particularly impoverished time, it so happened that a certain group could not get hold of a set of printouts. So, what’s the next best thing? The alpha male took a quick decision, and drew the screens with good old pencil and scale. After all, it’s the thought that counts and all that sort of thing. The project was a ‘Hotel Management System’. The rest of the pack faithfully reproduced the sketches page for page. The alpha male had drawn scroll bars on all the screens, save the last one. But of course, no one noticed, nor cared. Everybody’s last screen was sans scroll-bar.

First up was a demo of the system to the profs. The alpha male had a workaround for that too. The entire project was on a floppy disk. The project consisted of a solitary VB screen, with a couple of buttons to launch the app. The sleaze-ball had written code to pop up a text-box with an imperious ‘system error’ message when the main button was clicked. So when launched, he convinced the profs that the floppy had got corrupted, “something’s just not right” and he would do a demo later. “In the meanwhile, could you sign the journals please?”
Not only that, he had pasted gibberish in the form of comments in the code, to puff up the size on disk to a respectable 800KB.

Now the prof was very impressed with the first screen. He started signing all the journals. Dallu’s turn was last. The prof stopped at the last page, the ‘Receipt Module’. The only question he asked was…
“Why doesn’t your last page have a scroll-bar?”
It was then that the whole group realized that they had actually drawn scroll-bars.
(“Accha, who scroll-bars tha kya? Sahi…”)

The sheer genius and timing of the question had everybody sweating. Of all the questions in the universe, this HAD to be the one.
Dallu, calm as a coma (to borrow a phrase from Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels) replied,
“Sir, this is a Hotel Management System. This screen is used to generate receipts for the customers. The customer is given a printout of the receipt once he completes his stay. Now why do we need scroll-bars on a receipt? They would look real ugly. So we’ve done away with them…”

The prof , with the daylights impressed out of him,
“You’re right. Good thinking.”

Tomorrow would thus be yet another day...


posted by Tapan at 9:21 PM

A Case Study In 'Systemspeak'

Tuesday, September 06, 2005
This deals with the phrases I've picked up in my stint in the IT industry so far...any more contributions are welcome.

Fatt Gaya:
This is used by the male of the species and the female alike. It does take a while to get used to, especially when you hear it from the ladies. The usage has a nasty tendency to spill over at home, thus earning you dirty looks from your parents. Used to signify code failures...
Usage:
"Mera code woh line pe fatt gaya...."
"Us line pe kya fata hai dekh jara...?"

Panga:
This word has been deified by Altaf Raja. Here it is used to signify a pesky little problem you are not quite able to pinpoint, especially if you are a 'support slave'.
Usage:
"Kuch to panga hai yaar...samajh mein nahi aa raha hai"

Fight maar raha hai:
This phrase is used to signify an uphill, useless struggle against Murphy and his diktats.If there is an impossible thing/ production issue... The TL uses this to mollify the big cats...

Big Cat : "Kya hua woh problem ka ?"
TL (earnestly) : "Chal raha hai ...(whatshisname) fight maar raha hai uspe..."

Also used by the plankton in the food chain to buy more time from the TLs...

TL : "Kya hua woh problem ka ?"
Plankton (earnestly) : "Chal raha hai ...main fight maar raha hoon uspe..."

Very versatile in usage, as you can see...

Going forward:
Bad...bad word(s). Usually used when everybody's (I mean EVERYBODY) got a sound earful for NOT doing something the way it was supposed to be done. It has a very ominous and dire tone to it... 'Going Forward'... we will be doing this...we will be doing that…or else... (Of course no one completes the 'or else' part)


On a very critical path:
Most dreaded...if this phrase is applied to describe your activity, rest assured you are going to forget about your personal life till the blasted thing is not complete.

No issues:
Quaint and just generally factored into the conversations to show how accomodating you are....works best when sucking up to the client.
Usage:
"No issues...I'll take care of that for u"
"No issues...don't do it the next time around..."

In the Loop:
"Mark a CC on your mails to me"
Sounds very crude as compared to "just keep me in the loop", right?

Bring him up the curve:
Intended usage :
Train the new guy
Fallout :

He becomes just as cynical and despondent as you as time goes by...at that stage, he has 'come up the curve'. Heh-Heh.

Net-Net:
The baadshah of all the above.
This word has the most aspirational value ... this is generally used to summarize half an hour's worth of bull into a sentence which everybody knew before the meeting started.
"Blah Blah Blah Blah...Yaketty Yak Yak Yak...."
Somebody interrupts
"So net-net what you mean to say is...(distilled essence)"
The day you can actually use 'net-net' without actually giving yourself an abdominal muscle pull from the laughter, you know you've made it.
Till that time, we have to make do with situations like :
4 developers (A,B,C and D) go to the canteen for snacks.
The waiter gets you a total bill for 38.50.
You squabble and squint, and arrive at the individual contributions.
One guy grandly summarizes...
Net-net A Pays 10
B pays 11
C pays 9
D pays 8.50
Bon-homie and nods all around...


posted by Tapan at 9:24 PM

Ask an ordinary question – Get a BRILLIANT answer

Sunday, September 04, 2005
I’ve seen a mail floating around with ‘Questions asked in engineering vivas’…
This is a small collection of the gems which I’ve personally witnessed at good ol’ RAIT...


1) Subject : Electronics

Examiner : What is a flip-flop?

Brilliant Answerer : Sir it’s a device which…(blank stare into the horizon)

Examiner : Yes yes… go on go on…

Brilliant Answerer : It’s a device which flips…and flops

Examiner : And….?

Brilliant Answerer : It flips …flops…flips..and then again flops…

Examiner : You mean it has 2 states…on and off…?

Brilliant Answerer : Yes sir…exactly sir…

Examiner : Ok ….go


(Actual definition
n.) Also referred to as a bistable gate, a type of circuit that is interconnected with like circuits to form logic gates in digital integrated circuits, such as memory chips and microprocessors. The name “flip-flop” comes from the circuit’s nature of alternating between two states when a current is applied to the circuit (for example, 1 to 0 or 0 to 1). A flip-flop will maintain its state indefinitely until it receives an input pulse, called a trigger, which forces it to alternate its state. Once the circuit changes state it remains in that state until another trigger is received.)


2) Subject : Some arbit comp science submission – Unix assignment

Examiner : What is uname?

Brilliant Answerer : My name is Shylesh.

Examiner (tossing the journal, like a pass in a rugby game…speechless with fury) : Out…

(For the ‘non Unix molested’…uname is a Unix command which gives you the software version plus some info about the Unix installation. The irony of this joke is that once we all had a good laugh over it, after looking up the meaning of ‘uname’ first of course, we realized that we wouldn’t have fared any better….we would have given the exact same answer…)



3) Subject : Robotics

Examiner : How many Degrees Of Freedom does the human hand have? (Correct answer is 5 …I think…)

Brilliant Answerer : 6

Examiner : Sure it’s not 5?

Brilliant Answerer(not willing to accept that the first answer was wrong) : It’s 5, but it can be 6…

Examiner : How can it be 6?

Brilliant Answerer : Sir, take the example of Muthaiah Muralidharan, it’s said that he can touch his wrist with his thumb and fore-finger. In such cases, the hand has an extra degree of freedom, and can therefore be 6 in addition to the existing 5.

Examiner(outplayed…outclassed…beaten outside the off-stump) : You may go…

Brilliant Answerer (smugly):Thank You sir…

(This is one of THE most creative things I’ve ever heard…)



posted by Tapan at 8:39 PM