5 April 2015

How I lost all interest in Sudoku

First evening of spring break vacation. We got a chance to catch up with Sameer and Rajol. We used to live in Dallas many moons back and enjoyed quite a few sugar cane dipped Mojitos together at the Mi Cocina on Tollway. Eventually, they left for the west coast and we, for the east coast.

And we got together again after quite some time last night. Instead of Mojitos, it was some nice wine and the conversations spanned from raising kids to comparative religions. By the time, we got up, it was 3AM our time (midnight for them!)

In my near quarter century of professional life, Sameer has been one of those that has absolutely marveled me with his IQ level and work ethic. And his prowess over everything Excel. I think he can make Excel make coffee for him in the morning.

Which brings me to the story that we recollected from the long past. There was a time – probably a dozen or so years back – when Sameer and I spent quite some time in Munich working on supply chain problems of a leading semiconductor company there. After long days, on our train ride back from office to the hotel, I used to bring out the newspaper of that day and start doing the sudoku problem published there.

After a couple of days, we were stuck on one particular problem, when Sameer fished his laptop out of his bag and fired up Excel. I continued to struggle with the problem and he kept on twisting and turning his Excel. The following couple of train journeys it was pretty much the same scene. Then on the third day, he declared that he had worked all the kinks out. Apparently, he had a written up some Excel sheet and macros that would solve a sudoku.

I fed that day’s problem to this sheet and Voila! It had the results ready. I tried pushing it to the limits that day by withholding a few digits. The sheet would promptly tell me what my options are !! I was thrilled and somewhat incredulous. But it was very difficult for me to test it out – since making my own test cases would mean I would have to create my own Sudoku puzzles.

Next morning, I asked the hotel folks if they had some old newspapers. Unfortunately they did not. So, for the next few days, on our trip back, we would sit down in the train, I would type in the problem and we would make sure that the answer matched. And then for the rest of the journey we were forced to talk to each other 🙂

After a few more days of testing, the whole fun of Sudoku went away. The sense of “Oh! It can be done easily” seeped into me so deep that ever since that day, I have never touched a Sudoku puzzle again ever. Nowadays, if I ever get the urge to look at one, my immediate reaction is “I hope have I saved his original Excel file somewhere”.

The good news is I found him to be as sharp as ever. So, as long as I do not lose his phone number, I am sure I can ask him to recreate the file again 🙂


4 April 2015

Nikispeak … Stay away from us

After clearing security in Atlanta airport, I was sorting out the boarding passes and seat arrangements for the long coast to coast flight. I let the girls know that they will be together and I will be across the aisle from them.

Nikita sympathetically went “Awwww… Daddy will be separated”
“That’s ok. I will make friends with whoever sits next to me”, I assured her.
“Well, in that case, please don’t point in my direction and say I am your daughter”
“Why not?” I demanded.
“Because I have a reputation to maintain”, she replied !!

3 April 2015

I think my Facebook friends want me to put on weight :-)

Flying back home, I checked my Facebook account and was skimming thru the comments to see if I needed to respond to any of them. (Heaven knows I respond even when I do not need to 🙂 ).

It is then that I noticed something. More Facebook friends like my pictures when I am sitting down than when I am running 🙂 Last running post – 2 likes. The one before that where I was sitting on a bench – 35 likes!!! Prior to that – me running with Samaresh – 11 likes. And right before that, me sitting at Starbucks – 20 likes.

Either my FB friends want me to stop running and put on weight or they are much relieved when I actually survive a run and sit down 🙂

3 April 2015

That was another first one!!!!

Like in every trip, this morning too, I checked in my small suitcase, cleared security and strolled towards my gate at DC airport. As most frequent fliers in Delta might know, there is a flight on the hour every hour from DC to Atlanta and the four digit number usually starts with 1 and ends with 39. And in the evening, when they run out of digits, they switch to starting with 2. And the flights always leave from one of the few adjoining gates 16-21.

I reached my gate, looked at the board (see attached picture), checked that Atlanta was written on the board and waited. The boarding had already started. The goal being always to be one of the last passengers to get on to avoid all the rush at the gate, I just walked up and down the area making a few phone calls. Eventually, the queue was coming to an end and I joined it.

Just as I was going to board the plane as literally the last passenger, the machine stopped me. It refused to take my boarding pass much as the gate agent tried. She eventually asked me where I was going. I said Atlanta. She pointed out that, that was the problem. I was trying to board a Alaska Airlines flight headed to Seattle!!

I looked up again – sure enough it said Atlanta. Except, that was for the gate on the left and that flight was not leaving for another three hours!!! I turned around and saw another gate where the boarding was finishIng up. Quickly paced there and of course, that was my flight! Still managed to achieve my goal of being the last person to get on to the plane!! (But not before coming back to the wrong gate to take a picture!!! )

As I finally got on to the plane, the first person I met was the same stewardess who was with us in our flight to DC yesterday. We had chatted for some time to get to know her life story (I am sure you are not surprised 🙂 ). She promptly asked me “Are you stalking me”? I truthfully answered “If I were, I sure am confused where to look for you” :-).


3 April 2015

Making friends with strangers

It had been a long day. I was returning home. And a teammate was connecting thru Atlanta. I knew I wanted to go home as early as I could but I could not resist spending an hour with this teammate of mine – if you knew Mark Meade yourself, you would know that I am not the one to blame.
Anyways, the whole idea was to go to a bar and order something and talk a little about business. We sure went to a bar. And ordered a drink.
And the rest of the plan fell apart. We just started talking to the two persons on our either side. And the four of us just kept talking as if we had been friends for a long time! Eventually, we found out that both were chefs – one (Ron) for the much acclaimed “One Flew South” at Atlanta airport and the other (John) had a business of his own. As strange as it might sound, they found out that they were in the same business at that bar while talking to us. And that too because John had missed a flight!
Mark and I was like – “Forget work…. Let’s find out what a day in a chef’s life looks like….”
We had a great evening..