11 June 2020

Back to my future?

Don’t laugh now!

My love for programming has an origin in boredom rather than any computational skills. Certainly, studying computer science introduced me to the art of converting a mathematical formula into all caps FORTRAN. Somehow, though, punching cards and putting it in a queue for the card reader to read overnight was vaguely pointless to me.

It was one of the summer vacations that I got bored at home in the second week and went to Kolkata to find a summer job with a computer company (Artintel). That is when I realized I loved programming. The act of writing voluminous pages of code in a garrulous language called COBOL was not the point. Watching the computer spit out something that people were actually using (these were simple programs to control inventories, payroll etc) was somehow very rewarding though. Plus we had the only air-conditioned room in the whole company. This was in the middle of the heat of summer in sultry Kolkata, mind you!

As my computer science degree progressed, I realized my brainpower was not cut out for research or all the sophisticated computer stuff that my classmates like Madhav Marathe would do in their sleep. Did I mention that there were a lot of Greek alphabets in those courses?

Not wanting to do research meant I had no interest in the USA. (Irony, huh?). But I liked the MBA courses. There was something about Organization Behavior and Managerial Oral Communication that left a deep impression on me. Yet, coding is what I really liked. I remember being part of a team (with Raj Subramaniam, Rupa Batra, G Ramesh et. al.) which did a fairly impressive project in building a computer system to manage railway traffic. Admittedly, my team mates did most of the hard work. But I got to use my color pencils to draw project charts!! (I still have a picture of that project plan on my dorm room wall).

When most of the folks from MBA progressed to Finance and Marketing jobs – where they could actually use all the lessons learnt in MBA, I went back to coding. My first project – CPC – was a life changing experience. Met two of my best bosses – Nitin Chandekar and Raj Sundaramurthy – and an incredible set of team members. My coding was probably not what I was remembered for – but that color pencil pie chart showing how much time we were wasting waiting for the compiler to finish is still something that my two first bosses talk about.

While I came to the USA to code, somewhere, somebody finally realized that I was not that good at coding after all, and put me in a management track. To fulfill my own Peter’s principle and rise to my level of incompetency.

I have not coded for over 20 years now.

Lately, after stopping my posts being cross posted to Facebook, I have focused some attention to my blog site. I started bugging my friend Larry Mason often to ask how to change parts of my site that I did not like the appearance of. Color pencils, sadly, did not work.

Eventually, I realized that maybe I should learn another new skill at the age of 54. Actually re-learn. I figured I am going to learn PHP and CSS to do simple tricks with my website. Larry was kind enough to point me to the source (w3schools).

Sat down to learn it and I realized that I have to start from “deep defense”, as it were. So, had to learn HTML first (about 20 years after the rest of the world picked it up!!).

So, here I am, totally excited after finishing the HTML course and sitting down to figure out how to do CSS coding. I am almost at a point where I can do what I could do with color pencils anyways.

You may laugh now!

9 June 2020

Who knew dark clouds rolling in on the lakeside could be this beautiful?

Easily one of my most favorite pictures. This happened this evening by Lake Lanier. It was a nice and fairly bright day. And then the clouds rolled in from the south. Dropped some fairly sharp showers and then it moved on. But the clouds gathering up was a fantastic sight.

Again, the iPhone camera is too good. The only editing done is this picture is to crop it to 5:3 ratio.

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8 June 2020

The collateral damage of COVID-19

Now we have to recycle all these bottles. Pretty impressive build up, I would say, given that the recycling centers have been closed for only 10-12 weeks. A few things I learnt from Sharmila…

Apparently, you have to sort out those bottles by color before recycling. I am surprised that once glass gets incinerated and repurposed, the color is retained or that it even matters.

This one takes the cake for me… I always thought those wine bottles were black (or at least blackish) in color. Hold them up to some light and you will realize that most of them are greenish!!

6 June 2020

Funny incident while running

I started with a walk and then after a quarter mile, got tired of walking and started running. I was more than wary of walking today, let alone running. You see, for this whole week, I have been suffering from vertigo. I believe the medical term in BPPV. While I have motion sickness and fear of heights it has never hit me this bad. I can sit in a place and be totally normal – drive a car, ride a bike but if I stand up or move around, I feel wobbly. Some days have been better than others but today has been a fairly bad day.

The walk was a little wobbly and I kept trying to not move my head suddenly. The trail was fairly empty – so the chance of me hitting somebody or coming across running drunk was fairly low. Started running slowly and then eventually picked up to a pace a bit lower than normal. I was definitely wobbling a little – especially if I moved by head suddenly but kept it within safe controls. On the other hand, the endorphins were accumulating at a level that I felt brave enough to continue.

When I had started my run, at the head of the trail, met a lady Allison who was starting her walk. We had seen each other multiple times in the trail but never talked. Anyways, it was good to know her and chat with her. Eventually I started walking faster and then – as I mentioned, running.

Now, the incident I am going to narrate happened on my way back – I had just crossed the three mile mark and I could see Allison coming from the other side. Now that we knew each other, I was definitely going to wave at her and wish her a good day when we passed each other.

There was nobody else on the trail. Just as we came within 100 yards of each other – and at this point of time I was going downhill from a bridge – I could see a bike show up at the turn on the other end behind Allison. A few seconds later, another bike showed up. Both were coming from behind Allison.

When all four of us got closer to each other, I could see the (presumably) wife – probably in her sixties was in the lead and was enthusiastically pedaling uphill. Her husband (I presume) decidedly looked like the reluctant companion huffing and puffing up the bridge.

Just as I came within 10 yards of Allison and started smiling and raising my hand to her, the lady bicyclist came around her to pass her (between us). A moment before that she yelled “On your left!” – which is a customary warning you give before you pass somebody – so as to not startle them. And a split second later, as she passed me, she yelled “Times 2!”.

That got me confused. My thought process went something like this in the next few moments – “Times 2? Why? Oh!”. I realized that she passed me from my left too! Although Allison and I were approaching each other, the lady bicyclist passed both of us from our left since she was in the middle.

Smart, I thought, but why bother? I did not need any warning. I could see her. Unlike Allison, my back was not towards her.

At that very moment, the huffing and puffing husband came upon us and as he passed us, bleated out defiantly, “I am the 2!”.

I do not know whether it was the endorphins or something, I found it very funny. First, how wrong I was in my analysis. And how he, almost apologetically, explained that he is the 2 (but really did not want to be, if you asked him).

Stopped to catch a breath and laugh at the whole thing before I started staggering along again…

Category: Running | LEAVE A COMMENT