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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Kerala - 98 to now
It is amazing how the group you are on tour with changes your interpretation of exactly the same things over time. Or is it that things themselves have changed. Could be either - but everytime i have gone to kerala - i have come out with different feelings, opinions and images.
The first time - I didnt know what to expect. I had seen much of karnataka and tamilnadu and had expected kerala to be same. I didnot know the concept of western ghats and back water etc. So I just hired a bus to cochin and wanted to maximize the 4 day long weekend by visiting everywhere possible. The return tickets - which I didnt manage to get was arranged by Ajo from Kottayam ( I didnt know that there was some place called Kumarakom near kottayam). So We went. The first sight of kerala was on the border. 5:30 AM. The bus waiting in queue to pay toll. Misty morning with green mountains in the bacground. A heavenly view enhanced by the intoxication of half sleep. ( 5:30 AM means not even half the sleep). After about an hour or so the driver announced that the bus cant go any further and needs repairs so we have to wait for 4 hrs. We didnt - took a taxi to Cochin which dropped us at KTDC office - which told us about the back water boat ride for some 50 Rs apiece. We jumped on that - not knowing what to expect and what to appreciate. And it turned out to be nice. Good boats, chinese fishing nets who we thought were some kind of dredgers removing silt from the river floor ( I thought we were on a river - and I had read about ports etc). Next stop trivendrum, bus ride to Kovallam. Sack out for two days in a disappointing beach but a nice and cheap resort(Yes I had been to paloleum on goa just before that). Then bus to kottayam and we are in ajo's place enjoying the hospitality and the beauty. We even managed to embarass ajo when one of us decided to pee on the roadside. The takeaway was that kerala is GREEN. People have forests in their backyards and all houses are big ( no slums).
Then a few more trips - kanniyakumari, thekkadi, munnar, allepy , calicut and Babija's marriage .
Calicut had more coconut trees than you would expect in entire world. There were a few things for tourists to do - a beach, ferries etc. The feeling was that its a poor place which suddenly got middle class. Things were falling apart. Mordenization was taking its toll. but outside city was all peaceful.
Kanniyakumari was the most disappointing (Except for the ride to and fro). It was impossible to find good food. Even good accomodation was a challenge in the peak tourist season.
Thekkadi was heaven so were the allepy backwaters - both of them in one trip seems like a monthlong holiday - slow relaxed beautiful.
Munnar first time was "ordinary".
This time things changed. Cochin was just a city. (We took an evening cruise which showed us the shipyard and some navy ships).
Muvattupuzha was a place to stay - and it was so good - that weherever we went to sightsee was not as great. Since we were insistant on covering patel points - we couldnt enjoy it fully. Next time we wont make that mistake. Kumarakom was all hype. Allepy had the cleanest beach we ever saw. Munnar seemed much more beautiful than the first time.
Happy or disppointed - however you feel - you always want to see more of kerala. There are so many shades of green. Plantation which look like forests to our untrained eyes and day to day tasks like extracting rubber, picking shells from bed of backwaters, carrying paddy on boats. shepherd like ppl guiding a heard of "ducks" instead of buffaloes and goats like the rest of the country. You can never have enough of it.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Bosses - I am lucky
My current project is starting in a very confused state. There are two of us of the same profile. The other person is Kishan A - one of the best java developer and designer you can ever get to see. Anyway there is a project - without a PM - which i was supposed to be on and then Kishan and then kishan went on leave and no one knows whether i am there as a bridge or permanently. To make matters worse - for first time in my life i am working without a boss. I dont know who to report to , who to fall back for help to. Things are totally ad hoc. And since it seems to me that I am in charge - its all my fault.
This reminds me of how lucky i have been to have role model bosses for the last 4 years atleast , maybe more. The first boss I didnt hate was Babija - though she was a part time boss - me sort of helping her out with a couple of reports. A part time boss for a couple of weeks.. The next one was Prasad PV. He was a remote telecon boss. Trained, monitored and quit. That was maybe a month long relationship. The only two bright bosses in wipro. Then the luck changed. MSR in who showed us what working hard was and who tought us to be on the buyers side and told us that any decision even for 1000 Rs is not easy to take. He put in more hours than me even though he was twice my age - almost. He kept upto speed with technology and worked hard for it. If he is my future - then i dont want to grow. Its too tough.
Then with MindTree came Balaji and Ramesh. Though the association with ramesh was small and I started off with no respect for him and in one month long work for him - ended up having enormous respect for him. Somehow in wipro I learnt not to trust bosses and to consider them in competent by rule.. except for the few outstanding exceptions... but at mindtree - its becoming a different story. Balaji is an outstanding person. When we started off together - maybe he was not a great manager. Or maybe i didnt see it then. Even after three years of being boss - he doesnt stop surprising me with his abilities. Be it coming up with Aluminium refining process for Dubal or be it having ready excellent answers for every situation or be it making the clients trust you even if delivery side failed. Maybe the problem is that everytime he addresses people - he asks them not to take leaves and to put in more work. Maybe he works in a heavy delegation and people not being ready for that. Many people including me need reminders. From years of experience - we have come to know that about 30% of the work you are asked to do is not essential. For the remaining which is essential - you will be chased. So better wait for reminder and save that extra 30% work...
Now that it seems like I might be Bossless here - I have FUD. Should I wait for this project to be forced on me. Or should I grab it for this new opportunity. I frankly dont know.
As of now - I am managing some logistics. I know i am not very good at it. But its fine...

Friday, December 12, 2003

Client Interview.

Looks like the IT vendors are really on a low. I had my first client interview a day before and guess what - they asked me technical questions. Fortunately i do remember some code to ask others during the interview. But believe me - this one hour interview was very different from the ones I do. I will sample out certain Questions. Judge yourself on them.
He: Have you used JMX
Me. Though I have used SNMP earlier
He: So you havent Used Java Management Extensions
My thought: Isnt JMX Java management extensions. It is for sure. Hope i had google in front of me
Me: Yes I havent used it.
He: How many Transaction attributes are there for ejbs?
My thought: Thats something which even i ask in interview
Me: blah blah...
He: How do you map your java objects to database
My thought: Thats something which even i ask in interview
Me: blah blah...
He: Whats a singleton
My thought: Its getting boring. Lets drive it.
Me: blah know but the thing is how do you achieve a singleton in a cluster.. blah blah..
He: Why do you use a singleton
Me: blah blah...some 4-5 uses
He: (not convinced)
Me: blah blah...take more
My thought: Its getting boring. Lets drive it.
Me: But you know a cluster poses many other issues. For example what do you do for your sessions if you want to work on tomcat too which doesnot have session replication blah. blah...
He: have you participated in open source
My thought: I have used. I have helped people use. I have posted sample code and code samples on the forum. I have indicated bugs and potential performance enhancements. Is it participation? Well I added value - so what i didnt put my name in their CVS.
Me: Yes

Some more Design patterne etc and Finally the call is over. Thanks god.
I am totally confused that what is termed as requirements study - whether its an onsite development. The sales person who put me on and was earlier telling me that it was for TL now came down to Module lead profile who can be tech lead, tech arch, code, study requirements etc. etc. . OK I knew even you have no clue - I just wanted you to admit that. Now that you have confessed. I am fine.
Well Finally client sends a feedback:
However, while I would rate him as a Technical Lead,
I hesitate to qualify him as a Technical Architect. Maybe the bar at
...... for various designations is too high, but that is a semantic
difference that we would like to maintain. In any case, I don't believe it makes any difference cost wise, and with him on the project, we can do without any other Tech Lead or Architect.

I would say he murdered me. But the sales guy translates it as
The client has really liked Pranshu and they want him on the project.

Good / Bad Whatever. Work is work and as Scott adams and Apoorv durga say - If work was fun, you wouldnt be paid for it. As a vendor it definitely not is. The client being a vendor themselves - I am not sure whether it is fun for them either. The users always will curse vendors - unless and until you are a car manufacturer and manufacture cars which are very difficult to get in and out of, or If you bringing out music CDs.

Sunday at MekeDatu
The first thing which I am totally disappointed about are the road maps of karnataka. I dont know whether the same holds good for rest of india. Atleast I found the tamil nadu maps decent. One problem with the road maps is that they are too old and donot have enough roads. An I own both TTK and IMS maps - both are eually worrse just that ttk makes it slightly easier to read. I think the IMS ones were updated in 1947 and TTK sometime in 1970.
But thats not it. It showed mekedatu and sangam to be some 15 KM apart with mekedatu being accessible by road and sangam being off road. Fortunately Ramesh and his wife knew kannada and were able to ask for optimal routes to reach there ( except for some over friendly ones who guided us via longer routes.) and then we realized that the roads lead to Sangam!!! and mekedatu is off road some 5 KM from there - the only way is to cross the river and take one of the two busses which shuttle between the two on a "off road" terrain.
OK now coming to the place. Yes it was crowded. Yes it was over crowded.
@ Sangam probably two tributaries of Cauvery meet. Its about a 100 meter wide, 2-3 feet deep , slow flowing river. Its good fun (If you dont pay heed to the overwhelming signs all around you warning you of crocodiles). Anyway I have watched AXN and Nat Geo and consider crocodiles to be lazy. They are lazy. There is a crocodile conservation park near Chennai. They have so many crocodiles that you cant see ground. sometilmes they live in two stories - one above another - and still you cant see ground. Probably a conservationist will tell that they have been very successful in that environment. Probably an indian will comment - "why force them to live in as overcrowded conditions as humans. What about animal rights you hiporcrite conservationists ?". Anyway the point is that the crocodiles sleep till someone throws food at them. So as long as you make sure that there is atleast one fool in both directions - upstreams and downstreams from you - no hungry crocodile will do an extra effort of passing him and attacking you. Having said that - i am not taking any chances either and read the signs carefully. They have a special warning for rainy season so i am safe.
OK so tile laces of two shoes together, hang them around the neck. Cross the river barefoot. Mind the slippery rocks and go over the sand only. reach the other side. Wait for the shuttle to MekeDatu.
Is there a difference between Bihar and karnataka? Everyone wanted to sit on the roof of the bus - with all space inside being up for grabs. Anyway the 1950 model minibus cant accelerate fast enough to throw you off balance. But the bad terrain compensates for it.
Get down at mekedatu. a rocky george with lots of water gushing thru it. climb down steps. Try to go to the place where the maximum junta is standing hoping that it has the best view. Try rock climbing. Oops the rocks are too slippery with hardly any friction or oinch grips or handles. So only cracks and buckets and really big handles work as grips.
Be adventouros. Try to touch water - I, Ramesh and our wives did it so you can you. You can be a little imaginative and call two rocks leaning over each other as caves. you can see what look like a cave at some distance - but the idea of walk over the rocks is not too exciting...
The roads are not bad. Its drivable. Its rural and its beautiful for most of the way.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Thinking about buying a car
If you are in my shoes- i.e. the budgets of a pauper and dreams of a king - you are in deep trouble picking up a car in india now.
There are many many cars - but the ones you like are the ones you cant affort. The ones you like and can afford - people will say the company is closing or there is zero resale value or worse still - wife doesnt like its looks!!

So here is a round up of budget cars in india. - Ascending order of price (I am not taking Maruti 800 into consideration here- as i know very little about it and it doesnt appeal to me anyway)

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