Curb your enthusiasm

Long ago, at the beginning of my career, I was part of a team developing software package for Stock Brokers. There were five of us slaving away round the clock at a Stock Broker’s place near BSE : one PM, one functional expert, two senior programmers and yours truly. The agreement with the Broker was that they would get first crack at using the package once it was released. Being the juniormost my responsibilities were to develop reports and keep everyone in good humor while the senior guys were cranking out serious, sexy, complicated transaction code for share trading. The package also had integration to Accounting which was being developed at our company’s Product Development Center in Pune. A senior manager was responsible for overall management of both packages and ensuring they were on track and worked together. This was the successor to the first version of the package which was quite successful. As you can imagine the expectations were sky high and all kinds of features and functionality were expected from the latest and greatest next release. The pressures were high and the small room where we were developing was more of a rat-hole with a big server on a table for six people and the five of us around it banging
out code for months. Folks from the broker’s office would peep in regularly asking how things were progressing and demanding impromptu demos of the work in progress product. Since the outer office did not have air conditioning the folks working there used to keep the door of our room open for some cool air to flow out. Which mean the heat was on for us literally. With sundry new features being thrown in ad hoc for various considerations this project also hit a rough patch like many projects do. Company management decided to dispatch senior manager to bring order and also to supervise project team work for a week. This manager was one of the oldest and most trusted employees in the company. We had about one week notice about the manager’s visit to prepare and rehearse our routine 🙂

I had had brief interactions in the past with this manager. He was good but given to talking about good old times and how the youngsters don’t realize how good they have it. I don’t think he liked my habit of cracking jokes. People find it difficult to understand one can be serious and have fun at the same time 😦 Needless to say I had preferred to keep my distance from him. But this time there was no possibility of avoiding direct contact. Luckily one of the senior guys had recent experience working with the manager in Pune and gave us few pointers to keep the guy happy: Always agree with him, maintain a serious look, laugh loudly at his jokes and if ever there was discussion about movies praise actress Sridevi a lot as she was his favorite actress. For the next week I worked hard on internalizing the following:
1) Curb enthusiasm (to crack jokes)
2) Rehearsing loud laughter
3) Gleaning knowledge about Sridevi and her movies

Came the week and arrived the manager. For the most part my preparation paid off. The manager was quite pleased with our dedication and progress. He even joked with the heat we were working under we should have no problem finding a job in a crematorium 😀 My timing did go awry at times. I blame it for being overprepared. A few times I would start laughing the moment he opened his mouth to crack a joke and he would cast a glance at me suggesting “Why can’t this dickhead wait for me to finish my joke before he starts laughing” 🙂 But by and large I managed to curb my enthusiasm to crack jokes and maintain a serious look. The movie Chandni had released around that time. Towards the end of the week we reserved tickets for viewing the movie in Metro. He had already watched the movie but we insisted he watch again (to get him in good mood to send glowing report about the team to management). He quite enjoyed the movie but every few minutes he would say they did not show a particular scene in the other theater he had watched. After a few times, unable to contain myself, I asked whether he had watched the movie or its trailer 😀 Immediately he shot back “Yeh dhimaag tu programming mein lagayega toh kitna achcha rahega” (You would do better to apply your thinking to coding rather than cracking jokes) 😀 Overall the week was peaceful and I did not do my cause any further damage. We went back to slaving for a few more months and developed the product with our sanity intact!

Is it just me #1…..

…..or does anyone else think Stephen Colbert may have OCD-like tendency to return everything back to its original place? 🙂
When my son sometimes joins me to watch the Late Show I always tell him “Watch and learn from Colbert, even in the midst of his monologue he is particular about handing back the imaginary items too so that they can go back to their original place” 😀

It doesn’t pay to help ;)

One weekend we were expecting guests for dinner at 7pm. Wife needed some stuff from the grocery shop to cook a feast. ’twas around 4pm when she asked if I could make a run to the shop and get what she needed. I said sure! Off I went to the shop. Lot of time to complete the shopping and return in time before guests arrive, I thought. Went to the fruits section first. Some bananas looked raw, others overripe. Said to myself let me see if there is anything mentioned about when to best consume. No date, just a label on banana skin with Dole or Chiquita or whatever brand it was. Hmmm…I thought this is a little annoying and getting to be a boring experience. To add fun to the task I decided to look at what usage instructions were there for other products. Below is what I found and my inferences.
Cake, Mayo: Best if used by <date> – Hmmm, need to keep that date in mind!
Packaged beets, Salsa: Seller just slapped a date on the package 😀
Blueberries in a box: No date – that’s great, lasts forever! 🙂
Shredded lettuce: Enjoy by <date> – Thought of having some before the date printed and some after just to test if there is difference in enjoyment level 😀
Milk, Fruit dipped in sugar solution: Best by <date> – Felt it was too long to wait till that date!
Boom Chicka Pop snacks: Sell By <date> – After the printed date it’s probably suggested to gift instead of selling 🙂
Aged Gouda Cheese: Sell By <date> – Shouldn’t it get better with age?
Fruit Juice: Best before <date> – Need to sip everyday and see what that best turns out to be, what date it tastes best!
Medicine: Exp date <date> – Only product with expiry date/month clearly mentioned! Really? Per my understanding medicines do not really expire, they don’t turn into cyanide after expiry date 😀 Their potency is said to reduce, that’s it. I suppose medicines have the greatest profit margin and it helps the business to put the fear of God into people 🙂
After all this “research” I glanced at my watch. It was 6:15pm. Omigosh, I had not started my shopping. Hurriedly I got the list of items out and finished shopping in 15 minutes and returned home by 6:45pm. I had a triumphant look on my face for the fun “research” I had managed and reaching in time before the guests arrived. Wifey opened the door. One look at her face and I knew she wasn’t happy.
Wife: Where were you all this time? (she demanded)
Me: I was shopping and have all the items in the list you had asked for (I replied calmly and confidently with the attitude of a person who had gained wisdom 😉 )
Wife: I needed couple more items. Called you, left VM, texted too!
Me: Let me check (checked phone). Oh, looks like I set the phone on mute so that I could finish the shopping quickly 😉 (Did not want to get a scolding by mentioning phone was set in mute to help me do my “research” peacefuly 😀 )
Bottomline: It doesn’t pay to help 😉 😀
P.S. Wife, resourceful person that she is, completed cooking changing the menu by making couple of dishes using other ingredients at home. And I escaped with my secret intact! 🙂

Clear thy name first, Special Counsel!

For about 2 years now whenever you turn on the news one person has been part of the daily news: Special Counsel Robert Mueller! It could be a report on his ongoing investigation, a talk show on his court filings/indictments or a subject pleading guilty or witness called for questioning etc or reaction of anyone linked to the investigation directly or indirectly. Mr Mueller lets his work speak for him, haven’t heard him say a word in public past 2 years. In many discussions about the investigation there is someone in the panel talking about their personal interactions with him in the past or remarking about the way he has gone about his work in this instance. So widely is he mentioned that I think there is a strong case for Mr Mueller to be made part of the lexicon, used in different contexts for different effect. For example describing someone as “He/She is a mueller” could be description of a silent, strong person. “Person A is very muelleric” might fit the description of a stoic individual with no outward display of emotion. “He/She got muellered” could mean someone brought to justice OR unfairly victimised depending on political inclinations of the person saying it 😀 Going by utterances of POTUS and Mr Giuliani mueller could mean hunter (although I am not sure which hunt they keep referring to 🙂 )

There is a lot of strong opinion about the Special Counsel and his work. For those in support he is a savior of our civilization as we know it and for those opposed he is a destroyer of our civilization. With so much divide I was hoping there would at least be some agreement on how to pronounce his name. Alas, no luck in that either 😦 I have noticed 3 major ways people say his last name. Some say MULLer, some say Mewller, some say
Mew-e-ller with some variations of the above 3 also thrown in 😀 For someone like me who has not grown up hearing Mueller last name it has left me scratching my head. Depending on the situation when discussion about Special Counsel comes up I adopt one of the following approaches:
1) Refer to Mr Mueller as Special Counsel or
2) Say Robert M reducing the last name to an initial or
3) Insist on response in writing only or
4) Say the full name with the last name barely audible in the hope that no one hears it or it’s so faint no one hears or feels offended if I say it wrong 🙂

It’s been frustrating to resort to such methods. I can’t continue with those approaches any more. Keeping public interests/service in mind here’s my very public appeal to Mr Robert Mueller :

“Sir, all of us are very appreciative of the admirable restraint shown by you doing your work past few years in the face of provocation and personal attacks on a daily basis. We understand your sense of duty and quiet dignity has been shaped to some extent by your personal experience in war and seeing friends and fellow soldiers lose their life in fighting for a cause. The closest some of your fiercest critics have come to fighting a war has been fighting messy, expensive divorce battles in court. Please continue your quest to find the truth wherever it takes you, however long it may take to unearth. Your appointment may come with the mandate not to respond to any reaction to your work or personal comments about you. You have to make one exception though. I urge that you to go public, say your full name in public loud and clear and broadcast it on all major networks/cable channels! The least all of us should be able to agree on is how to say your full name correctly. It’s time to speak up. Now!”

Clear thy name first, Special Counsel!

No appreciation for efficient disposal!

When son was in elementary school and we went out for shopping or on a long drive one thing was certain. After couple of minutes’ of drive he would feel the need to use a restroom 😀 No amount of reminders before we started seemed to have any effect. Leaving us with 2 choices: Either drive back home for him to take care of business or look for the nearest shop with restroom. Availability of restrooms for public use in the USA is something that is nice and probably taken for granted. After the business was transacted we would be on our way (Thirsty feeling would soon follow but The Raj generally takes care of that by keeping couple of bottles of water handy in the car 🙂 ). Not long after I caught on to that habit too. On long drives whenever there was a need for relief the usual excuse would follow: car running low on gas, need to fill up 😉 Pull over to the nearest gas station, fuel the car, grab a cup of coffee and oh, by the way, be back after a quick trip to the restroom 😀 Wife is never amused whenever that happens. I guess she doesn’t understand guys have the most efficient disposal system in the world. When a man has to go he has to go 😀