Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My friend, the bachelor

I am quite surprised to find the number of bachelors I have among my friends. I thought I would do them a little favor and try and fix them a match. So, here goes - the list of the most eligible bachelors in town:

1. Mr. Nice - he is the essence of correctness. The guy whom every girl would love to take home to her parents. Take all the good things in this world and put it inside one human and you get Mr. Nice. A genius. An excellent techie. A wonderful human. I could go on and on.

2. Mr. SCDAFF - this guy can do anything for friends. If you're in a horrible mess, with insurmountable problems, unable to figure out what to do and need some support, no matter what, call him. If you hook him, you will get a best buddy for life and that sometimes, is more than a husband.

3. Mr. Dialysis Tech - this guy dialyses me. He has no formal education in dialysis but is better than most others in his field. When I was in-center, I would refuse to undergo dialysis if he wasn't there to cannulate. I probably would not have started home hemo if it wasn't for his support. I am probably doing myself a disservice by looking for a match for him because, the day he gets married, I will be on my own with the dialysis machine.

4. Mr. Masti - I have known him for 28 of my 34 years - my oldest friend. We've been friends since we were toddlers in primary school. Behind the intemperate exterior is a genuine, caring heart. He will not make it evident. But I can feel it. That's the beauty of this guy.

And last, but not the least, yours truly. If you are a young girl on dialysis, looking for a hunk on dialysis with a huge - well, fistula, drop me a line and we could - well, dialyse together into the sunset!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Unit testing code - don't bother

Joel Spolsky has written an excellent piece called The Duct Tape Programmer. In it, he quotes Jamie Zawinski, who is what Joel calls a duct tape programmer say "(unit tests) sound great in principle. Given a leisurely development pace, that’s certainly the way to go. But when you’re looking at, ‘We’ve got to go from zero to done in six weeks,’ well, I can’t do that unless I cut something out. And what I’m going to cut out is the stuff that’s not absolutely critical. And unit tests are not critical. If there’s no unit test the customer isn’t going to complain about that."

Most serious projects start off with unit tests as an important part of the development activity. Many managers insist that unit testing code be written even before the actual code. Gradually, however, as deadlines approach, unit tests are ignored. They lie untouched, reflecting the functionality as it was envisaged initially. Eventually, nobody has the time to update them. Which means that the effort spent to write them in the first place was a major waste of time.

I have never seen a real-world project in which the unit tests were meticulously maintained and used to the desired effect. It is merely good to say "We have unit testing code". It is entirely another story to actually have meaningful unit testing code.

They are simply not practical in the kind of projects we have today. Well, I am talking about the projects that most people work on. Software for critical projects like the Chandrayaan, for example, is an entirely different ball game. A single mistake in the code could have blown the mission. But not in the projects that you and I work on. Where deadlines are important.

So, here's my advice to software programmers and managers: don't bother with unit testing code.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Effigent and Grene: a study in contrasts

Its been about ten months in my new job at Grene. One thing I had requested my new employers at Grene while joining the company was that I did not want to take on any administrative responsibilities. I wanted to take on a purely technical role. They agreed.

Ten months on, when I look back, my role in Effigent was hugely different from my role in Grene. Here are the differences:

I mostly assigned tasks and reviewed them in Effigent. In Grene, I am assigned tasks and my work is reviewed.

Towards the first of every month, I would be nervous about the fallout of salaries not being paid on time among the employees of the company. These days, I am nervous if my salary is delayed purely from a personal perspective.

Days off would be in consultation with team-mates and considering any deadlines in the project. Very often, I would cancel my plans at the last moment. These days, I fill in a leave application well in advance so that there is no chance of a planned trip being spoilt.

I was often spoilt in Effigent by the office boys and other support staff. They would carry my bag for me and bring me hot tea or coffee whenever I wanted. Here, I am an ordinary employee. I have to request the support staff for things I need.

Friday evenings on a tough project would be tense and embarrassing because I had to ask (often very tactfully) my team members to work on Saturdays and often even Sundays. Friday evenings are tense and embarrassing here too. But because I am worried my manager might ask us to work through the weekends!

I got to see the other side of the fence. It has been a good experience.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I am so exhausted. Its just the end of Monday and I feel so tired. Like I've worked for days on end without a break!

I am feeling really tired these days. I don't know if it is the distance to work or the work itself. I can barely do anything after getting home.

Another worrying thing is that I can literally feel my heart pounding towards the end of the day. Its a very strange, discomforting feeling. I've had a cardiac check up recently and the doc did not say anything much. So, there can't be anything too wrong.

I really don't know what to do.

Last week, on Wednesday, I was just too fatigued to go to work. I took the day off. Monday and Tuesday were very hectic and tiring. This week too has started on a similar note.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vacation time!

Around this time of the year, for the last couple of years, I have been taking a short break with friends to some place close by. A weekend getaway, if you will. And this time, there are plenty of long weekends coming up. So, I couldn't resist the urge to plan something.

After a little bit of going back and forth, a trip to Visakhapatnam (or Vizag) and Araku valley is in place. Despite being based in Andhra Pradesh all my life, I have not even seen Vizag yet. I have heard a lot about this place. I have not got a chance to see it however. So, this time, it was right on top of the list of options. It is not too far. So you can do it in one weekend. And it is not close enough to feel like you've not gone anywhere!

So, a few friends and I will be reaching Vizag on the 2nd of October. On the 3rd, we will head out to Araku Valley. We will start for Hyderabad on the 4th evening.

Dialysis, as always, is a major concern for me. I have gone without dialysis for a maximum of 2 nights. That is what it will be this time too. I will not get dialysis on the 2nd and 3rd October nights. I will be back in time for a session on the 4th. I could have dialysed in Vizag. They have good hospitals. But, since it was anyway going to be 2 nights, I decided against it. Who wants to be in a hospital when on vacation? Well, it gives you a day or two extra. But given a choice, I would dialyse only at home.

I am already getting excited about the trip!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Well, we don't really need to wait for the H1N1 vaccine

I saw this outside a medical shop in the city! From a distance, a quick glance can leave you quite alarmed:

"Swine Flu Available Here".

A closer inspection, however, reveals:

"Homoeopathic Preventive Medicine Swine Flu available here"

It is amazing how homoeopathy claims to have a cure for everything. And the best part is you don't need clinical trials, randomized or otherwise to make such claims. Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, eat your heart out!

Monday, September 14, 2009

State of the fistula

I was visited by a team from Fresenius recently. They are planning to start home hemo training in India and wanted to see my setup. When they came, we discussed my treatment and they saw my fistula. They were quite alarmed. They said I should have it checked right away. They thought it was very risky to have such a huge fistula and it could rupture and lead to an emergency situation where there could be uncontrolled bleeding.

I set up an appointment with my vascular surgeon. I met him and told him what the Fresenius people had said. He examined the fistula. He also used a device, similar to the one that is used for an echo cardiogram and checked the fistula with it. He said that the thickness of the wall of the fistula and the skin over it was fine and there was no risk of any rupturing.

He also added that yes, the size was big but given that there was no risk of rupturing, he would not like to do anything to it right now. He could reduce the size but then the flows may not be enough for good dialysis. He also said we had limited options for another fistula because my arms had been used up for previous shunts and fistulae.

He concluded that we should let the fistula be and assured me that there was no risk of an emergency situation.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

State of the heart

A couple of years back, I was diagnosed with Left Ventricular Dysfunction. A 2D Echo Cardiogram showed that my Ejection Fraction (EF) was fairly low. My valves were leaky. I was put on medication. After about a year I repeated the 2D echo. It was normal. The EF was normal, the leaks had stopped. Benefits of daily dialysis, I concluded.

I've been taking a drug called Digoxin for the heart. Every time I tell another doctor that I am taking Digoxin, they ask Why? There is something about this drug that is not good. I never get any convincing answers. During my visit to the neph a few weeks back, he told me to do a 2D echo and stop Digoxin if it is normal.

So, I went and got a 2D echo done. The Left Ventricle was dilated. The EF was normal however. To top it all I was feeling a little breathless for the past few days. I went to the cardiologist yesterday. He saw all the reports and examined me. He said the 2D echo was not a perfect test and a lot depended on the person performing the test. Nevertheless it could be used as an indicator but never as the final word. He went on to say that the fluctuations in heart condition were normal in someone with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). CKD affects every cell in the body. These conditions sometimes express themselves at the macro level but they are always present at the micro level.

Basically, he said, this was something I would have to live with.

I told him I was swimming every day and asked if that was safe? His answer confused me. He said brisk walking is safe. But he was not comfortable with a treadmill. Swimming. Treadmill. They don't even sound alike! I let it rest.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The fuss over a '9'

Yesterday was supposed to be a numerological wonder - it was 09/09/09. Some people went overboard with this. Radio channels kept repeating this. It was a once in a millennium event, they said. Many people performed special 'poojas' around 09:09:09 a.m. too. That was probably the ultimate second of the millennium!

What is special about the number 9? I have no clue. After all, last year, the 8th of August had a similar once in a millennium thing about it. It also had a 08:08:08 a.m. There was no hype about it. Neither was there any on the 7th of July the year before last.

I know many people who will do anything to get a cell phone number or their vehicle number that has the sum of its digits as a '9 number'. One interesting thing about the '9 numbers' is any number that is divisible by 9 has the sum of its digits end up as 9.

Of course, not many people understand the significance of the number 9. They just believe it is lucky for them.

I'm going to play spoiler however. There was a big error in celebrating 09/09/09. After the Y2K fiasco, everyone uses 4 digit years. So, people, there was nothing special about 09/09/2009. Yes, you might start planning on how to celebrate 09/09/9999!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Allahu Akbar

"Surely, the religion (i.e. the worship and the obedience) is for Allah only. And those who take Auliya' (protectors and helpers) besides Him (say): "We worship them only that they may bring us near to Allah." Verily, Allah will judge between them concerning that wherein they differ. Truly, Allah guides not him who is a liar, and a disbeliever- Surah Az Zumar 39:3"

I was startled on reading this post of a friend on Facebook. Barring the Islamic references, you could say this about the religion that I follow too - Jainism. You could probably say this about many of the religions followed today.

The key point being made here is that the supreme power or God only is to be worshipped. Not the 'protectors and helpers'. Put in a Jain context, only 'Arihant' is to be bowed to, not the 'devis' and 'devtas'. My guess is this is being said due to the increased worshipping of those other than the supreme being. Only the supreme being is perfect and worthy of bowing to. Not the imperfect 'protectors and helpers'.

What is the point in worshipping someone who has the same frailties as you? It is only worth bowing before or worshipping someone who is perfect, someone you aspire to become like. Someone who has reached the pinnacle of all endeavor.

Through time, all religions get corrupted by their so-called preachers. Preachers interpret the scriptures at variance with the original intended meaning and the common followers accept this as the supreme truth. To question, of course, is considered blasphemy.

So, it is only :

"Allahu Akbar", not anybody else.

"Namo Arihantanam", not anybody else.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

From a software manager's secret diary - 2

(An entry from the diary of a fictitious software project manager)

Had a tough day today. Two TLs came to me for my opinion on an architectural issue. Gosh! Why me? Of course, I couldn't say that to them. I was their manager, after all. I had to know.

I thought I had handled it quite cleverly.

I first asked both of them to present their points of opinion. Girish started off. He used a whole lot of technical jargon. I didn't understand most of it. I kept hearing the words synchronous and asynchronous a lot. Mahesh tried interrupting him to make a point. I sternly asked him to wait till Girish completed. It was difficult making sense of what Girish was saying anyway. To have Mahesh add his interpretation and make sense of that would be too much for me to take.

After Girish concluded, I asked Mahesh to present his case. Mahesh used simpler terms. They made more sense. In the end, I understood more of what Mahesh said than what Girish said. That pretty much decided in whose favor I was going to rule. Of course I couldn't put it plainly.

After hearing them both out, I said something to the effect that both had valid points to make and I really appreciated the technical expertise of both. In the present circumstances, however, I tend to think that we should do .... and I explained what I thought Mahesh had said.

That evening, I was quite startled when Som came to me and said he also thought Girish's approach was right and was glad that both of us thought alike!! I did not dare to investigate.

Monday, September 7, 2009

From a software manager's secret diary

(An entry from the diary of a fictitious software project manager)

(To my Effigent colleagues: this is based on my experience at Grene)
(To my Grene colleagues: this is based on my experience at Effigent)

Today was a good day. Didn't have to do much. Been having a lot of such good days lately. That's the advantage of being a manager. You don't need to do much. Yet you get all the credit!

Som is shaping up really well. He knows what the hell is happening with all the teams. So, whenever I am in doubt or the VP asks me about the project, all I need to do is to check with Som and he fills me in on all the juice. Must remember to recommend him for a good raise. Must also remember not to promote him. He might just become too big for my project! Ha ha ha!

This morning I had a good time at the team meeting. I did what I love to do most. Give gyaan. I lectured all my team members on the importance of coming early to work. It must have sounded strange coming from me though! I told them that traffic would be less, about the benefits of starting early and then I told them the biggest lie of the day - if you finish your work, you can leave early! Heck, if they finish their task, I will give them one more task. Not allow them to leave. But the line sounded good, so I said it.

Today was Sukhi's birthday. Man, that was a heavy lunch. I actually managed to catch a nap at my desk in the afternoon. I pretended like I was reviewing code very deeply. I fell asleep after the first method itself. It didn't make any sense to me at all!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

His two cents

There is a gentleman who is a regular at the pool where I swim. He has retired, probably is around 60. A nice affable chap. The only problem is he loves to chat. About everything. He always has an opinion and loves to share it with everyone.

Now, my problem is I am usually in a rush in the morning. I need to quickly finish my twelve lengths and get out. What often happens is that I take a break of a minute or two between lengths. If this guy happens to be on that side of the pool, sure enough, he will start a conversation. "So, how is the software industry these days?" Never mind if we just discussed this same topic just the previous day. And the fortunes of the software industry do not change so fast!

He's a nice guy. So, I don't like to be rude and avoid him. I make polite conversation with him, trying to be brief and then given half a chance set out on my next length.

Suddenly a few weeks back, this guy stopped coming. Not much news to talk about, I thought! Then YSR's chopper went missing. The guy was back. "Divine retribution", I heard him tell someone. When he caught me, he started, "The body was in pieces."

The next time I see him at the pool, sure enough, I am going to assume something newsworthy has happened. I might even go up to him and ask, "Ok, what did I miss?"

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Architect of Aarogyasree

About seven months back, lightning struck Ramulu, 55, a resident of Produttur, a small town in Andhra Pradesh. His kidneys had failed. The signs were there from many months. Ramulu could not afford any treatment. He ignored the signs. He had no choice. And now, the doctors said he needed to go to Hyderabad for treatment.

Gathering his life's savings, accompanied by his son, Ganesh, who was around 32, he took a bus to Hyderabad and went to a government run hospital. He was examined by a doctor and was asked to wait outside while the doctor talked to Ganesh. The doctor said gravely that Ramulu needed dialysis to live. And it would cost around Rs. 15,000 per month. This came as a shock to Ganesh. Rs. 15,000! They could not afford this. What if he did not take the treatment? Ramulu would die in a few weeks, months at best.

Ganesh was too shocked to react.

The doctor enquired whether they were classified as "Below Poverty Line". Ganesh said yes. The doctor then told him about the government's Aarogyasree scheme where the poor people of the state can get medical treatment free of cost at designated hospitals.

Ganesh took all the details of this scheme from the doctor and left.

Today, Ramulu lives. Thanks to the Aarogyasree scheme. The scheme that has given a new lease of life to thousands of poor people. People who would have no option but to die for want of money to fund their treatment.

This novel scheme was introduced by Dr. Y S Rajashekhar Reddy, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh who tragically died in a helicopter crash two days back. The state mourns the passing of a great leader.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Planning life

Many of us get so caught up in our daily routine and work that we forget about what we want to achieve in life, about what we really want to do. Work can take the best hours of our waking day. This leaves us with little or no time to think about the big picture. Where do I want to go? What do I want to do?

We must think hard about what we want to achieve in our life over the next few years. Some kind of a long term plan. For people who have a family they are responsible for, the goals often involve the family too. For bachelors like me, it is purely personal.

How many of us are living our lives conscious of what we really want to do and making efforts towards that goal?

Once we are clear about what we want to achieve, we must make continuous efforts to achieve it. Every major decision of our lives must be made keeping in mind that eventual goal. We tend to lose sight of the goal and meander along in our lives, letting life take its own course. If we take proactive steps in achieving the goal, we really can get there. It can be easier than we imagined.

On the other hand, if we just get on with life without any planning, a few years down the line, we will wonder why we wasted all these years and that can be quite a disconcerting thought.