The Frost Dragon

I sit at the window and watch the dragon fly about – it is a frost dragon. As it breathes on the world below, the very air seems to freeze solid and fall. I’m glad I’m sitting indoors wrapped in a warm blanket and not running about out there. I watch as a polar bear draws the dragon’s ire and the huge beast swoops down. A few seconds later, the dragon rises into the air again, and the bear’s lifeless corpse lies in a tomb of ice. I make a mental note to collect the bear’s claws and pelt later. The claws will come in handy when I next make potions, and the pelt can be tanned to get some good leather.

A couple of mages and an archer take shots at the dragon, the mages with firebolts and lightning bolts, and the archer with steel arrows. These will hurt the dragon, but not much. There is no way they’ll be able to kill the dragon, so I sigh and run forward to help, with my trusty assistant tagging along (I use my assistant mainly to haul my stuff around, but he can fight a little too). A few blows with my trusty sword (imbued with flame) would surely kill the dragon, but the dragon has to first land before swords can be of any use; so I hang back, occasionally shooting firebolts at it which usually miss. You see, I’m not much of a mage and my aim is hopeless if the target moves – and this darn dragon seems to fly all over the sky! Finally, the mages and the archer and my assistant hurt the dragon’s wings enough that it is forced to land.

This is my chance. I quickly sprint closer and start hacking away at the dragon. The flame on my sword burns and hurts it more than anything else could – I would’ve been in soup had this been a fire dragon or elder dragon (I forgot my frost sword at home), but the stars favoured me. Soon, the mages are dead and so is the archer. My assistant is on the ground, recovering his strength, unable to fight for the time being. The lumbering beast slowly turns to me and there’s only one question running through my mind – can I kill it before it kills me?

It roars and its breath freezes everything around me and I feel myself dying. I quickly gulp down a potion that will help my body resist the cold and warm my blood and I feel much better. I cast a healing spell on myself with my left hand and hack away at the dragon with the sword in my right – and I’ve attacked the darn thing so much that my skill with one handed weapons improves! A while later, just when I run out of mana (magic power, for the uninitiated) and begin to think there’s no killing the stupid thing, I see an opening – its head comes too low when it snaps at me. In a flash, I climb on to its head and start striking its maws with my sword while it tries to reach me in vain. Pretty soon, it does what I expect – roar in frustration. My sword immediately pierces its tongue and comes out the bottom of its jaw with the force of my thrust. Blood spews all over the place, and my armor is soaked in dragon blood (thank goodness dragon blood doesn’t rust armor). A final roar, and it falls. I jump off, and as I watch, the dragon’s skin starts disintegrating; I absorb the dragon’s soul. And I can finally learn to breathe frost too, much like this dragon did! I scavenge some dragon bones and dragon scales before I move on - these will do just fine for my dragonscale armour, when I get around to making it. Time to go kill a few undead creatures before looking for the next dragon.

Suddenly, I hear mom call me for dinner, and I snap out of my trance. I have to leave my magical window for now, but I can return to it after dinner to look for more dragons. As I get up to leave, there is a power cut – it was for just a few seconds; the generator kicks on almost immediately, but the damage is done - I wasn’t able to save the game. It takes all my resolve not to swear – hey, I just need to kill that darn dragon again. I can do that! So with a whistle on my lips I saunter off to have dinner as my XBox starts up again and Skyrim loads up once more.

A new Olympic sport

 A few weeks back, a colleague and I were heading out to “Nisarga”, for some delicious lunch. Well, at least it was better than the… than the… Well, better than whatever it was that we got in office for lunch! Unwilling to wait till evening for the lift, we took the stairs down. Growls from our stomachs as we climbed down seven flights of stairs made us wish for a faster mode of travel – (no, not the bleddy elevator; the time spent waiting for one could’ve been invested in taking the stairs with awesome returns!) And that’s when we remembered a favorite childhood sport in most parts of India, and probably the world – Sliding!

For those of you unfamiliar with Sliding, (not just sliding, but Sliding) let me explain.

Aim: To demonstrate the art of Sliding

Apparatus: A staircase with a continuous handrail, and sturdy handrails at that. You don’t want to end up falling on someone, handrail and all.

Procedure:

1. Climb to the top of the stairs, or rather to where the handrail starts sloping down.
2. With one leg firmly placed on the stairs, lift the other one over the handrail and let it dangle on the other side (in empty space, or over the following flight of stairs) while you gently sit astride the handrail. Note that you should be facing the top of the stairs and not the bottom. Though the bottom-facing format is also in vogue in some parts, it is the top-facing part that seems to be more common, and definitely the one I’m more acquainted with!
3. Place your hands on the handrails, but do not hold on too firmly – your hands are going to be your brakes if anything goes wrong. (I sincerely hope not!)
4. Take a deep breath, and lift your landing gear (first leg) from the stairs, and keep an eye out for your destination (the end of the railing). Some people may prefer to lean forward to maintain balance or improve streamlining.
4.a) If at some point, you feel your speed is too high and feel fear knocking on your head, use your hands to slow yourself.
4.b) If you find yourself moving too slowly, check the material of your trousers/pants and get something smoother or otherwise with lesser friction. Or get to work on the railing with some sandpaper (after making sure the owner of the building doesn’t see you).
5. When you see your destination, get your landing gear ready, and gently apply the brakes if required.
5.a) An excess of velocity might take you past your destination and in extreme cases might render your landing gear ineffective, and you may potentially land on your seat with your landing gear stretched out before you.
5.b) If your landing gear is unready or improper at arrival, you might find yourself dumped unceremoniously on the ground at your destination. This is generally not advisable for grown-ups, especially ones who like to look dignified or sedate. Kids usually dust the seats of their pants and are off up the stairs again for the next round.
6. As soon as your landing gear touches the ground at your destination, lean forward gently to ensure any residual velocity doesn’t result in a loss of balance. If you enjoyed performing the above steps, or would like to repeat them for any other reason, proceed from step 1.

Expected result: Assuming the person conducting the experiment has the appropriate velocity and landing gear in proper condition, they should be able to land gracefully (relatively speaking, of course!)

If someone is still unable to grasp how this ridiculously simple sport works, leave me a note (read: comment), and I’ll consider putting up illustrations. Keyword: consider.

As my friend and I walked to “Nisarga“, we wondered why we couldn’t really do that. Of course, we wouldn’t look dignified, but bother that – the fun factor and efficacy more than compensate the potential loss of dignity. Of course, this would potentially result in races, and a new sport would develop. Considering the state of our foosball and TT tables, I was pretty sure this would immediately become a popular sport; at least till the railings broke and reached the state of our foosball tables!

 And then it struck me: hey, if we can have races, we can have international races! And championships! Maybe even add this to the repertoire of the Olympics! When I told my friend this he just laughed, but I knew I was on to something big! Kids Sliding is one thing – it’d be called childish, and would at best earn a tolerant smile. Adults engaged in Sliding however, might result in a new sport! I’ve seen a sport where people lie on tiny, one-man sleds and slide down an ice-covered track to see who is faster, in a time-trial format. I did a bit of research and found it’s been part of the Winter Olympics since 2002, and that it is called “Skeleton“. Well, we’d need to think of a cool name for Sliding too!

 We wouldn’t have to worry much about accessibility of the sport to amateurs. Most people around the world will have access to staircases with handrails, and they can practice on those. Considering the high appeal to kids, we will have a broad talent pool to pick potential champs from. We’ll also be able to establish relatively inexpensive training centers around the world for these chosen kids to practice on. As for sponsors, we can start off with manufacturers of handrails. More will join later. You will soon have glove manufacturers who talk about the braking efficiency, or clothing manufacturers who talk about how the seats of the pants are designed to be low friction to provide maximum speed when required, while the insides of the thighs on each leg have extra friction pads, just for braking back up when the gloves alone aren’t enough.

 As for the sport itself, we could have specially designed handrails for this, with twists and turns and crests and troughs, where the “slider” will have to appropriately shift his weight at the right times to ensure maximum velocity. We can potentially add some ice to parts of the railing to make it more challenging. And like we have dirt, concrete and asphalt tracks for car races, we can have metal, polished wood (of each type) and ice-covered railings to slide on. Don’t forget the indoor/outdoor variations or the light-weight/bantam-weight/heavy-weight categories!

 At the end of every track, we should have a big patch of snow or a lot of cold water. This should be positioned such that as soon as the slider finishes his course, he lands on the patch of snow or cold water, and he is allowed to sit there for precisely two minutes or till the snow melts, whichever is sooner. This is to provide photographers enough time to take pics of the expressions on their faces. We ought to see if they really do make faces like the cartoon characters that accidentally get their rears on fire and finally find something to cool it off in.

 As for the sportsmen, I can see them in my mind’s eye. Here’s one: An athletically built man in a skin-tight speedsuit, wearing goggles and a safety helmet and other protective gear for his elbows and knees and wherever else he deems necessary. He straddles the railing, inhaling and exhaling rapidly through his mouth as he prepares for the start. His trainer stands next to him, yelling encouragement or potentially saying the material of his outfit is not a perfect match for the material of the railing. That the increased friction between the two will slow him down, or maybe the decreased friction might result in a reduction in control. (I guess most sensible people would be worried about the temperatures their rear would encounter if the friction was going to be higher, but I don’t see this guy worried – maybe he has protective gear in the seats of his pants as well!)

 The trainer then probably proceeds to tell him off for having eaten that Dutch truffle cake for dessert the previous night, which might have caused an increase of a few milligrams in his weight, which in turn might completely ruin their speed plan and control strategy. Hey, an increase in weight would cause an increase in both downward pull due to gravity, and friction from the railing! The trainer would also have to calculate how hot the seat of the slider’s pants would get, how much that heat and friction would contribute to the melting of any ice covering, and the resulting decrease in friction. Assuming the place is cold enough for the ice to refreeze quickly, and assuming there’s enough ice, he wouldn’t have to worry about the effect of preceding competitors. Then we come to aerodynamics. The slider would have to accommodate for wind velocity and direction and what effect it could potentially have on his descent. He’d also have to lean appropriately to maintain balance and ensure maximum aerodynamic efficiency. The trainer would have to take care of all this and more in his calculations. This is a complex sport, see? The trainer would probably have a PhD in physics and would sit with equations and computer simulations all day long!

 And after the race at the award ceremony, I can imagine the speech of the victor as he looks at his teary eyed mom and the neighbors who got him kicked out of his apartment: “My mom always encouraged me to slide down the hand railings. Even when I broke the handrails of my apartment staircases, mom never scolded me (though everyone else in the building wanted us kicked out)”. And someone in the audience will give an impromptu interview: “Oh, I used to live right next door to the boy at one time! He always had it in him – he changed homes so many times, but wherever he moved he always managed to either break enough railings or land on enough people at the end of the railing that the entire building would decide to kick them out. I always knew he’d reach great heights!”

 See? We’ve got everything figured out. Thing is, I’m too busy with loads of better things to do – so I can’t really go and get this started as an official sport, let alone get it into the Olympics! In case someone reading this blog decides to make a sport out of this yet and sets up an organizing committee and stuff, please make sure you give me credit as the founder of the official form of this sport! And just in case I manage to find a nice photo of mine, I might also ask you to put up that pic in your hall of fame or whatever as the founder. In return, I’ll give you the right to use my ideas relating to this sport as mentioned in this blog, and if perchance I get around to thinking more about it, I may be able to give you even more ideas!

Forget C

A few weeks earlier, I’d heard the “Write in C” song on YouTube and found it funny, but that was about it – life went on. And then a friend posted the lyrics on FB, and a ‘discussion’ started. And the discussion raged on and on. I’d like to say it went on for days and months and years, but it was for just for a few hours. Halfway thru it, I felt we needed a response. And after I commented that “C” was probably picked simply because it rhymed with “be”, another friend commented saying they should’ve used more appropriate lyrics, like “Use Scala instead of C”. I thought that wouldn’t fit the tune of the song, but then, that pushed me to think of something that would. And then, in an auto on my way to work, I decided to write this. The auto guy probably thought me crazy coz I was humming the tune most of the way, but he didn’t drive to NIMHANS, so that shows he didn’t think me too crazy. Or he thought all software engineers were equally crazy. Whichever it was, it doesn’t matter. Anyway, enough chatter. On to the song (or what I hope is one)!

(Sing to the tune of “Let it Be” by the Beatles)

When the pointers start dangling and
Memory leaks rampantly
Here are words of wisdom:
“Forget C!”

When you need well-structured code with
objects and code so classy,
Even C++’s better!
Forget C…

Forget C, forget C,
Forget C, oh forget C…
C#’s here to save you,
Forget C!

When your code needs to be written
To run on all processor families,
Java is what you need!
Forget C…

When you really need performance
Most people turn to assembly;
Why’re you so stubborn?
Forget C!

Forget C, forget C,
Forget C, yeah, forget C…
Scala is so awesome!
Forget C!

Forget C, forget C,
Forget C, oh, forget C!
With Perl and Ruby for the web,
Forget C!

Forget C, forget C,
Forget C, yeah, forget C!
Unless you have an exam,
Forget C!

DISCLAIMER: The author (ok, that’s me, but I’m trying to make it sound like a proper disclaimer, okay? So bear with me! I mean, the author!) thinks this song was apt a couple of decades ago, but not any longer. The author believes C still has some relevance today, though in what is becoming an increasingly niche place, as newer languages eat into its pie. This was written purely as a response to the “Write in C” song. The comparisons there were unjustified, as are the ones here… :)

This is meant purely for fun, but if the C fanatics out there feel offended and wanna tear into this, feel free to! :) Moreover, multiple languages can be swapped in this song and still be accurate. Java and C#, for an obvious example… This is not really so much about the other languages though! :P

A request: If someone can sing this and put up the video on YouTube, that would be awesome! Please provide a link to this post though! :)

Interviews

August 1st; around 9pm – I was on a call with a close friend, asking her to give me a quick summary of algorithmic complexity, what O(n), Omega(n) and Theta(n) meant. Asked her to tell me what in-order, pre-order and post-order traversals were in the context of trees. Asked her what the different types of trees were. Thanked her after she gave me the gist in a little over half an hour. That was all the preparation I had for the next day – for the first set of interviews I gave in my life, with Microsoft. I got the job and spent a few nice years there. The years flew by, and I finally felt it was time to return home to Bangalore; nothing at Microsoft could keep me back in Hyderabad!

Time to prepare for job interviews again! Late August 2010 (dunno what’s with me and August) – Amazon flew me down to Bangalore after a couple of phone screens, for the second set of interviews in my life. This time, it was a couple of hours with my brother, sparring over algorithmic complexities and graph traversals and what-not. That was all the preparation I had, and Amazon was kind enough to extend an offer, which I gladly accepted.

A few months into Amazon, I saw a mail from my manager, asking me to go through the interview training. That, and a couple of shadow interviews later (where I silently observed what the interviewer did), I was ready to conduct my first interview. And then the “fun” started. (Sarcasm alert for the impaired: “fun” in quotes is definitely NOT fun)

It took me a week to find ONE proper question. A few days more to twist it and hone it. Rinse and repeat to have an arsenal of questions. And answers. All the possible ones; or account for them at least – you could NEVER say where a candidate would head with his answer, and you had to be able to evaluate those answers on the fly, and find loopholes where applicable. This was tougher. A whole lot tougher. I had to gauge the skill level of a candidate in a given amount of time, and I had to give the candidate a fair chance. I had to ensure the candidate wasn’t pissed, or went away with a bad impression about Amazon or the work here. I had to pick the good while rejecting the bad. I had to account for off days, where a good candidate might be making silly mistakes. I had to make sure there was no time wasted in helping the candidate understand the question, coz I had just one hour; so the questions had to be easily described. I had to make sure the question involved minimal if any bookish knowledge. I had to ensure the candidate was able to APPLY what he had learnt in college or his previous job(s). I had to ensure that even if the questions were out there on the internet, I would STILL be able to get some useful information about the candidate; useful being the operative word here. Which meant I had to create new ones regularly too. And in the case of phone screens, I had to make sure that the candidate having access to the internet wouldn’t nullify my questions. I had to think on my feet – running through my questions wasn’t my aim, getting information about the candidate was; if morphing a question or coming up with a new question during the interview was the best way to get information about the candidate, I had to be prepared to do that (and I’ve done that a couple of times too). And I had the time constraint of one hour. And oh, did I mention I shouldn’t get biased at any point? That goes without saying, I guess.

More importantly though, I had the responsibility of being fair to the candidate. Rejecting a good candidate and potentially screwing their career is the last thing you’d want on your conscience; it also means more interviews to conduct. Hiring a bad candidate can have absolutely disastrous consequences for the company and the team. And most important of all, you want the candidate to feel good about the interview – feel that they got a fair chance, feel that the interview was a nice experience on the whole, and feel that the company is a nice place to work in with nice people in it.

On the whole, as an interviewer, I’ve put in way more effort to take ONE interview, than I did to prepare for all the rounds of interviews I have ever been through in Microsoft or Amazon. And this, despite my being a hardware engineer – hey, in both cases I had an awesome friend (Sindhu) and an awesome bro to help me out, after all! :) Not to forget the others who lent me moral support, or books that I never used! (Thanks for the book Suman, but I decided that a half hour summary over phone was better than reading the book the night before the Microsoft interview! :D)

Sure, conducting interviews isn’t all bad – it is nice coming up with new questions, or trying to at least, and it is nice talking to other people and seeing how different people approach the same problem, but that’s about all that is good in conducting interviews.

I guess it all boils down to responsibility. I had no responsibility whatsoever when I interviewed at Microsoft or at Amazon – if I screwed up an answer, I’d just lose the job at max, and hey, I never had it in the first place! Here, I might end up screwing someone’s career. I might end up screwing the team, because I know the cost of one bad hire. True, I’m not the only interviewer in the second case, but that doesn’t make it any better. I remember some people in college remarking how much fun it must be to conduct interviews – they said you could ask whatever you felt like and watch the candidates squirm. I didn’t have anything to say then.

I do now.

Meaningful terms…

In any industry, there are terms that people use that are quite specific to that industry – either they are technical terms unique to that field (jargon), or they are just a way of representing things that a normal person won’t relate to. When some of these terms are taken out of context, things can get really hilarious! :)
A simple example is your “status” in messenger applications… It’s not jargon per se, but it can be used in a pun… Set it to “Available” (meaning, to chat) and you’ll have some jobless people (like me :P) asking if you’re so desperate to get hitched – hey, it looks like you’re advertising that you’re single and ready to mingle – correction, desperate to mingle! :D
Then come the “clashes of jargon” – “taking a dump” in some countries means relieving yourself after a heavy meal (not drink!)… In software, the same term is used to indicate taking a snapshot of the memory, or taking a “memory dump”… So it can be quite hilarious when someone is asked on a mail-thread to “take a dump and share it”, or told that he should use “a remote computer to trigger the dump”! And it’s also funny when the said someone responds saying “I’ve shared my dump at this network share. When can you analyze it and tell me what’s wrong?”… I feel extremely tempted to respond with “You need to contact a medical lab for that!” :D
But the best, in my opinion, are the following two:
1. “Privates”… When a big code change is made, the programmer usually builds the binaries privately and gets the tester to verify them. Over the years, the term “private binaries” has decayed to just “privates”. I can’t help laughing when I hear a programmer ask the tester to “test his privates”, “check the privates” or better yet, “verify that the privates work fine”. It’s funnier still if it is meant to be tested for performance or reliability (under stress)! Imagine hearing: “When can you get me the performance numbers for my privates?” or “I want you to stress my privates out completely – run everything on it for a week!”… Now don’t tell me you wouldn’t laugh if you heard such stuff… :P
2. The other one is something that people on the lookout for jobs would’ve heard a lot of: “openings”… Typically, “job openings under a manager” is the term used. I’ve heard of people asking managers if they have any jobs for them, and the managers responding with “I’m sorry, but I don’t have any openings under me right now”, or “Sorry, but all my openings got taken just last week and I’m full up”; worst is “I’ve found someone more qualified for this opening”. And job search ads say they expect “x years of experience to fill this opening” or that they expect someone with “expertise in x field” for the opening. I think they should probably add “should not have any sexually transmittable disease” to that list – sounds more practical, right? ;)
If you come across any more, leave a comment about it – I’ll update this now and then with any new gems I encounter… :)

I’ve got mail!

You know, there are a few people in the world who are very thoughtful about the less fortunate, and these noble men and women send out mail after mail offering us great things – great deals, discounts and more! They are more popularly known as spammers.
Here are a few samples of what I get from these thoughtful angels:
1. Some want to give me money – I can supposedly get excellent returns for my cash by just giving them a small amount of it up front (and by the way, I am just dying to give away my cash to some nameless people I don’t know at all, you know – just don’t tell anyone!)
2. Some want to give me educational degrees without me writing exams or attending classes – here’s the exact mail:
“Lazy to attend exam or classes?We have Diplomas, Degrees, Masters’ or Doctrateto choose from any feild of you’re intrest.Only 2 weeks require to delivers the prestigous non-accrediteduniversities paper to your doorstep.Do not hesitate to give us call today!1-206-203-1872″
Ah, the very spelling and punctuation has won me over. I simply can’t wait to give him a call!! I mean, a degree from such a person would be so useful, right?
3. Then there’re sites like astrology.com saying I will either have a windfall that day (I usually think of the auto guy having fleeced me in the morning) or that I have a special time with my partner (I regret to say I’ve always been single), sigh, and wonder if they have some kind of “opposites” service.
4. And I should not forget the amazing mails that say Bill Gates was giving away his wealth, and that forwarding some stupid mail will give them wealth beyond their imagination! Man, I wish my life was that easy… To give us a small raise, they think a million times, so I can totally believe that Bill Gates is out to give a thousand or a million dollars to people he doesn’t even know for forwarding mails – I mean, rich people are supposed to be eccentric, right? No, not crazy – you’re supposed to use the term eccentric if the person is rich or famous, crazy is only if they’re neither.
(P.S: I am not referring to charity here – that’s different. They’re people who probably need it and they don’t bulk-forward mails to get charitable donations.)
5. Some guys are giving me amazing discounts on various things that I don’t even want, and they say it is a one-time only offer – yeah, yeah, that’s great, blah blah… Why don’t you send these to people who want those pathetic discounts on some sad products? (95% off on a toe-massager? What, is the product totally broken, or did your boss declare that a toe-massager is a pathetic idea and ask you to get rid of them for whatever you could get? Or did you multiply the cost by 20 or more and then say you’re providing that much of a discount? And who would want a toe-massager anyway?)
6. And how can I forget some unknown men and women who are so concerned about giving me their original expensive and high end cars, watches and yachts at a very low price? (They call them very low prices, but the prices still seem outrageously high to me!)
7. And I needn’t talk about the ones who take an interest in my sexual well being – they seem to forget that just because they have a problem, it doesn’t mean everyone else on earth does!
8. Last, but not the least, and definitely the saddest, are your very own friends. No I am not joking, and they are of three categories. Sadly, I’ve had to create a filter for a couple of my friends who fell under all three categories, and my mailbox would get flooded with their mails. Anyway, here are the three categories:
a) First, there are the ones who send mails that say “Pass it on to 10 billion people 10 minutes before you read this, or you will be forced to listen to Thayu singing for eternity”… I mean, imagine the poor bloke who gets such a mail! First off, as far as he knows, there are only 6 billion people in the world, out of which probably less than half know what a computer is, and of those, only half will have an e-mail id. And he should have done it ten minutes before he read that line! I can just visualize that guy inventing the time machine and going back in time just to forward this… And this mail had a twist at the end – it told you what torture you would have (though the person would’ve been arrested by the human rights comission for having threatened to do something as heartless as making someone listen to my singing). Other mails usually say “bad luck will follow you for 10 centuries” or something equally vague of the sort, leaving it up to the person’s imagination. Here, my singing will not scare the people who haven’t heard me sing before this, and considering people usually lose their sanity a short while after hearing me sing, chances are that the person reading it doesn’t know enough about my singing to be scared (actually, considering how crazy most web users are, they probably would be less insane if they had lost sanity hearing me sing). And what is saddest of all is that I have friends who are superstitious and scared enough to forward such mails to me. Though it is good in some ways (in that I get to know who is like that so that I can fool them later), it is quite saddening to see that I have such people for friends and have done nothing to them.
b) This is the “emotional blackmail” category. These are the people who say “send it to everyone who means a lot to you” or “for each person you send it to, someone will magically give me 10 cents” or something of the sort. Saddest of all are the people who say “Dude, you’re heartless! What’s it going to cost you to forward this?” as an attempt to justify their having forwarded such a mail. I may or may not be heartless, but I’m definitely not brainless, and I definitely don’t like being used/exploited in any way. And I know what “virus-writer”, a hypothetical person would do too. He would probably start off a mail saying “Please forward this mail to all the people you care about and think you are nice. Remember, someone cared about you and thought you were nice, so why don’t you reciprocate and forward this?”. He’d put some stupid quotes or pictures or whatever, so that the person doesn’t mind forwarding it. And then of course would come more mails like this. And then, once the internet population is used to such mails, he’d send another mail just like this, but with malicious content attached. By now I guess people will be so used to forwarding such mails, I’ll bet they’d do it even without him using the usual threat or begging or cajoling.
c) And then there are those who believe that pressing “Alt-F4″ after forwarding a mail will make a magical pop-up appear that won’t appear any other way. Get real! Know your keyboard shortcuts! And in case you’re a Windows user who doesn’t know that “Alt-F4″ closes a window, you probably should stop and think a little, and maybe use the internet – it takes just moments to search on Live or Yahoo! or Google or whichever search-engine you prefer. And of course, don’t forget about tormenting the person who sent you such a mail in the first place. If it is not a good friend, you could call them stupid and laugh at their lack of knowledge and show off a little in the process (if you’re doing this, make sure the person isn’t someone who will and can get back at you – that would be ugly). If it is a good friend who has done this, make sure you enlighten them and tell them what you know/have found out, so that they are saved from embarassing situations when others point this out to them.

But wait, ignore my advice. I am wondering what will happen if I tell people:
“Forward this mail to hundred people and then format your hard disk without taking a backup of any of your data – if you have confidential info, please pass it on to @.com first, so that this data can be kept safe. You will receive $1,000,000,000 in your next life if you are born with some brains at least then. Please forward this as it will also help a few kids survive and it shows that you thought of the person you forward it to. Remember, someone thought of you and that’s how you got this mail in the first place!”
I will add a few more zeros after the 1 to appeal to people’s greed. I guess I will have to find a provider who gives unlimited storage like rediffmail, coz I’m sure I’ll get some hundreds of GB of confidential data which these people expect back. I will have to hire a staff of a few thousand to read the mail and tell me what info found there can be used so that I can make the billion dollars I was talking about. But then, the confidential information that such “clever” and “intelligent” geniuses would have can hardly be of any use, so I would probably end up losing money. But what a phenomenon it would be! I can just imagine the masses doing exactly as the mail says. And I can imagine the support guys of various computer organizations frantically trying to accept all customer calls that say “Hey, I lost all my data! What am I to do? How can I get my information back from @.com?” But no, wait, I am wrong. You probably will have very few such calls, since if the masses were ready to follow the instructions of the e-mail, they’d probably sit still and act as though nothing had happened. They probably would think that nothing had happened. I can just visualize someone saying “Hey! I did what the mail said, but nothing at all has happened! I bet it was just another fake mail – what a stupid hoax…” =)

A typical day at work

Here’s how life was in early 2008:

It’s 10am and I saunter in to work (early by my standards), filled with enthusiasm and a desire to sieze the day and achieve great things. I pick a cup of hot chocolate on my way to my room, which I will slowly sip while I read one useless mail after another. By noon, I’m done with the brain-numbing work of reading loads and loads of unnecessary mail. By now, I am sapped of my desire to sieze the day, and I want revenge! So I shoot off a few brainless replies to equally brainless mails from equally brainless people. That done, my stomach reminds me what a pain it can be when it chooses to. So I sigh and get up from my seat, round up a few equally jobless people and go to the cafeteria for a ritual we call “lunch”. (Note: Please do not confuse this with the mid-day meal called lunch that people normally have)

So let me explain this ritual called lunch: We stand in a queue (and no, we’re not geeks enough to discuss if the queue will grow beyond capacity and if a faster processor will be needed to serve the queue elements, but I’ve heard certain others do it : ) and pay Rs.35 to look at some stuff that drives our hunger away, and we beg to be set free so that we can go back to our rooms and work ourselves to death for the rest of our miserable lives. Just kidding – the effect only lasts a day. We need to go and look at that stuff around noon everyday. Some people try to avoid this usual lunch ritual of ours by actually bringing food from home. Such people don’t realize that doing so is futile – they don’t get to even catch a faint whiff of their lunch; it would’ve been devoured by hungry hordes, who will move on to fresher pastures (read: the next box) in the twinkling of an eye.

This ritual usually takes around an hour, after which we return to our rooms to do whatever we want. I usually plan to use this time to read mail – before you conclude I’m crazy, I am talking about the mail from college friends; a whopping number of forwards that will make you swoon on just seeing the number. So I open my gmail account, and what do I see? Nothing!!! No forwards from my friends. My mailbox is devoid of new mail! I start to feel lost and lonely. Thankfully, some nameless, faceless guys of various companies have decided to keep me company. They show that they’ve thought of me by sending me mail after mail of utter nonsense (man, they even know that by this time of the day, nonsense is the only thing that makes sense to me!!)

I curse gmail for having marked these mails spam – I wanted to do that myself! So I delete these mails and thank the spammers for having given some purpose to my logging in. Now its time for something else. It’s already 3 in the afternoon, and I’ve managed to while away the time so far. So I walk around, fishing for people who are ready to play a game of TT with me. I usually succeed in finding a few people as jobless as me. Sadly, when the game starts, I forget that it is table tennis we’re playing and not cricket, and start smashing a lot of sixers. That’s usually when whoever is playing as my team-mate starts tearing his hair out and starts yelling at me. I usually don’t realize I’m playing the wrong game until it is over and we’ve lost – not that it takes long, you know, its just that the game gets over so quickly… So after playing a few hundred games, I’ll think “Man, it must be time to go home now” and then I’ll see that it is still just 4. Of course, I’m the guy who never lets a game last long, right? So I curse myself and trudge back to my room. I religiously avoid the cafeteria on the way back – they have something they call “snacks” that they serve for free. This seems like a continuation of the lunch effort, just in case someone needs it by chance – man, they take care of everything over here!

By now I realize that I’ve not attended any meetings so far in the day and that I’m feeling tired after playing cricket on the TT table, so I decide to go and sit in some random meeting as long as they don’t kick me out. Anything to avoid work, I say! I prefer meetings which drag on and on, since that way I get a long undisturbed nap. There is nothing decided in that time anyway! Someone once said meetings are “geek parties”, a kind of gathering where all those geeks who would never get to socialize otherwise meet to socialize. I disagree – meetings are where clueless individuals socialize and the ones who actually know stuff either sleep through or avoid altogether. Thankfully, no decisions are ever taken in meetings – everything somehow magically requires more investigation – and people like me who sleep through are never found out.

When I wake up, it is already six and they are still socializing. I yawn, stretch and walk out. Wow, what a day of accomplishments! Time to go home and rest – I mean, I have to do more or less the same stuff tomorrow, and I need my energy for that!

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