Aug 25, 2008

The Daily Pirouette

Latin is a dead language, some say.

Well, if it’s dead, then there’re a few of its phantoms still floating around in the meme-pool. Consider carpe diem. You know, the phrase that pouts across a million wall-posters, can be found tattooed on many a motivational book’s inner sleeves, or is vaguely reminiscent of the resolution at the end of a carbon black day.

And there’s the taunting. They stand, emboldened, all of them. They mock. They point. Like street dogs who know that they hold the upper paw. "How about some seizing, my friend", they jeer. "Leave alone molest us, you don’t even make a pass!".

True. Seizing the day is a breakfast ruling, made heavy by lunch, dissolving like soap in the yellow twilight, left for the end of the day. By then, it competes with the yawn, and we’ll cease the day. No wonder, the days of the past stand in front of the door, howling with ridicule.

There are a few nicer ones. "Come out and play", they suggest. "Gather the day, pick it up, run your fingers over it". "But I haven’t done much of that", you say. They shake their heads. How do you seize the day, if you’re afraid of even touching it?

To seize the day, you mustn’t clamp down, clutching at emptiness. Instead, try opening that fist and let the shy day make its way up to you. Then you can slide your arms around its waist, pull it gently towards you, and... well, you might just figure out the rest.

Caferate LiveJournal contest

Caferati and LiveJournal have come together to present a flash fiction writing contest, which you can read about here. There are some big prizes (and quite a few of them), which should get even the more lazier writing hounds to push a pen or a key.

Sandeep Shelke: Adieu

As some of you who knew him may have already heard, Sandeep Shelke passed away last night. He is said to have taken his life by leaping off the 7th floor of Persistent Towers, which is in the Erandwana area of Pune. The police say that he left a note behind and sent a text message to his brother, citing a heavy workload as the reason. Persistent Systems has commented that there was no prior indication to this effect and Sandeep had not spoken to anyone at work about such pressures. According to the Zee 24 hours marathi news channel, neither was Sandeep’s family aware of this.

This naturally comes as a severe shock to those like me who knew him. I wasn’t close to Sandy, but I came to know him as a batchmate at IIT Bombay (he was in CSE and I was in KReSIT; the departments have since merged) and as a fellow research student in the NLP group (we shared the same advisor). He was undeniably smart, both by acumen and appearance. I can never recall him looking unkempt, which at IIT is quite something. It’s ironic that this incident comes almost exactly a year since the 2007 IIT-B convocation.

What do you do when you hear news such as this? You ask people, you look for the last trails online, scrabbling for information, you sit and wonder. To give you a sense of our amazement, hardly anyone in his inner and outer circle seems to have had any inkling. True, Sandy was probably quieter than most people with regards to such talk with anyone outside to those to which he was closest. He had had an uncomfortable time in the First Semester of the M.Tech programme. I never probed the exact reasons; I didn’t want to crowd him, but it was partly the load of the course (the first sem is a bit of a bitch). But we were glad to see him emerge out of that pall and do a fine job in the remaining 18 months. Which is why this is a shame. I wish he had thought about that Ph.D more. He had such a fine time in France in the spring of 2006.

Predictably, this is going to spark the inevitable “techies under stress" stories in the local media, some of them likely to be half-baked. Having also been at Persistent in the past (overlapping with Sandy’s first term) and with several friends there, I would not like to think that the situation could have become so arduous (but in this case, it somehow did). I’ve already seen some forums say all sorts of things about Sandy and the situation (some of the content being factually incorrect, such as confusing the bio of a very different Sandeep Shelke from Pune with this incident). All I’d like to say that there’s a family, some friends, some colleagues, who’re probably even more baffled, devastated, angry, and incoherent than we can imagine. Please give them their space. I do hope that there isn’t much more to this than we have heard.

The life of a depressive isn’t easy to fathom. Instead of speculation, take a look around, have a chat, pull yourselves together. We still want you around, you still want me around for a little time more. Sandy: how do we tell you all the nice things we thought of you if you aren’t around to hear ‘em, hmm? Cheers man, and will remember all the little moments.

A few links:
Sandeep’s CSE homepage, his Orkut page, his blog, and his younger brother Yuvraj’s Orkut page

Some updates – 8 Aug 2008
The incident received a lot of coverage in local newspapers. I overheard several people talking about it; all were very upset and saddened. Sandeep’s Orkut scrapbook was filled with messages today, most of them from strangers, who lamented the loss and wished things had turned out differently. I was busy for most of the day, so I couldn’t find out what the mood at Persistent was like.

Links: Times of India (Pune), DNA, Indian Express (contains factual errors that “He had completed his higher studies from America and had been working with Persistent Systems for two years."). Like many other blogs and news sites, the Pune Mirror cannibalized content on blogs, online forums, and Orkut scraps to fill a second page on the incident and the predictable “IT engineer-stress" theme. It also incorrectly claimed that Sandeep was in the IT industry for 7 years.

Update – 25 Aug 2008
I haven’t been able to find out what progress has been made in tying the threads in Sandeep’s case, but this news article in the Times of India (assuming it has been accurately reported) gives some clues to the current status. The report quotes a sub-inspector as saying:

What baffles the police is that the CCTV images before his suicide do not show any abnormal behaviour . "Sandip (sic) was seen walking freely and working on his laptop. We also enquired with his friends, who said that neither did he have any problems with anyone nor did he have any quarrel with any of his superiors,'' said sub-inspector U.K. Yadav.

"Probably, Shelke was bored with the mechanical life he was leading. We could gather that he was unable to spare quality time for himself due to the work pressure,'' Yadav added.

Perhaps "bored" isn’t the right choice of word, as it is hard to imagine Sandeep taking such steps because he was "bored".

The report later says:

But apart from work pressure, at times the inability to do the things which one actually wants to also leads to frustration. This was particularly observed in Shelke's case.
It doesn’t give any particulars though.

I (and others) still remain puzzled.

Aug 12, 2008

If the joker met...

...a meteorologist, he’d say: “Why so Cirrus?” astronomer, he’d say: “Why so Sirius?”
...a sprinter, he’d say: “Why so Citius?” Israeli farmer, he’d say: “Why sow Syrians?”
...a fortune teller, he’d say: “Wise old seeress!”
...a hematologist, he’d say: “Why so serous?”
...a paleontologist, he’d say: “Why! It’s a saurus!”
...a quizzer, he’d say: “Why so curious?”
(last one observed on Suvajit’s GTalk status message)
...a Dark Knight fan on IMDB, he’d say: “Why so spurious?”

Aug 5, 2008

Billshot Bungle

The only way Niranjan and I have been able to survive the urban morass of corporate jargon that pullulates life in the urban jungle is through ever-vigilant ridicule (it gets worse if we slip into the gutter ourselves). Bullshit Bingo no longer assuages the cringing soul, so we came up with an evolutionary brainwave. It's called Billshot Bungle.

The idea was simple: we came up with several malaprop versions of various terms of ja-aargh-on. You could spring it on people whose native tongue has morphed into managerese. Perhaps, like Tyler Durden in action at restaurants and films, this is probably a similar but low-grade form of guerilla warfare. If this causes some unused neuron in the recipient's head to pop in unease and shock, perhaps our job is done :-)

The idea is that the replacement 'Billshot' ought to be vaguely appropriate to the term and context that it replaces. We could do more, for instance, coming up with showstopping retorts such as: Are we on the same page. -> No, we're not even in the same chapter. But that's for later.

Here's our list.

Keep you in the loopKeep you in the noose
Touch baseTouch bottom
Learning curveBurning curve/Learning kerb
On the same pageIn the same cage
Going forwardThrowing/Blowing forward
Leverage these assetsLevitate these assets
Take it offlineTake it offshore
At the end of the dayAt the end of the play
Heads upHeads on
When the rubber meets the roadWhen the robber hits the road
Sync upSink in/Stink up
Set the right expectationsSet the bright extensions
Low hanging fruitLow hanging foot / low lying fruit
Keep the lights onKeep the tights on
Deep diveDeep fry
Ballpark estimateBallpoint estimate