Sunday, December 31, 2006


Say them. Feel the way the syllables form and curl around your tongue. Watch them turn cartwheels and somersaults across the arena of your imagination. Smell them. Taste them. Delight in the pure joy that comes from a metaphor well-used or a comment well-directed.
Dare stop the tears that well in your eyes when Steinbeck's characters hold their heads high in The Grapes of Wrath. Try suppressing that giggle as Bertie Wooster bumbles again, and sniff in contempt as Jeeves saves the day again. Gaze agape at the fount of fables that is Neil Gaiman.

Why stop at reading? Stand tall when you deliver that impeccably worded one-liner with a smirk on your lips. Cringe when someone uses the same three adjectives all the time to describe completely unrelated things. Distill some of what you read (nay, drink, imbibe) into something of your own.
Try and make them stand on their own feet. OK. Maybe you are ambitious. Try and make them do their own stunts.

Use them. Respect them as they are your best friends. And your worst enemies.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

EOY Blues, Windocalypse and a tune for the times

It's that time of the year again. December is when work begins to winds down in anticipation of Yuletide spirit and new beginnings. Colleagues and friends head out on holidays, and for the third successive winter, I stay put, albeit for happier reasons.

Going to grocery stores is hazardous, since hearing It's the most wonderful time or Let it snow one more time may cause that vein throbbing in my head to finally explode.

Of course, it's not all bad. Unexpected snow and lit-up skies in the early part of the month helped a bit. So did the sudden surge in the sheer amount of busy-ness at work which has left me with very little time to gripe. Add the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and a gourmet experience that had been on the agenda for a while, and this December is suddenly looking up. S.I.'s visit provided for much fun, and I survived Windocalypse 2006 fully unharmed. (A day of no showering doesn't count).

And, there are notable exceptions to the Christmas song rule. One of them is Sarah McLachlan's rendition of Joni Mitchell's River. Sarah's dreamy voice is the kind to launch a million ships.

She makes the beautifully written song stand on its own two feet, and I can almost see a frozen river someplace in the Midwest, with a frail, forlorn figure skating alone on it. The song isn't about the Christmas spirit. Far from it. That's why it's odd that it's a Christmas favorite, especially since it's been seemingly covered so many times. It sounds right, though.



Monday, December 11, 2006

The Windows Source Tree, and other insights

Joel Spolsky has good things to say about the Windows source-code tree.

(As always, I speak for myself and not for Microsoft)

There's always talk about how incredibly difficult managing such a hierarchical structure must be and how slowly changes propagate across branches and so on. It's not as bad as it looks because while there is process involved, the most important thing is the product. Important changes are fast-tracked to ensure everyone gets them earlier. Breaking changes (like, say a change to the XML library) are announced throughout the Windows team, making sure everyone calling into it has enough head-time to ensure they're compatible. Anything that'll affect the product quality, usability and development speed is prioritized across branches and source trees. Looking at it as a static, purely process-driven system run by PHBs does it (and the people who make it work) a disservice.

Of course, the system isn't perfect. It's an ongoing process, and we have to see how it can be improved on to make sure we do better and our ship cycles shorten.

Joel link via Ari's blog, who also points to some failings in the system.

Joel also criticizes the 'Shutdown' menu in Windows Vista. I agree grudgingly. On my laptop, the 'Sleep' option is darked out so I can't use it. Fast user switching is great if more than one persion is using the same machine (say, in a family) and some of the ideas Joel gives don't work with existing hardware, or with all of Microsoft's hardware vendors.  There's more to these options than meets the eye, and I wish someone on one of these teams would post an explanation which may help us understand these decisions better. I didn't find anything when I looked.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Matrix has you

A cold, surprisingly dry winter's night. It's a lonely office complex building with dried leaves all around. The wind blows harder than it normally does, disturbing the leaves. They fly around causing small swirls, mini-typhoons all by themselves. The rustling is loud.

There's a lone figure walking out into this quiet storm. 

I can almost hear the subway train passing by. And a voice from left off-screen. "Mr. Anderson...".