Monday, December 11, 2006

Firefox rulz!

This is hilarious. Microsoft Adcenter Support suggesting the customer to try Firefox!!!

I hope Helen is still employed in Microsoft! I had once contacted Microsoft about an IE7 problem and the support person sent me a link to a posting in the net(using googlegroups page). But this one takes the cake.

Recently Joel Spolsky took apart Vista's shutdown options. I also read an article in response by a guy who worked on that shutdown menu. You would think someone is describing Federal Government at work! If someone knows that URL, please post it in the comments. The meeting attendees to work on the menu cracked me up. I remembered my previous job when one programmer had to update seven project managers on 'status' and 'progress'.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Useability and Design

Of all the people, Sprint sends a new phone to Joel Spoelsky to try out their service! What were they thinking... I am sure some heads rolled there. Spolsky really ripped into them. Big time. I don't want to spoil your fun. Read it for yourself. It's a bit lengthy. But it's awesome.

Speaking of useability, where are windows apps going? Recently the apps are having a mind of their own. Skype for example. I uncheck the option to start skype when windows starts. You think it cares? No Sir. It's a tease option. And I hate having to click three times to close these apps. Apps like skype, instant messaging, etc., They have just a close option in the Menu. When you close, they shrink to the task bar. Then you click on right mouse button and click exit. And then they ask you again if you are sure! Jeez!!

And couple of days back, I installed the new yahoo messenger with voice. I normally keep an eye to exclude the extra apps they throw in. I don't remember seeing any option. Today I had to uninstall 3 or 4 apps that Yahoo Messenger installed. Why do you need an app in your machine for webmail? And why is yahoo offering tabbed browsing feature to IE. I mean - why bother!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Orbitz thinks I'm gay!

Have you ever watched this episode of "King of Queens" where TiVo thinks the guy is gay and records such programs? Now real life meets SitCom. Orbitz thinks I am gay. I thought my colleague photoshopped when he sent me a screen-shot of Orbitz displaying him "All Gay Vacations" with a link to Orbitz's Gay Travel Section!!! My friend's destination was MCO. That didn't work for me. So I tried SFO!

Pretty soon Orbitz site will have a R rating. Anyway - your assignment for this weekend is - find all the gay destinations in the world!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Solar system downsized!

Solar system is catching on the need to compete by slimming down the organization. The board of Solar System Inc has announced that they are letting go one of their personnel of planetary proportions! According to this new Sarbanes Oxley, Pluto did not conform his path and neighborhood to the regulation(new I may add). And lost his planethood. So head on over to this site and enjoy his status till BBC conforms to the new board! Oh boy, he did have a wacky orbit.

But worry no more. Help is on the way. The board is interviewing a few candidates and we might have a bloated company pretty soon. Possibly as many as 12 planets! Yeah!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mutating Windows!

Please don't bother updating your windows. It will do it itself. Now the thing is mutated to a stage where you can not update it manually. These are the steps I had to go thru today.

1. Noticed that my XP setup asked me to reboot as it installed an update.
2. When I restarted, I did a Microsoft update. It came up with a big list.(Wait - didn't they roll out, like 30 updates, yesterday?). I opted for download and install.
3. It downloaded all but installation failed.
4. It said another install is in progress(WTF)
5. After a while the dreaded yellow shield appeared in the tray thingy and prompted for express install. I said yes(do I have a choice at this stage?)
6. It started installing.
7. Rebooted and all is well(till tomorrow I think)

The same thing happened in another XP installation(from step 2 onwards). May be this is the right time to pass a law barring Microsoft from getting into genetic engineering. Hope it's not too late!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Click Monkeys!

There is a running joke in our office about click monkeys - you must have experienced the same - if you are demoing/driving the keyboard in a conference room, pretty soon everyone turns you into a click monkey! I was reading an article on slashdot about click fraud prevention by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft and saw this site in one of the comments.

Click Monkeys!

This is absolutely hilarious. Check out the giant tanker ship click farm! The site claims that they have a huge ship just off U.S. waters near San Francisco with over - get this - 20,000 click monkeys.

It gets better. Each monkey has 3 computers that cycle thru a bunch of connections thru different ISPs. So the sites see clicks coming from different IPs. If you were to believe the site, its not illegal. Because they are outside the US. How do you use an American ISP and make this legal? The site says the computers will cycle connections thru AOL, Earthlink, PacBell, Verizon and FibbleNet.

Anyway - we had a good laugh. And some of us are applying. Do you have a monkey in you? And can it click??

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Damned if you do, Damned if you don't..

This CNET article is saying that Microsoft is planning to automatically push IE7 as part of a Windows Update. The user will be prompted to install it or not. Then it is not automatic, is it? :-)

Automatic Updates will first notify people when IE 7 is ready to install and then show a welcome screen that presents key features and the choices to install, not install or postpone installation.

Like the average user can understand half the features and make a decistion!!! If they know that much, they will be using firefox. IE7 might break some of your web applications. That is why Microsoft is giving you another tool to automatically block the automatic IE7 update. Is your head spinning at the last one? Gee, Microsoft thinks of everything :-)

Blake Ross himself has said IE7 is much improved. So IE7 has made progress and is more secure and should keep you safe. But it might break your existing apps. Damned if you update. Damned if you don't.

I tried IE7 on XP and was the butt of many jokes at work. People stopped at my cube, said - this guy tries pre-alpha software from Microsoft and laughed uncontrollably. It was painful. I tried rolling it back and it left me in a strange state. It functioned like IE7 but reported IE6(or the other way - I try not to remember all the details). Microsoft support interestingly sent me a link to googlegroups article which didn't help. If India based tech support also gave up on you, then there is no hope :-)

I think I will first turn off my automatic update and wait for emails from National Cyber Alert Systems.

May Gates be with you!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

New Phrase: "Stopping out of school"

Here is a brand new extension from Mozilla. Only this time, it's an extension to English language and not to that wonderful browser called Firefox. Add this phrase to your phracabulary(thats another word - you read here first): "Stopping out of school".

Blake Ross, the wunderkid behind the popular browser, said in an interview that he is stopping out of school. According to him, it's not 'dropping out of school'. It's called stopping out of school - meaning to work on a startup! I think you need to be strong on XUL to figure out the difference :-)

In this interview, he talks about his startup. To be precise, he doesn't talk about the startup. In the interview he says he can't talk about his startup - especially to a newspaper from Seattle! He is also very honest about IE7. To the shock of Firefox mafia, he has nice things to say about IE7. And get this: he wants to end up in film business. Blake Ross - the man behind Firefox browser - wants to write fiction and make that into a movie. Coming to theaters near you - Tabs wielding browser extensions attacking Darth IE. Do you want Google Office with that?

*** Whatd'ya know? The man himself has left a comment here. I'm honored(Assuming it is Blake Ross himself)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Lawnmower and parenting

Josh is assembling one of his puzzles. He is past the tricky first part where you have absolutely no idea about which piece to begin with. As you help him by asking questions about shapes and alignments of parts, the question arises in your mind. "Are you being a good father? Are you teaching Josh all he should know for a five year old?" You wonder how many parents feel the same. You decide to look up some statistics published somewhere on that topic. At least it would be good for your psyche if you learn that seventy-eight percentage - any number above fifty, of parents feel that they are being bad parents.

Just look at this room. The train set that Josh played with yesterday, is still sitting there in the middle of the room. Of course the engine and a wagon are missing. You make a mental note to return them here if you step on them in the kitchen or bathroom. The miniature cars and the plastic animals are scattered everywhere. This room reminds you of your room when you were in college. You remember the article that said that all children grow into their parents. What if Josh turns out like you? And how better is your office than Josh's room. You quickly dismiss the picture of your office cubicle. The center of your intense activity with papers and magazines covering all the surfaces of the desk, the yellow-post-it notes on the overhead bookshelf, the little napkin with the customer's phone number taped to the computer monitor and at least three manuals with bookmarks - napkins again.

How much of your father have you become. The fact that you haven't become a person who runs his life like a well-oiled machine gives a lot of comfort. Josh will not be like you!

Josh is almost done and you look at the dinosaur emerging. You make little corrections to fit the parts tightly. Just then you remember the calendar Paul has in his cubicle. Paul's wife has made a calendar at the Kinko's with their photos. Paul's daughter Karen is just a month younger than Josh. There were pictures of Paul and Karen fishing - Her first fish, playing checkers, family vacationing in the Blue Ridge, in the beach and Karen learning ballet.

You take some consolation on your child's achievements. And the fact that he knows more animals than you do. Even the name of that rat with aluminum sidings in Texas. And that he can tell apart a T-Rex, Allosaurus, Brachio and Stego. At least till 'Land before Times', after which they all became Sharp Tooth, Little Feet and Sarah's. And how about his computer skills? Josh can shutdown the computer properly. A five-year-old can turn on a computer but how many can shut it down properly. He can load his CDs, handle the mouse and fly through his games with no assistance. You make a note for the zillionth time to cut down his time on the PC. You definitely don't want him to develop your 'monitor-tan'. You think that Josh is going to send an email to your cell phone any day now. If only you can teach him his alphabets soon!

Josh has finished the puzzle and wants some action. You both go out to the yard. Suddenly you get the great idea of teaching your kid the fine art of lawn mowing. "Ah, that should fix Paul and Karen". You set up the equipment and lecture Josh about mowing, lawn, grass height, the switches and so on. You wonder how much a five year old register of this lecture. Just when the mower is humming nicely, your wife calls out to remind about lunch. And about the dinner party tonight at Fred's place. And when you turn back to resume your tutorial, you are in for a surprise.

The lawn mower has gone right through your flowerbed. Your weeks of hard work, the envy of your neighbors and the jewel of your yard, all gone in one push. You lose your control and start screaming at Josh. That produces his mother instantly. She picks up Josh who is transitioning from a state of achievement to crying. She stops you with, "Hey Hold on. You are raising a child. Not a flower-bed."

You shout back asking would not a five-year-old know not to mow through a flowerbed. The defense attorney's response started with, "If a thirty-seven year old knows how to set a mower in front of a flower-bed...."

As you go back inside the house, you wonder if Karen can shutdown the PC properly.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


“What are you doing?” asked a very happy looking Raj.

It was eight in the evening. We were tired.

“Just looking into a simple problem”, I said. Sam and I had decided a long time back never to get into specifics with Raj. In this case, the simple problem was a bug that threatened to stop our major software release. We had been trying to fix the problem for two days without any luck.

Raj offered to take us to dinner. Raj is the chief technical officer of our company. How he got to that position was a corporate mystery. Usually Raj delves into our problems and was ready to give us unsolicited advices. But today he stayed away from our problem. So far.

“How about some beer first?” Raj asked. After a marathon debugging effort, we were ready for anything. Even a beer with Raj. A break from the monotony also would give us some rest and hopefully a solution when we attack it again the next day.

As were driving down the streets of downtown Washington, Raj got into his trivia mode. “Do you know that Washington, D.C. was designed after Roman cities? Look at the numbered and lettered streets. We said that we were not aware of that.

“If you notice you will not find the letter ‘I’ , in the lettered streets. That is because there is no letter ‘I’ in Latin. Did you see that movie Indiana Jones? Harrison Ford steps on the letters to get to the Holy Grail. Stepping on a letter could mean death. Just imagine – a letter in a foreign alphabet decides your life and death.

I said something in appreciation of his knowledge of history. In return he lectured us on the need to keep our ears and eyes open. “Who knows? You will end up in that show “Who wants to be a millionaire”. And this alphabet nonsense could stand between you and a million dollars”.

Raj was not technically sharp. He followed his own processes and methodical and slow approaches to problem solving. We on the other hand considered ourselves free spirits. We just attacked a problem in a “prodigal manner” almost till a solution presented itself! And we had been lucky often. Raj was successful in his career probably because he just kept his eyes and ears open. Whatever that meant.

We were at the Capital Brewery. Raj wanted to know if they serve Manchurian. He then went into how he used to enjoy beer and a snack called “Gobi Manchurian” that-goes-well-with-beer in the Bangalore pubs. He said that was a Chinese food and wondered whether the Chinese really had a food item called Manchurian. I suggested that they would probably have it in Manchuria.

When we were gulping down the beer, Raj went into how he had to work with slow and outdated computers, almost no software tools and no documentation too. He explained over an hour about how they pulled out quality software from thin air.

Then came the question. “What exactly is your problem today?” Sam said that the program was crashing after taking the stock symbols without giving the stock quotes as the program was supposed to do. I suspected that it was the beer that made Sam break our long standing resolution. Raj asked if we used any other software in our program. We knew where his questions were leading. There are two types of programmers. One who readily blamed other’s work for the problems and our type who always suspected their own work and worked continuously to improve it. “May be you should check the data when it is processed by the WebStream’s library. Who knows what they are doing”. WebStream is a partner company whose programs we used in our product.

Surprisingly Raj touched something we didn’t suspect for the source of the current problem. Sam silently nodded to me conveying that we ought to explore that path. Though our motto is that our product is guilty unless proven otherwise, we wanted to examine that angle as we had tried everything by then.

Then we went to dinner. When we were devouring the Ethiopian bread, Raj launched into recipes and tastes of about ten similar delicacies from his homeland. And somewhere between preparing the dough and deep frying the eggplants, I decided not to take up Raj’s suggestion. It may be that I wanted another dinner with Raj to punish ourselves for our oversight. Or it may be that I wanted to master that eggplant cuisine!

Reducing Agent

When I first saw the advertisement, I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Lose all your friends or your money back”. I had never seen anything like that. I had an overdose of friends and always wanted to cut down the number of friends. But this method of losing all the friends intrigued me. Lose all the friends and start over again. May be this time I can choose the right ones. So I went to see this person.

Parry invited me into his house with a warm smile. I wondered how such a nice person would help me lose all my friends. Parry started explaining his method. First he wanted me to know the history behind his technique. Once Parry ran into somebody in his neighborhood grocery store. That man invited Parry to his house to discuss a revolutionary business plan. Parry was told that if he did that business for a couple of years, he would earn enough money that he could retire. As that person bored him with all the outcomes of doing that business with phrases like residual income, network of people, achieving your dreams, inner potential, pyramid of workers under you, the power of franchise, Parry was looking for the escape route.

He couldn’t escape without taking two videotapes that would explain the concept further. Parry said that there wasn’t any information but more spiel on people living rich and happily after doing that business. Parry said that he dreaded the calls from this businessman and hid whenever he saw him in the grocery store. It changed his lifestyle a lot in the following weeks – not answering the phone, shopping in a distant grocery store and so on. One day the phone rang as he was having dinner. As he let the phone ring, he reviewed the whole experience with a detached view and suddenly had an insight. He thought through the process and decided to try it out. Next day, he invited a few of his friends. As he explained the business plan, he made sure it was more boring than his own ordeal.

He tried to follow-up with his friends but could never talk to anyone. He realized that his insight was working when he received a thank-you note from the local Phone Company. They were thanking him for the sudden demand he created for their caller-id service.

Parry said that he had mastered that art to perfection and he could make people disappear. Literally. I said that would not be possible. Parry smiled and took me to his backyard. We saw his neighbor working in his yard. Parry called out his name. And in the next instant, that man disappeared. I mean, he just disappeared. He was faster than the Cheshire cat of Alice in Wonderland. That cat at least left a grin back for a while. I didn’t even see his facial expression changing. There was no “Poof” or no “jingle” with which people disappear in fairy tales. He just plain disappeared.

I asked him for some more demonstration to believe my own eyes. Parry took me to the riverside. He said he could show more in the grocery store but they don’t allow him inside anymore. We drove to the riverside and Parry was scanning the joggers and people who were fishing and playing in the water. He finally spotted a friend in a kayak and waved. And in the next second, the kayak was empty. It was as if it was drifting along empty.

As we were driving back, I asked Parry how long it took for the people to reappear. Parry chuckled and said, “that I will never know.”

Shifting horses

“Something doesn’t sound right”, John said. John was pulling out of the restaurant parking lot. That statement threw Abigail further into turmoil. They just finished dinner during which she found John to be quieter than his usual self. John and Abigail have been dating for six months. Abigail had a suspicion that the relationship was in trouble. She thought that John was not happy with her. John had not said anything on that matter explicitly.

As they were waiting for the light to turn green, John thought about the noise he heard when he was shifting the gear back in the parking lot. That made him mad. He paid five hundred dollars that day to get the transmission fixed. “What a rip off? I paid through my nose for this lousy job. I will call him first thing in the morning”, he said to himself. Abigail saw his irritation. “Oh, my God. What have I done now? He is such a nice guy and he is bottling up all his feelings”. She wondered how soon he was going to explode. She agonized over the restlessness that was driving him crazy.

“Warranty! He might bring up the word warranty. And I will show him warranty.” John uttered the word warranty couple of times under his breath. Abigail noticed that. She thought that John must be in a lot of pain and that it was getting unbearable for him.

John changed the speed and kept listening for the noise. He shifted to a lower gear and heard nothing. But he was not convinced. He repeated this twice and thought he again heard the noise. Abigail was almost in tears. With the way John was driving, she was afraid if he would reach home safe that night. She prayed for some more time to fix the relationship.

Abigail wondered if she expected too much from John. He had a few faults but she thought that they caused her no big problems. She faulted herself for expecting a knight in shining armors. She blurted out, “There are no knights riding on horses anymore, John”. “Huh”, John said. He only heard the word horses. “Pardon me. Horses?” Abigail felt all the guiltier. “What am I doing to a man who knows his faults.”

John thought that the world would be a better place with just horses. At least they don’t have transmissions to fix. He smiled to himself. “May be I will ask the dealer to take this car and give me a horse.”

John dropped Abigail at her apartment. She looked out the window and watched John driving out with a frown. Abigail burst out and threw herself on the bed and sobbed. When she calmed down, she called Elise. She described the whole evening to her friend breaking down many times in between. The two went over every word and expression during the dinner and the ride home. They discussed for two hours. And several hours in the following days.

Abigail was convinced that she was not the right person for John. She had a lengthy conversation with John and he tried in vain to convince her. She broke off with him that left John confused. One month later, John was having dinner with Carl and Kathy. He asked Kathy, “Did Abigail ever have horses?”

The Father

When I reached the terminal at the airport, there was thirty minutes to the scheduled departure. There was a long line at the counter thanks to the popularity of e-ticket. I saw Stephane ahead and waved. There was only one clerk (customer service representative?) at the counter and he was taking a long time to issue the boarding passes. I wondered if the plane would leave on time. I looked behind to check the length of the line and saw a family of three approaching. The father was carrying a girl and dragging a Pullman. The mother was carrying a small backpack and looked impatient. I saw her saying something to the husband as they joined our line. Must be one of those, “it’s all your fault” things.

Luckily another counter opened and the line started moving fast. I smiled to myself when I noticed Stephane handing over his driver’s license as soon as he stepped up to the counter. You would do the same thing if your last name were Ruaud. In another few minutes I moved to the counter, requested and got an aisle seat. I used to enjoy plane trips. And that too in long flights to the West Coast, I used to request a window seat to enjoy the view. I don’t enjoy travel any more and avoided them as much as possible. In particular, I dreaded the trips to headquarters in Los Angeles. I lose an entire day on the return journey from the West Coast. The traffic there was a nightmare. I had never seen permanent HOV lanes in any other city.

I boarded the plane, took a book from the bag and stored the bag in the overhead cabin. After a few minutes, a middle-aged man took the next seat. After making himself comfortable and promptly claiming both the armrests, he introduced himself. As I was talking with him, I noticed the family occupying the same row across the aisle. We pulled out of the gate on time but were taxiing as there were few planes waiting to take off before us. The armrest stealer commented that the airlines guarantee only pulling out of the gate by the departure time. He said that the airports are overloaded everywhere and people spend long time taxiing for take-off or for gate availability after landing. Across the aisle, the father was busy storing the belongings in the overhead cabin after taking a baby food bottle and a book. The mother claimed the book and settled comfortably in the window seat. The father started talking to the baby explaining to her that they were in the plane and getting ready to fly to Los Angeles. The mother reminded that he forgot to take the spoon. The father got up, took the bag out, fished out a spoon, bib and napkins.

The stealer was giving his ideas on how to make air-travel efficient. I let him rant for sometime and then fed him with ideas Arthur Hailey had in his novel Airport. He had read the book and said that those ideas would not be used as time had proved already. And got back to his ideas again. I went back to nodding. The baby’s crying interrupted him and the stealer threw a disapproving look at the family. The father was trying to calm the baby and apologized to us. He pulled out a book from his bag and started showing the pictures of animals and birds to the little girl. That calmed the baby and we all fell silent waiting for the take-off. The stewardess came around checking the seat belts and handed over a lap belt to the family. The father attached the belt and took the girl on his lap. The mother inspected the belt, gave her approval and went back to the book.

The plane took off after a few minutes. When they turned off the seat-belt sign, I walked over to Stephane and chatted with him for a while. I saw them distributing the drinks and got back to my seat. The stealer started again about the airline’s choice of the snacks. He wondered why they even bothered doing that.

Across the aisle, the mother had gone to sleep. The father was feeding the baby. I noticed that he was doing a fine job with minimal movements of the spoon and the baby’s clean face. I remembered the last time I traveled with my family and my son’s face after every meal. The girl seemed to be very attached to the father. After sometime, the father frowned as if he smelt something. He took a bag and carried the girl to the rest room. I wanted to stretch and walked over to the area near the wings and the steward’s station. A thought came to my mind that the father must be one of those stay-home dads and the mother was the breadwinner of the family.

As I was finishing a glass of water, the father emerged from the rest room with the daughter and joined me. He apologized again for the disturbance. I told him that he was really handling the baby well. He said he loved his daughter very much. After discussing the weather and sports, the talk turned to our profession. I told him where I was headed and asked him if they were on vacation. The father replied, “No. I am on a business trip. I am a network administrator. I am going to attend the network security conference in LA. I am taking the family along, as I can’t stay away from my daughter for four days. Neither can she.”


As we stand in the parking lot, I look up at the mountains. The Blue Ridge always fascinates me. The cool green mountains with a mask like blue haze stand with a firmness and permanence. I can almost hear one say, “This is my place and I am not going anywhere. Come and worship me”.

I strap my backpack on and take a few steps to check if the backpack is seated just above the hipbones. I walk over to Donna and help her with her backpack. John is checking the camera, keys, water bottle, lunch pack, coke and candies. Donna smiles at me and says, “Look at him. He is so tense as if he has a presentation ahead. Can’t relax even on a vacation. Everything has to be perfect.” Today I am glad that John is prepared as they are bringing my lunch.

I look around for the trail sign and Donna has already found it. She reads, “Malhar Trail. 100 feet this way”. We walk towards the trail looking for the white blaze on the trees, the sign of the trail on trees and rocks at regular interval to help you stay on the trail. Donna and I work together. She sits in the next cubicle. We both sit facing each other with a wall in between. At times when I stretch my feet against the wall, I could feel the pressure of her feet on the other side. “Hey Eric. Stop that. Are you expanding your cube?"

The Blue Ridge is dazzling in this fall season. I look at the trees and realize that we caught the fall season at its best. My botany is limited and I classify the trees as maple, not-maple and pine. Even to my unskilled eye, the vegetation in Blue Ridge changes a lot along the trails. You don’t realize that when you drive through the Blue Ridge parkway. Here when you walk past each and every plant, shrub and tree, you see the difference.

Donna is walking with me and John is behind. We stop to look at a huge red butterfly sitting on a yellow flower. John catches up, pulls out his camera, checks the light, adjusts the aperture, clicks and walks on. Donna looks at me and shrugs. “That’s it for him. A beautiful shot.” We take a few more minutes and enjoy the orange patterns on the butterfly before it flies away. We come to a small stream and John says, “This must be the Tye River”. We chose this trail today as we heard that Tye River runs along this trail and is gorgeous. The river, more like a stream here, is a steady and strong trickle and at some places swells to resemble a river. Donna picks up the leaves floating in the water. She sticks two bright orange colored leaves in my cap and laughs. John takes a picture and shouts, “Appalachian Indian”.

I tell them that the sound of water running over the rocks is very relaxing. We sit down, close our eyes and listen to the sound of the flowing water. After few minutes, John breaks the silence and describes a fountain that you can buy in the stores to get that effect. The water fountain is built in a bowl with pebbles and a motor buried in the pebbles that pump up the water over the pebbles. “My boss has one and says it is great”. Donna asks him, “How will you get the birds chirping?” John just shrugs and says, “Next version!”

I wonder if Donna and John are always like that. They knew each other from high school and at times they behave like high school kids talking back. May be all couples are like that. They seemed to be happy all the time but for occasional signals. I was working with Donna on a problem last week and one day noticed the timestamp on some programs. Donna had modified them at three in the morning. It was not even a high priority job and I asked Donna about it. She said that she was not getting sleep and logged on from home and worked a bit.

Donna and I work together a lot and most of the time in her cubicle. When you are in the next cube, you hear a lot. I hear her making appointments with doctors, more doctors, and specialists of some kind and heated discussions with John in low voice. You hear a lot over the walls but you hear nothing. You catch a lot of words and make up the rest.

It’s noon and we reach a shelter. The shelter is a wooden shed with the front fully open. There are few picnic tables outside where we sit and eat our lunch. A through-hiker stops by to rest. A through-hiker is one who hikes the entire Appalachian Trail all the way from Georgia to Maine. We ask him a lot of questions about his hike and how tough it is. He says, “It’s more tough internally than externally. When you begin, you enjoy the loneliness and contemplate a lot. After some time it gets to you. There are days you like yourself and there are days you hate yourself so much that you want to throw yourself off a cliff. You rediscover yourself”.

It’s been a week after the hike and Donna is seriously planning a through hike. She is reading up and contacting through-hikers for advice. She has already applied for leave of absence. She says that John is not going with her and wonders if I would be interested.

The Rebel

Dwight had been upset from the morning. I didn’t ask him what was troubling him. I had to finish some work and wasn’t ready to lose the whole morning. He tells you his stories only twenty times before repeating. I approached the subject with him after lunch. He was waiting for me to ask and exploded, “Do you know what the accounts people have done this time? They are going to deposit our salaries directly in our bank accounts.” I saw nothing wrong in that. “Why do you care? Are you uncomfortable with giving them your bank account number?” Dwight said that he did not have any such problem. He said he always deposited his paycheck personally and did some more routine transactions at the same time “down at the bank next to Ukrop’s.” And he had been doing that all his career.

“You know Dwight? It’s only easier for you now. They have spared you the trip. You can do all that by one phone call. Or even on the PC over the internet if you are brave enough.”

“But I always go there and do it myself. Always. The Tellers know me very well down there.” I tried to find out if that was the motive. “Are there any cute Tellers in that branch of yours?” I asked. “No. They are just good people. In fact one of then went to school with my mom.” I gave up after Dwight repeated for forty minutes that he always went to the branch with his paycheck. Always. Always.

Ever since I moved from San Jose, I found Dwight very interesting – or amusing. Dwight lived all his life within a radius of twenty miles. He graduated from local schools and local university. All his friends and family were in Richmond. He did not even have a long distance calling plan. His routines were well set and he practiced them religiously. So even a small change in his routine was a major disruption. If there was a construction in the Three Chopt Road, the whole organization heard about it. Dwight kept us all entertained for two full weeks on his direct deposit nightmare.

We had an employee by name Radha from India. One day, Dwight was giving her the local history and said that Richmond burned in both the wars. That confused her a bit. She said, “I am not that good in history. But I thought there was no attack on the mainland. Wasn’t Pearl Harbor the only place attacked in the whole war?” That day, we were treated to the “true and authentic” version of the American Civil War. That jogged the Hollywood sponsored history knowledge of Radha and both went down the memory lanes as if those two were Rhett Butler and Scarlet. I think this irritated Sean, a new comer. Dwight informed me later that Sean was a Connecticut Yankee. I didn’t even know that there were such fine classifications. Sean asked Radha if she knew Newton’s third law of American Literature. “To every Gone with the wind, there is an equal and opposite Uncle Tom’s cabin.” Let me just tell you that the rest of the afternoon was very lively. Both of them were telling Radha how evil the other side was.

Two months later, Sean was made Dwight’s manager. Both Sean and Dwight were good workers. But Sean was well known for his new techniques and for keeping up with the market changes. He introduced new procedures and tools in the workplace. I don’t have to tell you how Dwight reacted to all that. Radha called their team “the civil war team”. The team meetings came to be known as “The Manassas Day” or “The Gettysburg Day” depending on who prevailed. Radha said that she was witnessing history as it happened. Her knowledge of the civil war seemed to grow everyday too.

Then came the light bulb joke. I was chatting with Dwight in the break room. Sean walked in and asked me with a mischievous smile, “Do you know how many Virginians it takes to change a light bulb?” I had heard many light bulb jokes but this was new to me. “I don’t know. How many?” That set the stage for Sean and he went, “Three. One to change the bulb and two to talk about how great the old one was!”

Dwight quit that day. Radha called it “the Appomattox Day”. I heard that Dwight was suing the company for harassment. I ran into him after few months in a pub (on second right after Stoney’s statue as Sean would put it). Dwight said he was going to teach history in high school. “The right history”, he said.


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