Monday, November 29, 2004

Practice sex responsibly

I was at work when my sister called me and said that she did something really bad yesterday. I started imagining what she could have done and remedies for them - cut class (not bad at all), did drugs (I can handle that), sex without a condom (if no infections involved, could be dealt with), what else? For the longest time she wouldn't tell me and my anxiety kept increasing. Finally she told me that she had kissed a guy. I let out a sigh of relief and replied nothing bad about that. She responded it was bad because the guy liked her and she didn't like him. Now that is terrible.

One has to take responsibility for one's actions, especially when it involves someone else's feelings. I don't have anything against casual sex as long as both participants are on the same page. I've heard different terms to describe various degrees of intimacy.

1. Hook-up buddies - When you just call a person to "hook up" with when you're drunk and horny one night.
2. F- buddies - When you are together for like an entire weekend. So you spend more time together than just "hooking-up." (I heard this term in "Vanilla Sky" and was disgusted at that time. Now I am more open to it.)
3. Friendship with "benefits" - When you are friends and have sex, but you're not in a relationship.

These work as long as neither develops feelings for the other. I learnt this the hard way when a guy I hardly knew "fell in love" with me. I completely freaked out when he sent me this email with the subject "Romancing the stone":

To my Anshu,

It's 3 O' clock in the morning - Wednesday - Can't sleep and I am so
Drunk (Well, this is how I am trying to find peace with myself for the last few days,but it never worked).

This is probably the last letter I am going to write to you, so I
need to say What I have to say;

You know I have been all around the world and I have seen all kid of
people, Places, cultures, wealth , Civil wars and Poverty, etc... And I reckon,the most painful thing anybody can experience in their life time is, loving somebody so much and being ignored by that person like nothing.

I feel the same pain and it hurts like hell, yet, the only thing I
wish for`right now is,That you never have to feel the same pain or be in that situation. ( I am relieved that You are well accomplished but life is so unpredictable). Whilst, You may wonder,that I only know this person for a short time, how can he be truly infatuated with me ?
Let me tell you something, it is neither the divine eyes nor the
Lightning smile, ( I made a wrong decision almost six years ago out of pity and ever since I never touched my painting brush or written a sonnet or even listened to the music.) but every time I see you I remember all those beautiful things. ( So this is not not some teen-age boy's calf-love ).

Don't worry I am not trying to ask you out ( in fact I am never going
To ask you out again, Because I have done my best - so when you like me, you ask me out!)

But I know how stressful your job could become - so I don't want to
Distract you From your work unnecessarily - so I want you to do me a favour , either cut and paste This: " I don't like you and don't bother me again " ( and you will never ever hear from me again)

Or come and cuddle me say " I love you too". ( I know what you have
to put at stake if You ever choose to do this but I will top that for you and I will make sure that you will never ever regret making such decision )

So your turn - ??? ( Please answer - I didn't do anything wrong
except falling in love with you, therefore I deserve an answer )

With all my heart


I tried to be as nice as I could in turning him down. I never believed anything he said and did wonder what his motivation was. In fact I don't remember even kissing him. I was just lonely so hung out with him a couple of times. But I still felt guilty as hell. I guess once he starting asking me out even hanging out with him was wrong. So please be responsible, think about the other person, even a kiss can hurt.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Bright Lights, Busy streets

When I first moved to the city I was overwhelmed. One of my first memories is of going to the gym and looking for parking for half an hour. I had no luck so decided to shell out money to park in a garage. The garage was cash only and I had no cash with me. I returned home with tears of frustration in my eyes. My roommate offered to drop me off at the gym and pick me up, but wasn't in a mood to go anymore. I swore that I will only live in the city for 6 months just for the experience, that was 2 years ago and I am still living in the city. I moved back to South Bay for a couple of months, but hated it and had to move back.

I am still outside my comfort zone living here. I had gotten in the habit of paying for everything with plastic money. A couple of times I have ordered lunch only to realize I had no cash and they didn't take card. One time I didn't go back; it was too far from an ATM. Now I always walk past that store with my head down.

Yesterday I got locked out of my apartment. I called the management to let me in and they said they have spare keys but can't let me in because it's against their policy. I argued with them, but they were just rude to me. I had to pay fifty dollars to a locksmith to get back in. In the suburbs the apartment management has emergency service for lockouts and goes out of their way to help out.

In the city, apartment complexes are old and with the hardwood floors the noises travel through the walls. I get scared many times living alone, but when I get woken up in the middle of the night by funny noises coming from the apartment upstairs ( I don't want to guess what they were up to), it's hard for me to get back to sleep.

Still the benefits of living in the city far outweigh the minor hitches. One of my favorite places in the city is the Golden Gate Park where they have free concerts, comedy shows, Opera in the Park. They have free Shakespeare in the Park, which I have yet to go to. I recently went to a free concert during the Stern Grove Festival. The artist was from Bombay and the place was jam-packed. We ate hotdogs and sat up in the trees where people were smoking pot.

Another favorite place is the Union Square. It is always busy and lit up, especially during holiday season. I got really excited when I saw India's flag there once, even if it was above a Victoria's Secret store (couldn't figure that out). Other places I like hanging out are Castro Street which is the hub of the gay community with the rainbow colored flag proudly displayed on the street; Clement Street with its myriad of restaurants; Haight Street where hippie culture originated; and here I am so close to Berkeley.

In the city I can bike from my home up to Ocean Beach. The water is freezing but it's nice to sit at the beach. During summer last year, I biked up to the beach with a friend and on an impulse we jumped into the freezing ocean with our biking clothes on. We didn't have a change of clothes and by the time we were done it became cool. We froze on our way back and incidentally that was another one of those days I had locked myself out and was forced to stand outside till my roommates got back an hour later.

I also like the fact that people actually walk on streets. Union Square, Financial district and other neighborhoods are always teeming with people walking. When I get done from work early, I just sit on the street with my book and watch people walking about.

Driving up to the city is intimidating for people living in the suburbs. Recently while trying to arrange lunch plans with a friend I hadn't talked to in a long time, I was warned him about the parking situation. When I told him I would have to meet him at an inner street because he can't stop on Market Street, he gave up saying:

arre kis musibat mein jaakar tumne job liya hai....park nahi kar sakte, ruk nahi sure, wahan sans le sakte hain.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Building a plane in mid-air

At a recent meeting with business users I was complaining about how they kept changing requirements. Constantly changing requirements make my code messy and I miss deadlines when I have to keep rewriting functionality. The group lead felt that I was getting frustrated and after the meeting sent a link to a funny video showing people building a plane in mid-air. It was supposed to make me feel better, but I felt worst. At a one-on-one with the group lead from London, I told him that I don't like the fact that we don't have fixed dates and requirements. He said that having timelines is good, but hard and fast deadlines lead to buggy code. I agreed; this project is my baby and I want it to be a high quality product.

This the first big project which I am building from scratch. I have designed the framework within which other developers add their modules. Since other developers on the project are not familiar with the Object Oriented Paradigm and the language we are using, I am the default decision maker. I decided the naming convention, which can be the source of contention amongst coders. At my previous company we were forced to use Hungarian and I hated it.

Another exciting aspect of this project is that users are actually going to use it. I've worked with 2 startups before where the code I wrote never saw the light of day. Since the project is user facing, it is important that I design the UI right. My manager is sending me to usability class by some UI guru my coworkers are crazy about. One realizes the importance of good design on reading books like "The Design of Everday Things." My favorite example is the discussion on the design of doors and how counterintuitive some poorly designed doors can be.

One of the reasons I joined this company was that I wanted to move away from developing User Interfacing projects. My manager hesistantly asked me if I wanted to work on the project. He said he remembered that I said in my interview that I wanted to work on the server, but I was the only one who had already worked with the technology. I readily agreed on hearing the name of the project -- Dilbert. It sounded fun and it turned out to be so. I am mostly working with Londoners and their sense of humor cracks me up. Unfortunately we had to change the name because "Dilbert" is trademarked. However, it led to a hilarious email exchange which again demonstrated the British sense of humor. Someone suggested that we should name it after Jazz, the guy who first started the project and whom I took over from, because then questions could be asked and comments made like:

"Jazz isn't working today!"
"What's up with Jazz?"
"Jazz is taking things in but not giving them out?"
"Who's been messing about with Jazz?"
"Jazz crashed overnight."
"I'm so p*ssed off with Jazz."
"Jazz says your performance is crap."
"Jaz is always wrong!"
"Jazz just isn't giving us what we need."
"Jazz is running so slowly today."
"Jazz needs an upgrade."
"Isn't it time we replaced Jazz?"
"Have you seen the new stuff we put in Jazz?"
"We keep putting digits into Jazz but nothing comes out!"
"the things we are getting from Jazz are just fantasy"

Jazz himself -

"What would we do without Jazz!"
"Sorry, but I need to play with Jazz!"

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Starving students

UC fees has been hiked up again. My brother and sister go to UC Davis and Berkeley respectively. The fees hike does not affect them as much because my parents still believe in paying for their children through college. It is kids like my sister's ex-boyfriend I feel bad for. He works 2 jobs along with school to pay bills. He is a really nice guy who calls me didi, plays songs on his guitar for us, suggests punk rock groups for me to listen to, makes a decent effort to learn Hindi and appreciates my cooking. I do cook when my siblings are visiting. They somehow invoke a maternal instinct in me. I also feel responsible for feeding them healthy home cooked food.

It seems wrong that the top earners of society get a tax cut while poor students face an increase in school fees. Not that I like paying taxes. I remember getting a shock on seeing my first pay check. My uncle laughed at my claim that the HR miscalculated and sent me a check of half of my pay. However I really did not need the $80 Governor Schwarzenegger refunded me for my car registration fee. With our six-figure salaries we can easily afford to pay more taxes. In fact my friends who drive SUVs should be penalized for driving their expensive gas guzzlers and made to pay the $500 wrongly refunded to them. Heck, they spend $800 on one gambling trip to Las Vegas, they can easily afford it.

It is said that rich and smart kids go to Stanford and poor and smart kids go to Berkeley. It is probably one reason for the bitter rivalry between the two schools. The students, who cannot afford to go to Stanford, end up in UC Berkeley. The game between Cal and Stanford this weekend was a huge deal for the alumni. My company had a tailgate party on Friday afternoon. At this rate, in a few years, poor students won't even be able to afford Cal. My sister's out of state classmates are already dropping out. Would UC also become a school only the rich can afford? I wonder what affect this will have on Berkeley's culture that I admire so much.

Make me proud

I just got off a customer service call to SBC. I've been hearing about people getting someone in India on calling the customer service, but this was the first time I got connected to India. The support person I got was courteous and eager to help. Initially I couldn't place the accent, however there were tell-tale signs like excessive us of words like "ma'am", and "wonderful"; his asking me if he could use my first name; and then pronouncing it correctly. I've heard people say that men in India talk to women who call for support slightingly. I didn't find any trace of derision.

He solved my problem that just involved rebooting the router and modem. Before hanging up I had to ask where he was from. He said something complicated to the affect, "This is the international support for SBC and it is located in India." I wanted to ask him more about his personal experience, but refrained because I didn't want to get him in trouble. My knowledge of the atmosphere in call centers is limited to what I saw in the movie "Hyderabad Blues 2." He asked me if I would care to review the call. I said I was really happy from the support he provided and gave him 5 out of 5.

I think outsourcing is good for the Indian economy. And I don’t think it is as bad for the US. We buy American brand names in India so it only makes sense that they buy what we are better at. It works both ways. This is obviously a simplistic view since I don’t understand the economics of it all. Some Indians I talked to were happy that Bush won because Kerry alleged to pass laws to penalize companies for outsourcing.

At my previous job I really liked my company's CEO. He would come to my cubicle every other day and ask me about how I was doing. The way the way he cared about every employee was highly commendable. However, he lost my respect the day I heard him say that Indians were rude on support calls. I also lost interest in the job and soon got laid off.

I tend to get defensive when anyone says something bad about India. I try not to take offense at some comments that are a result of plain ignorance. I find it funny when people ask me how to make Indian curry and they always get confused when say there is no such thing as Indian curry. I get irritiated when people (Indian or American) use phrases like - "so how's you parking karma  ?" My understanding of karma  is that it is your dharma  to do good deeds or karma  to achieve moksha . I wonder how it applies to something as mundane as parking. If you yield to pedestrians and other cars, you accrue good parking karma  and are blessed with parking spots?

I wish I was cool about it like my dad. When faced with questions such as whether we traveled on elephants in India, he nonchalantly responds "of course, and when I want to talk to someone we both climb on poles and shout to each other."

I felt sorry for the people working in call centers on reading an article about how they have to work during Diwali. I, myself, was stuck at work in the evening on Diwali. I kept getting production issues to solve. It was really frustrating and I just walked out at 7 pm. I was still late for the Diwali potluck we had arranged. My contribution was raita (main course was delegated to the married ones) which I quickly made while everyone was drinking. We started with games like Taboo, and as people got drunk we switched to gambling, in keeping with tradition. We played blackjack and poker in which I broke even. I must have earned good gambling karma  last year.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Touchdown, homerun, or goal -- I couldn't care less

My theory is that men watch sports so that they can participate in sports discussions at work, and social gatherings. Usually I am the only woman at lunch with coworkers and dinner with friends. Most of the times men are discussing sports; not only popular sports like American football and baseball, but Sumo wrestling, and car racing too. I have nothing to contribute to these conversations. That’s when I think of stuff I want to write here, and then I get accused of spacing out.

When I was living with male roommates, they had stupid rules like live sports are higher priority than anything else on TV. Personally I don't enjoy watching sports, especially American football. It's too violent for me. I do watch the occasional cricket game. I tend to become nationalistic while watching India-Pakistan cricket games. During the India’s tour of Pakistan cricket series, I stayed up many nights and watched almost all games. I made the dumbest comment of my life while watching those games. When the camera focused on the audience, I blurted - "Oh, they look just like us." That got me thinking about my anti-Pakistani feelings and made me realize how wrong they were.

I was chatting with a friend recently. I said I remember how disappointed he was last time Bush won and asked how he felt this time. He replied, “Well, I voted for the first time in my life yesterday for Kerry, but I would still get more upset if Oakland A’s lose.”

It was amazing to me how sports were so important during the days leading up to Election Day. The Red Sox’s winning was a good omen for Kerry's campaign. The big headline on Nov 6th was that the Redskins lost so Kerry would win. Supposedly whenever Redskins lose, the incumbent party loses. On Election Day, a channel showed Kerry's supporters in Boston who were hopeful even though the numbers were against them. Their belief was that Kerry is like their Red Sox team, in the end he will win against all odds. How I wish that were true!

Monday, November 01, 2004

Under The Weather

I somehow feel the need to be with someone the most when I am sick. So when I got sick I spent my entire weekend hanging out with my friends in South bay. No matter how much I complain about suburbs being an unexciting place to live, it is more comforting (especially when one is sick) with easier access to food, medicine, doctors, parking and other conveniences.

Fortunately my friends were not paranoid about catching the infection from me, unlike my coworkers who stayed a mile away. I'm not sure if the reason was their Indian-ness or friendship. A year back when sister got the chickenpox, everybody at her sorority shunned her; she came to me in tears because of the treatment meted out to her at school including the hospital. I couldn't keep her at my place because my roommates weren't sure whether they had had chickenpox as children. At that time the same friend offered to let her stay at his place.

The illness ruined my weekend. My friends cooked for me, fed me, put me to sleep and took off to the Halloween parties we had planned. I felt terrible being stuck at home, but was forbidden by my parents and friends to leave home. I was too weak to study so I ended up watching movies and reading books. I went through 2 movies - "Super size me," "21 Grams" and two books - "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency," all of which were agreeable pastimes.

"21 Grams" was a movie about a woman whose family dies in an accident and a man who gets her husband's heart transplanted in his body. According to the movie, when one dies the body loses exactly 21 grams in weight. I wish I had read "To Kill a Mockingbird" when I was a bit younger. The movie "Super size me" left a lasting impression. I've recommended it to a bunch of friends and everybody has liked it so far.

"Super size me" is a documentary in which a man experiments on himself. He decides to eat only Mc. Donald’s for 30 days. The documentary follows the deterioration in his health. When he starts he is in excellent condition, his doctors fear that he might gain weight and have problems associated with weight gain, but were shocked to see the damage the diet actually caused. He became lethargic, lost interest in sex, his cholesterol shot up, and his liver got damaged. The movie focused on how the sizes of meals are unnecessarily huge at the fast food chains, especially the "super size" option. It explains how children get hooked due to the toys, targeted advertising, and playgrounds accessible at Mc. Donald’s, and how as adults the fast food chain becomes a "feel good" place to eat. The filmmaker goes to high schools and shows the unhealthy food sold at lunch. In the end, they say that Mc. Donald’s did stop selling the “super size” meal, but claim that it had nothing to do with this movie.

Despite the excellent sources of entertainment, I was raring to go out by Sunday evening. I did not heed the friendly warnings. I took 2 tablets of Advil, and topped it off with 2 glasses of wine at a pre-Halloween drinks party. One of the two or the combination made me feel all better. I got so hyper, I was practically jumping. I had put a costume together, something to the effect of a hippie, but it wasn't visible through all the layers I wore on top. Hence pumped with chemicals and dressed warmly, I went out to celebrate Halloween at Castro. Some interesting costumes were the sentinels from Matrix, some political ones against Bush, and two almost naked hot men. The funniest costume was a guy with blood on his face and t-shirt with a one liner written on the back - "I went down on her, but she was on her period." Last year was more fun since we had dressed with good costumes too. One friend was a lightening victim with a burnt t-shirt and hair sticking up. Another one was a brain donor with a bloody bandage wrapped around his head and a cabbage for brain that he carried in a jar with him. Incidentally that night we met a guy who had a signboard saying - "Got Brain?" My friend donated him "the brain." I still have the picture of them together. My picture taking experience wasn't as great this time around. I went to get a picture with one of the almost naked hot guys and got molested in the process. When I stood next to him, he started running his hands all over me mockingly. My friends cracked up on seeing the look on my face when I ran back to them.

I obviously got too sick to go to work the next day. I finally paid a visit to the doctor who just told me it's a viral infection so there's nothing he can prescribe. Oddly enough, he seemed very interested in my sex life and made me promise to make an OBGYN appointment. I asked him to take my blood test so that I can keep track of my cholesterol (I got paranoid after watching "Super size me"). Now I am all recovered and don't care for any tests or doctor visits anymore. It is funny how one does not pay attention while things are in good working conditions.

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