Category Archives: Random

Wallflower

I despise functions. Functions, social gatherings where people gather and meet each other. Functions where people walk around with fake smiles, talk to people they don’t care about, enquiring about things that they have no business knowing. Functions where fifteen people run around, ‘helping’ with errands that three people would comfortably finish. Functions where versatile ‘intellectuals’ have an opinion on everything from the political situation in the Middle-East to the quality of pepper used in the meat.

At one of these, I’m generally the wallflower.

I avoid people’s eyes as if they burn me. I’m scared of the smiles that pretend to recognise me, when I have no clue who they are. I am puzzled at the accusative looks that tell me that I am probably supposed to go help in moving a table that five people already have their hands on.

So I stand around, leaning carelessly against a wall or sitting slumped in a chair; blotting out the world around me. I stay there with eyes skidding across the horizon or staying rooted deeply on a pebble on the ground. I stay there, unobtrusively, and slowly vanish – like I am part of the furniture, like I don’t exist.
And the crowd around obliges – they move around, not noticing, like I am part of the furniture, like I don’t exist.

And I see people all around me, I can feel every one of them dearly wishing they could do the same. But a wallflower is more than they can take. So they unfold a newspaper and dig their heads into it, pretending to be engrossed. Or they pull out their cellphones and get busy tapping and swiping on them.
It’s as if everyone wishes to run away from the social commotion about them, needs an escape into their own respective secret worlds. However, the thought of being a wallflower terrifies them; the innocuous invisibility is a terrible plight in their eyes – so they shove away their phones, fold their newspapers, and start to move around; yet again, with bright smiles and outstretched arms.

And I sit there, not noticing them not noticing me as they move about. I sit there, like I’m part of the furniture, like I don’t exist.

Advertisements

Obsessions

Our lives are defined by obsessions. They are always there, stippling the monotony of our lives with colours and motion.

They are there, an obsession or another; blotting out our consciousness, occupying the forefront of our realm of thoughts, at all times. A tight deadline you need to meet; the mindless game you feel the irrational need to play over and over; the train of tasks your objectivistic mind has set forth; the tormenting wait for a text message that you expect; your addiction demanding another dose of intoxicant; the face of the woman you can’t get out of your eyes—they vary in form and function, but they all manifest themselves as an inescapable, nagging presence; standing out boldly against everything else we try to indulge ourselves in. Remorseless attention-seekers, they are, begging at the loudest of their voices to be pampered, drowning out everything else.

They define, by their very existence, the sense and direction of our lives. Each day is shaped by the obsessions we choose to entertain, those we let live on, and those we try—often unsuccessfully—to stifle. Our obsessions make us who we are.

The Software Developement Life Cycle

“Designing the database? What’s the big deal, it’s all about writing half a dozen CREATE TABLE queries, right?”

I was working on my semester project where we had to build a complete database application in Java. I had just started my work, and was bending my head looking at my basic abstract notion of the application, trying to decide what tables I need and what data do I put on them. This was when a friend called in, wanting to know my progress. I told him that I’ve just started with it and was designing the database – and he asked me this.

I was not shocked in any sense, because my friend represented 99 percent of India’s undergraduate population, who believes programming means the code – bringing up your IDE or whatever editor and punching in lines and lines of code – that says it all about programming. ‘Seriously, what else is there to it,’ are you thinking too?

A lot, a hell lot, in fact – perhaps you remember from your Object Oriented Programming or Software Design, this rhetoric phrase – “actual coding contributes to only 30% to the total software development life cycle” – there are equally important phases like analysis, design and modeling. Despite this, when we are given a software product, the first thing we do is jump on our keyboards and start punching in hard code. The methodologies stay in the books, either being too good for us to try out, or just being mundane and irrational, a mere waste of time. So are they, really?

I wanted to find out. With a semester project that need to be completed in the next three days, this wasn’t the best time to experiment, but I took that chance. I took out my notebook and a pen, conjured up the my database with the required data, normalized them, refined them; and in an hour, I was left with six tables in Boyce-Codd Normal Form. Ah, quite a feat, I thought, considering this was my first real attempt a practical database design problem.

With my tables in my hand, I contemplated if the hour spend was really worthy enough. I was slightly surprised that it was — during my design process, the database underwent 3 major revisions, and the tables ended up quite different from what I originally had in mind. If I had attempted coding the tables downright, this would have meant having to rewrite the code entirely a couple of times – that would already take an hour and then leave me in frustration that I’ll need to spend the next hour doing something else.

With my six little tables, I sat in to code them up in SQL. After 15 minutes, the database was done – the magic is, no single line of code, no single query was written, which was surprising again. I was depending upon the mySQL Workbench, which did the query-generation for me – all I had to do was create a schemata, arrange my table within it using the well designed GUI, and sync it in to the database – done, and zero coding thus far.

With the backend in place, the next task was designing the GUI front-end for my application. In this situation, however, it was not necessary to actually draw out the windows and buttons on paper before I implement them – since I was using my NetBeans IDE for this purpose, I was “drawing the windows anyway”, and there was enough room for errors and improvisation.

Designing the GUI only held more surprises – with the entire GUI frontend ready, complete with the event-handling, I still hadn’t written a single line of code. NetBeans automated it all. From laying out my components on the screen, to setting up events like “click this, and that window appears” or, “tick this box and that text-field is active” – everything could be handled using just the GUI, and no coding.

So this was all the software modules, frameworks, and component-based development jargon all about, I realized. And as I leaned back in my chair starting to take a break with “The Social Network”, this amazing thought stuck me – for the first time in my life as an engineering graduate, I was applying something I was learning in my books. Absurd call, that’s what I’m always meant to do – but this was indeed an idea worth cherishing for an engineering graduate in India.