Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Temptations …

Recently, I am suffering from a kind of temptation, that makes me wonder if this temptation is right or wrong. It mostly happens when I am trying to lookup for something in Wikipedia. The other day, I started reading about Doug Englebart then → Vannevar Bush then → “As we may think” then → hypertext, at this point, I stopped. This temptation to read as much as I can, is filling my head with a lot of things. Some of thing may be less useful (garbage). Its interesting to know varied things, but all of us have limited knowledge, limited energy and finite amount of time. Recently, I am busy with Work (and at work I study VLSI Design, Perl, Image processing, … everything is new to me). Hobbies include photography, blogging, reading others blogs, learning Japanese, and tennis. Strange it may be, but I feel, I am reading way too much and I feel most of them is not so useful.

The Google reader is a nice tool for keeping track of the latest news or your favorite blog posts. The number of unread articles mounts to something like 200, if I miss to open the reader for a couple of days. My reading slows down on weekends, and on Mondays I just “mark as read”, most of the news articles. But somewhere deep down my mind, I feel a slight remorse flushing those articles. I manage to read some of my favorite blogs though. I feel like someone has painstakingly compiled those articles and flushing without reading … is kind of injustice …

At this point, I asked myself a question, what and how much can I read. It was a tricky question. Because from my childhood I had been advised to read more, and now I want to prevent myself from reading more. It was a strange feeling. I started wondering how big shots like say Bill gates manages his emails. It was really funny to know that he receives 4 million emails a days, off course mostly spam. But even then, that's a lot. Ballmer once said,

Speaking at a Microsoft event in Singapore, Mr Ballmer said: "Bill Gates (is first) because he is Bill Gates. Bill literally receives four million pieces of e-mail per day, most of it spam."

"Literally there's a whole department almost that takes care of it," he said.

Coming back to the topic. I mentioned in the beginning this article written by Vannevar Bush’s, “As we may think”. Though it did take away a couple of hours from my life. It was a nice read. I thought V-Bush was trying to be more like an oracle. He was predicting how things wound shape up in the “computer age”. The one thing he kept on repeating was, “the way in which people would refer to technical articles would change dramatically”. For example, back in good old days, if I decide to publish a paper I would travel to the library, and search for the relevant journals. And then read through each and every topics available, and then try to read some of them that seems to be relevant. The “keyword hit” normally took a long … long time. He predicted, and correctly so, that people would have access to information “readily”.

This readily available information is too tempting, is what I think. The inquisitive cells in me, wants to read more, and more. The hypertext web-pages looks like a maze of never ending links, that obviously enables me to know new things. Now, I start to think, some of the knowledge is not needed.

These days, we are also overwhelmed with information. For example, today, I was trying to read some article about a specific detail in verilog. And the number of results was just astounding (around 30 that exactly matched my query string). Just looking at the title most of them looked good. Now, how would I know which one is better. Reading one of those webpage would take me around 30 minutes. I will have to go through each one of them, till I am satisfied. In the worst case I would need about 15 hours. That’s a couple of working days. Phoo … fortunately, the 3rd article matched my need. And it took me around 2 hours to understand the issue that I was facing.

Now, how can we rate these article. If the world continues with these flurry of information, how and who will rate them. If we cannot rate it, will the user have a problem with more choices than none. Is it in a way same as no choices?


(courtesy www.xkcd.com)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

These mundane tasks …

IT Engineers get bored if asked to work in a single project for more than a year. I am not immune to this syndrome either. Its boring to work with the same technology for more than a couple of years. I know someone, who wrote JPEG decoders for ARM7, DM270, and after his work with DM320 he vowed not to work on JPEG decoding again. I know few guys who get bored soon with a certain technology and want to work on new technologies. Is it a bane of R&D, or is it the extra inquisitive cells, or is the fast paced world, or is it the changing food habits, environment…, the list is longer. IT stalwarts, like, Doug Englebart, Alan Kay, …  who live to this day feel that innovation is in itself dying. So, are we inquisitive without innovating?

Those guys who worked in good old days, for example my father, who worked in the same job, repairing steam engines for a couple of decades, and when the steam engines were shelved, he worked as a train driver for a decade. In his professional life, he did not do anything new, for decades. He for once never complained to me about seeing the same type of steam engine everyday, or watching the same railway track passing by, while driving the train. They were probably bored, not to the point of complaining to their bosses, or relatives. And never did they seek a job change. Its not only with my dad, its probably true for many of our dads. Public servants, for example a postman working in the same locality for a decade. Does he think, his job is mundane. And even if he does, what will he do. What can he do? … They do not have those professionally trained HR people to counsel them when hit with boredom. How did they manage the mundane routines … everyday.

If those drivers, bartenders, chefs, and all of those non-IT, non R&D workers can cope up with the same work for decades. Why not IT people. Imagine, if you are given a job of watching stars that fill the sky, and paid a handsome salary, will you take it up. Probably, if you don’t have any other else that pays, and start starving. Are we making a point here, are we getting bored, just because we are highly paid, and always have option to change. Imagine the case, a starving child, lets say in Africa will definitely eat any palatable food that is offered. Now, is it applicable to a child from a developed nation. These days, we can choose from options, to quit, to find a new job. Those wooing job portals, the job consultants, the greener pay packages, always attracts us. Even after all these options, the universal anxiety follows entropy.

I have developed a strong respect to those people who did their mundane jobs, with perfection, for decades. They did it, probably out of their own will, and less for some kind of recognition. The rewards in the form of salary for those people are comparatively less. Is it one another reason they are not bored. Is the pay-work imbalance boring the engineers of these days. What is it?

Worse, some software engineers complain, when asked to document, or test some application that they developed. They think that developers develop, and test engineers test. Technical writers document. It will be great, if we learn to do the so called mundane jobs with perfection, is this where leaders are born?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Daffodils – by William Wordsworth


今日は、詩人のWilliam wordsworthが作ったDaffodilsを紹介したいと思います。Daffodillsって喇叭水仙です。


英語版 単語

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of the bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

wandered→ roamed
o’er→ over vales→ valleys
crowd→ lot, many
A host→ (large) bunch
beneath→ below
Fluttering→ movement in the wind

twinkle→ shine
never-ending→ very very … long
margin→ shore
glance→ look
Tossing→ shaking sprightly→ happy

Out-did→ beat sparkling→ shining
gay→ happy
jocund company→ joyful company
gazed→ looked little thought→ without thinking 

oft→ often
pensive mood→ deep thoughts
inward eye→ mind
bliss→ joy
pleasure fills→ happiness