Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Day 20 - A world without underscores!!!

The beginning of a variable should not be an underscore - the first time I came across an underscore - as far as I can remember. Right from that day I hated underscores. Why does this world need an underscore? Couldn’t we have email ids if there was no underscore? Couldn’t we have variables without an underscore? Won’t we get free colour TVs if there were no underscore? Won’t we get rice at Rs. 2 per kg without an underscore? We would. Then why the hell do we need an underscore?

While I was working as a software engineer (we can have a separate discussion on whether it is right to call what software engineers do “work”, or whether it is right to call people in the software industry as engineers)… Ok. What was I saying…Yes, while I was working as a software engineer, I used to debug programs and create more bugs in the process. However what bugged me most during the process was underscores. Every program had hundreds of underscores. All variables were either read_data, write_data, customer_order, customer_name and hell lot of other underscored variables.

Why do you use an underscore when there is always an option of using a dot? I don’t understand. Here is a list of reasons why we should not use an underscore.

  • Effort: You have to press two keys to type an underscore, the shift key and the underscore key. Once you press the shift key, you have to keep it pressed till your index/ring finger (or any other thing that you use to press underscore key) reaches the underscore key. This requires a lot of effort every time. Pressing a dot requires no effort.

  • Efficiency: If we assume that for every variable, on an average we have one underscore, then for every variable we have in the program we can save one keystroke. Hence we can create more variables in the programs with the saved time and create more confusion.

  • Time_1: It takes more time to press an underscore. An underscore is at a distance of around 2 cms to 3 cms from the shift key in an ordinary keyboard. After pressing the shift key the index/ring finger (or whatever you use to press the underscore key) has to move the distance of 2 cms to 3 cms before the underscore key is pressed. This results in unnecessary wastage of time that is crucial in a software engineer’s life. The time can be used for reading useless blogs like this. It can also be used for writing useless blogs like this.

  • More_chance_of_Errors: If pressing the underscore is considered as a transaction, the transaction consists of two tasks. Either both the tasks should be complete or none should be complete (this is some atomicity principle). If the shift key alone is pressed, it will result in missing an underscore and if the underscore key is alone pressed it results in a dash. Hence there are more chances of errors occurring while coding if you use an underscore.

  • Sticky_keys: Many a time we find that while we are using a shift key a window pops up and says “Sticky Keys” … This might be a big problem for programmers who do not know what sticky keys are, why they pop up etc. They might become nervous, perspire and finally all keys may become sticky…

  • Time_2: The word Underscore takes more time to say than the word Dot. Hence if one of your friends asks you “Machaan, what is the name of the variable used in the sum function da?” you might find it temporally economical to say “Number dot one” than say “Number underscore one”.

  • Underscores_more_than_two: When there are more than one successive underscores present in a variable it is very difficult to identify the number of underscores. But more than one dot in succession can be identified. (Type two or more underscores in a notepad and you will find that you get a straight line - Type more than one dot in a notepad and you can clearly identify the individual dots. From this we also find that, a line is a combination of underscores and not a combination of points as we studied in class 5th).

All the above factors that were discussed for variables hold good for email IDs as well.

Leave all the above factors. What hurt me most was seeing comments like

/*This program was written by Siva_Subramaniam */
/* The consumer_utility module was last updated by Alex_Pillai */

Using underscores for writing names!!!

Hence I request all you programmers, email users and any other underscore users to stop using an underscore and start using a dot. Let us stop this whole underscore bungle. Let’s do that before we start answering interviewers “My name Sir, I am Harish underscore Venkadakrishnan and my father is a share underscore market underscore trader.” Let’s create a world where there are no underscores, only dots.

Leo da Mirci always dreamt of a world free of underscores. In his book “Programming in Fancy Sea” he says

“As a programmer, I want to underscore the fact that one should dot one’s i’s and cross one’s t’s but never use an underscore. An underscore can never become a dotted line. I do not dream of a world without war. I do not dream of a world without poverty. I dream of a world without underscores.”

Hope you all under….understood what I wanted to convey. Bye till next time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Day 19 - The First Meeting

Think of, dream, imagine what all could/would happen when you meet the person you love for the first time. How you would behave, what you would do… I sat down and thought what would happen.

The First Meeting

We both were from the same town. It was years after we first saw each other. It was months after I proposed. It was weeks after she accepted. We wanted to meet. We decided to meet.

There were a lot of constraints. Complex constraints. Our families were a little conservative. We were sure that our parents would get us married. But, we were also sure that our parents would never accept if they knew that we were in love. So, we cannot meet at our hometown. We decided to meet at the place she studied. It was on the way from my college to our hometown.

I was going home on vacation. I always take a train when I go home. She always travels in a bus. We cannot reach home together. And that meant that we cannot travel together. But we had to. We decided to take a train together from the place she studied. She would then get down at a station before our hometown and take a bus home. We were supposed to meet at her place at 12.30. Our train was at 3.30 p.m. She would be getting down at 7.30 p.m. We had around 3 hours in her place and 4 hours on the train to talk. And then we had one more year to wait for our next meeting.

Every time I woke up, every time she went to sleep, every time I went to the church, every time she prayed, every time I studied, every time she wrote an exam, every time I talked, every time she dreamt, all we were thinking of was our first meeting.

The day arrived. I reached her place at around 10.45 a.m. Her classes get over only by 12.30 a.m. I went to the railway station, kept all my luggage in the cloak room and walked towards the church nearby. We had decided that our first meeting should be in a church. She is religious. I am not that religious. I believe in prayers and not in churches or temples. However, I too felt that we should meet in a church. At least all my prayers have been answered till now. I reached the church at 11.45 a.m.

I was waiting for her inside the church. It was 12.30. Whenever the door opened, I would look for her face. It would be someone else. I was so anxious. I waited for ten more minutes. She didn’t turn up. I called her up. She said that her classes got over a little late and she would there in a few minutes. I came out of the church and sat on the verandah. It was 1.00 p.m. Already half an hour was lost.

It was 1.05 p.m when she stepped down from an auto. She was searching for me. I called her. “Hey Pattikkaadu, Eppadi irukka”. She smiled. “Shall we go inside the church”, she said. We went inside the church. We were alone in the church. She got her shawl over her head. She knelt down and prayed. Should have been the first time when everybody inside the church asked for the same thing to God.

After finishing her prayers she turned back at me and nodded. It meant, “We shall go”. We walked to a hotel nearby. “AC”, she said. We had lunch, south Indian meals. I was the one who was talking. She didn’t talk much. She only answered my questions; without even looking at my face.

It was 1.45. She was carrying a heavy bag. I offered to carry it. She said that she will manage. I didn’t want to insist that I will carry it for her and show her that I can carry heavy bags. I just said “When you feel that it is difficult, give it to me”. We walked towards the railway station. Half way through, she gave me the bag. I carried it.

We went to the cloak room and kept her bag there and went to the platform. We sat in one of the chairs in the platform. She started talking. As she used to talk over the phone. We talked about our parents. We talked about our families. We talked about our village. We talked about music and movies. We talked about our colleges. We knew it, but still we talked about how similar we were. I switched on my laptop. She was surprised to see a picture that she knew was hers on the desktop.

It went on… Every now and then she would look around and say “If somebody sees us, we won’t get married”. I would say, “Only if somebody sees us, we won’t get married”. We went to a juice shop. I said “I will take a Saathukkudi (Sweet Lime)”. She said she will take whatever I take. I said, “I should have asked for your preference first, illa?”. She said “Yes. Then I would have ordered a Saathukkudi first”.

It was 4.00 p.m when the train came. The train was late by 30 minutes. We boarded the train. She sat near the window. I sat next to her. She showed me all her photographs, right from her childhood. She kept on talking about the photographs. I showed her a few poems I had written about her. It seemed that we talked very little. But, the next time I looked at my watch the time was 7 p.m.

It was almost time to leave. She gave me two gifts. She asked me to open them only after she leaves. I wished I could open them immediately. Also, I wished she never leaves. The last half an hour, we didn’t talk much. We were concerned more about departing. The train stopped at the next station. She was leaving me. I carried her luggage. It was my heart which was heavy now.

I stepped out of the train. Our train was waiting for another train to cross. For the next half an hour, we stood at the platform facing each other, not knowing what to speak, not able to digest the fact that we won’t meet again for long. She said “It does not seem like we are meeting each other for the first time. It seems like we have lived together for years.” The other train passed by. Our train started. I got in. “Sari paakkalaam”, both of us said. I watched her moving away from me. Till she became the smallest point I can see.

I came back to the seat near the window. It was hers till a few minutes back. The gifts were lying by my side. I closed my eyes for a few seconds. I opened the lid of my laptop. I saw the picture on my desktop, the mother holding her child in her arms. I cried for the second time seeing it. It was 8:20 p.m, April 6, 2006.

The end of the beginning.