Monday, December 31, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King ~Book Review

Reading the review of 11.22.63 incited an instant desire to get a hold onto this book. And who can blame me? Any story related to time traveling must have the same kind of effect on everyone, or at the very least, most. And not simply time traveling. But traveling back to time to change a particular incident. An incident that is claimed to be one that changed the course of history. Well, at least, the book cover said so. The incident is that of the assassination of the 35th President of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Most of my friends don’t read Stephen King. They find his books of the boring kind. And  slowly and gradually I have come to believe that I am the only person (at least in my age group) in this country who craves for Stephen King books and the world they take the readers into. And, therefore, I had lost the hope of ever finding this book in Pakistan. But while trying to get my hands on Cloud Atlas, I found this novel in Liberty and almost shouted out loud, took it off, almost hugged it and kept it close till I browsed other books. And the decision to buy this book is not one I regret. 

Jake Epping, the main character of this novel, the unsung hero, is a high school teacher, who never in his wildest dreams would have thought to be able to travel back in time and stay there. Imagine his surprise, when all of a sudden he found himself entrusted with the responsibility to save Kennedy and, thereafter, the world.

Every author writing about time travelling does something different with it. Some writers go on and explain the theory of time travelling. Answering questions like how it can be done. While others don’t hassle with the details of time machine and go on with their business. The change Stephen King brought in was that a person can travel back to only one point in time. Not before it, not after it. Only one particular date and one particular time. One particular moment. And no it is not the exact moment of assassination. Rather five years before it.

The rest of the theory goes on the same way. The butterfly effect and all. If you have read enough novels and watched enough movies on time travelling then you know what I am talking about.
The interesting thing is, that every time you go back to your own timeline and then come back again, everything goes back to the same way it was before. It is a complete reset. Any changes that you made in the past are erased.

It’s really un-put-down-able book. I loved it from the very first page till the very last. It’s one of those books that grab your attention from the first sentence and keeps you hooked till the last one. All along you’ll keep wondering whether Jake will be able to stop the assassination or not. Knowing at the same time that it won’t be any use to write a 740 page novel for the assassination to happen anyway. And then wondering what will the world be portrayed as if JFK survives. And all at the same time, enjoying the book, hanging on to every word and relishing every scene described. 

It’s been a long time since I have loved a book this much, since I have so completely engrossed myself in a book, while constantly narrating everyone who’s willing to listen about the storyline. Telling everyone how much I like the book.

Following are some lines that I loved in this book. Ones I read and re-read. 

Do I know what people say? Sure. I shrug it off. What else can you do? Stop people from talking? You might as well try to stop the wind from blowing.

Home is watching the moon rise over the open, sleeping land and having someone you can call to the window, so you can look together. Home is where you dance with others, and dancing is life.

Life turns on a dime.
The crazy people of the world.. shouldn't get to win.
For a moment everything was clear, and when that happens, you see that the world is barley there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes, pretending to be wheels and cogs. A dream clock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate, and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.
Little by slowly.
The past is obdurate.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The need to Believe

We all pray for and believe, that whatever happens, happens for the best. It is our believe that Allah does only the best. He chooses only the best for his creations. He knows the best for us all. And that, we may not understand what His will is at the moment, but it becomes clear with time that what happened was the best, that nothing better could have happened, and when understanding dawns we cannot help but accept that we will not have it any other way.

And so we pray that Allah may choose the best for us. May He give us what is the best. May He find the better path for us and show it to us. Whenever tangled up in confusing threads we seek Allah's guidance. And how better to do that than pray, narrating what is going on in our heads (though He already knows and that too far better than us), and then ask Him to do what is best for us, to let us take only those decisions that will prove to be good ones.

And yet, after all of this, whenever our prayers are answered by something we do not understand, something that is not in accordance to our liking, we forget all about what we have been praying for and instead fall victims of thanklessness. We ask Allah why this happened? Why our prayers were not answered? When in fact they have been answered.

This is because our small minds fail to go beyond the panorama of the secluded walls that our thoughts and imagination have created. This is because, we with our feeble thoughts cannot imagine how far things may go and how small things may affect our lives, our futures.

With a cool mind anyone would be able to say all that has been written above.

With a cool mind anyone would pray Allah to give him the best, to make the decisions for him and claim that he would trust His decision and would want nothing more.

Yet, that is only when one has a cool mind.

Caught in a thunderstorm of circumstances, human beings tend to forget all claims, all promises. What they see is only what they have in front of them. Denying the past. Neglecting the future.

I am mentioning past because many a times, it is the past that has led us to the current situation. Our decisions that got us in trouble. Our reactions that brought stress. Our failure to understand that our own wish has resulted in the current situation.

And future, because that is what we are headed towards. We forget the impacts this may have on the future. Or if we do remember it, we do not believe that the impact may be anything positive. What we imagine is the worst.

And sometimes, it may turn out to be all wrong as well. But that is all part of life, isn't it? And that is how past is linked with the present and the future.

It's all a big, tangled ball of thoughts, reactions, wishes, prayers, and what not.

But if we pray to Allah to choose the best for us, then we must also ask Him for the strength to accept whatever He chooses for us, whatever decision He takes for us, wherever He leads us, whatever He gives us. If it is something we did not really hope for then we must be patient so that He may show us how what He chose was the best. Or we must accept it as a punishment for our own shortcomings. And if it is something that we hoped for, wished for, wanted; even unconsciously; then we must thank Him for He is the most merciful. :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Confessions of a Software Engineer ~Episode 1

Confessions of a "Google-Coder"

Being Software Engineers (developers), or so we claim to be, we are often forced to wonder what would life be if there was no Google to speak of. What would we ever do without it? To who would we run to whenever any unintended bug aka ‘feature’ sprung up? Who would we consult whenever we needed to search any basic concept that so conveniently slipped our mind and the knowledge of which we had already bragged about to our boss? Exactly how many points would we end up with in our KRAs (Key Result Areas, evaluated at the end of every fiscal year, to measure an employee’s performance), if we did not have Google to back us up. How many celebrated projects would have resulted in ignominious fiascos, if we did not have Google to provide ideas which we later claimed to be our brainchild?

We rely so completely and utterly on Google that even to imagine a life without Google, we’ll need to Google! It’s like we were trained to be efficient “Googlers” rather than Computer Scientists in our four years Bachelors Program.

Even the term search has been replaced by the word “Google”. It is more apt to say “Google it” these days instead of “Search it”.

And the funny thing is, it’s not just us developers suffering from “Google mania”, in fact the craze goes far beyond the boundaries of code design and expands through the realm of cooking, cars, books and what not. All kinds of information are just a few clicks away. Once I learnt about the “calculator” feature in Google, I have totally forgotten about the traditional calculators. Anything you want to learn; just Google the tutorials and you are on the path of intellect. (I wish there was some way to learn ‘driving’ through it. Hey! Any actual Google-coders reading this? How about it?)

Let’s go back to highlighting the impenetrable relationship between that of a developer and Google which is such that I am introduced as “Google-coder” instead of “developer” at parties.
For eradicating every inane bug that finds its way to our efficiently coded applications, we developers turn to Google, even before attempting to use our personal search engines that are our brains. (I guess we are saving our brain cells for something bigger than these minor bugs.)

I remember sitting idly one day while we were facing some internet problems in office, when my boss showed up and inquired:
“Why are you sitting? The clients are waiting impatiently for the update? Would you mind working on it?”

Bewildered me:
“But.. there is not internet!”

Incredulous B:
“What do you need the internet for?”

Surprised me:

Exasperated B:
“And what am I supposed to tell the clients?”

“They’ve been developers themselves at some point, I think they’ll understand, in fact, I’ll go as far as saying they’ll sympathize.”

Such is the altruism of Google that I am sure that the students who invented Google have earned themselves trillions of prayers and billions of good wishes from people around the world. Once I overheard someone ready to donate 1$ to Google every day, provided there was such an option, for all the times it has saved his neck and eventually his reputation as a developer.
All in all Google is playing a vital role in our day-to-day lives and even wondering what we would do without it is next to impossible. But then I guess we would have been putting our brains to some use. As the current situation is; our brain cells are simply eroding.

The article is not meant to degrade the work we developers produce. It simply proffers a comical view of the life of a developer.