Tuesday, April 26, 2016

UNUSUAL OCCUPATIONS - What happens in Vegas


V- Vegas , What happens in Vegas

In this blog post Unusual occupations  features a software programmer.  .
In the world that I inhabit, they are dime a dozen. 
In fact, in my definition anybody whose occupation is not a software programmer qualifies to be featured in Unusual occupations.

On second thoughts, I thought that is probably not fair.
Software programmers do some interesting things that has changed the way the world works today.
Think of it. 
Where have all the cashiers gone?
Cashier - the nice guy who dispenses money from behind that glass counter and is the one to get scared and put up his hands first when the dacoits come and rob the banks in the movies – That poor cashier breed is now nearly extinct. 

Cash machines made the cashier extinct. 
Software programmers killed the cashier.

Software programmers do a lot many other interesting things.
More often than not, unbeknownst to them.

When you pick up that crate of dozen beer cans at the supermarket and stuff it in your basket to be scanned at the till, some software programmer half way across the globe has already predicted that there is a 93.92% probability that you will be seduced to pick up the potato crisps at the till before you pay the bill.

They also know that you are a sucker for freebies when you are a repetitive consumer at the Asian groceries section. Especially if you have regularly shopped for the lijjat papad variety with Punjabi masala flavor at the supermarket.

So they send you coupons to your email address just a couple of weeks before your birthday to triple your loyalty points when you buy lijjat papad along with the beer cans. And they do not just stop at that. They let you have 1 potato crisp packet free if you buy another dozen if you visit them just in time before your birthday. 
Common sense … you could say.
Business Intelligence is how they define it. They derive these complicated algorithms using super complicated software like cognos and informatica.
Then such things creep into your psyche, change your buying patterns and eat into your bank accounts.
Software programmers have accomplished it over a million cups of coffee and team huddles.
All for the good.  More we buy, better the economy.

Here is one such software programmer. This one does not seduce you with potato crisps. His seduction is at a much higher scale. 
SAKS – abbreviated and Americanized version of Srirangam Aravamudam K……… S….....

His full name will need to remain incomplete because SAKS needs to remain confidential.

Because the work that he does is classified confidential.

Because if you knew him for the work he does you might be tempted to kidnap him, subject him to a third degree torture (or just deprive him for 24 hours off his ‘thair sadam’ -curd rice), pickle his brains and get the matter out from there when he is still alive and kicking. 

And then if you could manage to decode it all,
All you need to do, is to fly out to Vegas and make a fortune out there.

Who does not want to make a fortune ..eh..?

I met SAKS at a party hosted by a common vendor.  
He was gingerly sipping a transparent colorless drink in a wine glass that contained neither vodka, nor gin or soda.  It was what in scientific terms is known as 100% aqua pura. H2O is the chemical name and water is how most people know it. 

We got talking about our jobs, where we worked and where we lived, the utter lack of infrastructure  and how stressful it was getting to commute with all this traffic etc. etc. etc.   

In about 6 minutes into the conversation we had already covered weather, traffic, global economy and local corruption. By the 10th minute I discovered that SAKS was very well read, had an informed opinion about most things in the world and could be an engaging conversationist if he chose to warm up to you.

By about the 13th minute I discovered that we went to the same school and even worse that we were in the same class. He was known by a less Sexier name in those days. 
That was because he had not been to America by then.
In  Srirangam, where he grew up his name was so common that almost half the neighbourhood boys would turn their head if you called out his first name.     
By about 20th minute we also discovered that the two of us may have represented our school in an interschool quiz competition as a team of two duly escorted by our PT (physical training) teacher.  She also doubled up as the moral science teacher  to hapless students of 2nd and 3rd standard. But that is besides the point. We never as much spoke to each other, (although we were a team) not because the PT teacher forbade such things, but because boys and girls at that age and from that place exercised such necessary restraints for the fear of the unknown. 
Anyway, over the years we seem to have overcome our fears and here we were, sipping our respective drinks, pleasantly surprised over how the world was such a small place and how strange we were to meet again. 

SAKS is an American citizen. He spent 12 years in the US  and acquired that much coveted citizenship. A good part of it, he spent in Vegas before he decided to relocate back home just in time to settle down after organizing his son’s thread ceremony in Srirangam.

Father of two boys, SAKS feared that the upbringing in Vegas may have disastrous effects on his boys. Before they grew up to the age where they could protest, he  turned homewards. From the way he said it, it looks like he was pretty proud and happy about  his decision.        

SAKS designs gaming software that is sold to Casino owners in Vegas and Macao.   

SAKS spends about 10 -12 weeks, three times a year at the casinos in Vegas. 
All expenses fully paid.

His baggage to the trip to Vegas is usually loaded and is subject to heavy interrogation at the immigration.
The source code of his gaming software, he carries in his head .
It is also securely uploaded somewhere over ether space.
That does not figure in his check-in baggage
In his check-in baggage, he carries with him his rice cooker and permitted groceries.

When in Vegas, SAKS cooks his own food, after a good shower and says his prayers
 (paraseshanam for the ones who understand) before he eats his daily meal.

At dusk when all of Vegas is hitting the streets and the casinos , SAKS is hitting his hotel room for sandhya vandanam (an evening prayer ritual) that he has been doing since his thread ceremony in Srirangam at the age of 9.

Every morning he visits the ISKCON temple in Vegas.
SAKS tells me there is one. One of his relatives from Srirangam is the priest over there. 
I make a mental note of googling it out. 

Hailing from a traditional south Indian Iyengar family SAKS’s family members have been priests at the Vaishnavaite temples in south india for as many generations as he can remember. 

Barring the few minutes that he is under the shower, his forehead is never without the Tiruchuranam – a religious symbol that typifies the Vaishnavite tradition and is a symbol of Vishnu. 

Needless to say SAKS does not gamble at the casinos in Vegas.
It is not like his religion prohibits it.
Quite to the contrary. Gambling is a religious ritual on Laxmi pooja and after Dhanteras, during Diwali.   

He does not gamble, because he knows that the program he writes ensures that for every 1,34,457 gamblers who try their luck at the gaming console that he has designed only one is destined to make a jackpot and not more than  2.37467% are likely to break even for all the money that they blow up.

He cannot be sure of these precise numbers either.
Because the Casino manager does’nt trust SAKS or the company he works for.

The source code that he has written is handed over to the casino manager who reserves the right ( and exercises it as well) to change the probability so that it is not the 1,34,457th  gambler but the 1,35,745th gambler or so would hit the jackpot.

One would assume that SAKS gets handsomely paid for what he delivers.  One cannot tell , because when at home in Bengaluru, SAKS takes the public transport to work, packs up his lunch boxes with the home made food that his mother freshly cooked after a ritual bath (madi  - for those in the know how)  at 4.30 am  in the morning.
No leftover foods from the previous day for SAKS.
Packaged foods or takeaway varieties have no place in SAKS’ diet.After the party, where he nibbled on the fruit platter and more glasses of 100% Aqua Pura, we parted ways after promising to poke each other up on facebook.  

 What happens in Vegas or for that matter any place else, affects him the least.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting post. Having spent the last two decades of my working life as a business systems analyst and programmer I am, of course, very familiar with that part of your subject. As to the rest, your friend SAKS is a fascinating man, whatever you think of the ethics of what he does. Thank you for sharing it.

    Keith Channing A-Zing from http://keithkreates.com


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