A Day in the Life of a Programmer in Kathmandu
Some of you have asked what my day is like after I get back from my early morning visit to the Stupa. I'm afraid it's pretty mundane and doesn't lend itself to picturesque prose.
First thing I usually do is answer email. If I don't do it before starting programming, I'll never get around to it. About half an hour later, Tashi calls me in for breakfast. Tashi is Tenzin's sister. Tenzin is Tony's wife. And Tony is the Australian Tibetan translator I'm working with on this project. The second floor of this building is their home and office. There are several Tibetan monks who also live and work here. This is the 'headquarters' of the Drupa Kagyu Heritage Foundation which is working to preserve and publish the
written heritage of the Drupa Kagyu lineage. They have typed over 100 volumes into computers and are now doing the editing work, which is a huge task. They are currently using my Tibetan/Tibetan dictionary program as one of their editing tools, like using a Webster's Unabridged on a computer. After all these works are edited, they will publish them in both paper and electronic formats. My program will be used as an electronic book to read the electronic versions. Tony is the director of the
Foundation and its computer guru.
But back to breakfast. Usually it's the traveler's staple of porridge. This version has nuts and raisins and coconuts slivers in it - quite good. That and apple slices and a steaming hot cup of chai make an excellent breakfast. Occasionally, breakfast is scrambled eggs and toast, but I prefer the porridge.
Then it's back to the computer and enhancing the program. So far in these two weeks I've done the following:
1) Added the ability to speak the words in the dictionary (thanks Sakti for the idea). Now somebody just has to record all 21000 words. Actually 3 somebodies - the program can handle up to 8 dialects. If we can get different people to record the 21000 words in Lhasa, Kham and Amdo dialects, it will pretty much fill a CD-ROM. This, packaged with the Tibetan/English dictionary, should make a pretty good fund raising item for the Drupa Kagyu Heritage Foundation.
2) Sped up the program about 3-fold. I discovered some shortcuts to circumvent some of Bill Gates's glaring inefficiencies when you have your display set to for more than 256 colors. As usual there are trade-offs and the speed increase is not possible if you want the very maximum quality display. But it certainly works just fine for my tastes. And I should be able to build on what all I learned to later speed up things even more for all quality displays. Maybe I'll write up the technical details and send them along to you tech types.
3) Added a file compare function. Now you can take two versions of the same file and compare them to find typos. This should help with the editing process.
4) Added 'Paste' variables. You can save frequently typed strings of data to these variables and when you need them again, just paste them in with a single keystroke.
5) Added 'Find & Replace'. This had been missing and I finally got around to doing it. Of course it's smarter than your usual Find & Replace. You can search for multiple things at the same time and replace them all with the same thing. For example, you could search for 'Katmandu', 'Catmandu' and 'Cathmandu' and replace all these misspellings with the correct 'Kathmandu' in one operation.
And then there's been the usual bug fixes and minor tweakings.
In the middle of the morning, the Nepali maid, brings me another cup of chai. She and I don't have but maybe 4 words in common - "hello", "thank you", "chai" and "hot water" (you don't drink cold water - just freshly boiled water) - all in Nepali. At first, I could see she wasn't too happy about having another person to cook for and clean up after. But it's amazing what friendliness and basic courtesy can do. Now I get a big smile from her every time we interact.
About 11:30 the pressure cooker begins exploding steam in the kitchen next to my work room. At noon lunch is ready. It's always the national dish of Nepal - rice and dahl (bean soup) with vegies and meat. The Tibetans love their meat and as much as I'd like to be a vegetarian here in Nepal, it's not quite possible. But the rice and dahl and vegies I love. After lunch, I try to get on the internet to send my email and receive yours. Internet access here if very iffy. Sometimes it's totally not possible. Sometimes I get on and get dumped off in the middle of whatever. It's always slow. And it's pay-by-the-minute expensive. So I just grab
my incoming email, send the outgoing, download the baseball scores, the Reuter's news headlines and maybe a news story or two. And if all goes well, I'm off the 'net in 3 - 5 minutes.
The afternoons are pretty much like the mornings most days - programming with cups of chai or hot water to keep me going. Twice, I've taken long breaks in the afternoon and gone for walks - usually winding up back at the Stupa since it is The sight to see in the area. Most afternoons it's not possible to go for a walk because it's raining. The high temperature continues be in the low 80's F (mid 20's C) and it's muggy. But I like it - some do like it hot. This is actually a good time to be doing what I'm doing here - since I'm sucked inside my computer, the rain doesn't bother me; the rain clears the usually horrible air pollution; and I'm never cold.
Dinner is around 7PM and is often an excellent noodle and vegie soup, tho the variety here is much larger with various traditional Tibetan dishes like momos (stuffed dumplings). After I eat, I get what I'm working on to a stopping place and head back to my Guest House room two doors down the street. And I usually go right to bed since there is going to be the monastery's wake up bell again at 5AM.
See, it's pretty mundane. I don't even have much human interaction - a few words to Tenzin and Tashi at meal times, a smile to the maid, and occasionally a short discussion and/or demo with Tony (who is way over worked). But, being the introvert that I am, I like it - at least so far. We'll see what the next 4 weeks bring....
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