29 October, 2005

Finally get home....

...and get beaten down with a severe sinus infection.

The ironing is delicious.

25 October, 2005

Home Sweet Home

I have finally arrived at our humble abode in Minneapolis (actually Monday afternoon). I skipped my stop over in Amsterdam for two reasons:

1) it was cold (10 C) and raining and I was tired as hell, so I thought my chances of seeing Amsterdam where slim to none, and
2) I really wanted to get home.

So I was able to get on an earlier flight from AMS to MSP. It was quite uneventful travel which is a good thing.

Thanks to everyone who's been reading, you can continue to find updates on more domestic travel here in the future (SFO, San Antonio, TX; Omaha, NE just to name a few).

21 October, 2005

TGIF

Fridays are the same all over the world - everyone in the working world is always happy to see the end of the week.

No new pictures today, being my last day in the office it was work, work, work with a small break each for lunch and some final shopping. Two of my co-workers took me to Pizza Hut for lunch (as opposed to the standard South Indian cuisine offered at the office, which I have found quite good). The Pizza Hut offerings in India are a little different, some interesting combinations of veggies, but small pan cheese pizza is about the same. One thing to note, a medium pizza in India is about 25% smaller than in the US.

Even the Indian food at the hotel is better than anything I've had in the US (which is only about 4 times), but not a spicy as I expected. The office cafeteria choices however, are much closer the 'normal' level, and occasionally a little too much for me (which everyone finds quite amusing). I did try 'Samosa' which is the hot dog of Northern India, found at roadside stands at any time of day - this one I couldn't finish. It is sort of a pastry crust surrounding a mix of potatoes, peas and a variety of spices, fried and served with a sweet or spicy sauce. It is about the size of a baseball, but heavy. There was a lot of laughter when 3 bites in my eyes watered up and I had to put it down.

I'm ready to come home, but this has been a great trip, and I've learned a lot and accomplished a lot. India is quite a place, with such a rich culture and history. I've gained a new understanding of my co-workers on the other side of the world. There may be a few pictures tomorrow, but the next stop may be Amsterdam.

20 October, 2005

New Pictures

I was able to visit two Hindu temples this morning before work. The roads are a bit more clear at 7:00 AM. Here are the pictures.

I'm going to have to have someone write down the names and update later.






19 October, 2005

It's Official -

Manhattan is the most expensive place to live in the US That's right folks, despite the island being purchased for pennies, it is now the most expensive place you could want to live - even beating SFO!

In other news, the word of the day continues to be Smetana and smetana

"In Chennai"

This is a phrase that 'transplants' seem to use to comment on the idiosyncracies of this city. Things like little or no parking, or strange acts of other people. It seems to mean something like 'you'd only find that here' followed by 'uhhh huuhh.'

Today was an interesting day, with less structure, which felt good - but I hardly know what to do without back to back meetings. Anyway, after lunch two of my co-workers took me for some shopping, which you would think would be easy - I knew exactly what I wanted and they knew exactly where to get it - the most auspicious store in town! Oh no - nothing is too easy in India. The whole process took over an hour - here's the major points (I cannot describe the details of the transaction as there is a good chance the recipient could read this - and that would ruin the surprise):

- Drive 10 blocks (harder than one would think)
- Enter establishment and get directions to appropriate section
- Explain desired good to be purchased
- Be shown around 1 dozen goods no where near the said description
- Be led to another shop with same owner for the correct product (2 blocks)
- Walk back to the original store to complete the transaction - at this point the sales person disappears and we are left with someone who doesn't understand the details of the transaction
- A rather lengthy and seemingly excited conversation in Hindi between my two co-workers and the new salesperson which I gather had to do with price as the calculator was involved. (I had been perfectly willing to pay the marked price)
- Agreement and completion of sales order
- Packaging of product (at length)
- Payment (at length)
- Presentation of packaged good
- Packaging of receipt and packaging of packaging in a new package
- Extract self from store
- Transaction with valet to determine location of car
- Crossing the street (which is more challenging than you would think) to get to car
- Drive 10 blocks back to office.

That was a little detailed, but it seems as though things take a few more steps, and those steps take a bit more time than your average Minnesotan would be used to. Not to mention that the store was packed at two o'clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday. Everything is always busy here - the shops, streets, even the hotel lobby.

We interupt our regular broadcast....

....for the cute photos of the day. Please meet Sophie, the cutest and youngest member of my parent's family (but she likes Gina best).



Photos for today

OK - I was able to take a few pictures today, not a lot, and not overly interesting, but present - and that's the key. Tomorrow morning I will have the chance to visit a Hindu temple in honour of Vishnu and possibly another, so I'll take some more pictures then.

Here's the office - looks like an office doesn't it?










The next photos are from outside the office - a mid-sized street. This photo is from late afternoon, with comparatively little traffic - but you get a little sense of what a nicer neighborhood looks like.

18 October, 2005

Maybe I'm tired......

...but this headline cracked me up.

Common request

OK, there have been requests for additional photos from India. I will do my best to grant this request. Tomorrow I will:
1) Bring the camera with me
2) Turn it on
3) Click that little button while pointing at something interesting

There are a lot of other details to it, but in theory, this will result in some photographs that can be posted here through the wonders of modern technology. I have to say 'in theory' because there are a whole lot of dependancies here. I think I need a project plan.

17 October, 2005

Restobar Random!

I finally found out what a 'restobar' is (which apparently this hotel has the only one in Chennai) - it is a Resaurant-Bar! Wow, hard to believe. In India (or Chennai at least) restaurants don't serve alcohol, and bars don't serve food (outside of light snacks). So it is unusual to find a place that serves wine, beer and real food.

The best part is the music - the ramshackle mix of western top 40 from the last 40 years. It is almost like listening to the old Rev 105. Here is a close approximation of the set in the 45 minutes I was there for dinner (and a Kingfisher - about the only beer one can get in India).

- The Waiting, Tom Petty
- Some mix of Vanilla Ice "Ice, Ice Baby" with what sounded like an obscure Bowie tune
- With or Without You, U2
- Alive, Pearl Jam
- Money for Nothing, Dire Straits
- Some song with a 50's flavor, but sounded new
- Kryptonite, 3 Doors Down
- Iron Man, Black Sabbath
- Come Undone, Duran Duran
- Jeremy, Pearl Jam
- Whole Lotta Love, Led Zeppelin
- Some recent soft-rock song I didn't recognize
- Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Greenday
- Some hip-hop song
- Californication, Red Hot Chili Peppers

I'm seriously thinking of going back just to write down the songs played - it wasn't bad, it was just so random, no genre or style was clear - just anything that had been in the top 40 in the US in the last 40 years.

15 October, 2005

A little bit sad...

...someone in the office here in India asked another local co-worker where I was from, and could not believe I am American. Why you ask? This person could not believe someone from the US is so thin. Granted, I am unusually slim, but says a little about US culture and how we are perceived.

Most people in India are a healthy size. This may be due to the fact that most people are vegetarian, but probably partly due to not being served huge portions and expected to finish them?

Finally, some pictures

Today was a busy day. A co-worker from our Chennai office, Sukiya (I know I spelled that wrong) was kind enough to take me on a site seeing tour. Our first stop was Dakshina Chitra about an hour from the hotel, in the southern suburbs of Chennai. This is a cultural site displaying typical turn of the century houses and home goods from various areas of southern India.

We then had a nice lunch at Fisherman's Cove, stopping to get a good look at the beach.



We then proceded to Mahabalipuram which is the site of the Shore Temple below.



The complex at Mahabalipuram is quite large, covering a number of temples carved of the local rock. Below is a giant boulder, balancing on a sloped rock that has stood here for centuries called Krishna's Butterball.

Photoshop tip

I'm working on the photos from today's adventure, and ran in to some trouble with Photoshop Elements Photomerge feature not working - I got a "command not available" message - here's the fix

14 October, 2005

Hmmmmm.......Ancient Noodles........

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4335160.stm

Forgot

Here's one thing that was really weird - absolutely no women in the bar we visited. Not guests, not servers, no where.

I learned that this is changing, but generally women do not go out on a Friday night, it is just not socially acceptable. So while women can hold high positions in business, and be very respected, they generally go home after work.

You learn something new every day. But more so when you visit a different culture - I highly suggest you try it.

It's good to see....

...that Fridays are the same everywhere. Well almost, many of my colleagues in Chennai stayed quite late this evening (at least past 8:00 PM). But, I had the pleasure of enjoying Kingfisher (premium Indian beer) and dinner with a few members of the team. I was able learn many things about Indian culture, how the culture is changing, and new perspectives on how our company operates.

If you have an open mind you realize how the differences are really similarities. Different beliefs and practices have a different outward expression, but have a very similar inward meaning. People everywhere have similar wants and needs, but express them, and strive for them in different ways.

One thing I've noticed that is very different from the American Midwest, is that the Indian people are very friendly, open, honest, and generally quick to offer conversation, advice and assistance. This is true not just of people in the service industry (which is much better than the US, more later), but seems to be true of many people. People ask how you are doing with a genuine interest unlike what you see in Minnesota, almost seeming disappointed if your only response is 'fine, thank you' - as if there must be something more you can say.

On the service industry - it is far superior than the west. People make a true effort to meet and anticipate your needs, while they may not always succeed, the effort is there. Compared to so many places in the US where it seems the servers feel their work is a boring chore. While that may be, here I think workers may be happy for work with reasonable pay.

Tomorrow I get to visit some sites of Chennai, so there will actually be pictures!

Ciao

Quote of the Day

While the word of the day is still smetana, here's a quote that will not make headlines though it should.

"One of the standard problems with the universe is that it's large enough that unlikely things happen pretty often."

You would think this is straight from the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" but it is really from Nigel Sharp, program officer for extragalactic astronomy and cosmology at the U.S. National Science Foundation when speaking about recently discovered HUDF-JD2 (Hubble Ultra Deep Field) galaxy.

13 October, 2005

What the world needs now

Does anyone else think Jim Bob really needs more children?

12 October, 2005

But where's the iPink?

On behalf of Patrick, I must ask out into the void: it's great about the videos on iPod (who's going to use that anyway?) but what about the bright pink nano with Madonna's sig on it? Rumors have been crawling around, people were getting excited... With "Confessions on the Dancefloor" only weeks away, that would have been a nice present for the fans...

Gina,
who makes a point of owning NOTHING in pink

The official word is out

Apple has just updated their site - iPod with video, new iMac specs, iTunes 6 and no doubt a bit more. These guys have been busy over the past few months.
The new iPod looks a little hefty in the pictures, but if the features are truly there, then great.
Finally, I can sleep.

This is sad....

I'm staying up (despite being _really_ tired) just to find out what Apple is going to announce. Worse, the only thing I can find on TV in English is Titanic.

In case you've forgotten, the word of the day is SMETANA

Holy Rain Batman!

I don't think I've ever seen so much rain. It has been raining, and hard, for over 6 hours. The streets are flooded to the middle of the hubcaps in some places. This seems to make navigating the roads even more treacherous (even if only two blocks).

I'm told this is a good thing as there is generally a water shortage in Chennai. Sometimes apartments may only get 30 - 60 minutes of water a day, or water needs to be brought in via lorries (trucks to the Yankees). So, no one seems to mind the downpour at all.

11 October, 2005

Here's the photos

Here's the view from my room.



Here's the room, slightly blurry for the effect of being extremely tired.



Well, here we are

Finally had some sleep, which makes all the difference. Currently about noon US Central, 10:30 PM Chennai. I think I will be firmly on India time by tomorrow. Looks like we'll also have to wait for tomorrow for photos - I'll have time to size them and (hopefully) have a better connection in the office.

Chaos is the only word I can use to describe India so far. The hotel is very European, on par with my standards, yet comparably inexpensive. It is probably nicer than the room at the Hilton Shipole, but 25% the price. A nice dinner of pasta with wine was about 500 Rs, or less than $12 US. My guess is that this is one of the more expensive places to eat too. I'm certainly impressed with the service, yet just outside is total chaos.

The ride from the Chennai airport to the hotel was exciting to say the least. At 6:00 AM the streets were full of people, walking around seemingly oblivious to the rain. for once, I was glad I was not driving. There hardly seem to be traffic laws at all - other than go as fast as possible. Apparently, one honks rather than signaling turns and changes, and lanes seems to be only guidelines.

Overall, the trip was rather uneventful. The Air India flight from Mumbai (Bombay) to Chennai (Madras) was about 45 minutes late, with no explaination or reason. But, it was nearly empty, so a nice quiet row to myself. There is a bit of challenge getting in as my bags could not be checked the whole way (customs) and the terminals in Mumbai were rather far apart. I had about half dozen "airport employees" following me, trying to guide me, carry my bags, and demand $20 US for their "services." I ended up giving them 5 Euro just to leave me alone, which may not be the best choice, but it got me where I needed to get with the least hassle.

Time for bed, talk to you all tomorrow.

10 October, 2005

Welcome to Sunny India

I'm here, I made it! Alive and everything. This was a long and challenging trip. India is a very interesting place, very different. Even Amsterdam was easier, it is so much like the US, at least in terms of being modern and organized. The only work I can use to describe India is "chaos" - at least at the aiport.

The hotel is excellent though, organized, clean, comfortable. Photos don't want to upload, so I guess we'll have to try that later.

09 October, 2005

Arrival

Made it to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Shipole is a really nice airport, though a little confusing to a sleepy foreigner. It's 0600 at home, and 1300 here, this is about half way on this journey. Stupid me left the camera cable in my checked bag, so photos will have to wait until arrival in Chennai. Power adapter doesn't seem to be working either :-(

What day is it?

Did some blogging on the flight - kinda weird huh?

"OK, so I'm sitting on a flight to Amsterdam - 0500 Amsterdam time, 2300 Minneapolis time (I think). And it occurs to me, I might be the only one listening to a Dutch musician - not many people seem to be listening to music or anything."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Currently 0400 Central, 1100 Amsterdam - that was a good rest, at least as good as one can get on a flight. Looking forward to getting off this plane. Less than one hour to go"

08 October, 2005

Here we go!

All set, waiting at the airport. Next stop Amsterdam.

I'm a bit nervous, but it will be good. Next update from the Netherlands.

BK

07 October, 2005

And don't forget.....

The word of the day is: smetana

It's Armin Van Buuren!


(we're going to forgive Ben for misspelling the name of GOD!)

And here's another picture from the crazy night. I don't really like Ascot room of Quest but where else do you get so close to a world-class DJ? And oh yeah, 2 bartenders for 500 people was fun-- in the meanwhile 10 couples were practicing Salsa moves in the main room of Quest.

For those of you interested, I am uploading all of my pictures from Armin's gig to ofoto, so let me know and I will send you the link.

Gina

Armin


Armin Van Buuren did a great set on Wednesday - here he is with Gina. Really, that's Gina.

04 October, 2005

Tuesdays make you think

The word of the day is "smetana"

Slashdot sig of the day is "Knowledge is like 4WD. You still get stuck, but in much more difficult places."
From DaChesserCat

Obviously, Tuesdays don't make me think too much.