Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And so it Begins

Today was the first showing of our house that actually went through
(there was another hat was scheduled and then canceled). The showing
was from 8:15-9:15 which did a highly effective job of torpedoing
anything that we might have been planning to do tonight. I told Linzy
that I anticipate selling the house to be like dealing with people from
Craigslist but on steroids.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Changes

Today after almost exactly a month of work (mostly by Linzy, since I was in India for half that time) we finished everything that we wanted to do in order to put our house on the market. We signed all the paperwork, took pictures, and have a temporary sign in front of the house and everything.

At this point it was nice just to reach a completion point, even if there was more that I would have done if I had had more time. But over half our non-furniture possessions are cluttering up my parent's basement and we've hit all the big items, so I think it was time to say enough is enough.

And now we start the exercise in patience as we wait (and probably, given the way things are now, wait and wait) to see what happens. Very exciting and frightening all at the same time.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Paper Jam

Over dinner one night while we were in India my boss and I were talking about the experience of being in India. I.e. what was the most similar, what was the most different, etc.

What I said was the most similar was that at some level India was still just filled with people getting by and living their lives. People worrying about when raises will comes, how they will afford to send their children to a good school, meeting their girlfriend's parents and trying to make a good impression, bowling with friends, etc.

What I said was the most different was the amount of people. I really think it drives just about everything else that would be 'different'. The crazy traffic, the competition for jobs, the dependence on human power rather then machines, etc. When you have 1 billion people in a country one third the size of the US, and most of those people living in the few selected 'growth' areas of the country, you get high population densities.

As far as I could tell the competition for non-professional jobs is fierce, and there is always someone else ready to jump in and take your job. The amount of people and low wages also means that places can afford to hire people to do the smallest tasks.

For example, there was a guy who's job it was to be a bathroom attendant and squeegee the counter by the sink when you dripped water on it. One evening I saw the army of people who came in to clean the cubes each night (in addition to the army of people who cleaned the building during the day). There was also a rotating cast of guys who sat by the printer watching for paper jams.

I never really knew what the person in the corner was doing, until I tried to print something and the paper jammed. As it happened the guy was gone at the time so I spent a while trying to figure it out, a developer came over to try to help, and we generally messed around with the printer for a bit unsuccessfully. All of the sudden the guy who watches the printer came sprinting back.

I mean sprinting, as in all-out-run.

He quickly and matter of factly pushed his way to the front, fixed the jam, reprinted my job and handed me the papers. All the while, I assume, terrified that the one time he left his post the idiot from the US comes and jams up the machine, and now he was going to get fired. And I'm sure if I had complained he probably would have been. After all, his job was to watch the printer and he wasn't when it mattered, and there were probably 20 people outside who would have been glad to sit in the corner and watch the printer all day long.

The whole situation makes me sad, that someone would have to work under that kind of scrutiny. But I don't think it is out of the ordinary at all, as I had other similar experiences with other people in service jobs while I was in India. I'm sure there are lots of people waiting to take my job if I fail, but at least I have some degree of control over that. Being dependent on the whim of some jerk taking exception with the speed at which you brought out their bread before a meal would be horribly stressful.

Anyways the moral of the story, I guess, is that if your job is to watch the printer, make sure that you are.


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Team Outing

IMG_1359Last week while I was in India, we took an afternoon off for a team outing. Originally we were thinking to try something like cricket, but that didn't work out so instead we went out for lunch and then bowling.

Honestly when I heard bowling, I was assuming that it was lawn bowling, but it was regular 10-pin bowling in a bowling alley that once you were inside could have been anywhere in the US. It had exactly the same decor, music, bowling system, etc that a US bowling alley would have. Right down to being filled with high-school/college kids.

The lunch and bowling outing was really fun. The most 'experienced' bowler on the team had been bowling a grand total of twice, so we had lots of fun comparing bowling styles, cheering each other on, and commiserating over barely missed pins. By the second game everyone was starting to get in the groove. Srikant in particular really was a natural, throwing two spares and four consecutive strikes in the second game.

It was nice to be able to spend some time with the team outside of work.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Tourism

IMG_1234During my trip to India, I had one weekend there, and since the days during the week tended to be long and filled with work, that was my only opportunity to do some sight-seeing.

On Saturday we drove up to Mysore from Bangalore, which is about 140km but thanks to crazy India traffic and roads takes around 3.5 hours to travel to (that's averaging about 25mph, for those keeping score at home). The route takes you through Bangalore, through the outlying towns and into some relatively rural villages compared to the city. Suddenly oxen-draw carts filled with granite and people carrying large bushels filled with silk or plants became common.

The trip to Mysore was to see the Palace, which was pretty cool. It is 97 years old (we were corrected by our tour guide after we said it was 100 years old. No, he said, it is 97 years old. Ok then, 97). The original palace was made of wood and burned down in an accident. They rebuilt the current palace made out of stone and mostly imported materials (Italian marble floors, English stained glass, etc).

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Cameras weren't allowed inside the palace, but it was pretty elaborate. There were all sorts of intricately carved teak doors and ceilings, silver-smithed doors and a huge open reception area where the king sat to watch the parade of elephants and musicians during festivals. There were also 3D Indian paintings decorating the walls, which is an interesting way of painting such that when you look at a painting from one angle objects in the painting will appear to be facing one way, and then when you look from the opposite direction things are facing differently. It is hard to describe, but very unique.

The drive back to Bangalore from Mysore ended up being quite a bit longer then 3.5 hours as there was all sorts of traffic in the city that added a lot of time to the trip.

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On Sunday I went to a 1000 year-old temple in Bangalore, got a crash course in Hinduism, and blessed a random couple getting married. That was extremely awkward, but everyone present seemed to think it was just fine. From there my driver and I went to the Bannerghatta Zoo.

The Zoo was kind of interesting, although pretty much like normal Zoos. I went on the 'safari', and saw the lions, tigers (both white and regular), elephants and some baby black bears. The safari was again embarrassing as they made me sit up front in the assistant driver's seat, waited to drive around until I had taken pictures, and took pictures for me when animals were on the opposite side of the truck.

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After the safari we went and checked out the snakes and monkeys, including the Russel Viper. The Russel Viper was interesting because it was the only snake labeled "Dangerously Venomous". As opposed to "Venomous" or "Not Venomous", despite the fact that for the King Cobra they don't even have anti-venom available in India. That was still only "Venomous".

After the Zoo it was getting late, so I wanted to get something to eat but had spent all my cash, so we ended up going to a random small traditional Indian restaurant to eat lunch. They served meals on banana leafs, and without silverware so you ate with your hand. None of the wait staff spoke English, so my driver did all of the ordering and as far as I could tell spent most of the time saying the equivalent to 'no spice'.

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Eating with one hand was quite the new experience, and if you have ever watched me fastidiously try to keep my food getting all over, you'd have been shocked to watch me eat off a banana leaf with no silverware. The food was delicious, if a bit difficult to eat. Most difficult was tearing the stuffed naan, and eating the rice and gravy.

The entire wait staff stood behind me and more-or-less stared while I ate my meal, as did the random people who sat down at our four person table halfway through the meal (despite the fact that there were other open tables available). In fact, the guy diagonal to me didn't more-or-less stare, he just stared. That was again awkward, but everyone was at least polite enough not to laugh while I was trying to eat.

The meal was one of the better ones that I ate during my stay, and it was ridiculously cheap. My driver and I ate a huge three course lunch, with two bottles of water and a bottle of Pepsi and the bill came to about 5 or 6 bucks before tip.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving around Bangalore seeing miscellaneous sights like the capital building, trees filled with sleeping bats, the military base, etc. The weekend ended up being just as busy as the normal week, but I did get to see a lot of things and experience authentic Indian dining (which everyone both at work and at home seems to think was just hilarious).


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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Home Sweet Home

IMG_1251On Thursday night I made it back safe & sound from my trip to India. The trip was very good, and much less traumatic then I was expecting. The food was good, the travel was not as bad as I was expecting (though there are limits to how 'good' a 24 hour trip can be), and the overall experience was very positive.

My trip out to Bangalore was about as short as it can be as I got switched to a two leg route through Paris. This ended up resulting in a strange 5 hour layover in Minneapolis since I didn't know my plane would change when I arrived, but it was still better then flying through Atlanta. The end result was that I left the house around 10:30am on Sunday the 7th and got to my hotel in Bangalore around 2am on Tuesday the 9th. I tried not to sleep at all on the flights which worked like a charm for jet lag as I was able to go right to sleep when I finally got to the hotel.

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I spent most of the flight to Paris reading The Name of the Wind, which was very well written. I was disappointed after a strong start when it got horribly mired down in 'magic university' storyline. The trip to Bangalore was spent watching movies (the flight to Paris didn't have personal videos). I watched The International but fell asleep before it was over (and didn't care one bit since it was boring). Then I watched Valkyrie except for a few parts in the beginning that I dozed through. After that it was some Disgea DS and watching some Big Bang Theory episodes that I had ripped to my iPod.

Arriving at the Bangalore airport at midnight isn't quite as strange as you would think. Getting my baggage took forever because, while they have a very normal looking baggage conveyor belt the bags came out at a speed that made me think they had five guys in the back running to and from the place each carrying one bag at a time. As we'll see later, that might not be far from the truth.

My driver was friendly and being 1am by this point, there was no traffic on the roads so the trip to the hotel was relatively quick. That was the only time I saw the roads not crowded, although there were a lot of miscellaneous people walking the shoulders of the road. I assume they were a combination of homeless and people whose schedule's have them working until midnight or after.

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My hotel (The Zuri) was very nice and looked much like a trendy hotel in the US. The rooms had a zebra print theme, which was reminiscent of the hotel I stay at in Boston. The only strange thing about the room was that there was no clock of any sort in the room. No alarm clock, no regular clock, nothing.

One nice thing about the hotel relative to food was that breakfast was included with the room and they offered a nice array of western-style breakfast choices like omelets, fruit, some breads, cold cereal, etc. I even talked them into making me French Toast one day, which was a nice treat. Strangely despite the very good breakfast spread, the one thing that I really missed on the trip was peanut butter. Specifically, peanut butter in the morning on an english muffin or bagel, or even toast. Even though there were lots of very good choices for breakfast, the one thing they didn't have was what I was craving three or four days into the trip.

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The office was very near to the hotel which made for convenient commutes back and forth. The building we work in looked basically exactly like a normal US office building. Outside the gate, of course, it was obvious you were in India, but once you were on the grounds you could have been anywhere.

Everyone I met in the office was really nice, and I was able to get a lot done. Every day was busy, but extremely productive, which made the trip worthwhile. Tuesday-Friday was the usual business trip schedule of Hotel->Work->Dinner->Hotel, and since there was an Italian restaurant in the hotel and the hotel was only 5-10 minutes away (versus 1.5 hours to downtown), we ate at the hotel quite a bit.

During the weekend I did some sight seeing, which will be the subject of a later post.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Seamless

For my trip today, I'm flying on an Air France flight. The portion of my trip going to Atlanta is Air France flight, but operated by Delta, and supposed to be checked-in at Northwest/Delta kiosks.

So I went to the Delta/Northwest counter to check in, and was told to choose "Northwest" for Air France. Except then nothing I entered would find my ticket. I tried Delta against their advice, since that was who was operating the flight and still the reservation code wouldn't pull anything up. Eventually the counter agent tried to help and said that she didn't have a Delta login and so I would have to go across the road and try the Delta counter (as opposed to the Delta/Northwest counter).

So I went over to the end of the terminal where there are eight kiosks manned by Delta agents (I am told). From there, I had to re-prove that the kiosk was still showing 'assistance required' when I scanned my passport under Delta. It turned out that the Atlanta portion of my flight was oversold, so they switched me to a Northwest direct flight to Paris, cutting one whole leg off my trip.

But in order to do that, they had to hand-write a new boarding pass. Which I then had to take back to a Northwest counter to get checked in for the new flight.

In the end, this actually worked out, but it required visiting three different counters (all labeled Delta/Northwest counters). Clearly Delta and Northwest are operating as one seamless company. At least I don't have to go to Georgia for no particular reason.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cavity

Tomorrow morning I have to go in and get a very small cavity filled in one of my teeth. This is notable since it is the first time in probably 10 years or more that I have had a cavity. That span isn't really because I take particularly good care of my teeth, since I don't.

I brush my teeth twice a day every day, but that is about it. I don't floss, ever. For probably the last 13 years I've been going to the dentist only once a year rather then the recommended twice a year. But for whatever reason I've been lucky enough not to get cavities (I've had two in my life, and one was in a tooth as it came in, so hardly my fault).

Still somehow I managed to get a new small cavity, which was the subject of some debate between the hygienist and the dentist as to whether it actually was a cavity since it was really small, and didn't hurt when they jabbed it repeatedly with a poker. The end compromise (between them) was that they'd fill it just to be safe.

Hopefully that means minimal pain and suffering tomorrow morning, but we will see. I don't really hold out much hope of that.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Phone Technology

It is only a matter of time at this point until our landline is gone, the question is just whether we move and don't get one hooked up at the new house or if we cancel it first. The primary subject of debate around here in terms of getting rid of the landline is what to do with the old phones, which are quite nice and conveniently located in each room.

Previously we had talked about getting Ooma, if the price ever comes down. But today I found xlink, who makes a bluetooth router thingy that uses your cell phone(s) to provide a dial-tone to every phone in the house.

The XLink seems like a better solution, since we just don't use many cell phone minutes and most of the minutes we do use are free (because they are nights/weekends or to other customers of similar cell phone companies). I think it would be pretty cool to still be able to use the regular phones without a landline.

The only downside would be needing to turn on bluetooth, which we don't have turned on normally on either phone to save on battery life. Maybe they make another system that will connect with mini USB.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Clif Bars

Tonight I was at Cub picking up a prescription and while I was waiting for it, I decided to do some shopping for food to bring with with to India this weekend as a backup in case I can't handle the normal food. I also happened to be sort of hungry, so the food purchasing might have gotten a little out of control.

The particular downfall, was that they had a more flavors of Clif Bar-type bars then I've ever seen, and once I started picking out a few of each, I couldn't stop. It was only when I got home and emptied out the bag that I realized that grabbing two from each box wasn't necessarily the best plan.

I probably looked like some crazed shopping spree contestant, but at least I won't go hungry.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Reality

You know how sometimes you know that something is going to be the case, but you really think that it might not be? Not that you are purposely deluding yourself, but the little optimistic voice inside says "Oh yeah, but this or this or this might happen, and then it would totally be like you wanted it to be". So despite knowing better, your expectations are secretly higher then they probably should be. So when what you knew was probably going to happen, happens, you're disappointed despite the fact that you knew better.

I hate that.

I'm pretty practical, so it doesn't happen often, but when it does, it sucks.

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