Saturday, August 31, 2002
While perusing MSN headlines today, I read a wild story on a brew of coffee called "crapaccino". At US$300 per pound, the world’s most exotic coffee bean, kopi luwak, is currently retrieved from the droppings of the Indonesian Palm Toddy Cat. I then followed my scatological instincts to discover a historical connection to India. In the mid-1600s, coffee was only grown in Muslim countries (trust me, India is mostly Hindi). An Indian Sufi (Muslim minority) on pilgrimage in Mecca became so jacked on the Arabian jizz that he risked breaking the law (imagine): smuggling live beans out of Mecca was something to lose your head over! The buzzed Baba secreted seven beans back to India, birthplace of Buddha, territory of tea. Over time, coffee was favored in south, central India and here enters a different animal ... the Indian monkey. Perhaps while jonesing for a cup-o-joe, a desparate caffine-head short on beans (and self respect) may have found a few scattered in local primate poo. I can imagine the brewer sighing out: "good shit" or starting an ad campaign: "good to the last dropping".
Later in the 17th century, Portuguese traders took coffee seedlings to Indonesia and started those great colonial estates. The native civet cat, already a fan of fermented palm sap (toddy), apparently sought balance in the "combo" (originally thought to have been invented by my cousin Chuck at Potsdam State in the 70s): alcohol downer is neutralized by caffine upper. That's history as I know it AND Charlie Harris is welcome to use it for a paper at State University Cobleskill.
Friday, August 30, 2002
When I got out of work at 4:30AM today, the office Admin had done some beer shopping for me. And it was cold!
On any given day, I could be awakened by the ironworkers in front of our complex. For little guys (not exactly AFL-CIO), they swing mean steel. They cut rebar by first notching it, then bending until it stress fractures.
On a quieter note, I found this 2-Tamil-powered lawnmower outside my flat. In this labor intensive market, the grass & gardens around here are beautiful (nary a weed). The guy on the left is using a kitchen knife while the other has hand shears. They're cutting it much shorter than the "Wilcox rule" (special tape measure carried with your mower) considering the blazing sun & 35C. temperatures everyday. Someone then translated that the short cut was in preparation of the coming monsoon (?) which would make further mowing difficult.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
Work & sleep, work & sleep. After being back 3 weeks from the U.S. and stuck in this rut, I was awakened on Sunday morning by a cement pump operating 30 meters from my window. I rationalized that this was a first chance for a haircut & some food shopping. Regretfully, I wasn't able to pick up any Kingfisher beer, "The King of Good Times".
Today, some stranger speaking in Tamil knocked on my door as I was trying to leave for work & presented me with an electric bill for Rs. 3100 (US$62). This is 9X the average of any previous periodic bill. More to come.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
The Wilcox's are on the move, once again into the doghouse of raising puppies for Upstate Guide Dog. The yellow lab of the past year, Oakley, left on Sunday. The new bitches (yes, 2) have arrived and "are so cute". The Wilcox family is taking care of the second one until Monday. Theirs is named Skye; the other is Shyanne.
Monday, August 26, 2002
From today's "India Times": Kozhikode, a city in the state of Kerala (SW coast of India) reports that several doctors, as middlepersons, are being investigated for human kidney trade. A speculator was offered Rupees 1 lakh (US$2000), but only received Rs. 65,000 (US$1300) which buys a nice scooter. Compare this to US$ 1 million for 2 fingers. I wonder if they have to be from the same hand?
Saturday, August 24, 2002
Attn: Mr. Webb
Re: My submission into the Battle Royale
My birthday, at work, was probably one of my worst ever. I got so much dumped on me, I needed a "honey dipper"...you know, a "honey wagon". That reminds me of a business slogan I used to see for A-1 Septic Pumping in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands when I lived there in the 90's:
"We're #1 in a #2 business"
Thursday, August 22, 2002
I should have paid more attention to Elvis' 25th memorial anniversary & reversed the numbers. I celebrated with a beer at 3AM when I got home.
Monday, August 19, 2002
Ganesh, one of our Team Managers recently got married to Priya, a med student, & the pix below are representative of an Indian reception. The air-conditioned hall held several thousand guests, a receiving line & a table of gift bags for everyone departing. On the way to the dining room was ice cream service (I enjoyed mango flavor) & a display of vegetable carvings. Dinner, as usual, was served on a banana leaf by a roving troop of caterers.
Sunday, August 18, 2002
I'm surprised I didn't hear from the troops (or unlike Jimi Hendrix, they're just not Experienced): my spelling below should have been Xanax
Thursday, August 15, 2002
The envelope, please...and the answers from the pix just below are:
Myself and eight others (including Lurch) dreaded being stuck in the Heineken Tour elevator for 20 minutes. There was NO effective or comforting communication over the emergency phone & the car lurched to safety about 5 cm. at a time. Shortness of breath was setting in when they pried the doors open. For our trouble, they offered us an extra Tour beer. I suggested we didn't need alcohol, rather, anxiety consuling with Xanex. I harassed them at the end of the Tour for extra beer glasses (they normally give you one for the 7.50Euro price of the Tour).
And lastly: Cesar Zuiderwijck from the band Golden Earring with the hit "Radar Love" (now you'll embarass your kids by humming the tune for the rest of the day).
Anyone remember the World Wrestling Federation tag team called The Samoans?
Foreshadowing (my mom the English teacher learned me good & this literary style works when I have a few minutes waiting for my driver): the Heineken Tour's most dreaded moment & Amsterdam's most famous drummer with a hit Love song.
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
In Amsterdam, Barneys Coffeeshop claims the best breakfast and I wasn't disappointed. After getting off on a great start to my morning, I strolled along one of the many canals in "Europe's Venice". As it started to drizzle, I ducked under a little food stand selling various fish sandwiches. Leave it up to the Dutch to fashion an Egg McSardine. These folks were also creative with smoked whitefish and as many faithful readers know: I'm a fan.
Hearing some music & shouting, I made a short dash between the rain drops to a dry spot below a small canal bridge. Not one, not two, but three party boats had taken shelter and the festivities didn't slow. I look forward to the day when State-side friends agree to getting in costume, chartering a boat, cruising thru the middle of a city & sharing our fun with all we pass.
Monday, August 12, 2002
This morning's "Indian Express" newspaper quoted a "pollution cloud over South Asia" (someone should take a look at the Adyar River here in Chennai, India). The story went on to note 27,000 consequent & premature deaths per year in the early 90s. That figure increased to 36,000 by the mid-90s. Tonight's BBC jacks the current number to one million early, pollution related deaths per year. I guess this all goes in hand with the gazillion 2-stroke motor vehicles & the burning trash piles. Bus billboards warn that "PVC is the poison plastic", yet I see it strewn eveywhere & my contribution is to refuse grocery store bags claiming to "hug the plastic trees". And if they put a little beef on the menu around here, they could reduce the methane contributing to the greenhouse effect.
Sunday, August 11, 2002
From my hotel in Amsterdam, I was steered to the walkable Cafe Loetje!
On my first visit, I had a great filet mignon cooked in butter. I was also introduced to french fies with peanut butter dipping sauce (mayonaise was standard). Imagine the nutty spread thinned a bit with au jus, spiced with some chiles...just my guess at their secret recipe. While eating the tenderloin, I spied someone's calves liver smothered in onions & bacon (who can blame me for returning the next night?). I must add that in addition to local Heineken, there were Belgium brews on tap: a lemony while ale & a heavier red.
Friday, August 09, 2002
Of my 3 weeks in the U.S., I spent most of my 2nd week at the ever-peaceful family cottage, Dunn's Pt., Ogdensburg, NY, overlooking the St. Lawrence River and Canada. It was cool & windy, keeping the skeeters away & sleeping comfortable. House repairs were minimal this trip. Mom's dinners were like memories of days gone past & even tho the local sweet corn was rumored to suffer from a drought, I succeeded in finding the Best of Summer. What else does one do at a cottage? Well, I was introduced to TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond" ;^)
Thursday, August 08, 2002
I spent part of my recent holiday with good friends in Rochester, NY & as usual, we hung at CasaLally trying not to burn ourselves on the grill or drown in the newly installed pool. I dedicate this pic to the PoolBoy as he will soon get a job & resume his role as the Bodhi in some worthy employment...
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
And from Mumbai's daily, "The Indian Express", comes a heartworming tail...
the newspaper pic of a man & his dog was captioned with "Swami Narayan leaves the SPCA with Sai, to return to the Panvel ashram". I suspected it was a typical rescue story about the samaritan until I read further & discovered the focus was on the pooch. Sai, a seven-year-old Spitz, is considered the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi. Canine Sai lives at the temple with the Swami, "an extremely well-read, suave, English speaking saffron-robed spiritual guru". In preparation of discharge from the SPCA, the Swami & his ashram co-habitants organized a celebration that left staff "misty-eyed & speechless". "An auspicious time was found from the Panchank (calendar) for the dog's departure, an elaborate aarti was performed & a vermillion tikka (long bindi) was applied to the creature's forehead. He was draped in a warm shawl, carried from the hospital as music was belted out by a special uniformed band hired for the occasion. Dog & Swami were driven away in a top-open, chauffeur-driven car of foreign make. Free biscuits & pedhas (sweets) were distributed to all other animals at the SPCA (which also received a substantial financial donation). While at the SPCA, the Spitz was kept in a special unit manned round-the-clock by 2 servaks & 2 sevikas. At the ashram, none other than its four attendants & the Swami are allowed to touch the dog. No one disturbs the dog other than presenting it to the public once a day: it sits on a special aasan (seat) & gives darshan (blessing). People pay obeisance from afar. Sai is draped in red with zari embroidery & sometimes lifts its paw in blessing. Living quarters for the four-legged one are air-conditioned, deodorized, and include a very soft bed. Its food, cut-glass crockery, bathing soap, shampoo, & talc are all imported. The dog performs puja (prayer) at the Sai Baba temple & is taken out in a special palanquin (procession) twice weekly where devotees take the dog's darshan & offer it puja".
So, the next time you're thinking about flipping a quarter to the Hari Krishnas...
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Thanks to all for the good times during my 3 week visit in the USA. There was lots of meet & meat :^) You "showed me the love" & there was the bonus of not one, but two baseball games, NaviCaching & WheresGeorgeing.
After 5 years in the company & heading up our India HelpDesk, travel arrangements remain extremely dicey (28 hours in Economy to San Diego). I'll thank myself for breaking up the return flight with 2 days in Amsterdam, another notch in the pistol grip of life. I eventually found my own hotel on the 'Net and I happened to catch plane ticket errors as I departed Rochester, getting them corrected when I landed in Europe.