Saturday, May 31, 2003
The lending library in KP Puram, Chennai, India, has a new addition (edition?)...
I finished Scott Turow's Reversible Errors and found it to be a good lawyer-type read, a legal thriller with characters of depth. Here in India, lawyers appear to be called Advocates. Do Indians perceive Advovates as having character, let alone depth? Or do Indians make Advocate jokes like Americans make lawyer jokes? At this point, I must tell my brother, a lawyer in Portland, Oregon: "I still love ya, man" ;^)
Friday, May 30, 2003
On the left, in the dynamic BlogRoll, please put your hands together for ...
Jivha's Cogito, ergo doleo! (I think, therefore I suffer!). And I think he is suffering. He might be crying out. Let the healing begin with your first read ;^)
Brewing malt into can of debt
The above story in today's paper caught my eye since I'm somewhat of an expert on beer. While the story is about age-old financial corruption & deceit within Rajasthan Breweries Ltd., I saw another angle. In fact, I could have saved everyone a lot of time & trouble. The news story had also mentioned a collaboration between RBL & Stroh’s Brewing Co Inc, USA. Bingo! Warning lights should be flashing!! Stroh's, for my tastes, ranks near the bottom of American brews. If my impeccable taste is not enough, I'm pretty sure that I've NEVER known anyone to drink Stroh's. I've NEVER been in a bar or restaurant where Stroh's was served. Hell, I don't think I've seen Stroh's in any store other than one in the southern-most U.S. state of Florida. India! Wake up!! Florida is not your demographic: how much good-old-boys brew is sold to the beautiful people sipping Cosmopolitans or senior citizens with limited bladders. Yes, I could have saved a lot of Indian investors. I'm currently available for brewery market research (and sampling) in the North of India, but not during the Winter. I want to see Rajasthan barley fields waving in the late Summer breeze ;^)
Thursday, May 29, 2003
I just figured it out: I'm exercising everyday for almost an hour...
Riding a large Bullet motorcycle thru the lawless maze called Chennai, India, is exercise. When I get off the bike, I've had a workout. I've got a light sweat & a damp shirt going. After a ride, I'm really thirsty, ready for some cold Mazza (mango juice licensed by Coca Cola). And several cups of water. Should I be concerned that my right leg will over-develop from the kickstarting? Honestly, the left leg gets developed doing a tapdance on the rear brake ;^)
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
41°C/106°F before Noon with 33% RH (as Jim Carey would say: Smokin')
Background detail on the traffic cop's Spot Fine in Chennai...
My memory was good, it dated back to the Hindu on 18 April 2003. Here's a snippet:
"...constables and head constables cannot stop any vehicle in a routine manner for checking documents. They may, however, stop a vehicle in case it is suspected to be involved in any crime. Even if they stop the vehicle, they cannot collect spot fine. They can only detain the vehicle till a sub-inspector reaches the spot."
Now this foreigner just needs to figure out the difference between constables & sub-inspectors ;^)
It appears a sub-inspector may spot fine:
"...All sub-inspectors have also been instructed to carry a laminated card indicating the fine amount for various offences and show the same to the motorists at the time of charging them for any violation. The maximum fine amount of Rs.1,000 is levied for driving an uninsured vehicle or for driving dangerously. The towing charges for a heavy vehicle is Rs.500, light vehicle Rs.250 and for two-wheelers Rs.100. The minimum spot fine amount is Rs.50."
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
My first-hand experiences with Chennai police...
#1: I got stopped for an "illegal turn" & the cop demanded a Rs. 500 spot fine. I told him that I lived in the neighborhood & there was no sign denying the turn. He thought for a second & changed the charge to "wrong color license plate". I explained to him that the dealership recently registered the bike & that's the color of the plate as delivered. I then asked him for his name, badge number & supervisor's name to be on a receipt. A paniced look crossed his face as he retracted & said "Sorry, no problems". As I started my bike & put on my helmet, he looked pitiful as he said "Saar, I gave no fine". I gave him the customary Rs. 50. If only he hadn't played the foreigner game for Rs. 500 in the first place. BTW, I read in the paper that spot fines are no longer sanctioned by the authorities.
#2: After a business function, I was leaving Basera restaurant on East Coast Road around Midnight last Wednesday. A cop was pulling in to get his water bottle refilled & we chatted, giving him my business card when he asked for it. After making it freely thru the usual roadblock south of the Adyar Bridge, I arrived home about 1AM. My mobile rang & it was the cop asking if I got home safely. He's called three times since then, as recently as last night when he invited me to his native (hometown). Do I have a friend for life?
Monday, May 26, 2003
Mangoes everywhere (and at rock bottom prices)...
Thanks to co-worker Roger, I've got
Raspuri, the size of a large fist, a mottled yellow & green, very fragrant.
Alphonso, aka Badam, smaller, golden, often exported for Rs. 50-60 (US$1-1.20) per kg, now Rs. 10-15.
Sendra, smaller yet with a persimmon russet, supposedly fibrous.
Ummmmm, fruit, regular ;^)
Sunday, May 25, 2003
Humidity has been rising: 55-70%, along with today's 40°C/104°F temp
That moisture content results in a "feels like" temp that is usually higher by 6°C/11°F. Drink lots of water & consider salt tablets. The salt provides valuable electrolytes & in these modern times, many sports drinks also fit that need, e.g. GatorAde. Not that I'm advocating, but I have always believed that beer is an electrolyte along with its natural B vitamins from brewer's yeast ;^)
Chevrolet is coming to India with the slogan "I AM Chevrolet". "I AM India."
Some might say "... I AM U.S.A.", but other than for a glitzy splash on TV, let's look at the rollout plans. General Motors India's existing network of 42 Opel dealerships will be converted into dual-brand - Opel-cum-Chevrolet dealerships. [BTW, India loves that word "cum", one that I originally learned in Latin class to mean "with". Here in India, it can be used as "I'm a small, independent business person and I live in my office cum bedroom" or "To draw my bindis, I need to purchase some facial cosmetics cum cum cum".] Back to the subject of Chevys, don't expect to see the trademark Corvette, SS (Super Sport) or Blazer widely distributed here in India. GMI will instead introduce partner products: the Isuzu Panther at Rs. 5-8 lakh (US$10,000-16,000) & the Subaru Forester at Rs. 18-20 lakh (US$36,000-40,000). The Opel will remain their premium line. Later in the year, expect to see another partner import from Daewoo: either the small car Matiz or the top-end mid-size Lacetti. All this sounds like a pretty global Chevrolet to me ;^)
Saturday, May 24, 2003
Cooled down today: 36°C/97°F, otherwise, boring...
Got laundry, ironing, sweeping & mopping done. Tried to organize a cocktail for one of the Bullet riders moving out of town, but few of the club showed. Ragu has come over to watch cricket: Australia at West Indies.
Happy B-day to brother Andy in Boston. I think he plans to spend the afternoon at Fenway Park where it really doesn't matter who wins. It's a day in the sun with ball park franks & beer. And maybe some Legal's chowder. Can't forget an italian sausage before the game at the Cask & Flagon. Have I left anything out?
Friday, May 23, 2003
Chennai recorded 2nd highest temp of the last two centuries: 44.5°C/112°F
My "Current Books" list is anything but...
The Janson Directive and Bringing Down the House are long finished. The first was a fast-reading, super hero, suspense aimed at those times that you're not looking for the depth (and breadth) of pseudo-intellectual tomes. The hardcover, First Edition, is cheap at Chennai's Landmark bookstore. I liked it, as I did the other recent read. Geeking the casinos (card counting) strikes a rogue cord in me, a tempting lure. It was almost fun to learn of the M.I.T. geniuses putting a dent in Vegas, Atlantic City, Bahamas, riverboats, etc. On the other hand, I'm contrary to pissing off Neanderthal mobsters. No thanks, and besides, it takes a bankroll to make a fortune. I don't have a bankroll, I have the makings of a retirement.
While in Florida & Amsterdam, I finished Jeffery Deaver's The Blue Nowhere. You may remember Deaver as the crafter of The Bone Collector which made it to the cinema starring Denzil Washington. The author's current novel is a fine suspense melding a beginner's dictionary of PC terms with the darkness of a MUD (Multi User Dungeon). Thumbs Up (also the name of an Indian soft drink/soda).
I'm halfway thru Reversible Errors by Scott Turow. Lawyers, cops, victims all. Every character has a story to tell & I'm tempted to say the storyline is magneticly predictable, but then, I have another 170 pages ;^)
Rajnikant, nee Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, onetime Bangalore bus conductor, South Indian actor, super hero, matinee idol, defender of politcal rights to Cauvery River water...
After my friend Harsh & I watched one of Rajni's movies, Harsh sent additional examples of the thesbian's greatness: In a movie, Rajnikant suffers from a brain tumour which, according to the doctors can't be cured and his death is imminent. Then, in one of the fights, our great Rajnikant is shot in the head. The bullet passes thru his head taking away the tumour along with it and he is cured.
WoW, hard to believe, but there's more: In another movie, Rajnikant is confronted with 2 gangsters. Rajnikant has a gun but unfortunately only one bullet. He holds a knife in his hand and shoots the bullet towards the knife. The knife cuts the bullet in 2 pieces and kills both the gangsters.
I'm breathless, but hold on for this snippet: Rajnikant is chased by a gangster. He has a gun, but no bullets. He waits for the gangster to shoot. As soon as the gangster shoots, Rajnikant opens the bullet compartment of his gun and catches the bullet. Then, he closes the bullet compartment and fires his gun. Bang!... the gangster dies!
Thursday, May 22, 2003
It's cooled down by a degree here in Chennai, India...
so here are more cool reminders of the Springtime gardens in Keukenhof, Nederlands. The lines & perspective at the courtyard were pretty amazing. The maze made of tall hedges was tricky enough that there were people (mostly kids) trying to force their way directly thru the dense brush.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
42°C/108°F under 32% humidity at 1:10PM GMT+5.5
If you noticed yesterday's missing post, I've been hiding in shame...
I ruined an entire roll of recently shot pix (30 from Yercaud & 6 from Koni Falls). It all happened within 60 seconds of mental lapse, there wasn't even time to call anyone else for assistance. Basically: my digicam is on the fritz & I borrowed a friend's standard 35mm where I quickly forgot how to unload real film. Does that make me a victim of technology, do I have a lawsuit? Or is it all me, early senility? For spiritual readers finding meaning in hidden signs, I would probably counter with my interpretation of repairing my digicam and/or taking another bike trip ;^)
Due to the temporary shortage of pix, I will revert to a few from last month's visit to the Nederland's Keukenhof gardens. If you grow any fruit trees, consider espalier which looks cool & saves production space.
Monday, May 19, 2003
Sunday's ride to Koni Falls (or is it Kona?)...
We met early (7:45AM) to beat the heat, but as you can see on the Madras Weather Channel display to your lower left, it can be 34°C/93°F at that time. tho 38% humidity makes the heat a little more bearable. Koni Falls is about 90km to the North, just across the border into the state of Andhra Pradesh where the roads are better than our state of Tamil Nadu. I took some great photos along the way including water buffalo & brightly clad women working the rice paddies. When we arrived at the falls, there was an admissions fee and a parking fee (tho the vehicles were not protected from thieves). There were many people cooking roadside food, others offering their services as guides or masseurs. And let's not forget the ever-present beggers. The falls were pretty disappointing: they ran at a trickle & appeared polluted (people bathe with soap in the pools above the falls). Plastic & glass liquor bottles were strewn everywhere. We saw everything there was to see in about 10 minutes & proceeded to trust our intestinal tracts to the vendors. Dosas (pancakes) are a safe bet & tasted pretty good with the firey tomato-chile chutney. Did I mention we were drinking a lot of bottled water in the heat? On the way back, we were overtaken by the temperature & had to stop for a malted beverage with Vitamin B & balanced electrolytes.
Several riders commented that Koni Falls had seriously declined in appearance since their last visit. Consequently, I'd like to share a saying from U.S. hiking & camping: "carry in, carry out". This applies to anything from water bottles to cigarette butts. Here in India, I've noticed a huge disregard for the environment, even amongst educated co-workers. My second campaign beyond lane discipline has been reducing pollution. At home, when I carry out my garbage, I also pick up roadside trash during my 50 meter walk to the street bin. Along the way, I usually stop at the roadside chaiwallah (tea vendor) to pick up discarded plasic cups from around his wagon. I get lots of looks and simply respond: "Make India beautiful". With over a billion population participating, India could be clean in a month.
Saturday, May 17, 2003
What? You weren't watching "Good Morning Chennai" at 8:45-9AM today?
You missed me talking with two charming young ladies about acclimating into India: eating the food, drinking the water, riding the roads, shopping, cooking, Blogging, etc. I wanted to do some cross-cultural exchanges, but no phone numbers were shared. When questioned on my view of Indian politics, I thought that the "many"-party system was probably better than the U.S. two-party dominance. I was also asked about the India-Pakistan conflict which I guessed no different than Israel-Palistine, China-Taiwan, Iraq-Iran, etc. I also expressed amazement that India & Pakistan could trade artillery barrages over the Siachin Glacier in remote Kashmir to the amount of US$2MILLION daily. Damn, at 7000 meters, that air is so thin, the projectiles won't even fly straight ;^(
Friday, May 16, 2003
Inquiring mind wants to know (giving BlogVote a test drive)...
Thursday, May 15, 2003
If I could be granted ONE wish (not that I see a fairy godmother standing around)...
it might be for lane discipline (obeying the lane markings & roadway signals) here in India.
1. It would save lives & property damage (mine in particular)
2. It would relieve congestion
2A. which reduces travel time
2B. and reduces pollution
2C. which together result in healthier leisure time
2D. leading to greater productivity, wealth & awareness
2E. where the multi-faceted net gain could be channeled to inexpensive fuel cell vehicles perpetuating this chain of events ;^)
And then there's Anita Bora's (and my grandfather's) pet peeve posted 15 May 2003.
Brand new on the BlogRoll to your left...
Please put down your shovels for a minute & give a warm read to Waves, Hello, and SomatoSense.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Jackfruit & Nungu...
Along the country roads here in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, young boys sell the bounty of Summer. OK, they're urchins keying on a roadway speedbreaker (bump) or railroad crossing to ply the slightly slower traffic. They're merciless with their endearing attempts at English: "Here, saar, good sweet". From the pits of their poverty-ridden souls, they reach out with pitiful eyes & matchstick arms. But they're also highly entertained that I, the velakaraan (white boy), ride India's big bike, the thumper. The children are good at capturing a crowd & in the safety of numbers, there's little price negotiation. I also suspect it's a matter of selling that morning's harvest, not wanting to carry home day-old fruit. The jackfruit is served as the raw bulbs about the size of a large thumb. While I didn't see the cleaning of the spiny, watermelon-sized fruit, I'm told one must coat their hands with oil to prevent them turning black. That bulb has a slight, creamy sweetness to it. Amazingly, the bulb's large seed is saved for later, supposedly to be boiled & eaten. [I'm amazed because in India, waste plastic is strewn everywhere, yet jackfruit is utilized to its fullest.] I still haven't figured out nungu tho I think its the embryo seedpod of some coconut palm. The salesboys wrap a palm leave such that it's shaped like an ear of corn & inside are 3 or 4 of these gelatinous masses. There wasn't any taste, let alone sweetness. While I could try jackfruit again, especially if someone gave me just a few pieces; I'm in no rush to consume some clear, bland nungu jelly. With a distracting fanfare, I would like to reiterate that after 15 months, I'm continually impressed with India's wide selection of bananas.
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Yercaud, a hill station ('cus 1500m/4500ft is only a hill in India)...
Coffee is planted on lightly-forested mountain hillsides where it seems to like the muted light on its crinkly green leaves. The operation reminds me a lot of grapes in that the plant is systematically spaced & pruned to shoulder height with little access trails cut thru out the plantation for bullock carts & modern rarities like tractors. The calyx of caffine flowers in April when there is a small amount of rain. Currently, most of the small, white flowers have dropped off & coffee bean embryos are forming in clusters. Birds, rodents & the ubiquitous cows don't seem to bother the crop. There's no particular fragrance at this time, just quiet forests & coffee plots mixed with the pleasant chatter of birds, monkeys & the soft thump of a single stroke Bullet. Yercaud itself is pretty remote by Indian standards, but still populated with 10-20,000 dependent on tourism (the coffee is hardly a drop in the world's cup). There are many hotels, lodges, hostels, rooms, etc. Anything for a price. We were even told beforehand that if we found the caretaker of an estate where the owner was away, a small baksheesh (bribe) could house us in relative luxury. We stayed at Hotel Shevaroys which may be one of the more comprehensively packaged accomodations in Yercaud, but I must add that its quality appears to have aged poorly in its 30+ years. The first two levels of rooms were sold out & the first "Dahlia Suite" shown to us had a broken window & peeling furniture. We took a neighboring Suite that was slightly better regardless of the hot water geyser dripping from above the toilet & several cockroaches. I also discovered the world's hardest pillows (confirmed by my Indian co-traveler) which may have been stuffed with a combination of fiber & sand. They made for great punching bags, but I had them switched out after we visited a masseur for our road weary bodies. Did I mention that this hotel doubles as a College of Hotel Management? That institute had an Audio Visual Center directly outside our balcony where remodeling (hammering) started loudly at 7:30AM Saturday morning. Back to Yercaud: the center of town is an artificial lake of several acres with paddle boats & the shoreline has well kept gardens. Swimming did not appear to be an option. The lake is surrounded by a hundred stalls & touts, selling anything from balloons to hand-cranked cotton candy and pepper-drenched pineapple slices. We rode our Bullets to surrounding vistas, but that's another post, along with another roll of film that needs developing to CD.
Monday, May 12, 2003
And I did get back on Sunday afternoon, but tried to check in with loved ones first...
Then I set my alarm to nap for an hour & the next thing I knew was dawn ;^)
On the ride to Yercaud (below), I learned more about Indian roads, National highways, in particular. Choosing to ride may be suicidal, but oncoming bus drivers are homicidal. I lost count of the times I had to drive off the road thru potholes, ruts & sand. If you've ridden, you know sand & loose gravel are not your friends. My bike ran perfectly, handled nicely, & emerged unscathed without a bent tire rim or frame. The ride was hot, but frequent stops at dhabbas (roadside joints) quenched our thirst. The final 35km up the mountains was slower paced & cooler. I really enjoyed the many switchbacks & s-curves. There were skittish monkeys on cliff-side walls, lots of green forest & coffee. The smell & sound were so different from months in the city. Pix & more about our destination follow a little more sleep.
Thursday, May 08, 2003
Off on a ride to Yercaud, back Sunday...
It's a hill station 33km N of Salem which is about 300km SW from Chennai. It'll be cooler at 1500m in the coffee-growing elevations. Yes, I'm wearing a helmet, heavy shoes, & my riding gloves.
Warm weather footwear
Here in India, the shoe of choice is either sandal or none. In the Nederlands, perhaps the cooler (and wetter) clime calls for the wooden shoes below. While they don't look very comfortable, the carver & his family were in costume. I wonder how they felt after a full day of work?
What better place for eternal frolicking than a flowering park?
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Dutch Rock & Roll (well, not exactly)
The street organ is very popular in the Nederlands while another variety is found in the red light district. The symphony is driven by a fan-folded book of punch cards worming their way thru a reader. In the old days, this would have been mechanical in nature (steam); today, it's electric. Here's a link to a nice pic of additional street organs (PG-13 rated).
On the backside, lower right, we see the books containing the score & to the right of the gentleman's face is the brass reader. And what's with the guy's frown? Did I invade his privacy? Has he been undercover since WWII?
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Agni Nakshatram (Fire Star), the hottest time of the year...
Astrology is big in India & it is calculated that some star passes thru some part of the heavens, signifying the arrival of Summer heat. It is calculated to the point of declaring that 11:30PM, 04 May, was the beginning of this year's 14 day period here in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Monday, May 05, 2003
Quoted in India's Economic Times
Thoughts on Blogging by myself & others.
Kyle Williams, 14, home-schooled, and BlogRolled at the left...
very insightful commentaries, weekly on WorldNetDaily. Thanks to Vinny for the tip at Insignificant Thoughts.
Sunday, May 04, 2003
Weekend trip to the Nederlands
Don Quixote was missing, the colors & fragrance were not.
Saturday, May 03, 2003
Predictable May (and June)...
at 1PM this afternoon, it was 38°C/100°F
Friday, May 02, 2003
BlogShares.com (linked on the left) has finished beta & gone live...
Kudos to Seyed & contributors who have developed a realistic & addictive Web experience for those of us who can't afford financial markets like Wall Street. I love success stories like this one where the author suddenly has a new full-time job. For that matter, this particular BlogSphere has now spawned the Blog Street Journal, great reading for savvy traders. BTW, in the beta, I parlayed a would-be US$1000 & my UD$0.03 stock into US$55,000 & US$7.51 stock (ranked 135th out of 5000+).
Thursday, May 01, 2003
And for you Socialist-types...
Happy May Day! Here in India, it's a National Holiday, but remember, I'm in the Call Center/Help Desk biz & our U.S. customers are not on holiday. Our Teams have come to understand our demanding schedules & I rewarded our newest group with pizza during an extended lunch hour. While I was in Florida last week, I also had some great magnetic nameplates made to improve their self-image of their Americanized names.