Monday, June 30, 2003
Is it just me...
or has Adobe Acrobat Reader (v.6) embedded into my Internet Explorer (v.6) become the slowest plug-in ever? I'm to the point of NOT opening search results that are PDFs.
The Lending Library in RA Puram, Chennai, India (my flat) has a new addition...
Vertical Run, Joseph R. Garber's 1995 thriller was later made into the 1998 movie starring Harrison Ford. The story pits a middle-aged corporate executive against everyone in his office suddenly trying to kill him. That list of assassins eventually includes his wife & a team of covert operatives. They seriously underestimate the latent survivalist skills of the one time Vietnam vet. The mayhem moves stealthfully from floor to floor in a fifty story office building (hence "vertical") where our MacGyver-esque protagonist can do wonders with computer cable, letter openers & cleaning ammonia. Thumbs up on a quick read with an interesting finale. Or rent the video ;^)
Saturday, June 28, 2003
A group of Royal Enfield Bullet riders from the Madras Bulls are heading to sea-side Chunnambar in 6 hours...
and for the first time since last December, I'm hearing thunder. Looking out the balcony, I see a damp courtyard, implying it has sprinkled for the 2nd time since Friday night. No worries, I'll bring my rainsuit. I've also remembered to bring a NaviCache for hiding.
The paint & chrome job finished nicely. All the rust is gone: the engine cleaned up, the crankcase & hubs are polished. The exhaust, wheels & spokes have a mirror finish. Sweet ;^)
Friday, June 27, 2003
In case you didn't know, today is the first day of the rest of my life...
Peppery pongal with good chutney for breakfast as the sun rose, still softly, over eastern India's Bay of Bengal. On the ride home, a grinning chaiwallah (tea vendor) lured my thumping Bullet off the road. Tea-man will lose my biz if he keeps giving me a non-recycleable plastic cup while everyone else gets glass. The rest of the ride had the usual excitement of a 6AM bus running a red light intersection AND turning right from the left lane (with myself & another biker stopped in the right lane). That Indian rider next to me rationalized: "it was a government bus". There was no time for explanation as his Pulsar 150 tore from the line as the signal changed. In a few hours, I should check if the paint & chrome job will be finished on my bike today? I also need to call the Tourist Board in Pondicherry (ex-French Union Territory 150km to the south). I'd like to spend tonight in a sea-side treehouse (3 available). The rest of my life sure seems busy ;^)
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Consider accessorizing those saris & salwar kameez...
with stilettos. No, I'm not talking deadly daggers (other than a shiv to many male hearts). I was amazed to learn that the nature of these high heels is timeless: 16th century Italian nobel Catherine de Medici wore them at her wedding to give a more mature appearance. I was further intrigued to learn that these shoes do different things for different age groups (including body enhancement). And you thought I could only make reference to panties & lungis ;^)
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
It's official: India moves ahead, Pakistan falters...
Last week, India took delivery of world-class naval frigates from Russia. India Deputy PM Advani reiterated that Pakistan should not take delivery of F-16 jets from the U.S. Today, U.S. President Bush informed visiting Pakistan President Musharraf that no U.S. F-16s will be part of any aid package to Pakistan. Authors note: Bush, a conservative Republican, continues the 1998 policy established by then U.S. President Bill Clinton, a liberal Democrat. This U.S. bi-partisanism suggests a long, dry spell for Pakistan while India continues to take Russian MIG jets. What happens to a warrior when he's down & wounded? Is this the beginning of the end?
This week, India PM Vajpayee is in China cementing improved border relations & trade agreements. A joint statement was issued: "...The world is marked by diversity. Every country has the right to choose its political system and path to development."
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Why do motorcyclists go helmet-less in India?
Myself & several other Madras Bulls (Royal Enfield Bullet riders) are about to start a campaign. I hear all kinds of lame-o rhetoric:
1) It's too hot to wear a helmet (wimps)
2) A helmet messes up one's hair (primps)
3) The law doesn't require a helmet (ignorimps)
4) I'm tough & don't need a helmet (Rajnikimps)
I want to start with our immediate workplace: company & employee could reach an agreement of "Protecting Our Mutual Investment". I hope our company would pay 50% of helmet costs (Rs. 300-500) to employees who comply. Would an honor system work or would recipients check into their shift with helmet? Comments are expected via "Gimme Some Dirt" ;^)
Monday, June 23, 2003
BPO, Business Process Outsourcing, as it pertains to Americans losing their jobs...
Insight from India at this link with background quotes that may not endear my fellow Americans. When the U.S. is ready for real Nationalism, I may change my mind.
Sunday, June 22, 2003
I joined Siva for dinner Saturday night at Basera restaurant on East Coast Road...
The eatery has a sign out front advertising "Bar-B-Q" and one doesn't see that often in Chennai, India. Siva is a regular & recommended the steak. I asked for the Pepper Steak and the first clue came when they didn't ask how I wanted it cooked, i.e. rare, medium, well. It arrived well cooked, but still quite grizzly. It was close enough to beef or buffalo that I finished it regardless. It reminded me of the only other steak I've had at Duchess restaurant on TTK Rd. I'm open for suggestions (and company) on future steak excursions ;^)
Friday, June 20, 2003
I've flipped my work schedule again (5PM-4AM) & everything (including this Blog) is going to Hell...
I thought about riding to work at 6 or 7PM, but that's Chennai's most homicidal traffic time. I might have some cereal before I go to work, but I sure don't want to eat at 5AM. My fridge is full of untouched eggs & beer. I might get to bed at 6 or 7AM, but I need 8 hours sleep & then it's time for work again. I wonder if I'll have to go pick up my Bullet from the repair shop on Saturday morning? Oh yeah, it's already Saturday morning ;^(
What should have been Thursday's Blog...
The Hindu, India's national newspaper, had interesting if not contrasting stories on the same page. It reminded me of the old expression: "talking out of both sides of ones mouth". One article expressed India's continuing concern over the remote possibility of the U.S. selling F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Please note that the U.S. has not done so in quite a while, in fact, not since before the Clinton (remember him?) Administration. Slick Willy nixed the sale & refunded Pakistan's money. The second article was about the Indian Navy taking delivery of the first of three Stealth frigates from Russia. The high tech assult ship is said to be superior to any other in its class, armed with weapons not in the Russian inventory, outclassing the Chinese & Pakistani warships.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
India PM Vajpayee sounds a little like Arnold Schwarzenegger (political hopeful)...
but before sensitive readers get their panties or lungis (male skirts) all bunched up, I'm saying I admire the PM's recent comments on cross border terrorism: "...Pakistan was defeated thrice in wars and was now preparing for a fourth defeat". Vajpayee is standing tall, flexing, & being direct. He could easily summarize with a deep & guttural "No problemo...We'll be back...Hasta la vista, baby".
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
A new edition to the RA Puram Lending Library (my flat)...
Jon Land's A Walk in the Darkness is now on the shelf after a brisk read. It was a cop thriller pitting the Jews vs. the Palestinians vs. the Catholics. There were some interesting historical references to Jesus' crucifixion/resurrection & the Pope's Swiss Guard. One of the devisive wedges in the novel was water, a problem facing most of India.
In the "Why didn't someone think of this earlier?" department...
Gersh Kunzman's article on fat tax makes a lot of sense. Cigarettes are taxed to partially fund the associated health care & litigation, so why shouldn't junk food fall onto a similar scale? Especially when you consider that annual obesity costs weigh in at US$117 billion compared to tobacco's $75 billion. Staunch civil libertarians & cookie monsters won't like the impingement on personal freedom, but the proposal supports the political foundation of "taxation with representation": 61-80% of Americans are medically evaluated as obese. The big picture is beyond the tip of today's iceberg as children represent the fastest growing group of fatties. We're in real trouble 30 years from now.
What's the implication for India? Have you noticed how many are smoking the inexpensive cigarettes at Rs.56/US$1.19 per pack? Are Indians pre-disposed to hypertension & diabetes? Do you see candy wrappers & snack bags littered everywhere? And are the child Ganeshas looking more & more like their elephantine namesake? Knock, knock: wake-up call ;^)
Monday, June 16, 2003
Many think that Call Center costs are low here in India...
but while labor is inexpensive compared to the U.S., there are the usual money pits. I recently had a guy give 2 days notice on his resignation when 15 days is stated at employment. It was actually worse:
1. He was supposedly sick Friday, Monday & Tuesday
2. He passed briefly thru the office on late Wednesday to say he'd like to quit on Friday for a higher paying job
3. He was a no-show on Thursday & Friday
4. He calls late Monday saying he wants to meet me, tho he needs to be at his new job in an hour
We've lost the revenue of his call taking. We'll add the expense of replacement plus the distraction to remaining staff & myself. And who really believes 15 days softens the financial (and organizational) blow? It took more like a month to make him a productive employee & that will double up with his replacement. There's recruiting overhead in newspaper ads, job fairs, placement agencies & interviews. There's weeks of soft skill training for the Indians to deal with difficult American callers. Then there's weeks of tech specific training. And Day One on the headsets is not productive, I compare it to the deer in the headlights syndrome. Lotta freeze-up, lotsa repetition.
And then we provide transportation for most employees. Many got a company sachel when they joined. Everyone got a shirt at our One Year Anniversary. Merit Review raise percentages are much higher than in the U.S.
Sunday, June 15, 2003
While Sam Cooke Don't know much about history...
I'm a little stumped on begging. My native, Rochester, NY is a small city (300,000 people) in an average metropolitan area (1,000,000) where begging is confined (if not hidden) to the inner city slums. If you're an IT professional in Rochester, you're not living or traveling thru the begging environment. If you're working Call Center hours in most parts of the world, you're not even in sync with primetime panhandling. Here in Chennai, India, I'm overwhelmed by begging. It goes beyond need, it's a widespread business. The numbers are so huge, some may consider it part of Indian culture. Pimps have young children & women working the streets, begging out of fear. I've seen a woman wearing wedding finery working a stoplight with a silver tray. Whenever I shop at Amma Nanna in the upscale section of RA Puram, the same old man is waiting as I get off my motorcycle. It's his bloody spot & I've mentioned to the store manager that they should be getting a cut of the action: you or I couldn't set up our business at the store's front door. It's hard for this firang (foreigner) NOT to give. I'm overfocused on my concerns for the beggar's nutrition or housing. I'd give a Rs.500 note to change someone's life. Hell, I'd gladly give 10 times that. However, I've listened to my Indian mentors & instead give to a charitable institution that will hopefully not eat up the gift with administrative overhead/corruption. Now, when I come out of the store, I'm prepared to give a piece of fruit or other food item. I sure hope they eat because they'll probably get beat if they bring a banana back to their pimp ;^)
Other Americans have a different exposure & viewpoint to begging. Here's an observation from sunny, southern California.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Cooler weather seems upon Chennai, India ...
forecast for the next 8 days indicates 37°C/99°F max & thunderstorms. If I remember last year, this would be a false alarm. Nonetheless, I'll start carrying my rainsuit when I travel by motorcycle, a bright yellow target on Chennai's roadways. When the monsoons start, it'll be interesting to see if the roads are any less flooded than last year. We've seen a lot of roadwork & piping here in Chennai, but I suspect any continued flooding will indicate a continued shortage of poorly channeled water. Personally, I'd like to see the monsoons flush out some of these dank canals (cesspools).
On a brighter note, I was so happy to get cooking gas this afternoon after waiting 4 days for the bureacracy to grind. I immediately made a light egg omelet & look forward to tomorrow morning's coffee (the little things in life). The nuitrition perked me up & I found the energy for mopping, rug cleaning, & serious dusting. I attempted to re-consecrate the flat with a fresh stick of incense in the prayer room. [Note to mother's adage: while there was incense, there was no pot.]
Friday, June 13, 2003
If you're Yum Restaurants (India) Pvt. Ltd....
you've got the Pizza Hut license. Or as my friend the sardarji used to say: "Pizzer Hut". Nonetheless, I want to give Yum credit for India packaging print that goes beyond what I suspect is the PH corporate norm. American readers are welcome to counter with their observations of the half empty box growing mold next to their TV chair. Here's my take on the Indian words of culinary caution:
1) FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION [as intimated, avoid growing Weapons of Mass Destruction in the home]
2) ADDED MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE [more than we know about Nepalese stir-fry]
3) NOT RECOMMENDED FOR INFANTS BELOW 12 MONTHS [adults can be malnutritioned by choice, not babies]
I know nothing else about Yum, but suspect they're filthy rich compared to local hotels (restaurants). Does Yum pay the delivery people decently for going out in homicidal traffic? Are the delivery scooters a major part of the traffic problem? Does anyone tip the delivery?
Thursday, June 12, 2003
Biz op available for cooking gas distributor...
There's money to be made if:
1) someone on your staff can speak minimal Engrish (I know where there's several hundred with phone experience)
2) if you deliver (I see many tank-laden bicycles in the midst of deadly traffic)
3) if you're willing to sell at a premium (Rs.355 for 12kg, up 18% since October) in lieu of endless questions like:
... a) "Do you have a ration card?" (no, I have a company provided tank & they say you'll deliver another)
... b) "Do you have a consumer number?" (no, read above)
... c) "Are you an In-customer or an Out-customer?" (I'm clueless, but about to become an Ex-customer)
Here's your chance to put a dent in the business of Guru Agencies, representatives of SPIC JOTHI LPG, Mylapore, phone 493 85 89.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
WoW, I've been transitioned to new.blogger.com
I wonder if the Archives will be any better behaved? The publishing form looks a little tighter and the previous posts seem to auto-refresh. There's a Blogger Help to the right with M$-type Topic Index. I'm not exactly sporting wood, but I'll give her a test drive.
My apologies for not posting yesterday. I started at 7:30AM with an overdue Glucose Tolerance Test. If you want to see me crash, feed me 75g. of sugar, about a cup. I then spent until 11PM with the boss visiting from our Rochester, NY headquarters. No rest for the wicked.
Monday, June 09, 2003
Remember "trust"? ...
as in Friday's post on the motorcycle accident?
"2. The biker did ask for the driver's responsibilities & received a written name with phone number. There's a lot of trust in that one connection."
Well, there's nobody by that name at that number. I've learned another valuable lesson in India. Here's an expression learned in the U.S.: "I don't get angry, I get even".
Sunday, June 08, 2003
I saw a lot of men dancing tonight...and a few women ...
And while the men danced with men, they gyrated hotly with lots of shouting, posturing & circling. Dancing often involved some of the partners crawling or crouching on the floor, looking up with gestures of desire & adoration. I suspect the song dictated the re-enactment of some big Bollywood film, often huge song & dance productions. The men did not dance with the rare women in this overt fashion. The coed dancing was markedly conservative, I'm guessing respectful.
Saturday, June 07, 2003
I took the patient to Jaf's Bullet repair shop...
and decided to also have it painted, chromed & polished. I've been thinking about this from early on. Remember, this baby (125km) sat unstarted under a tree for 7 years. It's rusted & tarnished, but about to become a smart stocker. Now to find a better air filter like the K&N to complement some larger jets ;^)
Friday, June 06, 2003
I saw an accident on the way home from work tonight...
A motorcycle stopped for a constable's hand signal, the car behind the two-wheeler did not stop in time. The helmeted rider was thrown right off his Bullet. The policeman tried to lift the bike, the motorcyclist had to assist. There were no medical injuries other than a scraped shin on the biker. The Bullet 500, India's biggest motorcycle at 168kg, fared well with only a dented fender, broken turn lamp, broken mirror, bent kick start, & loosened shifter. Up to this point, the situation seemed pretty normal. I'm having second thoughts about the remainder:
1. The constable didn't inquire as to injuries, take names, ask to see papers, write a report or ticket.
2. The biker did ask for the driver's responsibilities & received a written name with phone number. There's a lot of trust in that one connection.
3. The biker must have been a little dazed & neglected to ask for cop's identification or car registration number. His Bullet started faithfully & he left.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
Is India a great country or what?
I can walk in to a hospital at 7:30PM, pay Rs. 315/US$6.50 for a chest xray, get it done immediately & walk out the door with the film. I'm feeling better already ;^)
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Romba nandri (Many thanks)...
to Sisyphus for sharing the contrasting photos of Winter & Spring in Rochester, NY, USA. The estate looks nicely landscaped with some pink trees just flowering in the background. It's a nice diversion from Chennai's "hottest weather in 93 years": 45°C/112°F last Friday.
Speaking of "hot" (calm down kids): 90km/54mi to the North, we have the state of Andhra Pradesh where over 1000 people died during May's heat wave. The government is giving a Rs.10,000/US$200 stipend to the family of victims. Elsewhere, officials have been ordered to conduct two days of rain prayers in temples, mosques & churches. Some villagers have beseeched the rain gods with marriages between donkeys & dolls.
An observation in the lifts (elevators) of Tidel Park, Chennai, India...
I notice some that get on a lift, punch their floor number & move to the back. Have you noticed the others?
Are they frail & weak, unable to move past the floor selector?
Are they timid or fearful of something that might happen in the back of the car?
Are they operators, ordained to work the fan switch & manual door closer they think faster than the automatic?
Are they prescient, knowing the selector numbers that others can no longer reach?
Do they work on closer floors, knowing they get out before others?
Are they from Venus or Mars?
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
A day of discoveries...
1. I'm still sick (and finally stayed home). A cough, crusty eyes & runny nose have teamed up with the previous looseness/abdominal pain. Hey, I'm getting skinny.
2. I started using my bedroom a/c about 2 weeks ago in this 40°C/104°F weather (thanks Vernon). Yesterday, a co-worker suggested the a/c change may be giving me a chest cold (thanks Joy). Last night, I thought the problem might be that the a/c is directly over the underground carpark entrance full of petrol fumes & carbon monoxide. Today, I noticed black flakes on the a/c interior grill & floor below. I opened up the unit to find grossly clogged cooling fins & filter. Anyone remember Legionaire's Disease?
3. The boss arrives from Rochester, NY tomorrow AM.
4. A Blog visitor used the "Gimme Some Dirt" comments feature yesterday & I truly consider her site a discovery: Mandarin Design Daily: The MEG Blog. Learning should be fun & Meg has some tricks, etc. to improve one's Blog.
Monday, June 02, 2003
** static ** Houston, do you copy? We have contact from South Korea ** more static **
OK, that would sound a lot better from a NASA Control Room than it reads. Added to the BlogRoll on your left is Joelle's Don't Eat the Daisies. I enjoyed her Saturday piece on working at a Korean elementary school: "I could not yell loud enough to be heard over the din...Korean kids are very loud!" Jeez, she should hear the miscreants in my housing colony; one in particular, Vignish, who I've taken to calling "Pig-nish" because he's the loudest, inferiority-complexed, fat brat in the pack. Joelle goes on to mention: "... the children seem to have little respect for Western teachers. They know we can't understand them....and they take full advantage of the fact that we cannot speak to them in their native tongue." BTDT, Been There Done That. My parents retired from teaching high school & look at how it left them ;^)
Sunday, June 01, 2003
My question yesterday about Indian Advocate Jokes hasn't raised a response, so...
Maybe the jokes don't exist or, maybe, we need examples:
When I lived in the West Indies, I told a Polish Joke & nobody got it. Apparently, West Indians don't joke about other nationalities. Here in India, there seems to be a wider base of humor: I was recently exposed to some character named Banta Singh ;^)