Sunday, October 31, 2004
Two-wheelers of the world unite!
or something like that.
My brother Dave, a bicyclist and lawyer in politically active Oregon, had mentioned the group Critical Mass. I had forgotten about this cause for safely sharing the roads until this morning's newspaper noted "35 arrested during bike ride in NYC". Further research indicates a Critical Mass chapter active here in Rochester, NY since at least April 1999. As a motorcyclist constantly alert for irrational and law-breaking car drivers, I like the global awareness promoted by Critical Mass. In fact, I envision solidarity on the last Friday of every month: large groups of car drivers would obey the speed limits en masse, stick to appropriate lanes, signal lane changes, stop behind stop signs, etc. Initially, the results would be a lot of angst and horn honking, but maybe, just maybe, common sense would prevail. Maybe the media would get behind the sanity rather than highlighting the daily sensationalism. Who will take the lead in Chennai, India?
Monday, October 25, 2004
The Autumn color change in trees is at its peak, at least around Rochester, NY
In the Adirondak Mountains, 4 hours to the northeast, the temperatures have been colder, so the peak time in those millions of acres of forests would have been a few weeks ago. It's beautiful, but hard to explain unless you click this link on forestry science.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
It's tough to beat India's Rajnikanth films, but...
China's Jet Li has raised the bar, particularly with Hero. Released in China two years ago, it hit the American screen this Summer. I just happened to catch it this week in one of Rochester, NY's final showings. I was blown away:
a tragic and twisting story line that will keep you guessing
phantasmagoric filming and color that exceeds Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Saturday, October 23, 2004
What marketing guru dreams up these names for Chennai, India restaurants?
I've always had a link (below left) for Hotel Runs. I need to rediscover my previous post on "Golden Shower Apartments". Here's another brainstorm:
Friday, October 22, 2004
In an imaginary future, from the Home Office in Chennai, India...
"To: All U.S. Staff
RE: Early Retirement
Due to the current financial situation, management has decided to implement a scheme to put all workers over age 30 on Early Retirement. This scheme will be know as RAPE (Retire Aged Personnel Early).
Persons selected to be RAPED can apply to the management to be eligible for the SHAFT (Special Help AFTer retirement). Persons who have been RAPED and SHAFTED will be reviewed under the SCREW scheme (SCheme for Retired Early Workers). A person may be RAPED only once, SHAFTED twice and SCREWED as many times as management deems appropriate.
Persons who have been raped can apply to get AIDS (Additional Income for Dependants or Spouse) or HERPES (Half Earnings for Retired Personnel Early Severance). Obviously persons who have AIDS or HERPES will not be SCREWED any further by management.
Persons staying on will receive as much SHIT (Special High Intensity Training) as possible. Management has always prided itself for the amount of SHIT it gives its staff. Should you feel that you do not receive enough SHIT please bring it to the attention of your manager. He has been trained to give all the SHIT you can handle."
** This is global parody originally applied to Canada, morphed in the U.S. and outsourced to India. If you don't have a sense of humor and thick skin, go read the Slimes of India **
Thursday, October 21, 2004
India's "Osama" finally gunned down after decade-long hunt
Veerappan, India's Forest Brigand, a mustachioed Robin Hood to some and the object of Tamil Nadu's STF (Special Task Force) was accused of being a sandlewood smuggler and killer of 2000 elephants for their ivory. While this may sound like some raj in days of old, Veerappan was also rumored to have killed 120 people. Kollywood's dying film industry needs Anand to step up to this Tamil Nadu story before Bollywood.
China Daily and the Beijing Youth Daily newspapers had extensive coverage of the cultist's demise. A Chinese student was quoted as not understanding "how a man with a handlebar moustache can elude the law for such a long time". And I say: little do the Chinese know that having a droopy moush is a prerequisite for being an Indian cop, let alone, hiding amongst them.
Sify (thwack... author spits) had banal coverage that counted bullet holes in the deceased.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Client visit to Chennai (continued)
Not far beyond the Croc Park is the beach temple town of Mamallapuram AKA Mahabs. To this day, stone carving (and tourism) supports this crowded little village. It's also where the Madras Bulls like to ride on a Sunday morning for a little fish and malted breakfast beverage ;^)
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
American client visits Chennai, India
When decisions about what to see around Chennai were left to another American (me), I suggested checking out the wildlife. No, I don't mean exotic dancers like those shown to our Indian visitors in Rochester, NY. I'm talking about the Crocodile Park south of Chennai, where you'll also see cobras and LOTS of beggars.
Monday, October 18, 2004
Movie Mania this past weekend
With the cold, dark, rainy weather, it's either that or stay in bed. It was a 2-bag popcorn marathon and if I didn't call you, I probably didn't think you had the
staying sitting power ;^)
The Forgotten will have you jumping out of your seat.
Friday Night Lights is the extreme experience of most US high school athletes.
Ladder 49 is a thrilling inferno that somehow stars Emperor Commodus Caesar (Joaquin Phoenix).
Shall We Dance? remakes a remake of an original man alone, finding him between two nut cases (J Lo & Susan Sarandon). Make that three: Stanley Tucci is insanely gifted.
It was refreshing that in 50% of these flicks, the good guys don't always win.
Oh yeah... watching the Boston Red Sox vs. the NY Yankees on television this weekend was like watching more movies: very slow moving horrors.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Who in Chennai has been going to the Test Match against Australia?
Day 4 of 5 has begun and India is off to a reasonable start. How about Americans living in Chennai: Mark C, PrinceRoy, Bruce Q? Anybody taking you guys? This opportunity doesn't come to Chennai very often.
On the sports venue here in chilly Rochester, NY, professional ice hockey started this past weekend. I've already taken some of our Indian visitors to see the local Amerks, so I'm trying to organize a little variety with a trip to the National Football League's Buffalo Bills. This past weekend was the wrong game: cold, rainy weather against the worst team (Miami Dolphins). I hope we'll get a break on 31 OCT against the Arizona Cardinals or 7 NOV facing the undefeated NY Jets. Bring it on, baby, this ain't your mamma's soccer ;^)
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Guest Pest House is actually located at the edge of a posh neighborhood...
known as Boat Club (and home to the Madras Boat Club, Anna University Boat Club, Madras Club, etc). Unlike much of Chennai, there's an abundance of shady trees, quiet roads, and affluent Indians with leisure time to walk for their health. The area is rumored as home to old-time Kollywood movie stars. As I walked around, I even found the U.S. Consul-General living behind very high and protected walls along the Adyar River. Nearby, there's a garrison of Chennai Police Commandos. Pictured below are a number of the area's exquisate corporate guesthouses and some of the local personalities.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
#1 job in India?
I suspect there are more security jobs than any other job in India. Everywhere you look, there's someone standing by a gate or doorway, probably wearing a uniform, and having that look of authority. Now, it's not like Indian airport security where a gun is carried and the uniform is official. It's not even like Indian police who have the ubiquitous handlebar mustache, pot belly, and lathi (stick). But most Indian security guards are like the lefthand pic below. They have a presence and simply keep the riff-raff away.
Then there's the security at the Adyar
Guest Pest House pictured below to the right. His white clothing is the same worn by every wallah (man) in India, e.g. the chai-wallah making roadside tea, the auto-wallah driving the smoke-belching, 3-wheeled taxi, the dhobi-wallah pounding your wash against a rock, etc. He is maybe 5 feet tall and 90 pounds soaking wet. When he's present, he's either sleeping in a chair by the door or drinking in front of the gate with my favorite taximan (which reminds me of a story for another time). For now, I'll relate the lack of security on a recent evening when I was home alone. It was the night before Ganesh Chaturthi, a big religious festival. There was a knock on my 2nd floor interior door. I answered and met a young, well-mannered Indian who spoke perfect English while claiming he was the son of the 1st floor occupants. He was collecting for a charity associated with the religious festival and showed me a receipt book of other neighbor's donations. His appearance, his manner, everything was very believable, especially to a foreigner trying to be neighborly and show respect to religious custom.
(Keep in mind that our "corporate guesthouse supervisor/receptionist" never introduced me to the other 3 residents in the building, let alone the security guard. I was basically just shown to one of three bedrooms. Due to differing shifts, I was usually alone in the apartment. There was no company sponsered outings or entertainment. There's no list of important phone numbers and services to call. There's no instruction on where or how to get food, tho the cupboard had lots of tea for Indians. The provided cell phone had no long distance service to call my family and let them know I arrived safely. The 'Net connection and TV set-top box didn't work and there were no instructions, passwords, etc. Just sleep and go to work.)
Back to the gentleman I welcomed into my living room and offered a drink. I thumbed thru his receipt book and noticed the donations ranged from 1500-4000 rupees ($35-90), huge by Indian standards, e.g. two weeks pay for our call center agents. I asked the lad if I could write a check and when he said "no", I suspected I had a scammer in my midst. I refused to donate anything and he quickly made his exit. When I checked for security on the ground floor, the guard was nowhere to be found. I then introduced myself to the 1st floor residents and learned they didn't have a son. When I contacted our "corporate guesthouse supervisor/receptionist", she told me that the security guard had probably taken a tea break or was off relieving himself in the street. She also indicated that "scams are plentiful in India, tho security may have believed the scammer's story so as not to offend the gods". I never trusted security again and any knock at the door was met with a knife in my hand.
So, who wants to visit India?
Monday, October 11, 2004
Adyar Pest House, Chennai, India
OK, it's real name is the "Adyar Guest House", a.k.a. the would-be corporate guesthouse where I spent the last six weeks. In the pic below, it's the left, forefront building, Indian 2nd/U.S. 3rd floor. That's right, in India, you must learn that the ground floor is numbered zero. To reach the slightly furnished 3-bedroom apartment, you first pass the gate protected by kollam, ominous rice flour drawings recreated every dawn by the maidservant. Next, you can sneak past the sleeping Cebros security guard where you're better off taking the stairs because the lights have been off for weeks in the pitch-black lift (elevator).
The purpose of a guesthouse is to save hotel expenses when "certain" corporate visitors come to Chennai. I say "certain" because I notice Client Service employees staying at the 5-star Le Meridien hotel. And Sales people stay at the 6-star Fisherman's Cove. A female visitor has previously refused to share the apartment with males, tho I was expected to co-habitate with two charming ladies. High marks to "R" and "C" who remain nameless to protect their virginity (regardless of the children they already have).
In the spirit of saving money, I asked for only a few concessions. It took 10 days for an internet connection to arrive and the delivery of a morning newspaper never materialized until week 5 for all of three days. When the air conditioner quit in week 2, the less-than-effective corporate guesthouse supervisor/receptionist brought in repair people just as I was getting ready for bed. Apparently, the a/c intake was blocked by the birdnest you see in the pix below. I didn't stick around the room with mosquitoes storming in and was disappointed to later learn that the aforementioned receptionist had the a/c replaced with nothing done to the birdnest. Needless to say, bird smell and dander continued to blow into the room. Starting in week 4, I would awake daily at 5AM to the hungry peeping of baby birds. Shortly thereafter, some kind of bird goo started dripping down the interior bedroom wall. Within days, mites infested my bed six inches away. It didn't help that the maid servants would wait two weeks to change my bedding. Into week 5 and having to ask the infamous receptionist twice, she recommended me to a doctor for treatment of the mite bites. If you see me itching, it's psychosomatic at this point ;^(
Sunday, October 10, 2004
Just back home from seeing the Boston Red Sox sweep the Angels
The weather and drive were great with Fall colors at their peak. Speaking of peaks, don't miss the third floor bar at Jillians near Fenway Park on a Friday night. Lastly, note the pic below where yours truly has half as many beers as the other two surrounding me...what was I thinking?!
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
It's 37F-ing degrees in Rochester, NY this morning
That's about 3°C to the rest of you. My feet got so cold in bed, they started cramping and I had to leap from under the covers to stretch out my arches. When I found the landlord, I asked him if he had turned on the heat and when he said "no", I cocked my head, scratched my ear and asked in my special voice: "What are you waiting for?" Snow is not far off, so I put on my Winter jacket, gloves and slowly cranked over my motorcycle that's been idle for the last six weeks. We had a good ride and met other fanatics out on the road.
With Halloween coming at the end of the month, I'm starting to see pumpkins on peoples' front porches. For
retarded challenged readers running slightly askew of tradition, check out ExtremePumpkin.com ;^)
Friday, October 01, 2004
Child labor on the rise in Chennai, India
According to Peace Trust, an NGO (Non-govermental Organization), child labor is growing. While the Indian government says child labor is largely wiped out, a conservative survey indicates 9300 children under age 18 working in Chennai hotels and another 5000 in neighboring tea shops. The children work 12-14 hrs a day and are underpaid, tho they work on par with adults. The children have no time or energy for school. Establishment owners prefer the youths because adult workers resent cleaning tables, etc. Some boys are complaining of sexual abuse, as government statutes protecting them are ornamental for the edification of international monitoring authorities. [New Indian Express]