My Eyesssss.... They Burnsssss.....

Ugh, I feel like the undead. My head is stuffy, my eyes burn, I know some of it is just exhaustion. First day back in the office, and I've been swamped with stuff to catch up on. My wife and youngest are home sick with some bug, I think I may have gotten that was well. I wasn't stuffy at all while in India - so maybe instead it's just my allergies kicking in. Any way, I feel like crap.

Maybe I'll go home early. Or, since I seem to actually have some readership, maybe I'll take advantage of my fuzziness and write something barely coherent.

That is, if I could find something even marginally intelligent to write about.

Aw, hell, this sucks. I giving it 15 more minutes, and then I'm blowing this joint. Not that I don't have a ton of stuff to do still (including the frigging expense reports from the trip so I can get reimbursed in a somewhat timely fashion, though that's all relative) but it will wait till next week. Only saving grace is that the Bangalore folk are on holiday all next week. I will have some breathing space to catch up. Just as soon as I get through these server lease replacements that need action on them by the 1st...

Bah. It'll wait. I can have the weekend to rest up. Saturday I'm supposed to help Kimmer move tho, almost forgot about that... and just when my body might have an inkling of what time zone it's in, daylight savings time hits Sunday... ugh...

And now, for something completely random.
There is still a difference between something and nothing, but it is purely geometrical and there is nothing behind the geometry.
- Martin Gardner


EDIT: Almost forgot, I meant to mention this before. Found out last night that my grandfather passed away on Oct. 17th, the day I left for India. I'm not upset at all about not finding out til I got back, I understand perfectly the reasoning behind that. And I'm not as shocked as when my grandmother passed away over the summer - that was unexpected, but I didn't figure my grandpa would outlast my grandma by much. He was pretty much gone anyway from what I understand, the Parkinson's really had a hold on him, but I'm pretty sure he knew what was going on and that his wife was gone. So, they're now together again, and in a better place. And I have many good memories of them. In a way, I'm almost grateful I wasn't able to see them recently, as I don't have the memory of their deterioration, but of their full and active life. I'll never forget my grandpa's woodworking, I have some of his stuff at home, and he gave me his chiselling tools when he couldn't use them anymore. It's gotta be hardest on my mom, though, to have lost both of her parents within the span of two and a half months.


Flyin' High

I am posting this blog from 32,000 feet above the Irish Sea. How freaking cool is THAT?????

Currently 7 hours from Washington DC. We've flown over Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands... all places I've visited long ago when I used to live in Europe...

What's that, how am I posting this? No, not some delayed post, but comin' at you LIVE from an Airbus A330, with the new extended travel business class. Wireless service via satellite hookup, with a first-time-user discount it's costing $20 for the whole flight. This, my friends, is the only way to fly! And, to top it off, I have no-one sitting next to me, so I can stretch even more. Not that you really need to in these seats, they fully recline horizontally to a whole 2 meters! Built in chair massage, reading light, video console with movies on demand (I'm going to finally watch Hitchhiker's Guide and City of God after lunch)...

Looks like we're currently over Ireland, passed directly over Dublin in fact. 3302 miles to go, flying 485mph at 32,000 feet. Wow. Funny thing is, I've been traveling from Bangalore for fourteen and a half hours now, and yet by East Coast time I only left five hours ago. Very odd.... LOL

So, I'm going to relax and enjoy my lunch here in a bit, watch some movies. I'll see if I can't catch up on email first. Should touch down 1:40pm EST.

Oh, should I mention the luncheon menu? Started off with the Italian Ham platter (Parma, Coppa, Melon and shaved Parmesan) with some rolls and a salad. For the entree I think I'll go with the Fiorelli Pasta with Ricotta sauce and veggies, then the Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Puree for dessert.

I tell ya, I don't think I could fly economy again, after being on this side of the glass...



Leaving Soon...

So I work a full day today, be at the airport by midnight, and my plane leaves Bangalore around 2am. Two-hour layover in Frankfurt, home at Dulles by 1:40pm, God willing. 20 hours of traveling in a little over 11 hours. Boggles the mind.

I was hoping to come back to the hotel later on and nap, but the latest they're willing to extend my checkout is 2pm. So I might as well pack up now, come back after lunch and put my bags in their storage. Or, I could just check out this morning... Nah, I might want to come back here for lunch or something. I'll still get packed now though, and maybe just go to the airport early, I think they might have a business-class lounge, nap there.

OK, so keep the lamps lit, I'm on my way soon. It's been an incredible experience, as you can tell from my earlier entries. Might help to start at the beginning, I'm going to send an email out to everyone now rather than wait till I get home, since I'll most likely be sleeping a good bit of Thursday.

I'll just run through the trip's blog entries from the start, funny how my outlook changes over time as I'm here longer...
I'm off soon...
Leavin'... on a jet plane...
Quite the Adventure
Another Day in Paradise
What an Outing!
Have Camera, Will Travel
Thank You God, We Have Mountain Dew
Sleepy Man Walking

OK, so that's all for now. Talk to y'all soon!

Sleepy Man Walking

Went to a great restaurant tonight, just got back around 10:30pm here. It was on the 13th floor of a hotel, open-air so you could lean out over the balcony by your dinner table (not that I would) - fantastic view, food was very good. Deepak took us out, he's the Project Manager for both my products, great guy.

Best news: I'm flying back normal schedule, so I'll be home Wednesday afternoon EST. Awesome. I miss my family something terrible, I know the next outing (most likely February) Nathaniel wants to stretch to 2 weeks if I could swing it, but the more I think about it, just not feasible. This was really tough, being away from my girls for so long.

I can't wait to get home.

Happy trails...



Awesome, Nathaniel posted up more videos. The first, in particular, is pretty damn funny - our India-Jones-like-quest for a Mountain Dew culminated in the find of a KFC in Bangalore, Commerce street shopping district.

Again, these are big videos, please download them before playing.


Most of these are from this past weekend, as described in my last post. Of particular interest might be the temple videos, where you can see the one we hiked some 50 bajillion stairs barefoot to the top... Enjoy!

Thank You God, We Have Mountain Dew

Humorous as the title may be, we don't get to that till the end. We will, however, cover the events of the weekend. In mind-numbing detail. No, just kidding. Really. Here goes:

So Saturday early morning we pile into 2 jeep-type cars common here (I forget the model name, they seat 6 including driver comfortably), all told 9 of us. I know I won't remember all the names, but we had in one car Madu, Umesh, his brother, Paul(?), and I think Dave. OK so I totally screwed the last three up, I'm bad with names as we all know. Anyways, in my car, besides Nathaniel there were Sean and Eric, two very cool guys who we hit it off with right away. We traveled about 3 hours or so to the first temple site. Absolutely stunning, perched high up on a mountain, fantastic view, I got lots of pics to upload (though I'm sure Nathaniel will have some up soon on his journal). Did I mention we had to climb up to it, some 50,000 carved-in-stone steps? Barefoot???? Yes, as with all the religious sites we visited, we had to remove shoes. I have some serious callouses built up. Ugh. Worth the climb though. Architecture was stunning, at the very top was a huge statue, maybe 40 feet high, carved out of a single boulder. Very cool having Umesh and Madu along, BTW, as they were able to tell us more of the background and history, as well as the Hindu mythology, behind the temples we visited.

So by this time, smelling quite ripe and feeling like we'd run a marathon, we climbed back in the cars and went another 45 minutes or so to check into the hotel, the Southern Star in Hassan. According to Nathaniel's travel book, which we consulted after we got back to the Leela, this was the best hotel in Hassan, "almost cozy". Yeah, almost. And the DC beltway is almost a serene country drive.

The beds were a thin (maybe 3" if I were being generous) hard mattress on top of a solid plank of wood. Might as well slept on the floor with a blanket under me. We'll get back to the hotel fun that night.

By this point Eric came down with a nasty case of food poisoning, and stayed behind while we ate there (quite tasty buffet) and then drove to another set of ruins, half hour away. This temple was at Belur, it was architecturally even more stunning. I know the location only because I bought the guidebook and some postcards (need to send some out, mental note). The common problem of vendors and beggars at the entrances to these temples was slightly worse here, they get very pushy trying to get you to buy anything. But at least there was an official desk there selling stuff, so I didn't get TOO ripped off. Got smart this time and took our shoes off in the car, so we didn't have to pay and wait for our shoes at the gate.

Then we're off to the final temple. This one really showed the desecration from the Moslem invaders of old (these temples are thousands of years old). We got a guide for this tour, and found out lots of fascinating stuff. The temple itself took about 112 years to build, IIRC. Lots of fascinating tidbits, got one really nice pic of a carving which had incredible detail, animals hiding in the woods at the top, and one of the gods on it had three bodies (and heads) but only two arms and four legs. Done really well. The temple itself was set in a really nice parklike setting, beautiful green grounds.

On the way out we were mobbed by the vendors. And I mean mobbed. Items thrust in our faces, they don't really take no for an answer... being polite means nothing, you have to shout "GO AWAY" for them to really back off. One vendor was a real pro though, she was insistent but not in my face, just kept bargaining downwards for a little stone dish-sort-of-thing (hard to describe really, but it was cute). Went from 50 rupees down to 10, and I decided to reward the more polite behavior by buying one. Turns out I paid too much anyway, according to the driver, but that's ok, it's only maybe 20 cents, big deal. And it was cute.

Got back to the hotel, napped for a bit (best I could) and then we walked over to get dinner around 8pm. Did I mention everyone here eats meals so much later than the US? 9pm is normal, some don't even start to cook until 9 so they eat anywhere from 10-11pm. Craziness. Anyways, got to the recommended restaurant, sat down and ordered, and were ignored for the next half hour. I swear, maybe they had to go butcher the animals or something, I have no idea, but we finally got some drinks and bread (it was later suggested that since Indians get tipped not for good service, but to get something, like good service, ahead of time, that may have been the reason why, I dunno) and 15 minutes later had an excellent meal. I cannot recommend any higher the cheesy naala bread. Awesome.

It was raining by the time we got out, so the drivers were nice enough to come pick us up. These guys were fantastic, I mean they were the best drivers I've seen in India, and that's saying something - ours had an uncanny knack of avoiding the numerous potholes that abound, got us safely across unfinished roads and washed out roads (literally, I think a dam broke after all the unusually high rainfall and it was maybe a foot or so across the road at one point), only hit one dog (and hey, that's saying something, fortunately we had braked and the dog just bounced off and kept going, poor driver was really shaken up). We had at least two close calls with oncoming traffic, no one drives on the same side on the road, all over the place, passing up slower cars. I don't know how we avoided a serious crash, but both times he slowed and timed it just right to swerve around and still stay on the road. Most impressive, yet heart-stopping. Serious pucker factor, there.

Hey, tangent, back on track now. So we crash at the lovely Southern Star. Traffic right outside the window, horns beeping all night, AC loud as a lawnmower. There were candles in the room, which I thought was odd. Hmm, little did I know...

4am I'm woken by a big BANG and a flash of light, as the transformer outside blows. Dead silent in the room now, for 15 minutes as it gets hotter inside, I now can't sleep because of my tinitus... finally it comes back on. And then off. And then on. And so on, for the next three hours or so. I light one of the candles and set it in the bathroom just in case I have to pee the next time the power going off wakes me.

Next morning, we all feel like crap. Our car decides to just go back to Bangalore instead of another temple, which is actually too bad, we later found out it was a huge palace with 7 temples inside and a church, would have been nice to see. Next time we're out, Nathaniel and I are going to make a trip just out to there.

Anyways, Eric is just as happy we're heading back, he's doing better but still not up to par. Another bumpy ride back, partially in the rain.

Side note: Many houses along the way had one or more walls entirely painted as an advertisement for some concrete company. And there were hundreds we saw. Bright yellow, with blue writing and a red slogan. Everywhere. And they were pristine walls, so the house owners must have gotten some kickback from the advertising. Most of the houses here are concrete, so it must be a big business.

We saw lots of animals along the way, cows and water buffalo ('everybody wants a water buffaloooooooo'), dogs, sheep, goats. All over the place, across the roads, some being herded but most just walkin' around. And we did see two monkeys on the side of the road, but we didn't get a pic fast enough.

One village had huge piles of corn cobs just lying on the side of the road, drying out. Also saw huge piles of coconuts, bananas... We went through many villages with nothing around, the driver said all that was out there was agriculture.

So we get back this morning. I have never felt so thankful to arrive anywhere. (I will likely revise that statement later this week when I touch down at Dulles.) Took a quick break to unpack, then Nathaniel, Eric, Sean and I head over for some brunch at the Zen. (Tried the Citrus first, but apparently you need a reservation on Sundays for brunch, it's the most famous brunch spot in Bangalore. Who knew.)

Then we decided to head out for shopping. Well, except for Eric, he was pretty wiped. Hired a driver from the hotel, took us to some touristy places, found some very cool stuff for everybody. Ended up spending way more than I intended to. Sorry honey. It's all cool stuff, honest! And none for me, all gifts! Well, I did end up finding a street vendor selling what looked to be an obvious pirated edition (bad print and blurry cover) of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which funny enough is the only Dan Brown novel I haven't purchased and read yet. And for only 100 rupees (about $2).

Found a KFC of all places on Commerce street, a long row of shops where the locals mostly go. Nathaniel got a really funny video of the three of us ordering Mountain Dews there. I didn't realize I had such a craving, but that puppy was drained in no time...

Had to come back early since the driver went off shift at 4pm, he drove us around till 5 but we were supposed to have the car another hour and a half. Not his fault really, but Nathaniel laid into the concierge when we got back, I think we're getting some money back.

Nathaniel and Sean are walking over to TGI Friday's (LOL) to see if they can find a Guinness, which is a rare find here. Only can find a local beer called Kingfisher I guess. But then they're coming back and getting me for dinner.

I'm pretty wiped. My back is killing me, and my legs are aching something fierce. And Monday is going to be a very, very full day. Lots of work to do still. We might or might not be leaving regular schedule, some travel agent that Hazel (the nice lady who set us up on the trip) works with often holds back seats on booked flights, so we may still fly back Thursday instead. I know we have a lot to do and all, but I'd still like to get back. As it is, I will be back in February (better be early instead of late in the month, gotta specify that to Nathaniel, I am not missing Carrie's birthday) for at least a week. Both products I am supporting out here plan to release initial builds to production Feb 3rd. What a nightmare.

So, not sure when the next post will be. I have to write out some postcards, and tonight I really want to just soak in the bathtub. It's gonna be at least a twelve-hour day tomorrow....



Have Camera, Will Travel

I really do wish I'd brought our digital camera instead of the Elph. It's nice with the Advantix film, getting panorama shots and all, but I could be uploading pics and all. Oh well.

Nathaniel took some movies with his digital camera, they came out really nice. One of the waterfall in the Leela's courtyard, and one on the walkway above the hotel entrance.


Warning: They're big, so download them first. And they're on my site, so don't go craching it. He got video of the rickshaw ride but hasn't uploaded it yet.

OK I'm off to bed for real now. Have to get up in 6 hours and leave for the trip in 7.

What an Outing!

So today, some very nice people (Shailaja, PM for the jdb switcher project) took Nathaniel and I out to lunch. Well, we thought it was just a quick lunch outing, ended up getting back 3 hours later. Turns out most Bangalore folk eat much later - not getting up till 9-10, lunch 1 or 2, and dinner as late as 9pm. Anyways, we took a rickshaw ride (wow) across town to a little hole-in-the-wall type establishment, in a sort of mall, but it was authentic Afghani food. No utensils. Lots of spice, but excellent food. I was stuffed. Then Shailaja took us a few blocks so I could buy a backpack for this weekend's trip - only 800 Rupees, which is like $16, for a very nice full-sized one. And then the rickshaw ride back. Again, wow. Driving here is like an artform, really, they honk constantly, but to let others know where they are, and all drive by pure reflex, all over the road, inches within hitting other vehicles, motorbikes swerving in between... It feels like utter insanity, and yet like a choreographed ballet of exhaust and steel. Just... wow.

So this weekend: We're getting picked up by company van around 7am, and driving out to see some historic and religious ruins. Staying overnight, then back Sunday early evening. And, since the top AOL Bangalore exec will be along, the whole shebang is company-paid. Booyah!

Oh, I keep meaning to mention the other meals here. The first dinner was on the top floor of the Leela, a high-class French restaurant. Several courses, all very high in presentation, yet small portions. The only low point was the sorbet which left just an awful aftertaste...

And last night's dinner was Asian, great seafood, great ambiance. Well, I won't go into any more details since Nathaniel's blog talks about the meals. I gotta run for now, stay tuned for more...


Ars System Guide: Small Form Factor systems

A functional computer does not need much to operate. Most users get by fine with a single hard drive, single optical drive, single CPU, single Ethernet interface, and often do not end up using their PCI slots thanks to the integration of just about everything onto modern motherboards.

Small Form Factor (SFF) represents a newer footprint for computers, one that allows them to be small enough to disappear from the desk, or the exact opposite: often considered attractive enough in their brushed-aluminum and anodized-black finishes with bright blue LEDs to be a showpiece of status.
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Another Day in Paradise

So I got into my new room now, literally twice the size of the old and all to myself now. Very, very nice. I was going to check out the jacuzzi outside to soak, but they're having a business dinner by the pool, so meh. I'll soak in the tub.

Bad news is, I have to take an extra day here. Long story, but it's necessary, and my boss (who was supposed to fly out Monday night) will stay as long as well.

They have a live woodwind quartet playing in the lobby. Nice touch.

I still have to cover the meals here, and I will do so, but I need more time. Last night was a French cuisine, tonight was Asian (some of the best sushi I've ever had), and lunch both days was traditional Indian food - AOL BDC perk, they get free lunch (and you thought that never happened) on the roof of their building. Yep, roof open air restaurant. OK, I'll go into it later, honest.

Looks like we'll be taking a trip this weekend, not the safari though (I'm still too chicken) but to see some ruins and temples. About 8 of us in two vans, should be fun, as well as a lot cheaper. Still overnight though.

OK, the tub is calling my name. Stay tuned, same channel.

Oh, and BTW, it is 8:54pm here. Just in case you were curious.


Quite the Adventure

Yes, it has been. I've spent two nights in Bangalore now, and it has been interesting to say the least. You can keep up on the fun with my boss, Nathaniel's, journal.

It all started at the airport Monday. Got there in plenty of time, stood in line at the wrong counter (domestic economy, not international business), when I moved over Donna and the girls had to leave as they were getting a might clingy. Just as well, or I would have had to drag them around a bit! So I get to the counter at United, she starts to book me on a different flight! I say no, this is my flight - "Oh, that's Lufthansa, you need their counter." (Even though it was a United flight, it was operated by Lufthansa.) So I get to Lufthansa, they can't issue me a ticket because I am now booked on two flights! Now I have to run clear around all the counters to the United ticker purchase line, who complemented the other ticket agent on their creativeness as they tried to fix it. Finally got a ticket, NOW I have to get back to Lufthansa to get my boarding pass. All told, an hour wasted before I can even stand in line to get through security. Very, very glad I got there early...

Long flights, incredible comfort. Three course meals, luxurious room, separate video consoles and headphones, power plug-ins for laptops (had to remove my battery to get enough current though), pillows and blankets, and even hot washcloths soaked in citrus water to freshen up. Yep, I could learn to like this... Except I got violently ill from something on the first-leg plane flight... Four-hour layover in Frankfurt, slept some at the business lounge (also very nice) then another long flight to Bangalore. When we get there, no car is waiting for us. Hmmm, ominous...

Get to the hotel after a very harrying taxicab ride (the amazing race show does it no real justice, trust me) to find they don't have our reservation. In fact, they still had us down for our OLD one, which had us arriving two days earlier, so they gave our rooms away. So for the last two nights we've been bunking together in a small box of a room, but last night Nathaniel had the travel agent call and make new reservations (because I don't think they were trying all that hard to fix things at the front desk...) so tonight at least Nathaniel has a room of his own. And he found out there's a full gym downstairs, so he's a happy camper now.

OK, so I'm off now, I'll write more of my dining experiences later. That's an adventure all in itself....


Leavin'... on a jet plane...

In about half an hour I pick my girls up from school, then Donna will pick us all up to get some last-minute legal stuff signed, and then we're off to the airport. Didn't sleep well last night, but I did get the laundry done. Maybe I'll sleep ok on the plane, who knows, business class is supposed to be much more luxurious for trans-atlantic flights.

Dammit, can't find an umbrella. Guess that's one thing I'll have to buy in an airport.

Anyways, hope to blog again soon. Keep the lights on for me.
Then he said, "That is that."
And then he was gone
With a tip of his hat.



I'm off soon...

Next week I leave for India. Still pretty nervous, that's a hellofa long way from home... I'm not worried about myself so much, really (except of course for being in a massive swarm of people, which I hate, and meeting new people, which I hate, and having to present to said people, which I hate...) but I will worry sick about my family, if anything happens it's not like I can get there anytime soon... I am really, really counting on my niece Cassie to come that weekend I'm gone and help out, I need to call them tonight and verify that...

Watching 'The Amazing Race' hasn't helped, or course, with my nervousness. Seems every season they visit India, and it looks like a crowded, dirty milling mass of humanity. That's a gross overgeneralization on my part, I know, and Bangalore isn't anything like much of urban India, most American-citizen Indian ex-patriates reside in Bangalore now. But still, it is definitely nothing like Europe, which is my only foreign experience so far.

I'm not a snob, really. I know as an American, I am unbelievably blessed and privledged beyond any imagining, and I am thankful for that. I also know there is much poverty in the world, and places that we, as Americans, would consider impoverished but that they don't consider as such.

I just really, really don't feel the inclination to immerse myself in it.

The reality is that I'm sure I will feel even more thankful for the privledges I have, once I return. But that doesn't erase the overall uneasiness.

In short, this sucks.

But it will be an experience. I'm sure Nathaniel (my boss) will think me a wuss for not wanting to really go anywhere over the weekend of our trip. I will most likely just want to huddle in my hotel room, catch up on sleep and watch movies and play games. Ya, I'm a geek like that.

I keep telling people, and they just don't believe me. Sometimes I really don't even like the concept of people.

I have a problem with crowds. I have a problem with personal space violation. Ya I know, whine whine, bitch and moan. Get over it, that's what a blog is for. No-one else would listen to me in person, right? So now you're stuck with me, unless you click off. So za.

On a last note. I know I tend to internalize things. I refuse to let my family know of my uneasiness, because I don't want them to worry, and they will have their own problems when I've gone. I don't want my co-workers to know my fear, because I don't want them to think less of me and I have to work with them, duh. And I don't want my boss to know my worries, because I'm trying to make a good impression.

So that leaves you, gentle readers, to bear witness to the fact that I am slowly becoming scared shitless over the prospect of this trip.

And just in case I've completely ruined what little opinion you had of me: Know what the worst part is?

No BF2 for two weeks.

Now THAT sucks.


Best LAN Party Evar....

So after work this past Friday I trucked myself up to Urbana for an all-night LAN party. And I do mean all-night: Got there around 5:30pm and packed up at 6am. Since I figured out a way to connect us wirelessly from the basement to the host's router, we could get out to the internet. My thinking was just to enable Xfire connectivity, but as there were maybe only 7 of us there it was raised that we could just hop on BF2 ranked servers and verbally coordinate as a squad. And therein started the best night of gaming.

In one night, I played for six and a half hours actual gametime on ranked servers. I accumulated 575 points, including a new best round for me, 142 on the Karkand map, to go up a new rank from Staff Sergeant to Gunnery Sergeant. I earned two new badges (Veteran Engineer Combat and Veteran Support Combat, awesome) and five new ribbons: Armored Service (I've been trying for ages to get that one), Far East Service and Mid-East Service, Valorous Unit, and finally Good Conduct (which requires a round with no team damage or kills, been kinda hard for me to attain).

When we were all on the same side, we would squad up and SWAMP the other side. Other times, the single round went on for over an hour. Good times. I readily accept the sleep disruption which threw my whole weekend off, and got me to work late today (woke up with a migraine, but the meds and extra sleep got me well enough to make it in).

You can see my new stats here, and where some of the other partiers are at now (though many on here didn't make it to the party, and I don't know the usernames of the others offhand...)

It seriously rocked. 'Nuff said.


BF2 Goodness

Battlefield 2 patch 1.03 is now out. Many cool things fixed, and a new map added. Check around for the details; but one of the most exciting things is the reduction in points needed for new ranks. I went up three ranks to Staff Sergeant! W00t! UBAR has the new rank requirements up already, those guys rock.