Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jira is Evil

I am now convinced that Jira is pure evil. Check out how many unread messages I have in my "Jira" folder!

Jira is Evil

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One of Two Hundred Thousand

In the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, on the bank of the Yamuna River, sits the world's most famous mausoleum, the Taj Mahal. Up to four million people visit annually, around two hundred thousand are foreigners. I was one of those foreign visitors, as was my co-worker, Steve.

From the garden
The Taj Mahal

Getting to Agra

This was not difficult at all. I checked both American Express Travel and Expedia and found flights from Bangalore to Delhi, then from Delhi to Agra. Having heard a few horror stories about travel from Delhi to Agra, I was pleased to catch a Kingfisher turboprop flight out of the Delhi airport. To read about one such horror story, check out my friend's blog entry regarding night travel into Agra.

Unfortunately, I no longer see the flight from Delhi to Agra available. This would have taken you into a small military base and saved a lot of time. Perhaps it is a seasonal option. It sure was nice to start from Bangalore around noon and be at the hotel in Agra by seven.

Agra Fort

Hearing sunrise was a great time to see the Taj Mahal, I got up early. However, there was no reason to rush as the fog was thick and nothing was going to be visible at sunrise unless you could touch it.

Plan B was to check out Agra Fort instead, waiting to see the Taj Mahal after the fog lifted. I found the fort to be extremely interesting and it offered the history of the Mughal rulers very well. This bit of knowledge was useful in understanding the purpose of Taj Mahal and to appreciate its construction even more.

Agra Fort outer wall
Foggy gate into Agra Fort

This incline was further defense
Imaging fighting your way up this incline with boulders coming down

Shah Jahan's house arrest residence
Where Shah Jahan was under house arrest for eight years

Click here to view more photos from Agra Fort.

Finally, the fog had disappeared and it was time to see the Taj Mahal. Or, was it?

Sitar Shop

One of the problems with paid guides and drivers is that they usually take you by a few shops to browse (and possibly buy) items. This is done to pad their pockets, as they get an amount for each potential customer thrown a shop's direction. I do not mind the game too much, but on this day I was not interested in looking at carpets. I ventured off down a local street and came across a man playing some Beatles songs on a sitar. After a minute of chatting, he wanted to show me some sitars he had for sale in his small shop, and I agreed. Once he realized I was not a sitar buyer, he switched gears to sell me other things. First, he asked if I wanted some hash, and I declined his offer to sell me some. Then, he basically forced me to smell some he had, shoving some in my face. I politely said I was not interested. Last try to make a trade, he told me I had a nice watch and that he would trade my watch for some nice, clean women. When I got back to the car and recounted the strange encounter to a co-worker, his response was, "How many women?" I guess I will never know. Shopping done, it was now time to visit the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal.

Playing The Beatles on a sitar
The watch-for-women broker

The Taj Mahal

Taking over twenty-two years for construction, the Taj Mahal is considered by many to be the "Eighth Wonder of the World". I found it interesting that only one person was ever destined to be laid to rest here, and that by entombing Shah Jahan, husband of the intended, his sarcophagus throws off all the symmetry. Another interesting thing to note about symmetry are the two mosques, of which only one has ever been used. This is because the other mosque's doors are not facing Mecca.

Mosque at the Taj Mahal

Twenty-two domes represent the years to build
One top dome for each year to build, 22 in all

Last look back
Great shot of the Taj Mahal
Download for your desktop

Click here to view more photos from the Taj Mahal.

Visiting Other Wonders

After seeing the Taj Mahal, I was ready to see other world wonders. There are many reasons why I have given up on catching many of them, but I did get to see the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge this year, both of which were great.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Corrected Names in Kannada, Yairdoo Airdoo

It took a long time, but now I have my name correctly written in Kannada (again). It turns out the "aw" sound found in the word awesome does not really exist in Kannada. The whole purpose of finding out how to write my name is to collect my name in as many Indian languages as possible. Together with Anjali's name, these would make great his and hers coffee mugs.

Original Kannada Writing of Sean and Anjali
Us in Kannada
Sean here rhymes with scene

Correct Version of Sean and Anjali in Kannada
Sean and Anjali in Kannada

Sean is on the left and Anjali on the right.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Toddy: My First and Last Time

To Kochi or Bust

Robin is from Kochi (formerly Cochin) and invited me to come with him one weekend. He was heading to his home town in the state of Kerala to visit family. We took a bus from Whitefield to the bus depot and got on an overnight bus there. Before getting on the bus, I drank a 1L bottle of water, which turned out to be a mistake. On top of whatever liquid I already drank that afternoon, this water wanted out at some point, but the overnight bus was not planning to stop. Anywhere! So, I was uncomfortable for about seven hours of the journey from Karnataka to Kerala.

Bus from Whitefield
The Bus From Whitefield

Upon arrival in Kochi, the contrast in temperature and humidity from Bangalore was the first thing I noticed. I stepped off the bus thinking I had been transported to South Texas. We jumped into an Ambassador taxi and were off to Robin's parents' house.

Day one was not even close to being over. I met everyone and we had lunch, then in a rental car, Robin and I headed down to the mountains and tea plantations of Munnar.


Beautiful scenery, that is what Munnar is.

Munnar's mountains
Western Ghat Mountains

Mountains, mountains, mountains! It had been fifteen weeks since I had been behind the wheel of a car, and I was driving in mountains! Every sight around Munnar was grand: mountains, trees and rivers. Even most of the trucks on the road were clean and ornately decorated and colorfully painted.

Munnar tea plantation
Tea Plantations

Work and play in the water
Kids Play in the River as Adults Wash Clothes

Looking up into the trees
Majestic Trees Line the Roads

All good things must come to an end, so I pulled over on the side of the road to exchange seats with Robin. He was concerned we might get pulled over and hassled by police in the city if I was caught driving without a license.


The next night was going to be spent on a houseboat, or kettuvallam, on the backwaters of Alleppey. But, before heading away from Koshi, we visited a local fish market.

Fish and prawns for sale
A Kochi Fish Market

Kochi river fishermen
Fishermen on a River in Kochi

We got up early and headed to the market to pick up fish and prawns for the next day's meal. After seeing some local Kochi sights, it was time to head toward the lake and backwater canals of Alleppey.

Some canals are tight
Kettuvallam in Alleppey Backwaters

Lone boatman on the lake
Lone Boatman on the Lake

The houseboat experience was very nice and I highly recommend it. Mosquitoes were a pain, so I suggest you carefully pick what time of year you visit Alleppey. When the boat docked for the night, I was able to wander around the local neighborhoods. The entire time, I kept thinking about the property value of this non-commercialized area. Along all these canals there were nothing but simple homes with people who were by no means wealthy.

Guys illegally playing cards for money
Guys Playing Cards

Woman happily catching fish
Woman Happy to Catch Fish

Having enjoyed some time in Alleppey, it was time to join Robin's family for lunch back in Kochi, where a surprise was waiting for me.


I had heard about a local drink named toddy, which I was told to stay away from. I was told that if I were to try it, do so only at the start of the day and that by mid-morning, you should never try the stuff. Here it was, after noon, and I was being given toddy to taste. Robin's dad poured an entire glass of the stuff for me. I tasted it, thinking it was nasty, and then quickly downed the glass to be over and done with the experience. As soon as I set down the glass, it was full again, Robin's dad smiling as if he thought I liked the stuff. Ugh! So, I gulped down the second helping of it and then held onto the glass.

Trying toddy for the first time
Glass of Toddy

Toddy bar in Munnar
Toddy Bar in Munnar

I had been paying attention to the toddy bars seen all over this area, and toddy was the first word I learned how to write in Malayalam. Robin thought that was funny, saying a person's (child) first word written should be "Mom" or "Dad", not an alcoholic beverage.

A quick lunch of the fish and prawns picked up the day before and we were heading for the train station.

Back to Bangalore

Train station in Kochi
Train Station in Kochi

We hopped on a train for the overnight journey back to Bangalore. The discomfort of the train car was bearable once I found out Robin's mom had packed some prawns for us for the ride home, along with bread made from the remaining toddy instead of yeast. Toddy that way was quite nice.

The return train compartment
Train Car for Return to Bangalore

Sean is Hard to Spell in Kannada

A while back, I found out how to write my name in Kannada. I also learned how to write Anjali's name. There were many changes to my name in Kannada because the original spelling was for a long "e" in Sean, making it rhyme with scene. This was corrected, but I learned from a copy with some bad penmanship. Now, I have a decent version of our names, from which I got to copy from someone in my office from Karnataka.

The Original Version
Us in Kannada

The Corrected Version

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rubberband Support Ticket

So, today I get a note from Robin asking me to take a look at a support ticket and help him out. I drop the important load balancer SNMP work I am doing, push some firewall work out even later, and take a look at the ticket:

Support Ticket for Rubberbands
Support ticket for rubberbands

This was pretty funny. The ticket was not meant for the systems team, but it is always fun to see requests like these come through. And, here is another:

Another Support Ticket
Catch your running fridge?

Monday, September 14, 2009

He Looked Like 65 When He Died

Not much of the crappy punk music I listen to from the late 70's and early 80's received much air play. An exception would be Jim Carroll's "People Who Died", which was recorded with Blue Oyster Cult's Allen Lanier. A side note about the song, which was not responsible for its popularity, was that it was briefly played in the movie E.T.

The song mentions many people dying before their time. Now, Jim joins the list, as he passed away last Friday, September 11. Fifty-nine years old, he died while working at his desk from a heart attack. A line in the song says, "He looked like 65 when he died. He was a friend of mine."

Jim Carroll by Mike Force
Thanks for the music, Jim

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Power Went Out Again

Power outages occur quite often in Bangalore. Many places have generators; you see them in all sizes: personal use to huge diesel ones. Possibly because of the generators, no one seems concerned with fixing the power problems, instead people just deal with the power going out. Just about the time when I would ask why the problem exists in the first place, I get a glimpse into the problem:

Electrical Outlet Usage
Not Enough Outlets

At my office, workers were constructing a video conferencing room. For this work, many power tools where needed: circular saws, drills, etc. Every tool's power cable had the plug cut off. Why? Well, if you have three items needing power, but only one outlet, you simply stuff the bare wire ends of your cable into the same outlet. Why purchase a power strip with multiple outlets?

Utility Pole
Exposed Wiring

Bangalore Electrical Box
Free Access to Boxes

No one seems concerned with keeping wiring secured from people, nor the elements. So, electrical boxes are unlocked and most of the time left wide open and utility poles have wiring exposed. I have yet to see a single transformer site which is in decent shape.

Having said all this, the power at home has been up all week that I can tell and for that I need to now find some wood to knock on. Consistent power means stable Internet conne

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fifty Live Music Shows

I ran into this idea from my friend Carter.

OK, here are the rules. Test your memory and your love of live music by listing 50 artists or bands (or as many as you can remember) you've seen in concert. List the first 50 acts that come into your head. An act you saw at a festival and opening acts count, but only if you can't think of 50 other artists. Oh, and list the first concert you ever saw (you can remember that, can’t you)?

Should you choose this challenge, here's what you do:
Copy my note. Click on notes under tabs on your profile page. Select _write a new note_ in the top corner. Paste the copy in the body of the note. Make your list. Once you've saved, don't forget to tag friends (including me) on the right. I am tagging people I went to some of these shows with, as well as Carter.

01 Toadies

Dead Kennedys in Corpus Christi
Dead Kennedys in Corpus Christi, Texas

02 Dead Kennedys
03 Helmet
04 Reverend Horton Heat
06 Butthole Surfers
07 The Ataris
08 Violent Femmes
09 Willie Nelson
10 Robert Earl Keen, Jr
11 Steve Vai

Joe Satriani
Joe Satriani in Hollywood

12 Joe Satriani
13 Primus
14 Circle Jerks
15 Pennywise
16 John Mayer
17 Cro-Mags
18 7 Seconds
19 The Police
20 Tommy Emmanuel
21 MDC
22 Eric Johnson
23 Angkor Wat
24 Jay Buchanan
25 Liars, Inc
26 Eric Sardinas
27 John Petrucci
28 The Dan Band
29 Blue Man Group
30 Suicidal Tendencies
31 The Dead Milkmen
32 Presidents of the United States of America
33 Iron Maiden
34 Karmacy

East Bound and Down
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes in San Francisco

35 Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
36 No Use For A Name
37 The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
38 Phenomenauts
39 Soak
40 Bad Religion
41 MxPx
42 Bouncing Souls
43 Less Than Jake
44 Flogging Molly
45 Manic Hispanic
46 The Offspring

Rock and Roll Adventure Kids
Rock and Roll Adventure Kids in San Francisco

47 Rock and Roll Adventure Kids
48 Rancid
49 Los Vatos
50 Kryptos

Black Clouds of Exhaust

In California, every car has to get its exhaust analyzed to help keep the air clean. After spending the past nine months in India, I was sure that practice did not exist here. To my surprise, I had to take my motorcycle to a center the other day to get its emissions tested.

Emissions Test
Emissions Testing Stand

This is all fine and well, but someone is not paying attention to reality. The buses and auto-rickshaws here spit out black gunk like crazy, and those things run all hours. I would be amazed if any one rickshaw in Bangalore could pass an emissions test. If a Whitefield bus backed up to the testing center, the attendant would die of asphyxiation! I doubt that motorcycle and car engines are the source of the majority of the air pollution.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Download The Rose Hotel

The newest release from Robert Earl Keen, Jr is due out at the end of this month, but the title track is available for download here. One track of the other ten will have Billy Bob Thornton on vocals.

I first listened to REK at Bocktoberfest in Shiner, Texas, where he was the headliner. He is a great songwriter and performer. If you have never heard his music, you should at least download his latest effort for a free listen.

American Express For The Win

Sony wanted to charge more than half the value of this camera and have me do without for six to eight weeks for a broken LCD screen. This camera was not mishandled and likely had a sleight crack when it was purchased. After several attempts to find some compassion from a Sony Centre service representative, I called American Express, having used my card to purchase the item. Sure enough, the damages were covered by the card insurance and after filling out an online form and emailing a photo of the item, my card was reimbursed for the entire cost within a few days!


Keep this in mind when purchasing electronics, which can come from the factory with some issues: use your American Express card. You get great consumer protection with no hassles.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Best Ride I Never Had

Bike Ride to Kerala

A while back, some guys at the office came up with a plan for a group of us to ride our motorcycles to Wayanad, in the Indian state of Kerala. I decided not to go, then came back to going, then on the evening before leaving decided to ride in a car. Monsoon in Kerala is likely not the best time to be on the back of a bike for more than ten hours in one weekend. Anjali and I joined the bikers at a few points along the way, since we were all going in the same direction, and I snapped a couple pictures:

A Stop at Hotel Rolex
Just outside Mysore on Saturday

Lunch on the Way Home
Lunch stop on Sunday

Blue Ginger
Since I had flip-flopped between going and not going on this trip, I lost the prime real estate for the resort where most people were staying. A search for an alternative lead me to Blue Ginger Resorts, and I was able to secure their Cascade Cottage, which overlooks a river and has a waterfall view.

To get to Blue Ginger, a 4x4 Jeep had to pick us up from the main road. We spent the next hour bouncing around for the four-kilometer ride up to the resort, at an elevation of more than four thousand feet above sea level. All the water we drank was a bad idea: we should have emptied our bladders before heading up the mountainside; painful.

Meals at Blue Ginger were not the best, but we had ghobi "65" with lunch on Saturday, which was really good. I had to ask what the sixty-five meant and have subsequently looked it up online.

Cascade Cottage

The Cascade Cottage
The Cascade Cottage

We stayed in the Cascade Cottage, which is located in the far back of the resort property, built over the river. The views out our windows were amazing:

Waterfall Right Out Our Window
Waterfall View

One Window's View
River View

Never a bad view, no matter which direction you looked out. In addition, the sounds of the water rushing was great to fall asleep to.

But Wait, There's More...
After coming back from lunch on that first day, we were discussing how great a memory staying in Wayanad is going to always be. We talked a bit about future memorable trips we plan to embark upon and how long into the future we see ourselves happily remembering the moment we were sharing. I asked Anjali if she would always want to recount memories of us as we were building new memories together, and when she said yes, I told her how much I wanted that as well. It was then I got down on one knee and presented her with a ring, asking her to marry me.

Anjali Enjoying the Cold Air
The Proposal Site

Relationship Status Change

Cascade Cottage View
The Happy Couple

Sunday meant a long ride back to Bangalore, but the time was filled with many phone calls, updating loved ones on the change in our relationship.

We Are Now Engaged

The next steps have not really been considered, but we are engaged and happy. We are looking forward to our life together and that is really all that matters.

To read about what the other folks were doing, check out the experiences of Dagan and Bree or Michael. Oh, and more from Michael here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sick of Swine Flu

The craziness has to end soon. I was in the city the other night and decided to meet Anjali for supper. Upon entering the restaurant, we had hand sanitizer squirted on us because of the swine flu scare. There is being cautious and checking for symptoms, but that is a bit much.

At the office, all employees were given hand sanitizer bottles:

Hand Sanitizer
Hands-On sanitizer

We have held a training session on how to deal with swine flu. There are posters put up showing how to properly wash hands. Now the company is giving out masks to anyone feeling under the weather. At least someone has maintained a sense of humor through all this, as you can see below:

Ogre Flu
Ogre Flu?

I know it is a real illness and people are dying from it. However, the knee-jerk reaction is a bit overboard, don't you think?