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Home for the Holidays

December 19, 2012 1 comment

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The trees in New England have lost their leaves, the skies are dull metal and I am home again.  Strangely I find these grey scenes comforting and familiar.  Home with my family for Christmas, we’ll eat and celebrate with friends, spend some time preparing for the long journey away, then just before New Years’ wife Kim and daughters Alex and Morgan will return with me back to Pune.

For the moment though, let me muse upon the aspects of home that strike me most, after having been gone for three months or so:

Weather.  In India I have not seen a drop of rain for months, since even before my last visit end of September.  Here the skies seem profligate in their threats and acts of precipitation.

Faces.  I think unless you are away from home a long time you wouldn’t know this feeling, but I think it happens to everyone: You miss the faces of home.  I’m always happy to see the faces of my Indian friends, and in India watching faces of passerby always offers something new.  But when you see a hometown face after a long time away it’s a good feeling.  Its especially strange when you think, in my hometown at least, the faces I’m used to are white, black, brown and yellow, Western and Eastern, Northern and Southern.

Food: As much as I love Indian food – which is a lot – I‘m looking forward to some Western holiday dishes, such as Baked Oysters, ConsomméRoast Rib of Beef with Sauce Béarnaise, and for dessert, the pumpkin pie (or close equivalent) I missed for Thanksgiving.

 

Enough musing for now.  On our front door is an 8-bit Christmas Wreath:

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The holidays are nearly here – time to start planning some celebration.  To my friends, both East and West, be well.

Categories: Sundries

Internet Reality

December 8, 2012 3 comments

Economic journalist Barry Ritholtz, author of Bailout Nation, on his blog uses this blurb to invite comments:

Comments

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

Sounds like he has adopted the implicit policy of Yahoo comments.

Anyway I take Mr. Ritholtz’s policy as a challenge, so here goes:

This author is apparently unaware his innane ideas on the economy have been discredited ever since Adam Smith wrote “The Road to Serfdom”.  If we follow this plan the national debt will soon exceed $1 million per family, forcing our daughters to sell themselves to Russian energy magnates to pay interest on US Treasuries.  Don’t you get it?  The so-called stimulus failed!!  Thats why we have 20% unemployment, $10 a gallon gas, a tanked stock market and government thugs trying to TAKE AWAY MY GUNS!!!  But this is to be expected from Commie-Socialist dog-walkers like Ritholtz.
Desi Arnez, where are you now that we need you?

 

Whew.  Not satisfied with my effort.  Ritholtz sets the bar pretty high.

Categories: Internet, Sundries

Sacrebleu! Erreur de communication majeur …

December 7, 2012 2 comments

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Various wire services have reported that an 18th century chateau on the eastern outskirts of Bordeaux has been mistakenly demolished.  The 13,000 square meter Chateau Bellevue was “the pride and joy” of the town of Yvrac, said the former owner.  The present owner, Russian businessman Dmitry Stroskin, planned to renovate the chateau; it was an old, run-down outbuilding he intended to demolish.  Apparently the Polish construction crew he hired misunderstood his directions and demolished the chateau, leaving the outbuilding untouched.

Suggestion: It never hurts to repeat your requirements.  And, write them in spray-paint, if there’s any doubt.

Categories: Communications, Sundries

More posts soon (I Hope)

November 8, 2012 2 comments

My best time for blogging is the weekends.  Evenings are long here.  Since we do so many calls with the US, work usually wraps up 7:30 or 8-ish – or a little later now with the US daylight savings time change.  We do start at the office a bit later, 10 or so, but I like to use the mornings to exercise and catch up on newspaper reading – I read the NY Times, Boston Globe and India Times.

2 weekends ago I spent Saturday car-shopping – I’ll have a whole post about that in a few weeks – and Sunday golfing, at the Poona Golf Club:

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Noel Coward wrote that “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.”  We have to add golfers to that.

Then this past weekend I was in Mumbai, at an IBM SWG team event called “Connect in 2012” and an IBM customer event called Software Universe.  The opening presentation for this event had a video on a super-wide screen – like, 50 meters wide – and 3 ninja-like dancers “manipulating” the images as if there was a giant touch-screen:

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The event was great, I got to speak with a number of Indian customers and Indian colleagues, plus many technical leaders who travelled here from around the world.

Today I travel to Bangalore for the wrap-up of the week’s technical meetings.  But I’ll be back on Saturday and hopefully will have time for some more blogging.

Categories: Sundries

Small Differences

September 8, 2012 Comments off

Folk wisdom tells us “it’s the little things that matter”.  Matter or not, they sure get noticed.  Something you notice quickly coming to India from the US is: elevators.  The buttons on many elevators here are arranged like these:

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This is the elevator where I work.  US folks I’m sure will instantly notice the difference; the floors go up first on the left side, then restart and go up on the right side.  I have seen Westerners wanting to go to the 2nd floor mistakenly press 5, because it is to the right of 1.

The elevator at my apartment looks like this:

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Elevators like this are in the minority here in India.  This is the US style, where the numbers are arranged so that all the “higher” ones are at the top.  Also notice it uses the Indian convention for actual numbering of floors.  In the US the floor at ground level is called 1; in India that floor is called 0 or ground, and the 1st floor is what in the US we would call 2nd.

Why is the ordering different?  The US view would be that our ordering is more intuitive, that all higher floors are accessed by “higher” buttons.  For example at my work elevator the button for 4th floor is lower down than the button for the 3rd floor.

But calling that intuitive assumes several things.  One is that we care about the physical height of floors.  More and more the floors in an office or apartment building are abstract destinations, places you go to without knowing or caring about the physical relationship to the other numbered destinations … until, of course, the elevators aren’t working and you have to use stairs.  Anyway it seems less clear to me nowadays that the height attribute has the power it once had.

A second and probably more important thing is reading order.  Indo-European languages are written to be read side-to-side.  Traditional Chinese is written up-and-down.  Many elevators here in India are in fact made in China, so I suppose this aspect of writing may be in play here.

Conclusion: Look before you press.

Categories: Sundries, Technology, Travel

Krugman, Matty Groves & The Culture

August 26, 2012 1 comment

I’m a regular reader of Paul Krugman’s articles and blog.  One of my takeaways from B-school was an interest in macroeconomics and Krugman’s objective and unapologetic style – as well as his argument – clicks with me.

But I’m not posting about economics.  I find I share Krugman’s taste in music and books.  His last Friday’s post featured Fairport Convention, an all-time favorite band for for the Salazar family.  Other bands he likes I find I like too: The Civil Wars, and Arcade Fire.

Krugman’s an SF fan too, there was an article about it in the Globe some months back.  Reading that I thought I’d try some of his picks.  That got me hooked on Iain M. Banks Culture series

Over 4th of July vacation I read Use of Weapons and Excession; both were good, though I liked Excession more.  Anyway, being here in India on my assignment, not yet joined by family, I have a lot of time for reading.  Since coming here I finished Consider Phlebas and am halfway through Look to Windward.  I haven’t found any SF I like for so long, The Culture is a great to come across now – vast, space-opera scope, which makes it fun, and at the same time just good characters, which makes it interesting.

 

 

If this stuff is news to you, check out some of Krugman’s music and books.  Of course if you also look into his politics, I really can’t help that, now, can I?

Categories: Books, Sundries

This Is The Day

August 3, 2012 2 comments

The day I travel to Pune, Maharashtra, India to start my 2 year assignment.  Is everything ready?  I suspect not.  But time to go regardless; whatever remains to be settled will have to be done in India.

Here’s one thing I have learned in the months of preparation for this assignment: The government of India loves photographs.  Photographs of you, that is: passport-sized, in sets of 3 for most every interaction you will have.  Want to move into your apartment?  You need to file your “C Form”, one copy for you and everyone in your family, together with 3 pictures of everyone.  Want to open a bank account? 3 pictures.  Register as a foreigner?  3 pictures.  Get a cell phone?  Yes, 3 pictures.  And this is all in addition to endless photocopies of your passport, visa, driver’s license, marriage license and more.  I would someday love to visit the master photo vaults – which I assume *must* exist – where spectacled clerks use tweezers to place each submitted photo into its government-mandated album.

Anyway, a bit of advice #1 for anyone considering a foreign posting: Get a scanner. Mine is a ScanJet G4050.  I got this about a year and a half ago to scan a large box of photos and negatives from the 80s and 90s.  Here’s one of my favorites, a picture from 1991 scanned from a negative:

scan0001 (6)This is daughter Alex at around age 2 months.  This was the first effort of a never finished (just as well) photo series entitled “Babies and Fruit”.

Back to the scanner – I had to capture a great many documents: diplomas, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, utility bills and more.  If I had to go off to a copy shop every time one or another of these was requested, I’d never get to India.  But once everything is scanned you can easily fire off emails with PDFs in response to each next request.

My suitcases are half packed … need to go finish that.  Then its printing out last minute forms, copying files to an external USB drive, filling out the manifest for my air shipment of goods, and a few other odds and ends.

I’ll leave you all with some music from the 80s, by a band I enjoyed then and still do, The The:

Surely a change indeed.  Next post will be from my new  home.  Namaste.

Categories: Expat life, Sundries