Friday, October 26, 2007

Lil Punkin

I've been asked for some updated pics of my neice. These were taken a couple weeks ago, when she was 8 weeks old. Just starting to smile a bit... Pretty freakin cute.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Heroes, Gyros, & Beer-os

It's been happening every week during the TV season since last fall...

The break out phenomenon that took the nation by surprise...

It's called Heroes, Gyros, and Beer-os.

Monday nights Lee and I get together to watch Heroes, eat gyros from Gyropolis, and drink Grain Belt Premium beer-os.

You, too can help make Monday everybody's new favorite night of the week: watch some good TV, support your local gyro shop and tip back a local brew.

And let me know if you have food and drink ideas that rhyme with Lost and 24.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Catching up part 5

I have been meaning to get this up for a long time. It's come up in a few conversations recently so I guess it's time. I went to India in March of 2006 to train some Dell employees. These are entries from my journal while I was there. Previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Friday, March 10
6 am
The Charminar, Hyderabad, India

Sunrise was a bust for photos and lighting, much like the sunset the night before. We left the hotel, the same driver from last night and I, and I actually saw the most color in the sky from the car as soon as we left the hotel, about ½ hour before actual sunrise. The driver kept going slow, explaining the surroundings, in spite of my gentle urging to get to the Charminar, a prayer temple in the oldest section of the city, before the sun was actually up. “You see, sa. Sun is coming slooooooowly, sa.” Repeat. He would make a statement like that every so often, like “very old, sa. 600 years, sa,” or some trivial information like that. Then he would repeat it until I actually said, Yes or OK, not just uh-huh, or mmm-hmmmm. Then he’d say it one more time. I appreciated his enthusiasm, but got a little tired of the routine, plus I was annoyed that the weather was not cooperating with my photo ops.

The Charminar opens at dawn for prayers.

So I took a couple pics, said no to a half dozen stops he suggested on the way back to the hotel, had breakfast and went back to bed.

2 pm
The Final Run

I hooked up with a driver, the same one who had driven me around on Wednesday, and went out for one last round of souvenir hunting. Went to some more authentic shops this time - not touristy; rather where Indies go to shop, less mall like and more bazaar like. In fact one place was called Big Bazaar. Got some pearls for the girls and a shirt for my brother. Couldn’t find a t-shirt with Hindi on it. Not even one that said India. All the t-shirts with writing were in English. Not aimed at the same type of tourist shopping that I expected. Couldn’t find any postcards either. Strange. Also went to Karachi Bakery, apparently a world famous place, and got some biscuits (cookies) to take home.

So I took it easy the rest of the evening, had a snack and a Cobra Premium (it’s no Grain Belt) at the bar, got packed up and took a nap. Had one last dinner and left the hotel at 12:30 am Saturday the 11th. Got back to the states about 24 hours later around noon on Sunday the 12th.

I'd love to go back.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Catching up part 4

I have been meaning to get this up for a long time. It's come up in a few conversations recently so I guess it's time. I went to India in March of 2006 to train some Dell employees. These are entries from my journal while I was there. Previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Thursday, March 9, 2006
6 - 8 pm
Birla Mandir, the white marble temple, Hyderabad, India

Until tonight I hadn’t spent any time out “on the street”. For the last three days it’s been a car ride somewhere, then inside an office or store or restaurant. I got a car and driver at about 6 pm planning to take pictures of the sunset behind the Buddha statue at Hussein Sagar lake, which 200 years ago was the main supply of drinking water for the city. No longer drinkable today, but it is still supplied only by rain water.

We arrived in time for sunset, but rain clouds covered up what little color was there, so we moved on. While I was out of the car I could smell little more than exhaust, or body odor of someone nearby, which wasn’t terribly disgusting, just noticeable. On the way to Venkateswara Temple, an all-white marble temple, we got a flat tire.

My driver, of course, didn’t want me to help so I took the opportunity to walk up the block and take some pictures. There was a welder a block away putting up a sign and I thought it would look interesting in the dark... So I took some pictures of people on the street.

On the way up the block was a strong smell of urine, mixed with sweet, pungent incense and some food spices. There are food stands nearly everywhere, and I had already seen a few men peeing on walls or on the sidewalk while we were driving around, so I wasn’t too surprised at the wide variety of smells. Made for an interesting aromatic experience, though. The streets are filthy.

With the tire fixed, my driver insisted we go to the temple, which didn’t really matter to me much at the time. He said the view was great at night - much better than the day, so I said fine.

First, you must remove your shoes. Most everyone else was in bare feet, so I removed my socks as well. Also cameras are not allowed, so this led to quite a sacred experience for me. It’s easy for me to spend too much time behind the lens of a camera sometimes, trying to take every memory home with me... so I feel a little more reverence, I guess, when I know I’ll be taking mental pictures.

It was amazing! From the cool stone on the bottom of my feet to the many people who had come to pray wearing colored chalk on their cheeks and receiving a blessing, all the white marble (god, all the white marble), the cool breeze, the moon and clouds overhead, the prayer chants.... From the top you can see the giant statue of Buddha in Hussein Sagar. A Lutheran guy with a Muslim guide, in a Hindu temple, looking at a Buddhist sculpture. Pretty heavy.

At the top, a very peaceful place, I stood with my face into the wind and enjoyed a serene moment, just taking it all in, really for the first time so far on the trip. My guide said quietly, “It’s very quiet up here. No traffic.” (And he said sir, or “sa” at the end of each sentence.) He continued, “No stress, sa. Very peaceful, sa. Very quiet, sa... No one to bother you, sa. No one to interrupt you while you enjoy the mood, sa.” And on and on... Actually it seemed like a comedy routine after a bit. I had to laugh.

Don't forget your light-up Vishnu and Ganesh on the way out!

Read Part 5...

Catching up part 3

I have been meaning to get this up for a long time. It's come up in a few conversations recently so I guess it's time. I went to India in March of 2006 to train some Dell employees. These are entries from my journal while I was there. Previous posts: Part 1, Part 2

Thursday, March 9, 2006
10:30 - 3 pm
Emporium, shopping

I hired a driver to take me out souvenir hunting. Half day excursions cost Rs. 825, all day 1200. Rupees are about 44 to the dollar, so 100 rupees is just over 2 dollars, 1000 rupees is about 23 bucks. The first place was an emporium, specializing in India handcrafts. Surprisingly this would be the only such store I would get to see the whole trip. Had I known this I may have bought more items. The store clerk was very helpful and spoke English well. The woven silk pieces were really beautiful. From large and small tablecloths to pillow cases to place mats, it was difficult to choose just a couple items. Along with a carved elephant, I chose a violet pillow case with peacocks and elephants in the design and a blue table runner.

Now, I had been told that prices were negotiable everywhere, not to settle for the price tag or the quoted price in both online research and from a local at Dell. The total of my items came 1440 rupees, or about 33 bucks. Pretty cheap, but I was going to try my hand at bargaining. I offered 800 rupees for everything. The guy looked at me funny and said, “I don’t understand.” He again added up the total and said it again 1440. This guy’s pretty good, I thought. I repeated my offer and after a bit of the same upped my offer to 1000. He then politely but firmly informed me that this was a different kind of store. The price here is the price you pay. Some markets will not even have a price - those are the ones to bargain with. Not here. You can see the price clearly on the item, and you can pay it or you can leave. I had insulted him and I felt bad. Or else he was REALLY good. So I smiled and said do you take American Express?

My driver and me.

The taxi driver and the hotel doorman. They were all smiles until it was time for a photo.

After a little more shopping at a mall, my driver and I had lunch at Paradise Biryani, “the best place in town” for biryani, a rice, herb, spice dish served with lamb, chicken, or veg. We washed our hands and sat down upstairs inside. It was better to be inside than outside, my driver said, but I’m not sure why. His English was better than my Hindu or Telugu (which is nil), but not too great, so many of our exchanges ended in confusion. We had lamb biryani and ate with our fingers, me following his lead. Silverware was provided, but traditionally meals are eaten with the fingers. This was the only time on the trip where I saw it, but I didn’t eat outside the hotel much. The dish was a little spicy and came with some spicy sauce and a milk sauce. Washed it down with a Pepsi and payed the inflated bill, which I didn’t notice until later. We ate 2 biryanis at Rs. 95 each plus 2 sodas, but were charged for 3 sodas, 2 biryanis, 2 soups and 2 salads. Even the inflated total was less than 10 bucks. Surely an honest mistake.

The street from outside Paradise Biryani.

I mean no disrespect, but that's from Mad Max right?

After that I went back to the hotel and had a beer by the pool and relaxed for a couple hours.

Read Part 4...