Saturday, November 15, 2008


We had a tour guide take us around to some key spots here in Chennai today. We started with the The Devine Seat Of The Creator Surpreme-Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar Temple, then visited the St. Thomas Basilica (only 1 of 3 churches in the world built over the tomb of an Apostle of Jesus Christ, apparently), then St. Mary's (the oldest Angelican church in the world), then finished up with Mahabalipuram. See some highlights below...

The Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar Temple was fantastic, really. The architecture, carvings, artwork were incredible and there were a ton of people there worshiping in some form. The guide told us much of the stories that the carvings and the artifacts were portraying, hard to remember them all, but was very interesting. Of course, we were not allowed to take pictures inside of the actual temple rooms, of the deities, that is strictly forbidden. But got a lot of pics of the buildings. Also note the interesting pond outside that I took pics of, people were buying puffed rice and feeding it to those catfish, was crazy. The guide told us that the catfish were very poisonous (I'm assuming to eat).

Next we drove to the St. Thomas Basilica. As I mentioned above, apparently the church is only 1 of 3 in the world that is built on top of the tomb of one of Jesus's apostles. Legend has it that he came to Chennai to spread God's word, was there for 20 years and was assasinated by a local king with a spear. Apparently, Marco Polo visited the church/tomb in the 1200's and was amazed by the healing powers from the dirt he took from inside the tomb. A pope visited the church and tomb as well (recently, like last 15 years I believe). It was a typical Catholic church, but the significance of the church made it pretty neat to visit for sure.

Not too far from there was a military controlled govenment area, complete with an old fort (that we weren't allowed take a picture of). Inside of the area, we visited St. Mary's Anglican Church. It's the oldest angelican church in the world, built sometime in the 1600's (didn't get the picture of the info on that). Couple of key interesting things about this church are that it was built as "bomb proof" - the ceiling and walls are 5 feet thick concrete, and that Yale was the first person to be married there (who donated his name to Yale University).

Finally, we went to Mahabalipuram. This is an area of ancient temples that were lost for hundreds of years due to being covered in sand (not all, but some). Some of the key areas were discovered by a British archeologist a couple hundred years ago..I think. As the tour guide told us (about 900 times or thereabouts), there are 3 primary architecture styles; stuff carved into hills/rock (like caves and such), stuff carved down from large standing rocks, and stuff that is built as pieces (composed buildings and pieces). All of this was truly amazing - from the rock on the hill that looks like it's going to fall but is perfectly balanced and won't budge, to the huge carvings into the side of a rock hill to huge pieces that started out as just big ass rocks and were carved down from the top, to the cool ass temple built down by the ocean with the elaborate carvings. You need to check out the pictures or search for sites with better pictures than mine. There were a lot of stories told about what was happening in the carvings, but the pictures will do a better job than I can type.

The trip is all but over now, resting in the hotel room, packing and readying to head to the airport (at 1:00am Chennai time). Been a very productive time here and seen some magnificent things. But, so ready to be home with the family at this juncture..

Also, to see all of my twitter updates (while some of you were asleep), visit this.


Friday, November 14, 2008


Finally ending a good, long, hard week of work here in India.  Enjoying a little downtime tonight, hanging out in the room watching tv and eating pizza. (and writing a blog post)

So, I'm staying at a Sheraton here in Chennai.  Apparently they hired an insane person masquerading as a marketing dipshit.  Said "dipshit" designed a marketing strategy wherein they precede as many simple common terms with a prefix of "Welcom" to impress their brand upon peoples brain matter.  It's simply redonkulous.  Here are some real examples that I've documented:

  • ITC-Welcomgroup (this is their main brand)
  • WelcomCroissant
  • WelcomAssistance
  • WelcomKulfi (some kind of desert)
  • WelcomMeal
  • WelcomKathi (kathi is a type of Indian food that is vegetables or chicken, etc. wrapped in paratha, an Indian bread)
  • WelcomNet
  • WelcomSlumber

Went out to dinner last night with some Pearson colleagues and some offshore vendor fellows.  The food was incredibly good and great conversation was had across the board.  One of our friends here in India took to drinking straight vodka and not eating...the entire dinner.  By the end of the dinner, he was smashed and trying to pull off a sales treatment, unbelievably funny..

Noting that the hotels and other buildings here accomplish wifi networks inside of their building by putting up poles with directional wifi antennas outside of the building and pointing them into the rooms and lobbies.  Interesting approach and a hell of a lot cheaper than running cat5 throughout the hallways..

Tomorrow, on our last day we are going to an archeological site that has ancient temples and caves called Mahabalipuran.  Really looking forward to the adventure.  In addition, we are going to try to locate some green (unroasted) coffee beans.  This is a big coffee region of the country.

Really looking forward to coming home at this point...


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Smelly Shoes

Been a couple of days since I posted.  We have been extraordinarily busy and work has been intense with our offshore team.  By the time we get back to the hotel, we're usually burnt and just want to pass out.  A few observations from the last few days:


  • Alejandra talked about some of her travels to places like NYC and Japan as it pertains to you being able to be anonymous and "hiding" in a crowd if you want to, even though you are surrounded by a lot of people.  India is *not* one of those types of places.  You are never anonymous or hidden in this culture.  No matter where you are or what you are doing, people engage you directly with their eyes and talk to you in some form.  If you are familiar with walking in most United States large cities, you can walk around and not interact with anyone if you don't want to, this place is completely the opposite of that experience.  It reminds me of a scene in "Crocodile Dundee" when the main character comes to NYC for the first time and starts walking down the sidewalk and is trying to say hello and talk to every person he sees and the people are really taken aback.  Such a stark difference in cultural experiences.
  • The best presentations and discussions that have been led have been by women here.  This isn't surprising of course, just noting that it's consistent with my experiences with the Indian offshore groups.  One standout exception was a discussion we had with a data migration group, the men leading that were just excited, experienced, and just plain passionate about the work they are involved in.  That was a really fun discussion just because of their passion.
  • The flight attendants (formerly known as stewardesses) are all hot and model'esk, at least the female ones.  It's akin to the airline industry that the USA had in the 70's.  I don't mind.
  • When it rains here, the cows that litter the roads hide under big trucks to escape the weather.
  • In this part of india, this state, apparently every single meal is ended with eating "yogurt rice" (I don't know the actual name).  They refer to it almost as religious.  It tastes like runny sour cream with soft rice in it.  They eat it to help with digestion and to mitigate the really spicy food.  I don't like it.
  • You only see 1 "breed" of dog in the streets.  They have homogenized their gene pool over time, all over the country so that you really only see 1 breed, no variations.  i.e. You don't see large dogs, small dogs, etc.  Only 1 type of dog, period.
  • The hotels have Cartoon Network, but don't show "Adult Swim" shows.  What the hell is wrong with them?
  • We went to one of my favorite stores here in India - FabIndia.  It's a chain store here that sells clothes, fabrics, tea, etc. that are usually made by hand by coops and such around the country.  The prices are really reasonable and the selections are killer.  I recommend anyone travelling to India to find one of these stores and buy some shit.
  • I can't get any variety of beers here.  If you don't like Kingfisher lager or Heineken, you're shit out of luck.  Ordered a Venezuelan Malbec (red wine) the other night, it was served chilled/cold.
  • My Keens (shoes) are done.  Noting that they stink and when I get home, they are going in the trash.  Annoying to travel with smelly shoes.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Oddly Enough

So, an odd discovery on this trip, on the complete other side of the planet - Obama talk.  Many people that I talk to here want to first and foremost talk to me about the recent election, Obama, and what it means to them personally - not just to the world and their nation, which also comes up invariably, but to them personally.

Whether you believe the Obama win was good or not, the effect and perception of this election is dramatic and undeniable for sure.  But, in ways I didn't predict.  No one here talks about his economic policies, taxes, platform stands on issues, etc.  The effect on them doesn't appear to be even remotely based on those things.  Read on..

So, themes that have evolved repeatedly here:

- I have been told explictly by disparate people that the election proved to them that real change can actually occur, the United States has proved it.  The view that the USA is and always will be ran by white men with the same ideas and therefore leading the world has been shattered.  They have told me that it shows them that things can actually change, coming from a world view that nothing ever changes or gets better for them.  These are usually carpet or pashmina salesmen but they want to talk about this first and foremost.  It's hard to describe the look in these men's eyes when they say it - it's very very personal to them and it gives them hope of change.

- (this is a shocker that I didn't have perspective on) I have been told explictly the same number of times that the election results shows that *real* democracy really exists in the United States and therefore can really exist elsewhere.  Apparently, there is quite a bit of skepticism about the "democracy" that we talk about, as all they see is the same people or type of people elected over and over again. (perception is reality to the world)  This election shocked them and they say something like "It has been proven to us that there is real democracy in the USA and we should hope to have that some day so that the people can change something if they want to by voting."  One guy told me that "Now that the USA has proven they have real democracy and the people can change things, now we and the rest of the world have to prove we can do the same, it's no longer an option to be skeptical of this notion."  I had no idea democracy itself was questioned regarding the perception of the USA.

- Everyone that speaks about this topic and is passionate about it also follows up with something like "But, the expectations are really high about what Obama might be able to accomplish, it will be very very hard, hopefully he'll be able to meet some of those expectations and affect change."  They all seem to set more realistic expectations and don't seem absolutely dreamy-eyed, keeping a finger in reality and some skepticism of course.

- Everyone that speaks about this topic also mentions something along the lines about how important this is for the whole world, that the world had a very big stake in the election too, that this was a win for the other countries not just the USA.  They see it as a means for inspiring change in their worlds, where change doesn't come easily.  And, that the world economy follows the United States economy, hoping for improvement there.

Anyway, wanted to post about this.  Like I said, regardless of how you feel about Obama yourself, the very apparent effect of this election on the masses of people around the world (and India specifically, because that's where the hell I am) is a bit dramatic.  And, that it appears to be a very personal thing to many of these people - showing that democracy actually exists and can happen.  And in a world where we would like to see more democracy of some sort, this is an important notion...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sunday Morn

Sunday morning, about 8am.  As usual, couldn't sleep much last night, sleep patterns all messed up.  Woke up at about 4:30am, fiddle-farted around trying to sleep, didn't happen.  So, took a shower and now eating pastries (in the pastry shop here in the hotel), drinking coffee, reading news (and of course writing this post).

Yesterday we decided to take a walk, just see anything, whatever.  We were immediately attacked by men wanting to drive us around, show us sights, take us shopping.  They were relentless, not ceasing to follow and nag for a block or so.  A nice man helped us across one of the crazy ass streets (freaking taxi's, motorcycles, cars everywhere) and gave us some advice on where to walk.  We took it.  Shortly thereafter he shows up with a taxi (little 3 wheel dealio with a small 2 cycle engine) and offered to drive around to a few places.

Was nice at first, saw an old king's palace (now a government building, no visitors allowed), which is ginormous and several city blocks long/wide, and such.  Then, as usual coerced us into visiting a few shops that he gets kick backs on for taking tourists to.  That was a pain in the ass, they just constantly berate you to buy something.  I survived with only buying some spices and tea.  Alejandra didn't fare as well and bought some pashmina's.  Anyway, was annoyed and just wanted to get back to the hotel at that juncture.  Sick of being nagged to buy shit, I just want to see some stuff and take pictures.  It's hard to impossible to get that here.

Anyway, sunday morning - not sure what the day holds, maybe nothing much more than drinking tea & Kingfisher beer, smoking cigars, and reading.  But who knows.  If something arises, I'll take pics and post of course..


Friday, November 7, 2008

Bangalore, India - Sat Morning

We arrived in a very foggy/smoggy Bangalore without incident.  The captain on the plane referred to it as "hazy".  Hazy my ass, it's like soup out here.

It's about 5am on sat morning here and the temperature is about, I'd say - 65 degrees.  Our driver and others are wearing jackets because they said "it's cold to them".  I laughed at them, they said well, this is very cold for them and they're not used to it.

We landed in the brand new airport here, only open about 3 months.  Bought some cigars, exchanged money to get rupees (sp?), which are about 44 per US dollar.

Feeling pretty rested and ready for the day but have absolutely no clue what's on plan actually.

Just passed a new golf course in the city which had huge nets along the side next to the road to prevent golf balls from exiting and hitting cars I presume.  The nets were about 4 stories tall I'm guessing.

More later..


Thursday, November 6, 2008

India Trip - 2008.11

So, heading to India with Alejandra & Vijay.  Stops include 3 days in Bangalore and 5 day in Chennai.  Purpose - establish offshore teams for the rumba effort; UI/UX (already exists to a large extent), Engineering, and QA.  We'll be defining the rumba domain for them, describing our stakeholders and strategy, technologies in play, and collaborate on our initial process for moving forward.

Path to India is Indy-Chicago-London-Bangalore.  Coming back is the reverse except we'll be starting at Chennai instead of Banglaore.

Also, for shits and giggles - I'll have my phone's gps on a various times and that will automatically update the Google map on this blog so family & friends can follow along and see where I'm at, get a sense of what I'm seeing.  In addition, as it's much faster and lower-fi, I'll be twittering throughout just because...that's fun for me.  Those tweets will also show up here on the blog or you can follow along via

Heading to the airport in a few mins, will keep in touch!