Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My Indian(-American) Doppelganger

My Indian (-American) Doppelganger

I only just realized that my fellow intern Vijay is my doppelganger. (Or perhaps he is the Christopher Conway of Earth-A.) Hair: check. Glasses: check. Height (impossibly tall): check. Smile: check. Blue checked shirt: check.

So physically, we're identical. Only I'm all pinkish sweetness and light, and he's pure brown evil. I like Okkervil River; he likes Aphex Twin. I like Dre; he likes D. On Monday night, he was chased by a pack of wild dogs; at the same time, I was NOT being chased by a pack of wild dogs. (Wild dogs hate evil.)

Fate has a plan for us. He must be destroyed.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Virtual Desktops

I grew accustomed to them in GNUstep. I came to depend on them in Gnome. Somehow, I can live without them on my Mac. I can't live without them in Windows XP. Too many damn windows!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Coffee update

Problem solved.

Furniture Update

The fridge and the washing machine have returned, but the furniture is still missing. I may have exaggerated the situation in my previous post: they did take all of the furniture, but they didn't leave us with nothing. In particular, we still have our beds and the kitchen table, and they brought us a new couch and one desk for the living room. There are two desks and several small tables still missing, so that, e.g., I have to keep my alarm clock on the floor.

Movies in Bangalore (does not include The Forum, seems pretty much incomplete)
PVR Cinemas (home of Gold Class Cinemas at The Forum) (won't let me log-in to book)
INOX (at Garuda Mall) (won't let me browse showtimes)
Collective Chaos (film society)
Bangalore Film Society

Is it possible to book online? PVR has a booking website, but I'm not sure how it works. Tickets by SMS? Home delivery? (Why can't I pick them up at the theatre?)

Anybody have pointers to other screenings at Nani Cinematheque?

[UPDATED 6/4/2006] More info and links.

Bless you. Not.

There are no bless-you's when you sneeze around here. It's disconcerting. It shouldn't be. I think even the most religiously observant (and I am not) would concede there's no real necessity to invoke God every time you get some dust in your nose. (OK, perhaps the extremely observant would not pass up an opportunity to invoke God. Nevertheless...) I don't believe in God, and I don't believe a sneeze represents habitation by evil spirits or some loss of vital essence, but I believe very strongly that somebody should say "Bless you" after I sneeze! (I'll settle for a secular "Gezundheit".)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

New photo set

Dog in traffic

Journey to Lalbagh

Autorickshaw madness

Autorickshaws in this city have an infuriating tendency to: a) refuse to take you to perfectly reasonable places, b) try to convince you to pay a flat rate or a surcharge, even though they have meters, and are legally required to use them, and c) ask you to please pay them a little extra after you've arrived, when you've already argued over the meter before you started.

In the case of (a) you're basically screwed, you just have to keep asking until someone says yes. In the case of (b), they usually relent if you insist, but not always, and you may find yourself taking the long way around to your destination. In the case of (c), you can just hop out and tell them to shove it, but you shouldn't expect exact change to be forthcoming.

Today, I had at least a half dozen drivers refuse to take me to the City Market outright, and another handful refuse to take me on the meter. I got into one rickshaw whose driver refused to take me unless I would stop at a jewelry store along the way. I ended up walking all the way downtown (about 2.5 miles, as the crow flies) to the India Coffee House, where I enjoyed several cups of light, sweet coffee (the first decent cups I've had in this country).

Note to Microsoft

I am not one of these people.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Instant Coffee

Instant coffee is surprisingly acceptable when you have no other options. The espresso machine in the office makes a barely tolerable cup of weak coffee. When I first arrived, you had to memorize the morphism:

Black coffee = Hot water
Large black coffee = coffee w/ milk
Espresso = Milk

Since then, somebody has helpfully annotated the machine.


Problem solved.

* Shout out to Rich Hall.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Fried Bacon-wrapped Cheese

Apparently, I had to come all the way to India---and spend a week and a half eating daal and chapati---to find the titular ultra-Atkins snack. Incredibly yummy, but also fairly nauseating.

Palace Grounds Wedding

I've posted some photos of a wedding taking place down the street from me, right this very minute. When I walked up to the gate, camera in hand, a man in a uniform invited me to come in and take a closer look. As I walked back out, the same man told me that taking pictures was "against their culture" and looked kind of upset. This was strange, because there was a professional photographer and videographer standing right there. I apologized, and told him I hadn't understood. But here I've gone and posted the pictures anyway. If anyone is offended by this, or knows for a fact that this would offend the relevant persons, please let me know and I'll take the pictures down.

If anyone asks, I'm from Denmark.




Well, yeah. Lots of dogs.


I haven't seen any monkeys yet. (I'm looking at you, Kedar.)


There really are cows in the streets, but not very many. It's unclear who, if anyone, owns them or why. I haven't yet seen a cow and had my camera at the same time.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

When your (quite nice but fairly stern) yoga teacher asks you to close your eyes and join him in a Sanskrit (?) prayer, which option is more culturally sensitive?

1) Concentrate on your breathing and keep your mouth shut, or
2) Mumble along semi-phonetically and try to follow the melody.

I've been trying Option (2), and I feel like a jackass.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This is not me being ignorant, this is you being crazy...

Dad, mom, and baby boy. All riding together. On a motorcycle. None of them have helmets. This is a common occurrence.

A4 paper!

A4 paper is great. No more margin fiddling with European conference papers, and I haven't had any problem with letter-size documents. It is a peculiar assertion of American hegemony, our heedless attachment to letter-size paper.

Also, from the Efficient Uses of Labor Dept: there is a man whose job it is to stand in the copy room, in case, e.g., you need staples, but are unsure how to load them into your stapler. We have a similar job description in the U.S., but it requires decorating your office space with cat calendars. That's the great thing about India: lots of staples, no cats.

There are also always plenty of workers available to stare at you if, perhaps, after a week on the job, you still don't know if the main office door opens inward or outward. And they don't think you're stupid. Not at all.

Tender Coconut Water

Also good!

Bhelpuri is yummy

It's like a Indian tostada. (!)

Using Emacs with Cygwin

Ah, getting to know Windows... Installing Emacs on Windows and setting up Emacs to work with Cygwin.


The ApprovedUrls feature more-or-less made the spammers go away, but apparently some jerks can't help themselves but vandalize an open Wiki. So I've added a blocklist. It remains to be seen how well this will work. (Far be it from me to unfairly accuse anyone of IP spoofing.)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Kurkure Red Chilli Chatka

Some intriguing copy on the back of a bag of Kurkure Red Chilli Chatka (with "Extra Chatpata, Extra Mast"):

INGREDIENTS: Rice Meal, Edible Oil, Corn Meal, Gram Meal, Spices & Condiments and Salt.


A Proprietary Food.

Man-on-man love

So, there's a lot of man-on-man hand-holding in this town. Coming at this from a non-homophobic angle: what's the necessity for it? What does it signify? I've always interpreted boy-girl hand-holding and arm-wrapping as a sublimated expression of sexual longing... And, of course, so must the rest of the Western world, since we all agree that heterosexual men should not hold hands, and should only hug at sporting events.

I'm pretty sure I have seen boy-girl hand-holding here as well. How is this hand-holding different from same-sex hand-holding? Or is it all the same, Platonic affection, and my dirty Western mind is leading me astray?

New photo set: Cubbon Park

Just uploaded a new photo set.

Comments now enabled

Perhaps part of the reason comments are rare and spamalicious on this site is that I hadn't enabled posting by non-Blogger users. You will have to prove you can read wavey letters (making you approximately a human being. I actually failed this test about five times in a row when I was signing up for a .NET Passport account earlier this week. Hopefully, you all will do better), but after that you can leave comments anonymously, or under any silly name you might want to invent.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

On to India

WARNING: The theme of this blog for the next 3 months will be slowly evaporating ignorance masquerading as insight.

So, obviously, I have arrived. I've spent the last week trying to get my bearings, and I'm still only just getting started. Rather than write a novel about everything that has happened since I arrived, I will list just a few of the experiences of cultural difference that have perplexed me.

  • In Mumbai, I waited an unbelievably long time in a partially air-conditioned corridor to take the shuttle bus* from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. So long (almost an hour) that I began to wonder if we weren't subjects in some kind of psychological experiment.
  • It takes two men to drive a cab to the airport: one to drive the car, and one to talk on his cell phone while the other guy drives the car.
  • I have a houseboy who brings me food, washes my dishes and my clothes, and cleans the apartment. He speaks about five words of English, which are: breakfast, lunch, dinner, outside, and tomorrow.
  • For some reason, all of my furniture, the refrigerator, and the washing machine disappeared. I asked the houseboy where they went, and he said, "Outside." I asked him when they would come back, and he said, "Tomorrow." This was on Wednesday. They have not reappeared.

* Note to my Indian readers: in the U.S., we prefer to take the monorail between airport terminals, as the monorail is the Transportation of the Future (cf. Epcot). We reserve buses for the poor, the infirm, and the insane, or use them to get to rental car agencies, hotels, Atlantic City, or Hooters. In any case, they run every 15 minutes.

First Bangalore photo set

I've uploaded my first Bangalore photo set to Flickr.

Monday, May 08, 2006


So I'm going through all my stuff before I leave and I decide to take a look at my Useful Things Wiki, a very modest attempt on my part to share with the world various bits of helpful trivia that are, as yet, un- or nearly-un-Google-able and... While I wasn't looking someone has decided to take a gigantic crap in the commons. Which is to say that every single page on the site has been replaced with link spam.

And these suckers are tenacious. As I started to revert the site back its natural state, someone is simultaneously re-clobbering the site with spam! Ack!

Any Wiki tips from the good folks of the Internet? I don't want to lock down the site, because that's completely beside the point. I've enabled the ApprovedUrls feature of PmWiki and put a password on the whitelist page, which will presumably make spamming the site less attractive, but this doesn't seem to be an ideal solution.

P.S. Ironically, the only likely response to this post is... comment spam!

[UPDATE 5/21/2006] The above solutions seems to have worked. I guess there is a broken window effect with Wiki spam...

[UPDATE 5/21/2006 pt. 2] I'm still getting a trickle... It has also been useful to enable the RSS feed on the Wiki changes, so that I get notified immediately when these things happen.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Flickr account

Here's the first image in my new Flickr account. It's the pile of drugs I just bought at Target so that my skin, sinuses, and gastro-intestinal tract will not fall off, rupture or explode while I'm in India. I'll try to upload interesting pics regularly while I'm away.

Off to India

I'm going to be spending the next few months at Microsoft Research India in Bangalore, and I'll try to use that as an excuse to un-mothball the blog and keep people up-to-date on my cross-cultural hijinks. I'm not sure if I'm at liberty to divulge what I'll be working on, but you might be able to figure it out yourself if you look at the projects on the Rigorous Software Engineering group page and then look at the projects I've worked on on my home page. Hint: it's not Petri Nets. (Or is it? Proof of equivalence to follow.)