Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

in orlando

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Hello and welcome from very sunny Orlando, Florida. I’m at the StarEast software testing conference for the week, and this year took along Emma and Toby too. So far we’re having a totally great time – Toby was super-excited about the whole adventure, did great on the plane, and when we got to the hotel was positively vibrating with excitement. Just taking an elevator to your room is apparently cause for celebration, not to mention opening the room door with a Spiderman room key. And apparently our whole floor is “the best floor of all the hotels”. I hardly need to mention that the breakfast buffet contains the greatest food ever consumed.

The conference so far is pretty good – it’s my second year in a row here, and I’m getting a lot out of it. If I even put a tenth of the things I’m learning into practice then the cost of admission has been repaid. It’s a nice balance for me of learning new stuff and also having the things I’m doing be reinforced, and feeling good that a lot of the initiatives I’m running are worthwhile and industry leading.

But! Back to the real business. Yesterday Emma and Toby did a fair bit of trekking around – our hotel is right in the middle of a lot of shops and restaurants, and there’s a trolley bus which is very convenient. They also had some time in the hotel swimming pool, and saw a large number of geckos. Only disappointment was that the cinema up the road wasn’t showing any Toby-appropriate movies, but I think he’ll cope. Today was the first Big Day – they went to Seaworld. All day yesterday Toby had been asking about seeing Shamu the killer whale, and today his dream came true (speaking of dreams, yesterday he was so wiped out that when he went to bed he was reading a book and fell asleep in the middle of saying a word). The park was by all accounts pretty cool, although I think the shows were a bit louder than they expected, and Toby’s plan to sit in the “soak zone” of the Shamu amphitheater wasn’t as fun as he expected, when he got covered in cold seawater (pics to follow). The tickets are valid for two days so they’re probably going to go back on Thursday to see some of the other attractions such as the sealions – always fun.

After I was done with my geeking this afternoon the three of us went for a dip in the hotel pool – after a bit of splashing around in the kid pool we finally persuaded Toby to come into the main pool with us so that he could practice his swimming. After a bit of nervousness he did really well – using his float he ended up doing a lot of swimming by himself and really enjoyed the freedom of being able to decide where he wanted to go. It was so nice to be in the water and the sunshine under palm trees.

Also, for a much better written Florida experience, take a read of the site of one of my favorite writers, James Lileks, who is currently at a Disney park with his family.

photos from india

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Just uploaded all (almost all – I deleted a few due to blurriness) the photos from my trip. There aren’t as many as I would like because I spent most of the time there in the office, which is fair enough when work were paying for me to go. But anyway, I hope you like them – click here and enjoy.

passage from india

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Getting back into regular life now I’m home from India. Getting used to not being in a hotel – things like having to clean up after myself. It’s amazing how quickly you can get used to just dropping used towels on the bathroom floor and knowing that they will have vanished, replaced by neatly folded clean towels by the time you get home. If there was one thing I could have brought back from India, it’s the guy who cleaned my hotel room.

One less welcome thing I have brought back is a persistent digestion issue. Specifically, in the lower digestion area, if you know what I mean. I have been spending considerable amounts of time in the bathroom since I got back, and other times feeling kind of fragile and drained. Before I went away, the travel clinic people gave me some antibiotics which they said should be used in the case of severe issues of these sorts – basically if I didn’t have issues before taking the meds I would afterwards because they’re so strong and mess up the digestive bacteria so much. But this has been going on for about a week now (plus side – I have lost about 7 pounds so far) so it may be time to break the glass and take the pills.

going through delhi

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

I forgot to mention the trip from Bangalore to here. When I got on the plane from Bangalore it was full of mosquitoes which was pretty alarming; fortunately a quick spray by an airport person took care of them really quickly. The flight was really smooth and the food decent.

A bit of bewilderment about where to go once I got to Delhi though – as with Mumbai airport the international terminal is quite a way away from the domestic, so I ended up following a baggage guy outside, through the melee of people and through a parking lot to where an elderly and friendly Sikh gentleman loaded my stuff into his van and drove for about 20 minutes to international. Many of the roads on this drive were quite decent; some felt like back streets, but even there we went past loads of people (almost all men) sitting on the sidewalks, hanging out by carts with big steaming pots of food, and selling fruits and vegetables on wooden carts.

The international hall in Delhi airport was completely packed and hot – fortunately I made it just in time to check in because they closed the airline desk right after I got my boarding pass. Long lines for security too, but made it with perfect timing.

in amsterdam

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

I’m in Schiphol airport, part way home. The airport is so nice and clean and quiet compared with Bangalore and Delhi – it’s really odd. I’ve enjoyed a few comforts – one of the first things I did was to get a sandwich (considerably lower risk of food poisoning, plus delicious bread), a cup of fantastic coffee, and some mineral water. For some reason the mineral water, even stuff like Evian, tastes really strange in India – it gets an odd flavor and texture to it once you open it, and I have no idea why that is, but it’s quite unpleasant sometimes.

Anyway it’s a good thing that the airport is so nice because I’m hanging out here for over six hours. It turns out that there was an earlier flight from here to Minneapolis, but the work travel system didn’t show it up. I’ve had a bit of a trek round the airport shopping, and got some good Dutch cheese and chocolate. My dad used to bring back Dutch chocolate for us when he would visit his family in Holland, so I thought it would be a fun thing to do for Toby.

Right now I’m sitting next to a big window getting some daylight. I spent quite a lot of time reading a great book – The Historian – but thought it was time for a break to do some computer stuff. There are some massive 747s outside – there’s a China Airlines one right now, plus an Eva Air (which I’d never heard of before). A little earlier there was a Malaysia Airways 747 in “hibiscus” livery which is so over-the-top that loads of people were taking pictures of it.

leaving bangalore

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

Just getting ready to fly home – I’m in Bangalore airport (this post will be up once I have network access). Pretty nice day today – I slept over 10 hours last night which was very much needed, then one of the folks in the office here took me out to Commercial Street for some shopping, where I got something fun for Toby and Emma. The street was really busy, lots of stores big and small and loads of traffic and people. A little disconcerting as usual to have beggars so in your face, sometimes tugging on your arm as you’re walking along. It was certainly good to be outside for a bit, having spent pretty much the whole week either in the office, in the car, or asleep in my hotel.

The airport itself is, like so many public spaces here, completely packed, kind of smelly, and really noisy. The PA announcements are just slightly too loud and incessant. I guess they’re doing their best but it’s pretty chaotic. Plus lots of mosquitoes. Security seems officious but lax at the same time – I didn’t have to show ID at all and nobody seemed to notice that I have a tube of toothpaste in my bag – this would never get through in the US or Europe.

So it’s a 2.5 hour flight to New Delhi, then 3 hours to change terminals and planes, then 9 hours to Amsterdam, then over 6 hours waiting for the next flight, then 9 hours to home. Can’t wait to see Emma and Toby. This has been a good trip and very worthwhile from a work point of view, but it’s hard to be away. I would love to bring them here one day, there were a lot of spouses and kids at the hotel so I guess it’s not too hard to do – maybe one day. I think Toby would really enjoy it here.

UPDATE: I called Emma and Toby just as I was getting on the plane at Bangalore. It struck me then that I called them at (their time) about 8:30am Saturday and will not get in to Minneapolis till after 3:15pm Sunday.

commute

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

The commute here in Bangalore is pretty crazy as I have observed several times before. We saw a few near accidents today. But we have not had the inconvenience of having to get past an abandoned Boeing 737.

more bangalore

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

Well today I had my usual day four in India where the jetlag and the change in food caught up with me and I felt a bit rough for a while. Actually yesterday I didn’t eat anything for dinner, and was a bit shaky this morning, but not too bad since lunch. So I’m hoping I’ll be able to enjoy some good food and maybe a beer tonight.

The point of the trip is of course work, and there’s been tons of that. I was in a “summit” meeting all day yesterday from 9:30am to 8:30pm, and meetings all day today too, then I’ve got a call with Minneapolis this evening till about 10, so plenty of stuff.

royalty

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Beautiful but hot morning in New Delhi today. I slept like a log last night after all the travel and stuff. We’ve been taken to a vendor’s office today for a bit of meet and greet, and discussion of strategy for future projects. When I got here my name was on the welcome board in the lobby, and the receptionist presented me with a HUGE bouquet of flowers. A little embarrassing but pretty cool at the same time. I may give the flowers to one of the people from the office here, who came along on the Agra trip yesterday and made the experience much less intimidating.

The drive in was actually quite pleasant – traffic not too insane, and as well as rickshaws and many many cars we saw a couple of elephants being ridden. One had stopped by the side of the road to grab a few leaves from a tree. Totally cool.

We’re having lunch with the chairman of the vendor company today, then more sales pitch in the afternoon, then off to Bangalore tonight.

new delhi by numbers

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

18: Number of hours traveling to get from Minneapolis to New Delhi
8.5: Really irritating hours of the trip, with some guys going to Amsterdam on a stag week to “get messed up”. They had already started drinking in the airport and were really noisy and drunk on the plane. Of course they were sitting next to me.
0030: Time I got to my very nice hotel room late Saturday night/early Sunday morning
0600: Time I got up in order to do a day trip to Agra
253: Number of kilometers from New Delhi to Agra (that’s 157 miles)
4.5: Number of hours to get to Agra (I had been told about 3 hours by an Indian friend in Minneapolis – I need to have a word with him when I get back…)
115: Temperature in Fahrenheit at the Taj Mahal. Blimey it was roasting. I felt like a frying egg. That’s 46 Celcius.
3: Liters of sweat I lost while walking around the Taj Mahal. Did I mention it was hot? But it was also quite amazing and well worth the drive and the heat – quite beautiful.
50: Approximate number of people who ran over to me and tried to sell me stuff every time I got out of the car.
50: Number of these people who I ignored, and who gave up trying to bug me within 30 seconds. I think I’m getting the hang of being a tourist here.
50: Number of pictures I took of the Taj Mahal – mostly of the buildings and area, with a few of some tourists and some monkeys.
4.5: Number of hours it took to get back to the hotel.
2140: Time I got back to the hotel. I’m too tired even to have a beer.

Special bonus number: add together all the numbers listed above and you will get the number of times we were almost killed on the roads to and from Agra. I had forgotten how ridiculous the traffic is here. Several times we almost ran into speeding oncoming cars.

P.S. It’s hard to remember all the things I saw along the way – real sensory overload. One difference between here and Bangalore is that not just oxen are pulling carts – lots of camel power going on (Delhi is further north and nearer to the desert). Lots of people in cars and rickshaws, or in fact any kind of transport imaginable. Buses packed with people, and more people riding on the roof. Rickshaws carrying 15 people (usually built for 2 or 3) including some hanging off the sides. Considering the cars pass within fractions of an inch, at speed, this is just suicidal.

Anyway through all the hustle and, furthermore, bustle of the Indian traffic I do like to try to remember at least one comedic sign – the one on today’s trip which stood out was by the side of the road, and said “Institute for Advanced Research on GOATS”