Sunday, October 30, 2005

Crazy Day

This couldn't wait until Mumbai....

Found out about the Delhi bombings on saturday night. It isn't the nicest feeling to know that the next day you'll be going to a city that just had three bombs go off in crowded markets.

So, without fail, I got on a local bus to Delhi on Sunday morning, equipped with channa puri (garbonzo beans in masala gravy and deep-fried chapati) and a newspaper detailing events of the blast. In a small box on the front page there was the following item:

"The police chief of Haryana says that buses heading from Chandigarh and Panchkula to Delhi are likely targets for terrorists."

I just happened to be on a local bus heading to Delhi...what luck. The bus ride was largely uneventful, except for the dead guy I saw on the side of the road. It looked as though he had been either it by a truck or was the driver of the truck. In any case, it was the first dead person I've ever seen.

Then it started to get smoky. To the left and right, everybody was burning grass and other organic matter. Endless columns of smoke could be seen and it gave the seen a deep red colour. My lungs were literally aching from the onslaught of suspended particles entering them. If there is one word to describe it all, it was "suffocating."

We got to Delhi at about 6:30 and the police presence could be felt immediately. Had to go through a security check to get into the bus station, another to get out of the bus station, one to get into the metro station, one to get to my platform, one to get out of the metro station, and one to get into the train station. All the markets had platoons of men stationed at the entrances and exits. The army and police were just everywhere...never seen anything like it.

I had to go to the airport to meet my sister next. That all was straighforward, except for the ride back. As part of the 85 rupee deal with the rickshaw driver, he let me drive. So for about 10 km, I got to drive a rickshaw on the streets of Delhi. It was so cool and I had guys on motorbikes riding by giving me the thumbs up and telling me "nice driving." I'm thinking of just giving up university and becoming a rickshaw driver full-time. Good career move or not?

I wouldn't be surprised if more stuff happened yesterday that I'm not remembering at the moment. Needless to say, it was an excellent change from the routinous life that is living in Chandigarh.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Goa-bound

Well...it's getting to cold here in Chandigarh, so it's time to head south. My next blog post is likely to come from Mumbai, before I head off to Goa with my sister. I am definitely looking forward to all the fish curry I can handle and a couple of weeks off from work.

Just hope the newspapers down south provide me with the same quality content that the Times of Chandigarh and Hindustan Times give me here. Stay tuned for a look at life in the south of India.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lenin Update

This sounds like it could be a regular segment on the blog..."What to do with Lenin?"

Reuters is reporting that a new suitor for Lenin has emerged. This one comes from the Buddhist region of Russia known as Kalmykia. Apparently, the head of that region, Kirsan Illyumzhinov, has offered up $1 million dollars for the right to move the entire dog-and-pony show that is Lenin's mausoleum to Elista, the capital of the region. The cadaver would then be put on permanent display. One of the motives for this is that some historians say the Lenin was one quarter Kalmyk.

This is a strange debate indeed. Who will emerge next? I think it's safe to say that it won't be any of Russia's oil tycoons who have made their millions off of the free market economy....

A New Entry in the "Where are they now?" section

From the man who brought you such debacles as the "Catastrophe at Carnoustie," Jean Van de Velde, a professional golfer from France, now has his sights set on entering the Women's British Open next year. Tsn.ca.

For those that don't know, Van de Velde led by 3 strokes going into the final hole at the 1999 British Open. After some less-than-stellar shot- and decision-making, he managed to sink a putt to force a playoff. Needless to say, he didn't win the playoff - that honour went to Paul Lawrie.

I feel sorry for the guy because he outplayed everyone at one of the most difficult golf courses in the UK. To lose on the final hole is tough, but after watching the events unfold, you have to respect him for his decision to take out the driver on the 18th tee, instead of playing safe with the 2-iron.

So now he wants to make news again...this time by entering a womens' golf tournament. Michelle Wie and Anika Sorenstam have recently played in mens' events, so why can't Jean do the opposite? "My whole point is where do we draw the line," he says.

Good luck, Jean.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mr. Cash

We've been having some issues with the paper being delivered, so this morning I was forced to read yesterday's version of the Hindustan Times. According to the commercials, reading the HT means you will not be affected by anything around you. The imagery they use is a guy sitting on a park bench with paint splattering everywhere and people moving around. Naturally, the guy remains seated in his pressed white shirt and slacks, reading the Hindustan Times like nothing is happening.

Anyways...so I'm reading the front page when I notice this little black box with the words, "Meet Mr. Cash, Pg 3."

"Who's Mr. Cash," I wondered, "he sounds like a highly-principled character."

I turned to page 3 and saw the headline: "Mr. Cash, the pimp with an MBA." Well, add that to the list of career aspirations for someone with an MBA.

Nothing about the story was particularly funny...the guy was just running an escort service under the guise of a modelling agency...but the title almost had me rolling around on the floor.

I always wondered how pimps got a competitive advantage....never would've thought it involved higher-education.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Howdy Partner

Try saying that in your best Texan accent....

I read in the paper this morning that call centres in India will stop having their employees use a variety of different English accents when answering calls.

In the past, a call centre employee would learn an accent, say a southern US accent. So instead of answering the phone with an Apu-like accent, a smooth "Howdy Partner" would be used. I'm probably stereotyping a bit with the word usage...do people really say that in Texas?

Have you ever been talking to someone at a call centre and then asked where they were from? It used to be that employees could not divulge their location. Now they are able to say, "I'm in Bangalore," or wherever they might be.

Not that I talk to call centres all that often, but it makes me wonder if I thought I was speaking to an Canadian in New Brunswick when really I was speaking to an Indian in Gurgaon.

New Header

Figured I'd spice things up a little and put in a new header graphic. The image is from a small town bus stand in India...note the symbiotic relationship between the cows, rickshaws, and buses. Such harmony.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Pictures from the Relief Effort

I was telling you a couple days ago about one of my fellow trainees, Carol, that went to Pakistan to help with the relief effort. Another one of my fellow trainees, Nacho, has posted some pictures of wher Carol is at the moment. You can see them here. The text is in Spanish, however.

Freedom of the Press

Another interesting article from WorldPress.org today. Reporters Without Borders puts out an annual index ranking the freedom of the press in a variety of countries. This year's version was the 4th annual and listed 167 countries. To probably no one's surprise, North Korea won the honours of being the country without a privately-owned press and no freedom of speech. North Korea isn't alone, though. Turkmenistan and Eritrea came in a close second and third.

"Journalists working for the “official” media in these countries are little more than mouthpieces for government propaganda. Anyone out of step is harshly dealt with: one word too many, any commentary that deviates from the official party line, a misspelled name — and the author may be thrown in prison or incur the wrath of those in power. Harassment, psychological pressure, intimidation and 24-hour surveillance are routine."

The article states that East Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East feature the countries that are among the lowest ranked. On the other side of the spectrum, some Latin American and African countries are doing a much better job: Benin 25th, Namibia 25th, El Salvador 28th, Cape Verde 29th, Mauritius 34th, Mali 37th, Costa Rica 41st and Bolivia 45th.

Check out the article for more details. You can also find a complete list of the rankings here.

My country, Canada, was ranked 21st. That puts it in a tie with Lithuania. The reason given: "Canada (21st) also dropped several places due to decisions that weakened source confidentiality, turning some journalists into “court auxiliaries.” Interesting.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

"We would like Mongolia to be on the speed dial of the United Nations."

That was the message given by a US official after an American envoy, including Donald Rumsfeld, made a brief stopover in Ulaanbaatar. Rumsfeld personally thanked Mongolia for its "political courage and personal courage" with regards to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reuters (once again).

It's nice to see Mongolia getting some respect finally. Ulaanbaatar has a great museum featuring some nice wall displays about the Mongolian peacekeeping efforts. The Mongolian government has said that it wants to create a world-class peacekeeping force, and it appears to be doing a good job of it.

Reading this article made me think of a guy a met while walking the streets of UB. He proudly proclaimed that he had just come back after a stint in Iraq. What are the chances of that happening? I mean, meeting someone that had just come back from one of the most publicized war zones in the world on a -30 degree day in Mongolia is not something that happens everyday. I wonder where he is right now.

Friday, October 21, 2005

New Blog

My mom is now blogging. It's basically a gardening blog, so if you're into that sort of thing, check it out.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Just One Less Way to Make Money in the US Justice System

I noticed yesterday that the US House of Representatives passed the "cheeseburger bill" that prevents people from filing "your food made me fat" lawsuits against food companies. Reuters.

I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. It is no secret that fast food, and other foods high in sugar and saturated fats, will cause you to gain weight if you do not exercise. Not to mention that fact that these foods are bad for your general health. But should you be allowed to sue Mcdonalds because the food you chose to eat presents the risk of gaining weight?

I've never been a fan of fast food and I'll be the first to reject an offer to "go to Mickey D's." But at the same time, any marginally intelligent human being knows what happens when too many Whoppers are consumed. Simply put, if you choose to eat food that could make you obese, then you shouldn't be allowed to sue.

However, what I don't like is how these food companies are taking advantage of the endless demand for comfort food and convenience food. It's essentially a weakness in all of us to consume food that tastes so good, but is just so bad for us. Companies know people can't stop eating, yet the only "socially responsible" step they take is to offer "healthy choices," like salads with the same fat content as a quarter-pounder with cheese, or "low fat" alternatives with the same number of empty calories.

It is up to the person to make healthy choices - it's just that these food companies certainly aren't helping the matter by continually tempting us with Double Creme-filled Oreos and Big Macs. If you get fat as a result of eating too many of these foods, you should not have the right to bring litigation. It may just be time to re-evaluate your eating habits and think about switching lifestyles.

On a lighter note, I see the Flames beat the Oilers for the second time already this year. Man, if only Calgary could just play Edmonton in every game this season....

Army Truck-cum-School Bus

In case you are wondering about one of the words in the title, it's actually used here in India instead of "and." For example, you'll have an "exhibition-cum-sale," instead of an "exhibition and sale." Anyways....

My colleagues and I were crossing the street the other day to get to our favourite lunch spot, Om Sweets, and saw an army truck with a "School Bus" sign on the front. As it moved ahead, we noticed something a little strange: the kids were held in the back by a cage. What really finished off this whole image was the kids hanging onto the cage like prisoners - it was like a scene out of Con-air or The Shawshank Redemption.

I wish that I had a camera at the time, but hopefully you get the picture of a green army truck rolling along with kids seemingly caged in. Only in India.....

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Simply Brilliant

"The cops care for your vehicle even before it's stolen"
Police to Paste 'Caution Stickers' On Wrongly Parked, Unlocked Vehicles

That was one of the headlines in this morning's paper. A brief synopsis of the article goes something like this:

If you leave your car parked outside on the street, unlocked or illegally parked, the police will come along and put a sticker on it. This signifies to you that you must either move your cars or lock your doors.

Does anyone notice anything peculiar about this "notification system"?

Needless to say, Chandigarh might just become the car theft capital of the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What Are You Looking At?


Best picture to come out of the Water Buffalo Photo Shoot outside my office.

Google Earth

I've heard a lot in this country about the security threat that Google Earth has imposed. The map service offers high-definition photos of some of India's major military installations. In effect, any person with internet access could go online and learn the intricate details of an Air Force base outside of Delhi and the naval base at Mumbai. It also means that the security of such installations has been compromised. If the average person could potentially manipulate the data, think what a professional could do with it.

Other countries, Thailand and the Netherlands among them, have also complained that their security is being compromised. Can't say I blame them, either. India has frictional relationship with neighbouring Pakistan, so giving up this kind of intel voluntarily is definitely not a good thing. A country often has to work hard to keep the details its military installations secret, so why should a uber-rich company be able to come along and potentially endanger the safety of a surprising number of countries just to offer yet another free service to its customer?

While I'm on the subject of military installations, I should tell you about a strange incident involving the Russian Foreign Minister and two high-ranking Indian Military officials. Basically, Russia and India were holding joint military exercises that involved dropping missile-equipped jeeps from an airplane. On its way down, one of the jeeps was blown of course and starting drifting towards the structure that housed the on-looking VIPs. A quick warning was given and everyone in the structure was order to evacuate. In the end, Indian Air Force officials guided the stray jeep and managed to land it between two sand dunes - mere metres away from the structure. The Russian Foreign Minister commended the efforts of the Airmen and called it a brilliant piece of flying.

Monday, October 17, 2005

World's Greatest Bridge

Just read that plans to build a 3,666 m bridge connecting Sicily and mainland Italy are all but finalized. The Italian construction firm Impregilo has won the bid and will start production next year, with the goal of completing the project in 2012. If the bridge is successfully built, it will become the largest bridge in history. Gizmag.com

Speaking of bridges, here is a list of the 10 greatest of the suspension variety throughout the world, as given by Stretto di Messina. Topping the list is the Akashi Kaikyo in Japan - a 1991 m suspension bridge.

  1. Akashi Kaikyo - 1991 m - Japan
  2. Great Belt Easty - 1624 m - Denmark
  3. Humber - 1410 m - U.K.
  4. Jangyn - 1385 m - China
  5. Tsing Ma - 1377 m - Hong Kong
  6. Verrazano Narrows - 1298 m - USA
  7. Golden Gate - 1280 m - USA
  8. Hoga Kusten - 1210 m - Sweden
  9. Mackinac - 1158 m - USA
  10. Minami Bisanseto - 1100 m - Japan

Aid Work in Pakistan

A fellow trainee here in Chandigarh has recently gone off to Pakistan to help with the humanitarian crisis. It'll be a great experience for her and I hope she is able to help some of the 3.3 million people left homeless by the earthquake. So good luck, Carol, and can't wait to hear all about it in when you get back.

Friday, October 14, 2005

My Age is Now a Palindromic Number

Well, I'm officially 22 today...and it didn't take long for the one guy younger than me in the trainee house (by a month and a half) to bring out the gray-hair jokes.

On another note, Shelly in Delhi (now that's a rhyme you can take to the bank) has a chilling second-hand account of a gruesome murder in that city.

Furthermore, an article in the paper this morning stated that 1 in every 10 Delhiites (?) have thought about committing suicide. After reading Shelly's blog post, you might be able to figure out why.

Excuse me, Sir

I've noticed that i'm beginning to run out of ways to answer the second most popular question posed to you by locals: "How do you like India?"

The first is "Which country you come from?" That answer is easy, as it only requires one word. What follows is usually, "Oh, I have a brother/uncle/nephew/sister/niece/aunt/grandpa/grandma/mother/father/aunt's sister's daughter's brother in Canada." Once that explanation has been made, it's on to the question at the top. Can you really small talk an answer to that question? Especially considering the person you are talking to is not usually fluent in English. I almost always end up saying, "Hot." It's easy and they have no choice but agreement because I'm from the land of snow and ice. If not "hot," then "good," or "beautiful country."

If the person asking has good English skills, it can be a pleasure to answer the question because you won't just get a nod in return. On the other hand, a print-up of all the answers I can think of for that question might just be a good idea (in Hindi and English, of course).

Not sure where else to go from here. Lately, I've been saying, "Oh, the weather is much better now." But I know that's going to lose its effectiveness when it gets "cold."

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Trademark Squatter

Ahh...the Times of Chandigarh - a proverbial gold mine for my blog. Read a story about a guy named Sergei Zuykov from Russia. This car alarm salesman turned trademark squatter (now there's a career move you can write home about), owns the rights to the Starbucks name in Russia. In fact, he claims to own 300 other well-known international trademarks.

According to the report, Starbucks originally trademarked its name in Russia in 1997 with plans to move into the world's largest country. However, plans for entry were put on hold during the economic collapse. That's when Sergei came along and appealed to the Russian trademark commission that, because Starbucks was not using the name commercially, the trademark should be open for registration.

What this has done is opened up the market for local and international companies to thrive. Sergei has essentially barred Starbucks from entering the market, while at the same time asking $600,000 US in exchange for the name. Starbucks is hesitant to pay because it doesn't want to encourage this sort of thing from happening.

$600,000 doesn't seem like a lot of money. I was expecting to see seven- or eight-figures. I bet most of you out there love Starbucks, but I can tell you that I think Sergei is doing a great service to Russia - local companies can now actually compete in the fairly large market. Nonetheless, the ruling will create huge precedents in Russia's battle with intellectual property rights (a problem that needs to be rectified for Russia to gain acceptance into the WTO).


Shimla at night.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Chessboxing?

Just when you thought the wife toss was the oddest sport in the world, along comes chessboxing. It's said to combine the #1 thinking sport int he world with the #1 fighting sport: the complete test of physical and mental strength.

Here are the rules as per the World Chessboxing Organization's website:

In a chessboxing fight two opponents play alternating rounds of chess and boxing. The contest starts with a round of chess, followed by a boxing round, followed by another round of chess and so on. In every round of chess the FIDE rules for a ´Blitz game´ apply, in every boxing round the AIBA rules apply with the following extensions and modifications:

In a contest there shall be 11 rounds, 6 rounds of chess, 5 rounds of boxing. A round of chess takes 4 minutes. Each competitor has 12 minutes on the chess timer. As soon as the time runs out the game is over. A round of boxing takes 2 minutes. Between rounds there is a 1 minute pause, during which competitors change their gear.

The contest is decided by: checkmate (chess round), exceeding the time limit (chess round), retirement of an opponent (chess or boxing round), KO (boxing round), or referee decision (boxing round). If the chess game ends in a stalement, the opponent with the higher score in boxing wins. If there is an equal score, the opponent with the black pieces wins.

From what i understand, Mike Tyson would not have an unfair advantage because he'd be checkmated in the first round, while Gary Kasparov wouldn't have an advantage because he'd be KO'd in the second round.

Since the total time is short, it might make for a decent televised event. It wouldn't surprise me if ESPN2 carried it at some point, sandwiched between the World Outdoor Games and the Doggy Olympics.

That was a First...

Anybody that has lived in India, is an India, or has been to India probably knows about the Indian headshake. It can signify yes, no, maybe, ok, and a list of other expressions. If you're in a restaurant and say, "Can I get a cold coffee?" The guy will answer with a headshake, not a nod, but a headshake. You first reaction is, "is that a yes or a no?" It takes some time to get used to, but once you do, you begin to mimic it.

In the trainee house, we've stopped using "yes," "no," "ok," and "i see." Instead, we use the hindi words: "hanji," "nahin (nahi)," "theek hai (ti ke)," and "accha (acha)." And everytime we use one of the words, we add in the little headshake. We do it so often that it's starting to become a habit.

I was on a bus in Delhi on Sunday and executed my first involuntary headshake while trying to understand his accent. I said, "theek hai?" and the headshake just followed. The best part was that the guy just laughed and said, "You are Indian."

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Earthquake

The death toll sits at about 30,000, most of which is in Pakistan. Indian losses sit at about 500. The epicentre was 95km northeast of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, in a a city known as Muzafarrabad. Villages have been wiped off the face of the earth, apartment blocks reduced to rubble, infrastructure cracked and badly damaged, and, of course, a huge burden has been placed on the surviving population.

The worst hit indian town was Uri. It's in Kashmir and sits right on the Pakistani border. According to reports, 80% of the town is gone. You might have seen pictures of the devastation in Islamabad. One apartment complex has been all over the news after it just collapsed.

The magnitude of the quake was 7.6 and it happened at 9:20am IST (8:40pm PST). Tremors could be felt as far south as Gurgaon (just south of delhi). Some reports say that as many as 120 aftershocks were felt, with the highest magnitude being 5.9. The latest recorded aftershock was a 4:20 pm IST.

As for me, I was on the bus when it all happened. I received an SMS from one of the trainees I work with and she told me that an earthquake had just occured. Apparently, the room was shaking, people were running outside, and it last for about 2 minutes. I really couldn't believe that it had happened. I showed the message to the guy sitting next to me and within minutes the entire bus knew what had happened.

I reached Gurgaon at about 1:30 and made it to my friend's place. There, I turned on the TV and immediately saw the damage. Had I been looking in a mirror, I bet my face would've had this horrid and shocked look on it. In no way did I realize the damage that this quake had caused when I first heard about it. For the next hour, I just stared at the pictures and tried to make some sense of what just happened. It struck me that if the epicentre was about 200 km to the south, Chandigarh would've been in ruins. Looking at the map with concentric circles going outwards from the epicentre, I could not believe how close I was...550 km or something like that.

Then we heard this big bang and thought a bomb and gone off or something had cracked. As it turned out the transformer blew, but when you're sitting there watching footage of an earthquake, a big noise isn't very pleasant.

So that's basically the earthquake as I experienced it. One thing you realize is that buildings in this part of the world are not designed to withstand earthquakes, nor are India and Pakistan at all ready to deal with a disaster like this. Even after similar quakes have happened, there is still no adequate disaster response team. It took a day just to have earth-moving equipment brought to some of the worst hit areas. I'm not criticizing the relief effort in any way because there were people in there with bare hands trying to rescue people, but from the government's standpoint, there needs to be some sort of plan.

Friday, October 07, 2005

More on Stereotypes

This from an article in the USAToday:

"The least consistent culture is England. The English describe themselves as reserved, introverted and conservative. In fact, they are very extroverted and rated relatively high in openness to experience, researchers found.

Poles knew themselves the best. "They have a fairly unpleasant description of themselves," McCrae says. "They think they're high in emotional instability, disagreeable and introverted. And they do measure up to some degree in those traits."

In general, people's perceptions are wrong. For example, Americans think they are very low on agreeableness but high on assertiveness. It turns out they are close to average in terms of being agreeable and only slightly higher than the global average in assertiveness.

Canadians, who famously see themselves as very unassertive and agreeable, ended up looking almost exactly like Americans."

"Oh Canada, Land of 3 A's, eh?"

“Heaven is where the police are English, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and everything is organized by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians.” MSNBC.com

Living in a house with a bunch of people from different countries really does prove that, for instance, not all Germans are efficient or not all slavic people drink vodka. At the same time, you can see how some of the stereotypes might have come about. It is true that the German people I live with are very organized and efficient, but not even close to the way the stereotype makes it seem. And, of course, you have the Brits/Irish and their drinking habits. There is certainly no exception with the two guys in my house. The best part is when they say, "I don't even drink that much compared to some of my friends."

Apparently, the Canadian stereotype isn't well-known here. I ask, "What is your stereotypical Canadian like?" All I get in reply is, "What? You guys aren't the same as Americans?"

From what I can gather, the Canadian stereotype is something like "polite, reserved, unwilling to stand up for what their beliefs because the big bully on the playground might steal their lunch money, with a little dash of 'eh?' to taste." Now that I think about it, everyone is like "You're from Canada, eh?" I love the emphasis that gets put on the "eh?" Always worth a good laugh when I hear it.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What to do with Mr. Lenin....

I was reading in the paper that the Kremlin is considering removing Lenin's body from his mausoleum in Red Square and burying it - the location was not specified. A senior aide to President Putin brought this idea to the forefront and it has caused quite a backlash amongst Lenin supporters.

The aide's point is that Lenin represents an unfortunate part of Russia's history and just be buried like Stalin, Dzherzhinsky, Andropov, and Brezhnev (who all happen to be buried underneath a lawn in Red Square). Lenin supporters say that Lenin is as an important part of Russian history as any of leaders during the era of the Czars and, therefore, should not be discarded.

According to the article, Lenin's cadaver has been known to sprout fungi. There have also been questions regarding the maintainence of the body.

This really is an interesting debate. One one hand, Lenin drastically changed Russia's course for the majority of the 20th century and is one of the most recognizable figures of the country's history. On the other, Russia wants to become a successful democratic nation and doesn't want to hang on to a leader that symbolizes class struggle and a planned economy.

Either way, Lenin's body is quite a tourist attraction. Mao's body is also draws a ton of tourists (and locals) and I believe Ho Chi Minh's body is also preserved in Vietnam. Anyone know of any others?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Official Rankings

Recently, I mentioned something about Toronto being apparently declared the best city in the world to live in. This is actually not the case. Surprise, Surprise, Vancouver was rated #1 for the 4th year in a row. The 2005 list was released a few days ago and here are the Top 10 and Bottom 10, respectively (the Economic Intelligence Unit ranked 127 cities):

Vancouver
Melbourne
Vienna
Geneva
Perth
Adelaide
Sydney
Zurich
Toronto
Calgary


Tehran
Douala
Harare
Abidjan
Phnom Penh
Lagos
Karachi
Dhaka
Algiers
Port Moresby

Sorry for any confusion. Further information can be found at BBC.com.

My Love Affair With Food Has Been Re-kindled


It was about time, too. I was getting worried in July and August because the food here was just not working for me. We were ordering from this greasy little restaurants called "Friend's Poultry." So much so, that we didn't even have to give the address when we ordered...the people just knew. Every night we would have greasy chowmien, kathi rolls dripping in oil, artery-clogging fried rice, and, my personal favourite, veg macroni (that's how they spell it here) with a side of desi ghee (the equivalent of lard). One thing you may have noticed is that the above list doesn't have an Indian food on it...except the kathi rolls. As much as Friend's poulty characterized my first 2 1/2 months here, I can't say I was sad to leave it behind when we moved trainee houses.

Since then, we've been getting food from a guy that makes home-cooked meals. The price-quantity ratio isn't great, but the quality is outstanding. I have finally been able to taste good Indian food, without the high cholestoral. As a result, my tastebuds have become accustomed to the copious amounts of garam masala being used. This has allowed me to experiment with all sorts of Indian cuisine. I no longer have a problem walking into a dhaba (small cafe, usually in the middle of nowhere) and randomly picking out something from the 5 or 6 pots of gravy that are showed to me. "Oh, the green one looks nice."

Who really cares what it's made of? It's part of the reason why I like choosing items from menus I can't read. If I don't know what I'm getting, I have no expectations. Disasters, like the ones happening in the colons of new trainees, are bound to happen...like ending up with a plate full of chicken livers, however it adds to the risk of ordering food and, thus, increases the reward. Nothing feels better than getting a great meal from a menu you can't comprehend.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Good Riddance

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the monsoon season is officially over here in Chandigarh. Thank goodness because I was really getting sick of the rain. Go figure because back in June, all we wanted was rain...anything to relieve us of the 43 degree heat. Then the monsoon came we were saying, "That's a monsoon? I expected so much more." We all figured it would last the month of July and then go away. If only that were true.....

August came and it was still raining...in fact, it rained clear through September. I've heard that this was the most erratic monsoon season in a long time and yet the city still only managed to barely meet rainfall expectations. Now it's October and the temperature is sitting at a cool 34 degrees. I think the mornings are about 22...nice and brisk for a morning shave.

One thing I've noticed is that people are never satisfied with the weather. There always seems to be something wrong. It's either too cold, too hot, too rainy, too humid, too dry, too windy, too smoggy, too foggy...the list goes on. There we were, wishing for the rains to come. When they did, all we could say was "Go away rain, you're not wanted here."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Tajikistan

Some bad news out of the former Soviet republic: a bus exploded after colliding with another bus, killing all 21 people on board, reports Reuters.

The accident occured 30 miles (50 kms) south of the capital, Dushanbe. According the report, the bus was running on liquefied gas, much more volatile than petrol. These accidents are not that unusual, mainly due to the high price of petrol, which forces some residents to find cheaper, alternative forms of fuel.

The Countryside in Tajikistan.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Why Can't Chandigarh Be More Like....?

Will it ever stop? This morning it was, "Why Can't Chandigarh be More Like Dubai or Singapore?" In this case, the paper was referring to the status of the aforementioned cities as shopping meccas. Also in the paper was, "Why Can't Chandigarh be More Like Bangalore?" This time referring to the technology prowess of the south Indian city.

One of my trainee roommates said it best this morning..."Why Can't Chandigarh be More Like Chandigarh?"

I'll keep a running list of all the cities Chandigarh wants to be like. So far, it looks like this:

Boston
Toronto
Dubai/Singapore
Bangalore

On another note, I finally set up the RSS feed for this site. The link/address is on the right-hand side under "Links."

Saturday, October 01, 2005

First on Google

I setup StatCounter for my blog the other day. For those that don't have it, StatCounter is an excellent service. It's free, easy, and provides a lot of interesting information. For instance, people were coming to this blog by looking up terms like "Dhali Lama," "Pokershare.com," and others. When I looked up "Dhali Lama" on Google, my blog came up first. That surprised me, although I think the spelling that is recognized more often is "Dali Lama," so I wasn't competing with the all of the sites.

Go to www.statcounter.com if you want to get setup with the service.