Monday, July 31, 2006
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Israel is overreacting. This is what they're doing to "get rid of Hezbollah" which is, in and of itself a ridiculous idea, given that Hezbollah is more of an idea than a group. And ideas are not easily wiped from the face of the earth. The link is extremely graphic, but something you probably won't see on CNN: The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب
I found this link through Ken Silverstein's blog at Harpers.org
Posted by Greg on Saturday, July 29, 2006
Zeno’s Arrow Paradox might be something worth looking into.
Posted by Greg on Saturday, July 29, 2006
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
There were hacks before for getting to see subway stations on Google maps, but the new Yahoo! Maps Beta goes the distance and gets mass transit for DC up on there too. This is pretty huge, given that the wmata.com site still has no maps showing the street location of stations. As though 23rd and Connecticut has any meaning for tourists or people from Virginia.
Posted by Greg on Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
I just don't get it. More and Less are relative terms. Are they talking about the state that I want my clothes to be in or the current state of my clothes? Are my clothes more or less dry already or do I want to make them more or less dry? Why would I want to make them less dry? What question is this machine posing? Do I want them to be more dry than they are now or less dry than they are now? That doesn't seem to make sense. Of course I want them to be drier than they are right now.
If the dial said "More dryer action" and "Less dryer action", then I might get it, but at this point I'm confused and bewildered. If I didn't know that the dial goes clockwise as the cycle runs, I'd be completely lost.
Blogged with Flock
Posted by Greg on Monday, July 24, 2006
Saturday, July 22, 2006
I thought I might as well take the next few days to try to blog our entire trip to India. As I'm paranoid about the internet and the terrible people that use it, I won't be including any pictures that have me in them... so pardon the fact that some of the pictures on the right will just look like postcards.
After leaving H and R Block with the knowledge of what our tax return would be, Rose and I went to an Indian restaurant on 17th and L in Washington, DC to have lunch. The place used to be called the Ascot Lounge, but recently changed their name to the Indian Experience. We'd gotten pretty good news at the tax place: This being our first year owning a home in DC, we were eligible for a first-time home-buyer's tax credit.
Halfway through dinner, one of us (R insists it was her) mentioned that India would be an interesting place to go, especially given that we both loved the food so much. Lo and behold, we were on our way to STA travel in Georgetown a few weekends later to make the arrangements. We'd looked around online, but had used STA when we went to our friends' wedding in Poland two years earlier and found it was just as cheap and avoided the hassles that come along with Travelocity, Orbitz and the rest.
The flight we purchased on Alitalia would take us out on July 1st at 4:30pm and fly us into Milan where we would wait for three hours before continuing onto Delhi, arriving there at 10:20pm on July 2nd. Delhi is nine and a half hours ahead of DC, so the trip would really be only about twenty-one hours door-to-door. Given that neither of us is too rich in vacation time, we decided to limit our trip to only ten days total, and would return on July 9th with a day off once we were back to rest up for work.
R is a planning and packing fanatic and had everything prepared far in advance. This included ponchos, 99.8% Deet bug spray, a mixed ziploc of Immodium and Advil, Neosporin, Band-aids, and everything else we could possibly need. Additionally, R used some of our condo contacts to get in touch with a travel agency in Delhi to get us train tickets to Agra and Shimla as well as a hotel reservation for a night in Shimla all to be waiting for us at our hotel in Delhi when we arrived.
I, on the other hand, focused my efforts on packing various gadgets and the wires associated with them (ipod, camera, chargers, blackberries, blackberry-charger, various adaptors, etc.) While I had alerted management that I would be going on vacation more than four months in advance, my boss decided to take it as a total surprise when I reminded him of the trip the Monday before I was suppose to leave. Never mind that I'd been talking about it steadily for months or that it had been blocked out in the team calendar since the day we bought the tickets. He immediately began trying to make sure that everything I was working on would be finished by the time I left. This meant putting in about 65 hours over the next five days. Thank goodness that R had so much of our stuff packed. By the time I got home late on the last day of June, I was in no mood to search for my poncho.
Before catching our plane on Saturday evening, we had to take the cat up to Bethesda to stay with R's parents for the week that we'd be gone. R's dad was nice enough to pick us up and we took the cat and our suitcases Northward.
While we eating lunch and starting to think about leaving for the airport, we got a call from STA regarding our flights. Apparently, Alitalia had canceled the second leg of the trip from Milan to Delhi. STA explained that they had tried to arrange something else over the phone, but that the airline had kept insisting that we'd have to solve the problem after we go to Milan. They did suggest, however, that we get to the airport a little earlier and see if we could arrange something there.
Once at the airport, R and I did a good job of playing good cop/bad cop (wherein R shows a lot of emotion and frustration with the people at the Alitalia desk and I come off as being understanding of their position but unwilling to accept what they're telling me). This behaior of ours seems to happen naturally almost every time we get into a situation like this. In the end, we were moved to a flight on KLM that would take us through Amsterdam and then to Delhi and get us in only 20 minutes later than our original itinerary. Even better, the second leg of the flight was full and we would have to be bumped up to business class. The Horror!
I had never ridden in anything but coach until this trip and have decided that I will not enjoy flying very much ever again if I'm stuck back there with the proles. Here are just some of the reasons I discovered for business class to cost more money:
(1) The food is far better
(2) There is much more leg room
(3) There are no screaming babies (I can only assume this is because families have better things to spend their money on than renting a big lounge chair 33,000 feet in the air for 6 hours)
(4) Better service
(5) Only three seats across at its maximum
(6) Better smelling passengers (partly due to the babies, but definitely apparent amongst other flyers as well)
Enough about getting there. We did actually get there and weren't pestered for more than two seconds at customs. Upon exiting the gate we were met by a sea of taxi drivers holding different signs. After running the gauntlet once and not seeing the sign for our hotel, I went back and found one with R's name on it, spelled incorrectly.
Walking out of the airport with the driver was the first moment that either of us really experienced Delhi and lends truth to the idea that you can't count a place on your list of visited places if you've only been to its airports. Trying to recall if it was the heat or the smell that hit me first, I can only assume it was the smell. Heat takes a little while to hit as it has to push all the cool air out of my clothes before enveloping me, but the smell was right there from the moment the doors opened until the moment I was asked to stow my tray table on the flight back home. We would later learn that a lot of the poorer residents of Delhi still use cow dung to heat their stoves and that this is what was giving their city that distinctly sour, musty smell stinging the back of my throat and thick enough that you thought you could wave it away (alas).
Stupid me had forgotten that Indians drive on the left side of the road. This was another first for me, as I've never been to Japan, Australia or England (except its airports), but I thought I got used to it pretty quickly. While they may drive on the same side of the road as Britons, I can only assume that the driving style of Indians is vastly different. There is very little stopping at any time during a drive. If the brake is depressed, the horn is usually depressed as well. This also holds true for the gas. In fact, from my experience, there are few times when the horn isn't being honked or about to be honked in an Indian vehicle (particularly a Tata).
Per the suggestion of my Grandpa, I took along a little notebook for the trip. Here are the notes I made on our first drive in India while we were going from the airport to the hotel (mind you, midway through this drive R reached out and grabbed me hand, in that "what have we done?" sort of way... the feeling was mutual):
(1) Ladies ride sidesaddle on the backs of mopeds.
(2) Air quality: questionable.
(3) Our driver has no mirrors on his car.
(4) We're on the wrong side of the road over here.
(5) There is a water buffalo in the highway.
As the driver took us deeper and deeper into Delhi, we started to wonder where exactly our hotel was located. We were staying at the hotel Ajanta near the center of Delhi and it had only cost us $178 for the week that we would be there. The hotel was located between old and new Delhi, North of Connaught Place and the New Delhi train station (not to be confused with the Nizammudin train station, much further to the South).
While the streets around and in front of the hotel were filled with not-so-welcoming faces, the lobby and its employees seemed great. After arriving in the lobby, we were taken into a small office off to the side to show our passports and reservation receipt. The first room they took us to was a complete wreck and we were about to unload our things when the phone rang and the bellman was instructed to take us to a different room - one that more closely matched what we'd seen in pictures online. We didn't even have to complain! Later we would notice loads of other people also carrying "STA" hotel reservation receipts.
While the bellman was doing the whole "show-you-obvious-things-in-the-room-while-you-rustle-for-my-tip" thing, he showed R the bathroom. Upon noticing a large bucket and smaller pouring vessel in the tub, R asked, "What's that?"
To which the bellman replied, "bucket."
I chose to use the shower head rather than the bucket for the duration of the trip and now feel that I may have cheated myself slightly.
At this point R and I were pretty beat and called it a night - finally turning in around 12pm Delhi time. Before we went to bed, however, we both took a melatonin pill. Having heard of this drug's great ability to help one get back on their circadian rhythms when traveling, I thought it was worth a shot. I'll tell you this: it works. Maybe it's just a placebo, but if that's the case it's my new favorite placebo. Bless that stuff. I woke up the next day at 8am feeling refreshed and ready to do some touristing.
The morning of July 3rd, R and I went downstairs to change some money at the front desk. We inquired there about the best way to get around the city and were informed that the hotel had a taxi stand that would give us a driver for the day for 800 Rupees. At 44 Rupees to the dollar, that's under 20 bucks. While we were at the front desk, we also picked up our various train tickets and hotel vouchers for the rest of our trip that had been mailed there by Parul Tours & Travels a great travel agency recommended by our neighbor who was based in New Delhi for the US State Dept.
After paying for a cab for the day, R and I set foot out of our hotel and witnessed India from the ground during daylight hours for the first time.
Our cab driver was a Nepalese man named Durga, and would end up taking us around each day that we did sight-seeing in New Delhi. A few blocks after we'd left the hotel, Durga stopped and picked up his (much) younger brother. Durga explained that his brother was learning to drive by touring around with him during the day. While listening to him speak over the next week, I realized that Durga had two types of English that he employed, the kind he used when he was driving and the kind that he used when he wasn't. Durga's driving English was entirely made up of short statements like, "Ok, my big boss", "You like India, fifty-fifty?", "Hello police officer", and "where we're going next?" Once the car was stopped, Durga's English improved dramatically and he would talk to us about some of the sites we were seeing and answer all of our dumb cultural questions. I'm dead sure that the only reason he spoke differently when driving is that driving in India is so brain intensive that if he tried to speak in fuller sentences, his truck would be wrapped around a tree. Further proof of how difficult it is to drive there can be found in Durga's brother having to do so many ride-alongs before attempting it himself.
Our first stop on our first day of touring about was Raj Ghat, which marks the spot of Mahatma Gandhi's cremation on 31 January 1948.not the way to take in national monuments. Stepping in water with a sock on is up there on my list of pet peeves right next to poorly stacked cooking pans.
It was incredibly hot by the time we left Raj Ghat and were taken by Durga to see Humayun's Tomb. In the same gardens that house Humayun's tomb, is another tomb for nobleman Ali Isa Khan Niazi. We toured the tomb of Ali Isa Khan Niazi first and were immediately approached by a man who offered to show us around, saying, "I'm not a guide. I work here." This seemed like a fair enough explanation, so we let him walk around with us and point things out a bit. Humayun who was the second Mughal Emperor of India. By this point, we were so thirsty and hot from being out in the sun that seeing the massive distance between a shaded archway and the actual edifice we decided that seeing was believing and it would be best to take a picture, find some shade and find some water.
Finding water is relatively easy in Delhi. Most everyone in the city appears to drink bottled water, so it's avaiable just about everywhere. R and I had heard enough stories about the water before leaving that we were strict to the point of brushing our teeth with bottled water during our stay. I even avoided coffee to a large extent, as one never knew how well the water had been heated. After informing Durga of our dehydrated state, his brother jumped out and came back with two bottles of water. I was surprised to find the bottles were Aquafina, a brand bottled by Pepsi. This would be one of many times that I would notice the complete and total infiltration of Frito-Lay on India. Half of the shops and houses on the side of the road that we would take a few days later from Kalka to Shimla were painted with "Lay's" or "Pepsi" logos. Aquafina was everywhere. I can only wonder what kind of financial interest Frito-Lay has in the water quality in Delhi staying horrible.
I digress. R and I were completely revitalized after each draining a liter of water. Our next stop was the tomb of Safdajung which looked enough like Humayun's tomb that we weren't even slightly dissappointed at having withered in the heat earlier in the day. Up in the tomb area we were once again approached by a man with the same "I'm not a guide, I work here." line. Given the familiarity of this statment and the man's lack of shoes or socks, we both realized that we'd been taken for a ride earlier. The man then asked us if we could exchange one American dollar for Rupees. Now even more assured as to his not being an employee, R and I immediately adopted British accents and left down a staircase.
We had had plans to have suits made while we where there given that it costs so much less to do so in India. With this in mind, we had Durga take us to Khan Market, which had been recommended to us by our neighbor who used to live in Delhi. Billed in Wikipedia as "one of the more upscale and expensive places to shop in New Delhi" we were a little surprised at what we found. We weren't looking for upscale, anyway, so we weren't dissappointed.
Plenty tired and hungry, Durga suggested a spot for lunch where we had our first authentic Indian meal. The restaurant was a bit touristy, but there were locals present as well. The food was delicious and suprisingly similar to the Indian food that one would find in the states. Throughout the trip, I found that most of the food that we ate on the trip, whether served in hotels or on the train, was very similar to what can be found here in the states. Of course, there's a little less meat in the food in India, but otherwise it's pretty close.
After lunch, Durga took us back to the hotel where we both passed out from 3pm to 6pm. After waking up from this "nap", we went up on the roof and sat around watching the hundreds of kites being flown from rooftops and being watched ourselves by various people on their rooftops. We also noticed a large monkey across the street on some water tanks, which enouraged us to abandon the roof and see about having a walk around.no beer on the menu. After a very cheap not-so-delicious bite to eat we both got sleepy again and decided to turn in, especially given that we would have to wake up early the next day to catch a train to Agra.
Whew! That's the end of Part 1. I'll start typing part II later today and will upload eventually. There's a lot more to go!
Posted by Greg on Saturday, July 22, 2006
Friday, July 21, 2006
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Stem Cell Bill Gets Bush's First Veto. Oh well, at least it made a great photo-op. If only every embryo could be adopted. If only every lab created embryo could be inserted into a surrogate mother and born into the world. If only these embryos could be frozen for a later time. All this makes me think that instead of embryos using for research to save Michael J. Fox (save him!), they're going to end up in the trash.
Others reject that analysis, saying it would make killers of every couple that produces an unused embryo, and every employee and official who allows fertility clinics to produce and store such embryos.
"If that's murder, how come the president allows that to continue?" asked Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). "Where is his outrage?" Harkin called the veto "a shameful display of cruelty, hypocrisy and ignorance."
Posted by Greg on Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Was just listening to this song, whose lryics' come from an essay which you can learn about here.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be
it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by
scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
than my own meandering
experience…I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not
understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and
recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before
you and how fabulous you really looked….You’re not as fat as you
Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing
bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm
on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing everyday that scares you
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with
people who are reckless with yours.
Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes
you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with
Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you
succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your
life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
olds I know still don’t.
Get plenty of calcium.
Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children,maybe
you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky
chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don’t
congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your
choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body,
use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people
think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever
Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.
Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.
Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for
Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the
people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you
should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and
lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you
knew when you were young.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live
in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will
philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize
that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were
noble and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund,
maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one
might run out.
Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will
Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who
supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the
ugly parts and recycling it for more than
But trust me on the sunscreen…
Posted by Greg on Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
So a little bit earlier I read an article about how Israel had bombed the airport in Beirut and thought that it was pretty screwed up. I posted the link automatically from CNN via Blogger's "Blog This" button. The button grabs the title of the HTML page for the title of the blog post and the text of the hyperlink. You can see the post just below and the title is "Rockets hit Israel after airport attack - Jul 13, 2006", but the actual headline of the article on CNN is: "Israel attacks airports, major highway after Hezbollah lobs rockets"
For one thing, their timing seems to be in reverse for the article headline and title. For another thing, they appear to have used the title for a pro-Israel statment and the headline for the opposite. Now that I link to the article again I can see that they've changed the page title to match the headline... I'm pretty sure that Hezbollah attacked first, but it's surprising that they got it wrong in the first place.
Either way, I'm very anti-Israel in these latest actions. Capturing soldiers is wrong. It's terrible. But launching missles isnt' the solution and neither is bombing airports. If the last few decades of Israeli action have taught us anything, it's that heavy artillery isn't very good at stopping terrorism... or even stemming the tide. How can governments be this stupid and desperate?
Posted by Greg on Thursday, July 13, 2006
This is no good: Rockets hit Israel after airport attack.
Posted by Greg on Thursday, July 13, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
It was 100 degrees at midnight in New Delhi on July 2. If you don't have AC, pulling your bed into the alley outside is a more comfortable way to go. Even if you have AC, 8 hour blackouts have been plaguing the poorer (and less often the wealthier) sections of the city for more than a month.
Posted by Greg on Wednesday, July 12, 2006