Thursday, December 10, 2009

LCDS Is awesome

A HUGE thank you to the staff at Lou Conte Dance Studio for letting me keep my bike in their lobby after my bike lock froze (!!) shut.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Carl Sagan

I started streaming Carl Sagan's Cosmos from Netflix today, and his voice immediately sounded incredibly familiar, even though I've only heard it once before, when my middle school science teacher showed my class a Cosmos episode. After finishing the first episode (which features a modern introduction by Ann Druyan that is comedic GOLD), I did some googling, and discovered the shocking truth.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Customer service

I'm nearing the end of a five-hour layover in Bangkok Airport, en route to Osaka, Japan. Living in India, you don't really notice how rarely people in customer service positions (like wait staff and sales people) smile at you. It's not until someone does it that you think "Wow, that was really friendly," before realizing that back home, it's expected, and anyone who doesn't smile is perceived as unfriendly.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fighting the man (UPDATED)

I had an unusually difficult time flagging down an auto rickshaw this morning; there seemed to be very few of them passing by, and those that did were all full. I spent fifteen minutes flapping my arms on the side of the road to no avail, and I finally just gave up and took a taxi. When I got to work, I discovered that most of the Delhi auto unions have declared a two-day strike.

The reason for the strike? The unions are protesting a recent government crackdown on drivers operating without licenses and/or pollution permits. To hear the union representatives tell it, auto drivers are afflicted with a strange condition that causes them to chronically "forget" to bring their driver's licenses with them, and so when the mean ol' Delhi Traffic Police slap them with a fine, they have no alternative but to rip off their innocent passengers in order to pay the penalty. You see, it's all the government's fault--the drivers are just looking out for the welfare of the common man.

In all seriousness, there are legitimate reasons to sympathize with the auto drivers: their government-mandated meters only charge based on distance, so the drivers aren't compensated for time stuck in traffic (which in Delhi can be considerable). I have also heard that the meter rate of 4.5 rupees per kilometer is simply too low, which is possible--I don't know enough about gas prices and the fuel efficiency of rickshaws to say one way or the other.

However, I am utterly without sympathy for drivers who complain about being fined for not having a license. With India leading the world in road deaths, it is unconscionable for auto drivers to skirt regulations and drive without being properly licensed--it puts everyone else on the road at risk. In any event, I don't think the strike will be very successful in putting pressure on the government: everyone I know holds rickshaw drivers in such low regard that they're firmly on the side of the city in this matter.

--Update August 18, 2009--
There were even fewer autos on the road today--any drivers who chose not to strike yesterday were run down, dragged from their vehicles, and beaten up by the striking drivers. One of my coworkers actually managed to take an auto to work; the driver told her that he couldn't afford to strike because he had too many family members to feed, but that he was willing to risk driving her because he didn't think anyone would dare attack him while there was a Westerner in the back seat. He charged her double though. I was told by a driver that the strike would end tomorrow; hopefully that's true. I did see a few autos starting to trickle back onto the roads this evening.--End Update--

On an unrelated note, a statement I made in an earlier post might have given some people certain ideas about my relationship status. I don't want this blog to get sidetracked by personal issues, so the post in question should be taken as just a simple story about a conversation I had with a shopkeeper. Any assurances in the story were made to the shopkeeper, and not the reader.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A typical shopping experience

Palika Bazaar is advertised as an "Air-Conditioned Underground Mall," but the term "bazaar" is much more accurate--once you step inside, you're immediately lost in the maze of narrow, crowded passageways that is the defining characteristic of every market I've visited in India. I was told that Palika Bazaar was a good place to find DVDs, so I went there in search of an old Indian movie for Brian's collection.

Palika Bazaar is a good place to find lots of other stuff, too, so I had to endure the standard chorus of stall owners shouting "Yes, yes! Come here sir, this is for you, my friend!" for a while before finding my first DVD stall. It didn't look promising--mostly modern Bollywood stuff, and I wasn't too confident in my ability to pronounce the movie title (Subarnarekha). The stall owner's eyes lit up, as usual, upon seeing a Westerner deliberately approach his booth, but when I told him the name of the movie, he said "No, no, this old movie, I no have." I thanked him, and asked him if he knew of anyone who might have it. "Booth 95," he said. Of course, the fact that he didn't have the 45-year-old art film I wanted didn't stop him from trying to sell me what he did have.
"You like modern movies? Bollywood movies? American movies?" he asked as I prepared to leave. No, no, I'm fine, thank you.
I was taken aback by his forthrightness and exaggerated pronunciation, so I couldn't help but laugh as I assured him that no, I'm really not interested.

I was eventually able to find Stall 95, although like most things in India, knowing its address didn't really go very far in helping me to find it--no matter which way I walked, the stall numbers always seemed to be increasing, and I was already well into the 150s. Unfortunately, Stall 95, even when I did find it, didn't have the movie either. I was ready to give up at this point, because Stall 95 was the most well-stocked movie stall I had seen at the bazaar, so I figured if they didn't have it, probably no one would.

However, as I was walking toward the one of the many exits, I happened to pass by one last DVD hawker, so I figured I would give him a try. He said he didn't have the movie at his stall, but if I had a few minutes, he would send someone to get it. What that actually meant was that he would send one of his buddies to every movie shop in the bazaar looking for the movie, and then resell the DVD to me at double the price if he found it. That was fine with me, because his guy could do a better job searching for the movie than I ever could, so I was willing to pay the higher price. While we waited, he of course tried to interest me in some of his other wares.

"You like movies? Bollywood movies, American movies?" I told him no, just the one I'm looking for.
"Porn?" No thanks, no porn.

He switched to the technology sector: "Flash drive? I have 250GB, very good price." When I assured him that a 250 gigabyte flash drive is technologically impossible at this point, he told me that "In India, anything is possible!" before giving me a scaled-down pantomime rendition of his version of British colonialism and the fight for Indian independence as an example of the can-do attitude of the Indian people. I use "fight" in a fairly literal sense because his version seemed to rely a lot more heavily on machine guns than on say, Gandhi.

Since his flash drive discussion didn't seem to be making progress, he switched topics again.
"You like girls? Indian girls?" I wasn't sure where he was going with that line of questioning, and since I didn't want to be sold a prostitute along with the DVD, I told him no, I didn't.
"Why not? Of all the men I meet, you are first who does not like Indian girls." I realized I may have given him the wrong impression, so I was relieved when he asked if I was married, so I could assure him I had a girlfriend back home in the States. This seemed to pique his interest, and he asked "In America, sex is...more open, yes?" From the hopeful gleam in his eye, I suspected he was envisioning statuesque Aryan beauties clad in thong bikinis strutting the streets of Los Angeles, just waiting to be swept off their feet by a certain canny young Indian and ravished in the back seat of his Mercedes. I told him it was, but only a little, hoping I could dissuade him from whatever fantastic version of America existed in his head. He didn't seem convinced.

He never did find the DVD, but he said he'd call me if he was able to locate it. I've already experienced the willingness of some Indians to go to great lengths to satisfy Western customers, so I won't be too surprised if he actually does.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Garden of Five Senses

The Garden of Five Senses is a well-maintained garden and sculpture park on the far south side of Delhi, with a name that makes it sound a lot more exciting than it actually is. Here's how well I thought it titillated each of the five senses:

  1. Sight: The Garden is full of beautiful flowers and interesting sculptures, and there is a hill with a great view of South Delhi and the Qutb Minar to enjoy. Grade: A
  2. Smell: The flowers weren't particularly fragrant when we visited, although they do smell nice if you get close enough. The Garden nonetheless gets a high grade because it still smells better than most of the rest of Delhi, which smells of natural gas fumes and feces. Grade: B+
  3. Taste: You're not allowed to eat the flowers, so I presume that the Garden's claim to stimulating all five senses must stem from the restaurants in the garden. We didn't visit them, but Magique looked expensive enough that I'll assume the food is decent. Grade: B
  4. Hearing: Nothing to hear but the standard Delhi birds and low-flying airplanes. Grade: C-
  5. Touch: Some of the sculptures were kind of nifty to walk on and touch. However, the more common way visitors to the Garden use their sense of touch is by making out--the more secluded parts of the Garden were absolutely infested with people snogging. Grade: B-/A+

Unscientific overall grade: B, unless you've got somebody to make out with.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Enjoying Delhi

I spent the day at various attractions around Delhi, and I am currently in the middle of uploading all my photos. In the meantime, however, here's a panorama from the Lodhi Gardens that I stitched together. For those of you who know Ann Arbor, the Lodhi Gardens are kind of like the Arb, except with ancient tombs splattered all over the place. In fact, that's a decent way to describe a lot of places in India: "It's a lot like [insert name of similar place in the US], except with the crumbling remains of the ancient Mughal city of Daghabaghalabad all over the place."
Lodhi Gardens Panorama
The REALLY big version of this photo is 29 MB, but if for some reason you feel like you need a panorama that could span the deck of an aircraft carrier, get in touch with me somehow and I'll find a way to get it to you.

Mr. Kumar

Mr. Kumar is our landlord. He's an older Indian gentlemen with rapidly thinning hair and a bit of a gut. His blocky features are set in a constant scowl, as if he is always worried about something. The one time I've seen him attempt to smile, he presented Brian and me with a lopsided rictus that lasted for only a split second before he self-consciously reverted to his familiar glower. His favorite activities are chastising us for using too much electricity, warning us that this will cause our electricity bill to be very high, and asking us when we will have a copy of the apartment key made so that he can get into our apartment in case something happens while we are away (he gave us both of his copies).

Despite all this, Mr. Kumar is, at heart, a big softie. I see him playing with his adorable young grandson nearly every day, and he is always ready to offer us help navigating Delhi. Yesterday we had a discussion about restaurants, and afterward, he sent up his handyman (who appears to be a 12-year-old boy, but who can grow a full mustache) with a delivery menu from his favorite restaurant.

Favorite Mr. Kumar moment:
I was coming home from work one afternoon, and I met Mr. Kumar outside our building, watching his handyman play cricket with Mr. Kumar's grandson. When he saw me coming, Mr. Kumar waved at me and said "Wait one minute," before disappearing into his apartment on the ground floor. After a minute or so, during which I too played cricket with his grandson, Mr. Kumar reappeared, carrying a letter.

"Is this you?" he asked, pointing to the name in the address field. Although the address of my apartment was correct, the letter was addressed to a Mr. Christopher Ellis, which isn't even remotely similar to either my name or my roommate Brian's. I ignored the fact that Mr. Kumar was still unsure of my name six weeks after I moved in.

"Nope, that's not me--that's not similar to my name, or to Brian's," I told him.

Mr. Kumar thought about this for a moment.

"Are you sure?"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Far out, man!

I don't know what my rickshaw driver was smoking today, but it must have been some pretty potent stuff. First he started flapping his arms like a chicken and saying unintelligible things to me in Hindi. Then he began singing "lo lo lo lo lo lo" to himself right before almost running into two teens who were trying to cross the street. Good times.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I really love Indian cash; it's so well designed that I'm going to be a little sad to switch back to American money at the end of the summer. Here's a picture of some common denominations:
Indian rupee notes

From top to bottom, the denominations are Rs. 500, 100, 50, 10. The coins, from left to right, are 1, 2, and 5 rupees. There are also notes with values of Rs. 1000, 20 and 5. In the US, we use different portraits to distinguish note values. In India, as you can see, they really, really like Gandhi, so they vary the size and overall color of the notes instead of having different portraits. I'm a really big fan of this system--it allows you to tally up a bunch of cash with only a quick glance, because you can easily distinguish between the different notes, even from a distance. In addition, if you keep the bills in your wallet organized by denomination, the differing sizes mean that all of the notes are visible, so you can jump right to the bill you need. Just for reference, here's a picture of the Rs. 500 note next to an American $5 bill. IMG_4220.JPG

The Rs. 1000 notes are even bigger than the Rs. 500 bills, and are colored red. The Rs. 20 notes look similar to the Rs. 10 notes, except the numerals are in bright red. The Rs. 5 notes are always incredibly grungy, so it's tough to get a good look at them, but they're even smaller than the Rs. 10 note (they're about the size of Monopoly money), and are green.

Here's a closeup of the coins: IMG_4219
I'm not as big a fan of the coins, because I find the Rs. 1 and 2 coins hard to distinguish by feel. However, you hardly ever need to use Rs. 1 and 2 coins because most things are in multiples of five rupees, and if they're not, people just round anyway (never in your favor, of course). Also, the fact that the coins have the "thumbs up" and "victory" hand signs on them always makes me happy. The Rs. 5 coin on the right of the picture is a little atypical; it is very new (which is atypical already), and the design is standard, but all the older coins are silver instead of gold. The Rs. 5 coins are about the size and thickness of an American nickel, but heavier. The Rs. 2 coin is about the size of a quarter.

The only thing I don't like about money in India is that there isn't enough of it, and I don't mean that the country is poor. The problem is that there simply aren't enough small bills. Encountering rickshaw drivers and storekeepers who can't make even small amounts of change is not uncommon, and my friends and I are always scrounging around for 10 rupee notes to hoard against the next time we have to use exact change. The general stores in neighborhood marketplaces are good places to get change, so I make a point of visiting the store every couple days to get change for Rs. 500, which gives me enough Rs. 100 notes to pay the rickshaw drivers. The drivers, in turn, leave me with enough 10- and 20-rupee notes to pay for lunch every day (Rs. 25), and to pay the occasional driver who doesn't have change. Other than that, however, I really like Indian money; whoever designed it clearly put a lot of thought into it, which makes it very functional.

As you've probably gathered from this post, my camera has been fixed. Yay! Now I can take wonderful photos again. I'll hopefully have some of my friends' shots from Agra and Jaipur up on Flickr soon, but until now, enjoy a shot of the solar eclipse (taken with Brian's camera): IMG_2398.JPG

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

India: 1, Camera: 0

If any of you have gone through the hundreds of photos I've taken here in detail (no shame if you haven't), you probably noticed one of the Baha'i Temple that was all purple-tinged. That was my camera's way of telling me that it didn't like the heat. The problem has progressively gotten worse since then, and today, two days before our trip to the Taj Mahal, it crapped out completely. I'll try and steal photos from some of my friends to post, but until my camera gets fixed (or I get a new one...bleh), this blog will be photo-less. Would anyone like to ship me an Olympus E-P1?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Here's a chronicle of all the animals I've seen in India so far (not including insects, of which there are plenty. The cockroaches, thank goodness, are actually smaller than in Chicago). I'll update this post as I see more animals or take pictures of them.


  • Indian Crow. Acts and sounds exactly like a North American crow, but has a brownish-grey neck and chest.
  • Pigeon: Look exactly like North American pigeons, except that the pigeons here are all the same; there aren't mutant technicolor ones like in the States. There is one that likes to land on the blades of the ceiling fan on our balcony. He always seems surprised when the fan starts spinning as he lands on it.
  • Parakeets: Also look just like regular parakeets.
  • Common Myna: This bird is about the size of a robin, with black wings that have a white stripe underneath, a lighter belly, and orange spectacles. It acts a lot like a starling, and is pretty good at running around on two legs.
  • Edit 7/23/09 Peacocks: They're kind of like wild turkeys; I saw several flocks of them from the train last weekend. None were displaying their tail feathers, unfortunately.

  • Other: The tree outside my apartment has berries that seem to attract a lot of birds; I've seen several that I couldn't identify, so I'll try and take pictures of those.


  • Elephant!: I have seen a couple meandering the streets of Delhi with riders. My first reaction is generally "Gee, that's a slow-moving truck," followed closely by "That's not a truck."
  • Stray Dogs: All over the place. Some will ignore you, others will bark at you, but all of them will follow you home if you give them food. The girls down the street (who are also UofC students) gave food to one, and now she (I think, since most male dogs here are very conspicuously not neutered) sits outside their apartment and whines piteously for food every time they come home.
  • Monkeys: I haven't actually seen many of these; I saw a few working with a street performer near India Gate.
  • Wild Boar: Can occasionally be seen rooting around in public parks.
  • Cows: There is a small herd that usually traipses through the nearby market in the evening, grazing on the decorative plants. It's worth noting that Indian cows look very different from the American conception of cattle. Here's an Indian cow. Here's an American farm cow. The Indian cows are lean and rangy, while American farm cows are stocky and compact.
  • Water buffalo: We saw these in Goa. Alternatively, they may have just been cows standing in fields flooded with water; I'm not sure I would have known the difference.
  • Mongoose: There is one that lives outside my office building, but I've only seen it from pretty far away, so I can't give you much of a description.
  • Squirrelmunks: These little guys are grey like squirrels, have black stripes on their backs like chipmunks, have bushy tails and climb trees like squirrels, and chirp like chipmunks (even louder than chipmunks, if that's possible. If you've never heard a chipmunk chirp, you're missing out.)
  • Edit 7/23/09 Bats: I've seen small, mouse-sized bats here before, and on Tuesday night, I saw a bat the size of a crow flying over New Friends Colony. That's a big bat.


  • Leeezards: The lizards are pretty shy, but they will occasionally scamper into a building through an open window, or across a window screen. I think they must be geckos, because they're always climbing along the wall, or on the ceiling.
  • Toad: Not really a reptile, but I didn't want the lizards to get lonely. We saw one of these in the park near the ISKCON and Baha'i Temples.

Edit 7/15/09: Bugs

  • Giant Millipedes (thanks to Ajit for reminding me of these): These look really creepy, but they're no more threatening than North American millipedes, although they are much, much bigger. I haven't seen any in Delhi, but they were all over the place in Goa.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Spit, meet baling wire

Sorry for the lack of posts lately; I've had a busy couple of weeks.

Also, I want to note that a lot of this blog will be generalizations (i.e. stereotypes) about Indian culture. It's not my intent to be racist or to make baseless generalizations. Rather, I am adjusting to a new culture, and the way to adjust to a new culture is to learn the rules of that culture--that is, how most people of that culture act in a given situation. In other words, you come up with behavioral rules that allow you to fit in better by acting the way most Indians act; I'm sharing the rules that I have come up with.

Anyway, today I'm going to write about a joke I have made a couple times with my parents, which is that a lot of India seems to be held together with duct tape. I make this joke because I frequently encounter wacky repair jobs and strange design decisions that remind me of Home Inspection Nightmares or There, I Fixed It! (take a look at both those links if you aren't familiar with them). I run into stuff like this in the US as well, but creative repairs seem to be more common here, perhaps because Indians are more likely to repair something than throw it out. Since I'm new here, I'm also hyper-sensitive to things that aren't as I expect them to be, so maybe I'm also surprised by some things that I wouldn't think twice about if I had grown up here.

Some examples, both funny, and not-so-funny:

  • IMG_4209.JPG
    This is a voltage stabilizer. It's a device that keeps anything hooked up to it from being fried by the power fluctuations here (I would argue that decentralizing the task of creating steady power is itself a kludge). I now have one of these hooked up to my laptop after the power adapter got fried (twice in two weeks. Yay warranties). This one, however, is connected to our air conditioner, and it did a great job--until one day it belched a cloud of black smoke out the back and caught on fire. As you can see, it hasn't been replaced. The landlord got his handyman (who appears to be a 15-year-old kid) to open it up and repair it by cutting off the burnt parts of the internal wiring, and splicing everything back together. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with doing that, so long as you do it right.

  • IMG_4206.JPG
    This, however, is a picture of what happened to the previous splicing job my landlord did. Good thing our curtains are apparently flame-retardant. I really hope this isn't how they fixed the voltage stabilizer.

  • When I was signing up for internet, the sales representative asked for a copy of our rental agreement. I had been told he would ask that, so I had already had a copy made. He looked at it and said "This needs to be notarized." I hadn't known that, so I apologized, and told him I didn't have a notarized copy. He said "Okay, no problem," and proceeded to sign me up for internet anyway.

  • My bathroom has a sliding door which, when opened, is in front of the light switch for the bathroom light. You must remember to turn on the light in the bathroom before opening the door, otherwise you have to close the door, turn on the light, and open the door again. That same switch plate also has an extra switch that does nothing. In fact, most rooms have at least one or two extra light switches that aren't hooked up to anything. The ones that are hooked up to things have to be labeled with what they control, because they all look identical and there is no consistent method of ordering them.

  • My bathroom also has a hole in the wall that, when the proper combination of valves is turned, shoots a stream of water in the direction of the sink. This is in addition to the shower head. I have no idea what anyone would ever use that stream of water for.

  • There are no street addresses like I'm used to; neighborhoods are divided into blocks, and each house on a block is given a number. Individual buildings are numbered sequentially within a block, but there doesn't seem to be any system for how blocks are arranged within a neighborhood (other than that they are adjacent to one another). It's basically impossible to find a building in a given neighborhood without knowing where its block is; you have to stop and ask for directions every couple hundred feet. I received a piece of mail for a previous tenant today; one of the lines of the address was "Near Eros Cinema," which is a nearby landmark. How crazy is it that someone felt it was necessary to give the post office landmarks so that they could find a house? Here's a map of my neighborhood--see if you can figure out the system.

I don't want to give the impression that I dislike India because of these things or think it's backward; most of the weird quirks I've encountered have been harmless (except the ones that threatened to set me on fire), and as the links I provided show, stuff like this can be found anywhere. I find quirky things amusing wherever I see them, so this is just to pass along a few that I found especially interesting.

Monday, June 22, 2009



Many of you have probably seen this video or something like it.

That video definitely wasn't shot in Delhi--the rickshaws here are green with yellow canopies, not the other way around. Traffic in Delhi (at least, in south Delhi) never gets quite as crazy as in that video, for a couple reasons. First, there's a lot more traffic here, so there isn't enough space to do the kind of shenanigans in the video, and traffic doesn't move as quickly. Second, Delhi has stop lights, and people obey them (more or less). An intersection like that in Delhi would definitely have a stop light.

Other than those differences, however, that's a pretty accurate portrayal of Indian traffic; to a Western eye, it looks like total chaos, with everyone fighting to get to their destination as fast as possible. In truth...well, in truth it's still pretty chaotic. Driving on the left is more of a suggestion than a rule, and lane markers might as well not exist. However, there is a code of conduct, and people do actually get upset if you violate the code, so it's not totally lawless. Here are a few of the rules that I've noticed; you can re-watch the video above to see if you agree.

The first rule, however, is something you can't really understand from the video because the sound is soft, and that's the use of the horn. Everyone is constantly communicating with their horns--every time you pass another vehicle, you give a toot of your horn so that they know not to pull to one side. Most large vehicles, like trucks and buses, actually have "Horn please" written on the back fender to remind you to follow this rule. This is basically the exact reverse of the Western rule to check your blind spot before changing lanes; in Delhi, the rule is to notify someone if you're in their blind spot.

The second rule is a little harder to state clearly, but the basic idea is that you're entitled to any space on the road that you can get to without making someone else come screeching to a halt. That is, it's perfectly okay to drive out in front of oncoming traffic and force them to stop, but only if they're far enough away that they won't have to swerve into a lamppost (or more likely, another vehicle) to avoid hitting you. The other side of this rule is that if someone cuts in front of you, you have to stop, and in fact, people are willing to do that, for the most part.

The third rule isn't really a rule, but more of a property of the system. The distribution of motorcycles, rickshaws, cars, and trucks/buses is such that traffic jams tend to be self-regulating. This is because the motorcycles can squeeze into small gaps in traffic, forcing oncoming traffic to stop, which gives space for the cars and rickshaws to move in, which then creates space for the big trucks and buses (of which there are relatively few).

As an example, if you watch the video again, you'll notice that there's a pretty significant jam near around 1:30. In the West, if there was a steady enough stream of traffic and a yield sign, the poor driver with the yield sign would never get to take his turn. In India, it's different--watch what happens as traffic piles up behind the stream of cars turning right. Eventually, the motorcycle riders get impatient and start to edge their way forward (one of them almost gets hit by a white car who broke rule #2). They force the turning cars downward bit by bit, until eventually they pass the barrier, and no one else can turn. Then the traffic heading straight from top to bottom gets to go, until enough motorcyclists pile up in the right turn lane to start the process all over again.

So that's Indian traffic; it's pretty crazy, but it's not totally insane. Just don't try it while talking on your cell phone.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

First Post from India

Yep, I'm in India! I'm spending the summer in New Delhi, India, interning with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. I've been here a little over a week, and now that I have internet access and a functioning computer, I'm going to be blogging about my adjustment to a new and different society.

I'm not really going to chronicle what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis, because for the most part, I'm doing the same things here as I would be doing if I were living in the States or many other countries: going to work, hanging out with friends, grocery shopping, etc. The interesting part (at least to me) is not exactly what I'm doing, but the differences in how those things are done here, as opposed to the US.

I'll be posting some photos here, but every photo I take will eventually end up on my flickr page, so check there to see what I've been seeing. There may be some lag between me writing about a topic and actually having pictures to go along with the story. This is primarily because digital cameras aren't very common (at least where I live), so a good way to draw attention to yourself (and receive a 50% price increase from the street vendors) is to start snapping photos. I'll probably start taking a lot more photos within the next couple weeks, but for now, every day seems to bring a new surprise, so I don't want a camera getting in my way as I learn to negotiate Indian society. For now, enjoy a poorly-composed shot of a tree and, well, mostly a tree.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Breaking: Car hits 7-Eleven at Clybourn and Southport

I made a quick run to the grocery store this morning, and got a little entertainment on the way back.
car-711 I'm pretty sure I passed that car on the way to the grocery store. I'm assuming everyone was okay because there were no ambulances and the police were just standing around.

Also, from the bike rack outside the grocery store, bike lock FAIL:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Poor ducks

I always feel bad for the ducks who land in the law school's zero-depth fountain. They clearly think it's a regular pond, because they invariably sit down when they land, as if they're expecting to float. When they instead discover that they're scraping their butts on the granite, they stand up, shake their tail feathers a few times, and then stand dejectedly in the fountain for a few minutes, as if looking for indications that deeper water is nearby. It never is, and they always fly off, disappointed, after a few minutes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

How to be a butthead

Looking for a way to demonstrate just how much of a butthead you are, but not quite certain how to get the message across? Parking your enormous gas-guzzling SUV (with custom rims, no less) in the "Reserved For Alternative Fuel Vehicles" spot at Whole Foods is a pretty good way to start.

An SUV in a parking spot reserved for Priuses.

And yes, I checked--it wasn't an enormous gas-guzzling SUV hybrid. Not that I think hybrids should be allowed in spots reserved for alternative fuel vehicles anyway, since they don't actually use any alternative fuel. In fact, I don't really think having alternative-fuel-only parking spots makes any sense in the first place, since it implies that vehicles which run on ethanol are actually environmentally friendly, and not a giant hoax made up to benefit big agribusiness.

I guess it is possible that the driver of that SUV could have given me a well-reasoned explanation of how he parked in that spot to make a statement about the problems inherent in using "alternative fuel" as a proxy for "environmentally friendly," but I suspect that he was more interested in being a douche bag. Unless that SUV has been modded to run on home-brewed biodiesel.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Two disappointments

First off, I've never been a giant fan of Final Fantasy, but Final Fantasy XIII looks like it's going to absolutely reek. From Wired: [The main character, Lightning, is] backed up by her partner, Szah, who has a baby Chocobo living in his afro. Wired asks the appropriate question: [H]ow does Final Fantasy XIII address all the things that make an RPG an RPG, and not just a brief series of simple battles connected by lengthy computer-animated story sequences? Personally, I don't think the series ever has addressed those things; what has made Final Fantasy (arguably) great have been its stories, and when the story involves uncomfortably stereotypical-looking black guy with a baby magical-ostrich-bird-thing living in his oversized hairdo, well, it's time to call it quits.

Similarly, the BSG finale was ... unsatisfyingly predictable. The first hour was amazing, but the epilogue left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Happiness ...

Is getting home at 10PM and realizing that you still have a couple homemade brownies left.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mirror's Edge: First Impressions

Just started playing Mirror's Edge a couple days ago; I'm about a third of the way through. Some initial thoughts:

  1. You die a lot, which can be incredibly frustrating. However, it's the kind of frustration that is due to a steep learning curve, rather than seemingly insurmountable difficulties or a game system rigged against the player. Once you accomplish a particularly difficult maneuver, the frustration quickly turns into a warm glow of accomplishment--until you screw up the next move and die again.
  2. Figuring out when to jump when you can't see your feet is really hard. If you jump too early, you don't go far enough, and you plummet off a skyscraper to your death. Jump too late and, well, you don't jump, you just perform the aforementioned plummet.
  3. Most of the stunts you perform would look much cooler if you could actually see yourself performing them. Mirror's Edge is kind of like watching Olympic figure skating through a camera duct-taped to Michelle Kwan's forehead.
  4. I'm trying to play the game without ever shooting anyone. This is really freaking hard, because everyone ELSE has guns, and they're not even remotely shy about using them.

In sum, it's fun, but it's going to take me a while, and it's probably not a good game for you if you get frustrated easily.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Roland Burris

From the Chicago Sun-Times: Roland Burris says, on the subject of whether his race is relevant to whether he should be seated in the Senate, "I have never in my life, in all my years of being elected to office, thought anything about race."

Oh, really?