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Travel

Day 14: getting back on track

Despite my comments about the Air India flight, everything actually worked out pretty well. (Sorting out the expense report is going to be fun, though.) We landed on time; I picked up my rental car, scooted up to my mother’s house in Oxford, said hi, and went to sleep. About four hours later my brother woke me with the offer of beer, or Lucozade, or both(!); I chose Lucozade. I felt deceptively human, and took the four of us (my mother, my brother, and his wife) out to dinner at a new Italian restaurant. The presentation was awfully “chi-chi”, but the food was excellent.

This afternoon I set out on the next stage of my journey, by train from Oxford to Leeds. I hadn’t pre-booked this (which was a mistake), but I wasn’t worried: I walked up to the ticket machine and punched in “Leeds”, “Return”. And then I stopped, and I had a premonition… and without pausing to think about Sun’s travel policy, I chose “First Class”. (That’s £200 – twice as much as the regular fare.) Soon afterwards, the train arrived. It was full. Packed full. Standing room only. Hardly any room for additional standing passengers. (OK, not quite “Tokyo subway” packed, but close.) Except… there were three empty first class seats! Had I not chosen “First”, I would have found myself standing for over four and a half hours…. (Weekend journey times are longer, because of re-routing to avoid track maintenance work.)

So here I am at the Queen’s Hotel in Leeds. It’s visually stunning, with really strong art deco themes throughout. I feel as though I’ve stepped onto the set of “Poirot”; I half-expect David Suchet to appear in a silk dressing-gown with a tisane! It’s a shame that I’ll only be here for one night.

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Travel

Day 13: somewhere over Eastern Europe…

I’m somewhere over Eastern Europe at around 2pm Indian, 9:30am London, sitting in seat 47K in Air India 747-400 VT-AIE. Or maybe we’re over Turkey or Western Europe – who knows? The clouds are solid. The fairly primitive IFE (in-flight entertainment) system is no help: no moving map, no altitude, no speed, or time to run. I have no idea when we’re supposed to land: there have been no announcements from the flight deck. I just had an indifferent meal: the service is pathetic compared with Jet Airways. No wonder the Jet flight was sold out, while this is around two-thirds full. But even though the load is fairly light, I’ve wound up in a window seat with a wriggling toddler next to me. His favourite game seems to be to open the tray table, stand on it, and jump back into his seat: his mother seems rather proud of this, and does nothing to discourage him. This must be a circle of the Inferno that Dante omitted to document.

We just got an announcement! We’re at FL380, with 1:48 to run; we’re just crossing into Austrian airspace. Not a bad guess. So we’ll land around 11:30am.

[Written en route from Mumbai to London; posted on Sunday evening from Leeds when I finally got connectivity.]

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Travel

Day 12, part 2: oops.

This trip had gone perfectly. Too perfectly. It was unnatural. And on Friday evening, my luck ran out.

The plan was to fly on Jet Airways from Bangalore to Mumbai, then from Mumbai to London on British Airways. The flight to Mumbai was due to arrive at 11pm, while the second departed at 2:15am. Plenty of time….

Unfortunately the Jet Airways flight was nearly 2 hours late. (I’ll post my rant about the ghastly qualities of Bangalore Airport later.) As a result, I arrived at the BA desk about 5 minutes after they’d closed for checkins. I was not alone, of course, and several of my fellow passengers pleaded – but to no avail.

I had called my admin earlier to warn her of the impending problem. I now checked back with her (NEVER travel without a working, roaming cellphone) and learned that the next flight was Air India 101, departing at 6:30. However e-ticket wasn’t feasible, so I’d have to buy the ticket myself. Easy, right?

I found the Air India ticket office. It felt like a scene from Douglas Adams’ computer game Bureaucracy. I handed my passport and credit card in at one window, at some point a price was set, then it mysteriously changed, I signed a credit card slip at a different window, and eventually a ticket appeared at a third. I was then told to exit left: fortunately I could see that the door I needed was to the right.

So now I’m in a 500 rupee lounge, where everything is complimentary (except the 240 rupee gin and tonic), waiting for the flight in 2 hours. I’ll let you know how it goes. Another day, another new airline.

[Written en route from Mumbai to London; posted on Sunday evening from Leeds when I finally got connectivity.]

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Travel

Day 12, part 1: StorageTek@Bangalore

Friday began with a quick trip to the Sun building in Bangalore to meet with Vijay, the VP in charge of the site. After that I phoned my driver, Srinivas, and he drove me out to the Tech Park where the-Indian-operation-of-the-company-formerly-known-as-StorageTek (!) was based. I met with the site manager and the architect who works with some of our contract partners; then after lunch I gave my talk on engineering at Sun to the whole team.

And finally my Indian meetings were over, and it was time to drive to the airport, and also to pay Srinivas for two and a half days. He had the invoice ready, and the amount looked correct. But there was a problem: his credit card machine was broken, so could I pay him in cash? I didn’t have enough cash? No problem, there was an ATM just down the road. With real misgivings, I withdraw enough cash to pay him, and we headed to the airport. We made it without any alarms or excursions (apart from an unusual number of cows on the divided highway), and I breathed a sigh of relief. Everything on the trip had gone flawlessly.

Little did I know…

[Written en route from Bangalore to Mumbai; posted on Sunday evening from Leeds when I finally got connectivity.]

Categories
Travel

Day 11 – Bangalore Tech Talk and "Diwali Bash"

The rains returned to Bangalore on Thursday, but not enough to disrupt things seriously. (Chennai looks like it’s in a worse position.) I had five things on the agenda:

  • A series of meetings about global engineering issues and mentoring. These went well, although one meeting was postponed to Friday, giving me a welcome break to grab lunch and finish a few introductory slides for later.

  • An interview with the IEC Newsletter team. They like to profile the senior staff that visit Bangalore; I used the opportunity to encourage them to talk to the people at our new sites in Pune and Hyderabad. I hope that they can immediately start to cover these sites and what they’re doing, solicit contributions from Pune and Hyderabad staff, and make sure that the newsletter is distributed there. They gave me a copy of the last issue: it’s an absolutely first-rate piece of work. Sun colleagues should check out the online edition.

  • I’d been asked to give a tech talk… or a town-hall meeting. I’m not quite sure which, but it didn’t matter: I addressed a large group of IEC staff on what I’m up to, and where I need their help; I then reprised my “Future of Distributed Computing” talk. There were some good questions, but I couldn’t take too long over Q&A because the next agenda item was…

  • DIWALI BASH!.
    Diwali bash picture
    This seemed to start out as a fairly conventional all-hands, with various recognition awards and announcements. Then we got the results of a competition for the best traditional dress (see above). After that, I completely lost track of what was going on – poetry, competitions of various kind, chocolate breaks, singing (as seen in this 12MB Quicktime clip), and eventually food. I missed the end, because I was invited to an impromptu presentation on some new distributed Java application test tools.

  • Finally I returned to the Park Hotel for a dinner with some of the Bangalore participants in the SEED Mentoring program. I was warned that one of the traditional dishes in the dinner buffet would be extraordinarily hot, but it wasn’t. (So far I haven’t encountered any food which either disrupted my gut or blew my head off. This is good.) We ended the evening with a discussion of languages in India: by my reckoning, none of the 9 people at the dinner (including me) speak the same language at home. Amazing.

I’m completing this blog entry on Friday morning in the lobby of the hotel. In a few minutes I’ll get breakfast, check out, and head in to the Sun offices. From there I’ll be going to the StorageTek facilities in Bangalore (in another part of the city), and then to the airport to fly to Mumbai and then to London. I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to blog, except perhaps through my Treo.

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Travel

Mystery painting identified

Raj Premkumar has solved my puzzle of the mystery painting at the Salar Jung Museum. It turns out that it was mis-labelled: the actual artist was S. G. Thakur Singh, whose “After Bath” won a prize when it was exhibited in London in 1924. There’s a JPEG on that web page, although it doesn’t really do justice to the work….

Anyway, many thanks Raj!

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Travel

Day 10

When last we left our intrepid hero, he was cowering in bed, transfixed by television images of Bangalore under flood waters of Biblical proportions. The following morning brought little relief: the regional papers were running headlines like “Bangalore is now an ocean”. Undaunted, Dale and I took a car to Hyderabad Airport. We saw people calmly checking in for the flight to Bangalore, we were advised that there was no delay, and we breathed more easily.

After checking our bags and going through the usual security procedures, we found ourselves in an area with a sign indicating that we should wait upstairs. We did so. Time passed, no flights were called, and by 8:15am Dale decided to ask someone when our 8:35 flight would be boarding. “It’s already boarding downstairs,” was the alarming reply. We rushed back down the stairs, and found a narrow door into another, distinctly decrepit, waiting area. Our flight was not actually boarding, but it was called a few minutes later. Had Dale not asked, etcetera, etcetera.

We took the bus out to the stand where our aircraft, an ATR-72-500 of Jet Airways (registration VT-JCA) was parked. Still nobody seemed worried that we were headed into a disaster zone. We took off, had the usual excellent hot “snack”, and 80 minutes later we landed at a damp, but decidedly un-flooded Bangalore Airport.

Despite my attempt to rationalize the car situation, there were three cars waiting for us at the airport. One was from my hotel, and I accepted the suggestion to have my suitcase taken straight there. The others? Well, one was for Dale and me to go to Sun’s IEC (Indian Engineering Centre); the other was for Dale’s bags. Whatever. After a ride through distinctly un-flooded streets we reached the office.

For me, arriving at IEC was like “old home week”. I ran into a number of Sun engineers whom I’d known in Menlo Park and Santa Clara, and who had relocated back to Bangalore when we opened IEC. A group of us had lunch and I started to come up to speed on what’s happening in IEC. After a number of other meetings, Dale and I took the car back to my hotel, The Park, where Dale had arranged a get-together for a number of his staff who are working on Sun’s implementation of JSR 208, the Java™ Business Integration (JBI) standard. They’re already starting to work with some of SeeBeyond’s technology: the technical fit looks excellent, while the overlap is minimal (and fairly straightforward.) Here they are, toasting integration (in all its forms).
ban001.jpg

When finally Dale left to catch his flight to Mumbai (and thence to London, and thence to San Francisco), I excused myself and went up to my room. Did I mention that this is a boutique hotel (whatever that means)? The style is drop-dead gorgeous: a very Japanese minimalism. (I just checked the brochure, and it’s a Conran design. That explains a lot.)
ban002.jpg

And so, after freshening up, and grabbing some food in the restaurant downstairs (my first uncompromisingly Western dinner on this trip), I shall wrap up this blog and hit the sack. Tomorrow is a very full day – but that’s for another blog entry.

Categories
Hmmm

An extraordinary perceptual illusion

You absolutely must check out Mr Angry and Mrs Calm. Simply amazing. I can’t begin to imagine how it works…

(Via BoingBoing.)

Categories
Hmmm

Missed me

While I’m in India, where Bangalore has been experiencing its wettest month since records began, they also seem to have been having some weather back in Massachusetts. globenoreasterphoto.jpgFrom the Boston Globe: “In Boston earlier yesterday, occasional gusts as high as 55 miles per hour forced pedestrians to lean into them, while downed trees snarled public transit. In the Berkshires, heavy snow fell. Along the coast, ocean waves battered beaches and seawalls, but only minor damage and flooding were reported.”

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Travel

Day 9

Tuesday comprised a full day of meetings with the ex-SeeBeyond organization in Hyderabad. Dale and I talked with each of the functional groups: about the group membership; what they were doing; the major issues that they faced (strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities); and how the integration into Sun was going to affect them. After that, we sat down with all of the managers and team leads in order to answer a few more questions and go over some final points: the key milestones of the integration plans; some thoughts about how and when some of Sun’s engineering and product practices will be introduced; and how the Hyderabad operation fits into Sun’s global plans. The whole day felt very positive.

At the end of the day Sunil took Dale and me out to a traditional South Indian restaurant (“Our Place”). The food was excellent, although I ate a little more than I really should have…. We then went back to the Sheraton to pack and prepare for an early departure to Bangalore. It turned out that a government minister (or some similar dignitary) was staying in the hotel, and security was really tight. All the cars were being searched and checked underneath with mirrors, there were portable metal detectors set up in several places, and uniformed men were wandering around brandishing various firearms, ancient and modern (from state-of-the-art assault weapons to antique 303 Lee-Enfield rifles).

I successfully negotiated the security, retired to my room, packed, brushed my teeth, climbed into bed, turned on the English-language television news, and was confronted with pictures of severe flooding in Bangalore. “And the deluge is expected to continue for 48 hours,” said the newscaster, excitedly. What on earth was I letting myself in for?