Monday 29 October 2007

BBQ Nation

My next outing for dinner was to a place called Barbeque Nation. It's a lot like Korean BBQ restaurants with a coal BBQ in the centre of the table. The difference is that the chefs cook the food before they bring it to your table. It is then kept warm by the coals. That's safer in India.

BBQ Nation menu and weapons

The left side of the table

The right side of the table

The coal BBQ inserted in to the table with food on skewers

There was also a buffet with Indian food

Sunday 28 October 2007

Bombay Post

A famous Indian movie is painted on the wall

To a lot of people including the Indians I hung out with, India is about food. My first dinner in Bangalore was spent at a fancy restaurant called Bombay Post. I broke the first rule about not eating seafood in Bangalore but I love fish curries. It was fantastic and alright in the end.

In Australia, when you go out you need only identify the vegetarians that are eating with you. Sometimes you have to tell them in advance so there is something there for the vegetarian or vegan to eat. In India, it's the other way around. You must say who is non-veg. If I could cook vegetarian food like this, I'd be a non-non-veg too :)

The guys and I waiting for dinner to come

The fish we ate before they cooked it

Around Ooty

While we were in Ooty, we went on a boat ride around the main lake and took a train ride to Coonoor, which is an area where they grow tea.

An attempt at making the Sullivan Hotel look English

The boat trip around the very green and brown lake

India has eucalyptus trees like the ones in Australia

An outlet for the lake

There is a place like this in London :)

One of two packed compartments filled with TWers

The view from the train was prettier than my camera can capture

This one is for Giles :)

Saturday 27 October 2007

ThoughtWorks India Away Day

Luckily, I arrived in India just at the right time to join the annual ThoughtWorks India Away Day. It has now become tradition (this is the 2nd year) for some members of the Bangalore office to put on a skit. Not all of it made sense to me because there were TW jokes and lots of Bollywood references but it was hilarious and entertaining.

The cricket match you'll see in slow motion in the video below was a battle over a young woman. I had no idea how important cricket is over here. Australians have nothing on these guys :)

The narrator

The good guy + gal

The bad guys + gal

The fight

Slow motion replay of a run-out

A Bollywood romance

All the Animals

On the road to and from Ooty, I had the best luck to see a few of India's famous animals. Our car managed to make a quick getaway from a family of grumpy elephants. That was so much fun. Monkeys, cows and goats are everywhere outside of the cities so they weren't a novelty after a while. It's still the best fun seeing all these animals that I wouldn't get the chance to see outside of zoos. Seeing elephants in the wild was amazing.

Bulls (male cows) are highly valued and a sign of wealth

A peacock heading away from the road wouldn't show us his full beauty

We had to park down the road from a group of elephants because they are grumpy in mating season

A closer pic using the zoom for safety

Unfortunately, this was the only tiger sighting

Indian deer grazing. This is taken inside a national park

A trained elephant inside the national park. This one didn't charge us

You have to be ready to wind up your windows to stop the monkeys getting onboard

Boars taking a walk. These are not attractive animals

Maharaja's House

After a delish Indian breakfast, we continued on to Ooty. The first major town we passed through was Mysore, which is 130km south-west of Bangalore. It is the second biggest town in Kanartaka. My tour guides told me that Mysore is a great example of what Bangalore was before the IT boom - the traffic is not as insane but still crazy; there is less pollution; and the people are not rushing around as much.

The highlight has to be Mysore Palace which was rebuilt in 1912, replacing an earlier palace that burnt down in 1897. The palace has been the home to the Maharaja's of the Kingdom of Mysore. You can go in to and around the grounds and buildings of the palace but cameras are not allowed in. Every Sunday and during a festival named Dussehra, the palace is lit up with 96 000 (yes, that is ninety six thousand) light bulbs. This was something I was lucky to see on the rainy night return trip from Ooty to Bangalore, via the pretty palace.

The quiet sign next to the amazing palace

Mysore Palace during the day

Mysore Palace at night

An outdoor market on the outskirts of Mysore

On The Road To Ooty

Be afraid of the traffic in Bangalore. That is a sane reaction to an insane situation :) After arriving in Bangalore at 11:30pm on Friday night and getting to my room around midnight, I slept 4 hours and joined Rixt (a trainer) + Marco (a project manager) on a road trip to Ooty. We headed off in a private car on a 7 hour journey to join the rest of ThoughtWorks India at their annual Away Day.

Driving through Bangalore

Just outside of Bangalore

Our breakfast stop was at a fantastic outdoor restaurant called Kamat. I ate pooris and drank lassi. That completed one of my two goals for India.

The poori restaurant

A funny sign

The kitchen

The perfect pooris which are much unlike the flat cardboard I make

Friday 26 October 2007

Planes and Pains

Singapore airport - Gate 57

For an Immersion/Cultural-Reorientation for my company, I left Sydney on my Bollywood adventure. A car picked me up at 8:30am Friday morning and took me to Sydney's international airport. It only took 45 mins from home to the point where I was through customs. That was much faster than I expected.

Singapore Airlines are good on space and food but I don't see the big deal with their service. Maybe all flight attendants hate me because the service doesn't ever impress me.

It took 8 and a bit hours to get to Singapore and the whole time was spent with the American version of Kenny the toilet guy. This guy was Rudy, who was an engineer specialising in plane toilets. He was in Sydney for the A380 landing there. His job was to give support if it was needed. I didn't go digging for details. He talked a lot. Mostly about himself. He used the most amazingly stupid pickup lines on the flight attendants. It actually worked too. He was telling a nun who was getting off the plane with us that he had to stay back to make plans with one of the "lovely ladies". Lucky me.

Singapore airport was clean, warm and like a racetrack with all the speeding golf buggies that the zoom around carrying staff. Apparently there is a spa so I'm heading there on the trip back.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

IMAP for Gmail

Random play with Gmail settings revealed that they finally provide IMAP. Yay! There was no way I was willing to switch from webmail to POP with it's slow searches and insistence on deleting my mail once it's downloaded it. I might set up Outlook now. Maybe I'll even try Opera Mail.

Stay tuned for rants or complaints... or both.

Monday 22 October 2007

Induction Taps

This was an odd sight that greeted me at the hotel I stayed at in Melbourne.

One of these taps is just like the other

Sunday 21 October 2007

Sniff me out like I was Tanqueray

Tomorrow is my first trip for the new ThoughtWorks job. It's time to fly off to Melbourne for an induction. No idea what it entails but I do know it's in Melbourne because a new guy is starting in Melbourne and they thought they could do both our inductions at the same time. It sounds like fun and a helluva good reason to shoe shop... although it is only 2 days and I might not have enough time.

There is a car coming to pick me up at 6:45am so I guess I should pack something before I crash tonight. It is funky that TorchWood lets us get the frequent flyer points for all our trips. In the Commonwealth government, they called it rorting the system and wouldn't let us. I don't see how it is but public servants are strangled by their own red tape on the best of days. It's not their fault. There are just a lot of really pointless rules.

Here are some of the stupider rules I have had to comply with as a contractor to the master:
  • Public servants and contractors can not claim frequent flyer points on your personal account when traveling on tickets paid for by the Government;
  • As a contractor you are not allowed to attend department events intended to motivate public servants, even if you don't bill for the hours;
  • Contractors birthdays are not celebrated but public servants' are. This went for contractors who had been there for a week up to more than a decade. No exceptions;
  • Contractors can not get official passports. G had to travel for a department he contracted to. He applied for an official passport on short notice but was automatically rejected because they wouldn't give an official passport to a contractor. He asked for his personal passport back that was being used in his security clearance application, in order to travel on that. They said no because he was not allowed to travel on a personal passport for official business. In the end they saw the deadlock and he got his official passport;
  • Contractors can not be the fire warden for a floor in a government building. Maybe they thought we'd just let the damn unreasonable public servants burn :o)
Note : Different departments had different rules. These apply to my 8 years contracting to many departments. Each with their own quirks.

Saturday 20 October 2007

Herding A Cat

The game Chat Noir (black cat) is not as easy as it looks. It is very much how real life works though.

Friday 19 October 2007

Shane Warne is My Fault

It is about time I confessed to something I did when I was a teenager that has caused so many people so much pain.

In my second semester of year 11 at school, I had to change schools because the backwater high school I was at was not able to offer Maths B & C which were pre-reqs for Maths 1 & 2 in my final year. I never missed that school full of future teenage mothers + dole bludgers :o) On I went to Darwin High School where I met an energetic, funtastic friend who I have now only recently rediscovered on facebook. Let's call her M to protect her anonymity.

Within the first week of turning up at the new school, M convinced me (and I can't say it took a lot of convincing) to wag all my classes after lunch to go and watch the cricket. Australia was acclimatising before going to take on India and they had chosen to do that against the NT boys at Gardens Oval. I wasn't then and am not now a cricket fan but M was a major fan of one of the Waugh brothers. Again, I'm not a cricket fan and they are identical twins so who knows which one it was? Not the point anyway.

We left school, went to the cricket and watched for a while. It got boring as I predicted it would, especially since no one was getting out ever so we went in to the city (it's close to the school and oval) to what would become a favourite hangout of ours - The Galleria (a shopping centre in the Smith St Mall).

We were there barely 2 minutes sitting in the aircon when M squealed with delight. There he was, her Waugh brother of choice and another cricketer. She pulled out her autograph book (yes, so 80's) and my shoulder and ran up to get his signature + acknowledgment. He was decent and smiled, said hi and signed her book. If I remember correctly it was dedicated to her with a large clear signature. I must ask if she still has it.

M was glowing with teenage stalker love as she quickly turned to ask very loudly if she should get the other guys autograph too. I looked at her, then at him and finally turned back to her and said with all my cricket knowledge backing me "Nah, don't bother. I don't know who he is." With that we turned and walked away. He looked hurt but teenage girls care not for such things.

I later recognised that guy who I didn't know on that day as a young Shane Warne. His signature would probably be worth more now than whichever Waugh's scrawl we got.

That is not why I'm sorry.

I am sorry because I am worried that on that day he decided that he wanted to be known. He wanted to be the best damn cricket player who ever lived and one that no young woman could reject so easily.

I created that bleach blonde, spin bowling, ciggy sucking, adulterous, Nike sponsored, txting monster and for that, all the women of the Earth have my sincerest apologies.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Let's Do Lunch @ Cantina Uno

Giles + I went to our second Let's Do Lunch at Cantina Uno in Darlinghurst. It's a whole 3 minutes walk from our place, even in impractical shoes. The girls out there know what I mean.

Cantina Uno looks like a tiny place from the outside but apparently it travels upstairs and is a great place for groups. On this day it was Giles + I and one of the Chapel brothers (on the table next to us).

Today they were serving the deboned spatchcock with caramalised onions, pancetta and French lentils. It was the most delicious bird I've eaten ever - including Christmas turkeys, peking duck from superbowl and chicken satays from the markets in Darwin.

The spatchcock stuffed with pancetta

There only let down was the wine. The white they were serving was the most inoffensive, talentless chardonnay in the history of my life. Please note, I am not a chardy fan and can't remember the last decade I drank one in. The wine didn't compliment or oppose the food. It was like one of those people who sits quietly in a discussion and adds only to the entropy of the room. It didn't taste bad. I just didn't taste!

The most boring glass of wine I have ever had the displeasure of meeting

The dessert was divine! I will return here some time just for that reason. It looked interesting, tasted brilliant and was the incarnation of all that is not that damn chardonnay.


For those of you who don't know, I've been going through the long and involved interview process that belongs to a company I had code named TorchWood. If you haven't guessed yet, they are ThoughtWorks.

The process was:
  1. submit a customised CV;
  2. 45 minute phone interview;
  3. 3 day coding test at home;
  4. an IQ test;
  5. logic test;
  6. personality "survey";
  7. cultural interview;
  8. whiteboarding technical interview;
  9. paired programming interview; and
  10. final interview with management.
This took less than two weeks and could have gone faster if I wanted it to. The process was enjoyable, challenging and fair. Today, I recieved the official offer from them and a t-shirt. It was the t-shirt and purple folder that made me say yes to their offer in the end :o)

Next week I'm off to Melbourne for a two day induction and the week after will see me spending two weeks participating in their Immersion process in Bangalore, India. Sounds a little like a cult :o) We call ourselves ThoughtWorkers.

Monday 15 October 2007

Phú Quốc

I was in Canberra earlier this week for a very quick visit. My Dad took me to dinner at Phú Quốc in Dickson. It is named after a popular and disputed Vietnamese island in the Gulf of Thailand.

We ate Flaming Beef which lived up to it's name for more than three minutes and Salted Squid which was a more flavoursome version of a battered fried squid. Both dishes were excellent. The pork springrolls we had for an entree were enjoyable but a little dry.

If you are in Dickson in the ACT anytime soon, try an inexpensive and tasty meal at Phú Quốc.

The Flaming Beef was yummy and entertaining

Sunday 14 October 2007

Blog Stats

If you have a blog and are interested in stats like how many people subscribe, what searches show up your blog posts and other web admin type numbers then check out the new Google Webmaster Tools.

You will have to verify your website is yours by adding a meta tag to the head element of your home page or uploading an HTML page. I went with the meta tag because that's much easier in Blogger. This can be done for sites not hosted by Google and is easy for those who already have a Google account. I prefer it to FeedBurner, mainly because I don't have to create another account.

I sure wish the rest of you dozens and hundreds of reader would subscribe to me already so I feel loved :o) BTW, I use Google Reader.

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