Saturday, August 18, 2007

Back in the US! Last post

Hey all,

Right now I'm sitting in the Portland airport, playing around on their wireless because my flight isn't leaving until 3.5 hours later than I wanted :-P. This is going to be my last post, now that I'm back in the US.

So, what has been happening the last few days? I left off late Wednesday evening. There isn't too much to say about Thursday. I got to work fairly early in the morning and after spending a last little bit of time doing creative work, I started collating and summarizing everything that I've done this summer. Silly me, I didn't really do this *at all* as I went along, so it was quite a chore. I also played a whole bunch of ping pong with Rob (I'm getting pretty good ^_^. I hope to keep up playing some with the table in the LAC at Mudd), and Tracy and I took a trip to the UPS store to ship books. It turns out that this was a really good idea, because I had 16 kilos worth of books to ship back (OK, so I went a little nuts at the cheap bookstores....) and my luggage is packed pretty tight as is. The people at the UPS store were *really* nice, and did basically everything for us. All we had to do was sit around and chat, which was really really nice ^_^.

Thursday night I went to my last dinner at New Shanti Sagar with Rob and Tracy, which was a really nice last dinner to have with my friends (Friday night was a dinner with just the Crypto group). After dinner I ended up staying up till about 3:30AM working on finishing up documenting some parts of what I did.

Despite staying up late on Thursday night, I woke up early enough on Friday morning (last day of work!) to make it in by 9AM, when I was supposed to meet with Satya. This meeting, as usual, got pushed back a bit, but I had a good meeting with him and put together some final (or at least summarizing/progress report ) thoughts on my work. The afternoon was spent in a 5 hour marathon LaTeXing session (interrupted by only 1 ping-pong game), writing up the theoretical work that I had done this summer. This ended up being a 13 page long document, which made me feel a little better about the amount of work I had done. I finished this up just in time to say goodbye to all of my friends at work who weren't in my group, and head out to dinner at "Tai Tai" (a Thai place) with the crypto group.

It took us about 45 minutes to reach Tai Tai (partially because of a long delay caused by Abishek... ^_^). The starters were delicious (and I reminded myself that margaritas are *wonderful*!), but the meal was a little bit of a disappointment. The really fun part was when Vijay asked me what I had ordered and I (like always) couldn't remember. He noticed my (empty) margarita and started making fun of me, and asking for drunk stories from college ^_^. I didn't give him any drunk stories, but I did tell the "Doom" story, which is the source of the "Evil Jason" nickname freshman year :-) (something I have to tell in person. Certainly not something I would commit to text and be able to do justice to). I also told the story of me getting assaulted on the street by the random dude that wanted to know "Country!".

After dinner I said goodbye to the crypto group and headed back home to make sure, one last time, that I had everything packed. I spent my last few hours in India just hanging out at Tejus Nest with Tracy, chatting. An excellent way to end the trip ^_^. The cab showed up at 10:20PM, and I headed for the airport! There were basically *no* lines for the baggage check, which was weird (and two guys tried to pay them like 100Rs. each for helping me with my bags. I gave them 10, told them I'd been around for a while and that they should go away. Definitely a difference from my first experience at the airport). I got through security and passport control fine, then spent a while making international calls to wipe out the last of my Hutch cell phone minutes.

Not too much else to report about the flights. I spent basically all of my time in Frankfurt in lines and almost immediately got on the plane (20 hours of nearly unbroken time on planes gets a little bit old...). I sat next to a really nice interesting lady from Oakland, CA on the Frankfurt -> Portland flight. Apparently she had been doing traditional Greek dance classes and northern Greece for the past two weeks!

I've fed myself with a turkey sandwich and fries (first American meal in 3 months!) here in Portland, and am just waiting for my flight. I think that really is all folks! Thanks for reading my blog and I hope that you've enjoyed it! I know that I've enjoyed my experiences in India, and have been glad to share them!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Not working as hard as I should...

Hey all,

Today is Indian Independence Day! This day marks the 60th anniversary of India's independence from England, but it also marks the beginning of the Partition (which was the separation of India and Pakistan into separate countries, was very violent, and is a large part of the reason that India and Pakistan don't get along so well today). This combination of things means that today is a fairly quiet day. It is mostly a day of quiet and contemplation, though there are some parades and celebrations, and *lots* of people have Indian flags out!

Anyway, we were told to take the day off of work because it is Independence Day, but I had enough to do that I came in anyway. I didn't get much work done though. Christian came into the office just a little bit after me (wearning an I <3 India t-shirt and brandishing an Indian flag. I told him he looked like an American...). Soon after he arrived, he received a call from Prasad, about a mandala (the things I've taken pictures of that are in front of most houses) competition in Cubbon Park. Christian and I caught a rickshaw down to check it out, and *boy* am I glad we did! The mandala were *spectacular* and there were *thousands* of them! Basically all of the roads in Cubbon park (which is a fairly large amount of road) had been blocked off, and both sides of the road were divided into a bunch of square meter squares, which is was the space each person had to draw their mandala in (these are created out of chalk dust and colored chalk, by the way, and *incredibly* ornate). I took about 150 pictures before I even knew it! I'll try to post them soon.

After admiring the mandalas we caught a rickshaw over to the Bull Temple to meed Prasad, Rob, and Apu (who is a temporary researcher who just started last week). The auto driver seemed rather lost on the way, and we drove through a concert! Literally! There was a stage with musicians on the right, there were people in seats on the left, and we just drove through the space in between them! I don't think they were to happy with us...

We eventually arrived at the Bull Temple, which is basically a small temple with a large stone bull (supposedly a wild bull that terrified villagers in the 8th century, then was subdued sort of and turned to stone, but kept growing until somebody hit it in the head with a trident, which stopped again... so yeah). I was not really impressed with temple, or the people there who were trying to pump money out of me and Christian :-P. And this is one of Bangalore's major tourist attractions...

After the Bull Temple the 5 of us walked to a restaurant that Prasad knew about, and had lunch on the top floor. The draw of this resturant is that the top floor serves authentic Northern Karnataka food (eaten on a banana leaf with only your hands ^_^). We had to wait like 45 minutes to get seated (during which I was *really* grouchy and ready to come home), but it wasn't too bad because they had live music from an Indian band (which I got some video of!), playing traditional instruments. Once we got the food I was much happier because it was delicious and all-you-can-eat (for only 100Rs.!).

Christian and I parted ways with the others after lunch and headed over to MG road to do some shopping. I made my final shopping trip and finally have the last of the souvenirs that I want (including a model auto-rickshaw and a carpet! ^_^). We came back to the office after that, and then I came home because I couldn't concentrate. Since then I've just been hanging out here and trying to pack (I *might* be able to fit everything without shipping stuff, but it will be tight...).

Thats all for now! Only two days here left! I am getting *really* excited to be back home. All the little annoyances here are so much harder to bear when I know that I only have to deal with them for a couple more days. See you all soon!


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fewer and fewer days left...

Hey all,

I only have three days left in Bangalore! Can you believe it? I certainly can't... I have *far* to many things left to do before Friday ends to really believe it.

So, what have I been up to since the last post? I believe the last post was between 2 and 3AM Sunday morning, in the midst of a Harry Potter book (possibly right after or right before a several hour power outage!). Well, I finished Harry Potter at about 7:15AM, not having slept in the meantime (oops... I barely slept at all this week!). After playing on the computer a bit I got about 5 hours of sleep and woke up around noon. I don't really remember what I else I did on Sunday. I know that I went in to work for a little while, and other than that I remember next to nothing! Maybe Rob or someone has some idea... I guess sleep deprivation really does effect your memory. On the plus side, though, I did get sleep Sunday night!

Monday was actually, finally, a good day at work. I spent basically the entire morning speaking to Satya about the pseudorandom number generator (we even forgot about the Lab Sabha and just made it down in time to have the cake [for celebrating August birthdays]). The afternoon was spent in fruitful pursuit of the things we had spoken of in the morning, and then at about 7:15PM Rob, Revi, Udai, and I went with another Microsoft employee named Mike (Redmond based, but visits India a lot and knows Revi) to the paratha place. The parathas were delicious, and we got to listen to Mike and Revi talk about what it was like to work for the actual Microsoft in Redmond through the 90's and early 2000's. It sounded like a completely different place from Microsoft Research in present day. I do a fairly good job of maintaining work/life balance at MSRI, whereas it didn't even sound like that was possible at Microsoft. There were all sort of other, slightly horrifying, stories they had that I don't think I will share here. Despite the stories probably being very biased toward horrifying, it really made me feel like I wouldn't have wanted to work there at all.

After parathas I made a quick (and maybe final!) trip into commercial street to pick up a small gift, then headed home (and again got a decent amount of sleep).

Today has pretty much been all work. I spent from 8:30AM to 10:00PM in the office, but I feel like I got a lot of stuff done and my PRNG implementation is in fairly good shape (and even has an interface now!), and I got to talk to Deba about Imagliazzo and Naor (they have a rather *cool* paper). There were some breaks from work. I played a whole bunch of games of ping-pong today, mostly with Rob, but some with Christian and Ranjita. I'm definitely getting better, and the game is oodles of fun ^_^. A bunch of people also went to New Shanti Sagar for a late lunch / goodbye lunch for interns in the Emerging Markets group (even though some, like Revi, aren't leaving till next week).

I guess thats all for now. Sorry that this has been a somewhat boring blog post, but I'm buckling down and just trying to get work done before my internship is over. Tomorrow is the day of Indian independence from the UK, which is apparently a fairly quiet day of contemplation (it also marks the anniversary of the very bloody and violent partition between India and Pakistan). We aren't supposed to go into work, but I'm going to have to in order to get things done.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

My last Saturday

Hey all,

Its hard to believe, but I only have a week left in Bangalore! My flight leaves at 2AM next Saturday, so this was my last one! It wasn't terribly eventful, but it was fun. I woke up at about 10AM, after staying up till 5AM (Nels, Rob, and I played ping-pong from 11:30PM to 2:00AM, then Nels and I hung out in the suite till he left [:-(], and then I stayed up futzing a bit).

I went into work soon after waking up, but didn't stay for very long as Satya wasn't there and I really need to meet with him. I came back home and read "Song of Solomon" for a few hours and finished it (a *very* good book ^_^), had some lunch, then tromped down to the IISc bookstore and bought some of the books on the (very long) list that Vijay had given me of good textbooks to have. I bought about 10 different texts, for a total cost of $100, including all three of Knuth's "Art of Computer Programming" books (they were less than $30 ^_^). I walked both to and from the IISc, which is a few kilometers away, and on the way back I *finally* tried a savory coconut for the first time. There are guys all over that sell these large green coconuts. When you buy one they chop off the top with a machete type thing and you can use a straw to drink the coconut milk out. Its a very refreshing drink, even if I'm not the biggest fan of coconut milk. This whole thing is 12Rs (about a quarter), and sometimes (I didn't do this) you can have the guy chop up the coconut more after you are done with the milk, so you can eat the inside, which can be really yummy!

After I got back home I went into work again to check for Satya, planned a trip to commercial street with Rob, then finally got a haircut! It turns out that there is a haircut place only a block away from my apartment, which is very nicely convenient ^_^. I brought them some photos and I think they did a decent, if not superb, job of the haircut. I may even post pictures before I get back. We shall see :-).

It rained hard off and on through the afternoon, delaying our trip to commercial street (Rob was walking, and I was going to meet him there), and giving me time to start on Harry Potter 7! (part of the reason I'm still conscious at this hour). The trip to commercial street was fun and very succesful. I found a present for Brandon, and I also bought myself some lychee honey! (sounds intriguing). We also visited a shop where I had been last week with Elaine to buy some souvenirs, and I bought a whole bunch of things there as gifts for the South freshman and some others. The really cool part about this shop is that they guy there recognized me from when I came in with Elaine. He was really excited to see me, shook my hand when I came in, and ran out to buy Rob and I coffee while we were looking! It was pretty cool chatting with him and the other guys in the shop and feeling like I could actually be open and friendly (oh, and he gave us discounts with out me asking because "You're my friend" ^_^). I got a chance to ask about a few traditional pieces of Indian artwork that I've been wondering about. There is a very distinctive style of carving animals that are mostly hollow with lots of stylized holes on the outside (it looks *far* prettier than my description) which I learned is from northern India (particularly Kashmir, as that is where this store gets its goods). Also, I have frequently seen a carving/statue of 4 lions back-to-back in a circle facing outwards (this is a symbol that is on government buildings, and is also on every form of Indian currency!). It is a called "Ashoka" or a "Column of Ashoka", and is named for a great Indian emperor/king named Ashoka who lived a few centuries back and was very fond of lions. I also learned that a certain flower-like pattern I've seen before is a "chakra", and that the flowers I've been seeing on Ganesh statues and statues of other gods are "typical[traditional maybe?] Indian flowers" and not lotuses as I have been assuming (apparently lotuses have only 7 petals and are more stylized).

As you can tell, we had a good time at the shop (Rob also got some ortaments, and there ere some small wall hanging/pocket things that we both purchased), and afterwards we walked to the paratha place that Revi exclaims over so much and I've been trying to get to all summer. The parathas were not as spectacular as I was hoping, but they were solidly "good".

After the parathas we caught a rickshaw back home, who got lost on the way and caused the drive to be rather more expensive than it should have been :-P. I've basically just been reading Harry Potter since I got home, though I took a break for a while when Elaine called (yay!) to chat with her and her father for a while, both of whom seem to be doing quite well.

Thats all for now folks. I'm planning a pretty boring Sunday tomorrow, after having spent so much money on gifts and books today. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to get back to Harry Potter ^_^.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Farewell party at Amoeba

Hey all,

I left off on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, staying up late after Elaine left. I got to work at 9AM on Wednesday after about 5 hours of sleep and got cracking trying to catch up on all the stuff I've put off because Elaine was here. A basic summary of my projects from the last few days is that they just aren't going anywhere, and I'm really quite frustrated with them, and I'm not going to say any more on that. I was completely zapped by 6PM, so I came home from work and basically spent 5 or 6 hours uploading pictures, emailing people, and blogging (all catch-up). I skipped out of a dinner at a place called "Grasshopper" that most of my friends went to that sounded pretty cool, but I was really glad to get all of that stuff done!

Thursday was another frustrating day at work, but at 7PM a whole bunch of people from the office went downtown to say farewell to all of the interns leaving this week (one of whom is my apartment-mate Nels :-( ). We went to "Amoeba", which is a bowling alley/video game arcade. I didn't bowl at all, but a few of us went into the arcade and played dance dance revolution, which I ended up doing really well at (I'm still not sure if I'm proud or ashamed of that ^_^). After that we just chilled, chatted, and watched bowling (incidentally, this is the only bowling alley in Bangalore, and probably anywhere near here), and in general had fun. After bowling we went to dinner (with ~40 people total!) at the nearby "Mainland China" and had immense quantities of fairly good "Chinese" (Indian take on Chinese) food and again chatted. All in all a good time, and a nice way to hang out with lots of friends that I have no idea when I will ever get a chance to see again :-).

Work today was again fairly frustrating, but at 6PM Nels, Tracy, Rob, and I headed down to Commercial street (I had to pick up sari blouses for Elaine, and Tracy had one as well), then we walked over to MG road and had dinner at Emgees, a nice place that I had lunch at while Dad was here (and this was Nels last meal for this India trip! His flight is leaving at 6AM tomorrow morning and he is packing as I type!). Tracy left us after dinner to take a rickshaw to the train station. She is going to be in Maduri visiting her host family this weekend, so the apartment is going to be really really empty (going from 3 residents and a visitor for the last few weeks to just me :'-( ). Nels, Rob, and I really really had to fight to get a rickshaw back home, and even after agreeing to 100Rs. for the fee (which is still a ripoff, but about the best you can get from MG road at night) the guy tried to charge us 100Rs. *per person*, which *really* pissed off Rob :-(.

That is about all for now. I have *finally* caught up to present time with the blog, and will try not to let it get into such bad shape again in the remaining week I have here (SO LITTLE TIME!!). I may stay up fairly late tonight with Nels, who is going to try to stay up until his flight leaves (possibly a marathon ping pong session at work). We shall see!


Pictures update

This is just a quick post to give you all the links to pictures that I've taken recently and forgot to put the links to in the right posts (there may be some links here that I've already posted):

Elaine's last day and random pictures
Delhi and the TAJ!!!
A week in Bangalore and Pondicherry with Elaine
Random weekend pictures
Nels Birthday and Karaoke
A week with Dad



Elaine's last day in India

Hey all,

This Tuesday was the the last day Elaine had in India. Since I had been gone for a 4 day weekend I worked for a few hours in the morning, then Elaine, Tracy, and I all tromped down to commercial street with two objectives: Get Elaine a nose piercing (!!!) and get Elaine a sari. We succeeded in both fronts. The really nice jewelry store where we initially wasn't available for appointments, but after wandering about for a bit (and me buying myself a small emerald earring that looks pretty cool ^_^) we found a street full of jewelers, one of whom pierced Elaine's nose. It was a rather *brutal* process to watch, and I'm glad Elaine couldn't see it or she probably would have freaked out (they had to push some widening stuff through the hole after it was made by the gun) and *both* of us were lightheaded afterwards. She and Tracy also bought several really cool nose piercings.

After the piercing we went shopping for sarees at the Mysore silk emporium, and Elaine and Tracy both found some *beautiful* sarees. Definitely check out the pictures (from this whole day) here. Tracy headed back to the office to get some work done while Elaine and I had her last meal here at The Paradise Club on MG road (Palak Paneer ^_^), then met up with Nels and went to the same shop that I had gone to previously with Dad. I'm getting the guy there a *ton* of business, and he gave me some really large (like 30%) discounts without me even asking ^_^.

We all went back to my apartment at this point, finished packing up and everything, then Elaine and I watched "Muriels Wedding" and finished just before the cab came to take us to the airport. It was a zoo at the airport, but I have learned to deal with lines in India (shove your way in wherever you can, keep doing that, and feel no guilt) and we got through the line pretty quickly. I went around to the visitors area, and saw her off nicely. I was *really* sad to see her go, but her visit has been a lot of fun ^_^.

I took a prepaid rickshaw back to the apartment, and then stayed up till 3AM doing random futzing on the computer and finally went to sleep.

Thats all for now. I'm getting closer to actually being caught up on this blog!