Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Information Overload

In the fall I wrote about broadcasts that display entirely too much information on the screen at once. At the time, it looked like Hurricane Gustav might follow the same path as Katrina, so keeping weather-related information on the screen made some sense.

How many discrete pieces of information can you find?

But today nothing is going on! Still, Fox News Channel has 12 distinct blocks of information that are constantly changing, rotating, spinning, or otherwise moving. And in case there isn't enough to adequately stimulate your senses, each block has some sort of animated background or border.

Did you find all 12?

Norvartis, are you watching this? Your ads should be all over this broadcast like Pfizer's are Larry King Live.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chivalry is alive and well in New York, and it is imported from Staten Island

Kelley, her niece Fay and I were going out for lunch today. I met them at the Whitehall subway station at a time that just happened to coincide with one of the large crowds of people who regularly shuffle past the station.

View Larger Map

In case you are unfamiliar with subway stops in lower Manhattan, this station is located on Whitehall Street, which is the main street that people walk along in order to get from the Staten Island ferry to most of the subway lines that stop downtown. Twice an hour, large crowds of people empty from the ferry terminal onto Whitehall Street.

Unlike a lot of crowds in New York, these crowds are made up of predominantly New Yorkers, meaning they are rude and obnoxious. You get these groups of teenagers who walk 5 abreast, block the entire sidewalk, and get big attitudes if you do anything but scramble to get out of their way.

"Get out of my way," said a woman as she pushed me.
"Don't push me," I yelled out at her as she walked away.
"Then get out of my way," she said.
"Don't push me," I repeated, determined not to let her be the big mouth to get in the last word.

At this point, a group of 3 greasy haired guys approached me and started to defend this girl's honor:

"Yo man, everything ok? Everything ok?"
"She's a woman, dog. Don't talk like that to a woman."
"You got a problem?"

Nothing came of their challenges. They were just trying to look tough to one another. I was mainly being a big mouth for Fay's benefit. She's been stranded in New York for several days due to flight cancellations, and she's been housebound in Brooklyn for all of that time. I wanted her first trip back into the city to be memorable.

Monday, December 22, 2008


At first I was tempted to just post this picture with no explanation. Sometimes being a man of mystery is exciting. Not everything needs to be explained. Maybe I want the reader to draw his own conclusion about how a certain item entered my life.

Enemator is an anthropomorphic enema, and this is his calendar.

Then I realized I'm writing about a picture of an enema. A playful enema, for sure, but an enema, nonetheless. This is how rumors start.

And then I considered the actual circumstance under which I saw this calendar, and I decided that I would risk the rumors.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A puzzle even a puzzle lover would hate

I was in Borders today and I saw this. Looks like fun!

Puzzle of the cover of the White Album from The Beatles, which is, uh, completely white.

In case you can't tell, it's a white puzzle. And by "looks like fun", I mean compared to ripping up a piece of typing paper and trying to piece it back together.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Vodka Taste-Test

As someone with an incredibly dull sense of taste and smell, I am intrigued by people who are able to detect differences in food that I never could. Even though I know that people can tell the difference between similar products, part of me is always suspicious of their claims, especially when it comes to items that are consumed while intoxicated.

Kelley and her sister Laurie are vodka drinkers who prefer Ketel One. I've always wondered why they like that brand. It was time to put their claims of Ketel One's status as the superior vodka to the test. Jordan, Kelley and Laurie's nephew, was around, so he decided to play along too.

The menu: Smirnoff, Stoli, Eco 360, Ketel One and Absolut.

Laurie and I went to the liquor store and selected the brands that would be used. Since my hypothesis was that they wouldn't like Ketel One better than other vodkas, we had to select Ketel One. I determined that the best way to test my hypothesis would be to serve Ketel One along with the following:
  • A vodka they claim to like - Stolichnaya
  • A vodka they say is ok - Smirnoff
  • A vodka they claim to dislike - Absolut
  • A vodka they have never tried - Eco 360. This brand caught our attention because it looked like its color was green. It wasn't, it was just the bottle that was green.
I had Kelley, Laurie and Jordan rank each of the vodkas they were about to try. Here's the pre-taste-test preferences:

TasterKetel OneAbsolutEco 360SmirnoffStolichnaya

While everyone was ranking the brands, I prepared the test. I got 15 dixie cups and separated them into groups of 5. Then I numbered each cup 1 through 5. I poured 1/3 of the first vodka into the cups numbered 1, 1/3 of the second vodka into the cups number 2, etc.

Jordan, Kelley and Laurie before the tasting began.

I brought each taster one set of cups. They could drink the samples in whatever order they preferred. They got some bread, crackers and water to help cleanse their palates. I asked them to rank the drinks, and to try to write a description of the taste of each vodka.

I can't say if the results really validate my hypothesis. I am impressed with Kelley's ability to stay true to her predictions. Laurie was pretty good too, and Jordan wasn't bad at all.

Here are the results. The prediction is in parenthesis:

TasterKetel OneAbsolutEco 360SmirnoffStolichnaya
Kelley2 (1)
5 (5)
4 (4)
1 (2)
3 (3)
Laurie3 (1)4 (5)5 (4)2 (3)1 (2)
Jordan3 (1)2 (3)5 (5)1 (4)4 (2)

And here are the taste notes:

TasterKetel OneAbsolutEco 360SmirnoffStolichnaya
brittle, stark
don't like
no taste
Jordanno clean flavor

sharp, clean

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Taffeta's weight loss secret

Yesterday we took our cat to the vet. According to the doctor, Taffeta weighs 7.1 lbs, which is down from 8 lbs in August. I looked through the records from previous appointments and was surprised to find that she weighed 12 lbs in the summer of 2006.

This morning, Kelley discovered the reason for the dramatic weight loss: Taffeta is bulimic.

According to the vet, her thyroid is fine and her kidney activity is above normal. Neither of these test results explains her weight loss. The doctor thinks something else is going on, but it's hard to know what.

There appears to be two choices when dealing with a sick cat: go test crazy or go pill crazy. I'm opting for the more economical "go pill crazy" option. Taffeta will soon be taking steroids. If this helps her gain some weight, I hope it comes in the form of super-feline muscularture.

Monday, November 24, 2008

CNN, I hate your news ticker

CNN keeps a news ticker running along the bottom of their broadcast. It is very frustrating when you're reading the ticker and then the station goes to a commercial, because during commercials the scroller doesn't run. And often the stories on the ticker are not covered in the regular broadcast.

What? A woman flushed a newborn down the toilet? Tell me more!

Strangely, the weather forecast for Hawaii nevers gets interrupted, but tonight the following headline was: A woman has told a British court she accidentally flushed her newborn down the toilet because...

Wait, you're not going to a commercial, are you?

No! Not a commercial! Come back! Why was the newborn flushed down the toilet??!!

I don't know because CNN went to a commercial! Now I'll never know how a newborn gets flushed down a toilet. Too much toilet paper doesn't go down the drain. It is possible for a person to poop something large enough to plug up the toilet. While there may be a lot of similarities between a newborn and a piece of poop, I never considered size to be one of them.

It turns out that the baby wasn't flushed down the toilet. But what really happened is just as strange.

Friday, November 21, 2008

We are birds of a feather

Last month I wrote about a problem I seem to have with taking pictures of revolting things, usually things that are dead or were suddenly ejected from someone's digestive system.

Just a short while ago, Kelley sent me this picture of a colorful, dead bird. I'm taking this as proof that we are kindred spirits, birds of a feather. We both take pictures of dead things!

Dead bird with a golden burial shroud.

Then again, maybe we don't take pictures of dead animals for the same reasons. Maybe when she saw the dead bird she though of me. That's special too!

One of the things I love most about Kelley is her thoughtfulness. When she sees a toy or a shirt, her first thought is of someone who might like it. I don't play with toys, and for the most part I buy my own clothes. But I hold a special place in her heart. When she sees dead things, she thinks of me. Not you, me!

Is my problem what I am taking pictures of, or my lack of creativity when it comes to naming them?

I tried saving the picture she sent me so I could post it here, only to see the following message on my phone. Apparently I already had a file on my phone named "dead bird.jpg".

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Subway style

It is very unusual for me to get on the subway in the morning and not get a seat. But this morning my disappointment made way for excitement as I discovered a heretofore unknown and incredibly awesome hairstyle.

Apart from the man with dreadlocks that stand so high he has to duck in order to get in and out of the subway car, this is the most interesting hairstyle I've seen on the F train.

The best way to describe it is this: Imagine you're watching a colorized version of Bride of Frankenstein, where they decided to use a burned out shade of red for the title character's hair color.

Next, you realize you're not watching a colorized version of the movie, but a remake from the Soviet Union. The Bride is played by a middle-aged Polish woman.

Then, somehow, one of Dr. Frankenstein's experiments goes horribly wrong, resulting in an explosion from above. The Bride's hair takes the brunt of the blast. This is what the hair style looks like.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My neighborhood 99¢ store

The "99¢ store" is a common sight throughout the city. They are stores that are packed with all sorts of stuff, ostensibly for 99¢ or less. I call them junk stores, but they can be convenient. If you're looking for something and you have no idea where in the world you might be able to find it - such as a broken mirror - a 99¢ store is a good place to start.

My neighborhood isn't known for its math literacy.

Most people in New York seem to live within a block or two of at least one of these stores. I am no exception. Around the corner from where I live is one named "Good Luck 99¢, 79¢, 59¢ & Up". I wonder why they didn't simply name it "Good Luck 59¢ & Up". That would be in better accordance with Algebra's laws of inequality.

This item wasn't flying off the racks.

Earlier in the year, my local junk store was selling a broken mirror for $13.99. Surprisingly enough, this highly sought item remained in its prominent position just outside the front door for many weeks.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Some pictures of random things

Randomness abounds in New York. Here are some things that have caught my attention recently.

Doesn't this sign almost make dismemberment look fun?

Do you think this is an explicit enough warning of the dangers posed by the baggage handling equipment at JFK Airport that parents would keep their kids from playing on the conveyor belt? Yes? Wrong.

This napkin is actually older than most people in high school today.

On the F train in Brooklyn, I noticed this napkin covering a seat. It's hard to see in the picture I took with my phone, but this was a remnant of a Bar Mitzvah party from October of 1991. It is 2008. The Bar Mitzvah boy is now a 30 year old man.

If I were a baseball fan, would this ad make me want to buy this drink?

This isn't random so much as dumb. I saw this little ad while waiting in line at a grocery store in Park Slope. Look! Purple drink is parodying corporate sponsorships with a corporate sponsorship! I guess this is designed to appeal to people who enjoy TV shows like Pushing Daisies.

I hear Red Bull helps improve spelling.

I'm not sure too many beverages require a philosophy. Let's assume that the "Most Powerful Antioxidant Beverage on the PLANET!" does. But if a drink is so mighty that it warrants its own philosophy, shouldn't its makers be able to spell "philosophy" correctly?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The official musical instrument of Harlem street parties

New York voted pretty overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, so it comes as no surprise that there were huge celebrations throughout the city.

The local ABC affiliate had video from a street party that erupted in Harlem. This scene made me laugh. In the foreground was a woman dancing wildly. Behind her was a woman playing a flute. And in the background was a man with a big smile on his face and an Obama sticker on his head.

Biting social commentary, or just a random act of music?

The flute is what really caught my attention. I'm not sure if this was a clever form of social commentary regarding Sarah Palin, or if the woman was just partying it up with a flute.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thickcrust Consumer Protection Alert

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I traveled to India in September. When I was there, I was taken - against my will - to a tourist-trap shopping center named Delhi Haat Craft Cottage Industries. I wasn't happy that my driver did this, but I changed my mind after I learned that this place would make custom shirts for me.

I didn't even want to donate this shirt to charity, it was so horribly made.

Due to the timing of my visit, I didn't have time to try on the shirts I bought until I returned to the US. The shirts were, without a doubt, the worst fitting shirts I have ever put on. I would have felt ripped off had I paid $5 per shirt.

I'm not going to describe all of the ways that the shirts were shoddy. I'm just going to move on after issuing this warning: If you ever travel to Delhi and you find yourself at Delhi Haat Craft Cottage Industries, do not buy any custom made clothes.

And I'm going to take this opportunity to also get over the fact that the proprietor of The UPS Store in Lake City, Georgia treated me like a total prick. If you're ever in the unenviable position of being in Lake City, you can make your time there a little less miserable by avoiding this guy and his overpriced little store.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things

As part of my job, I meet a lot of people from around the country and around the world. One of the most common questions I am asked is if I like living in New York. I think there is an equal number of things to like and dislike. In general, one of the things I like least is the weather in New York.

This tree looked like it was on fire.

With two exceptions. The first is thunderstorms. There are many parts of the country where a thunderstorm is a very rare event. The second is autumn. The fall colors are spectacular.

This is the same tree as above. The picture doesn't do the scene justice, but I included the picture for a sense of scale.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What is wrong with my cat?

I adopted my cat from the Oregon Humane Society in 2000. I didn't want a cat who would bite and scratch up my furniture. So I definitely didn't want a kitten. I would never get a grown cat declawed, but since I couldn't really feel guilty about getting an adult cat that was already declawed, I figured that was probably the way to go.

Taffeta was sitting in a cage with a red bandanna tied around her neck. Her cage had a sign indicating that she was 6 years old, had her front claws removed, and she didn't get along with other animals

I'm not sure what part of her life is stressful, but the plastic-ruler/stress-tester indicates that Taffeta is feeling stressed.

Vicious rumors persist of her being sexually molested by her previous owner. Her previous owner gave her up, but nobody at the Humane Society ever explained why. The idea that she is the feline victim of a sex offender in Multnomah County might make for a good story, but it is complete fantasy, no matter how many times the Edwards women say it's true.

This fur ball is approximately the size of Taffeta's head.

Anyway, Taffeta has been shedding a lot lately. The other day I brushed her for about 5 minutes, and I collected the biggest fur ball I've ever seen. The title of this post has to do with the fact that she left me brush her for so long without hissing at me and then running away, not with the way that she has been dropping fur like crazy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An idea whose time has not yet come

While watching MonsterQuest - Giant Killer Snakes, we saw a commercial for a new product called YOURS+MINE from K-Y. The commercial featured an annoyingly giddy couple sitting on a bed, repeatedly interrupting one another with excitement over their discovery.

The ad didn't explain what the stuff does, so I went to K-Y's website, which describes the product like this:

Introducing a revolutionary new product for couples called YOURS+MINE. It's chemistry, the human kind. He puts the purple on her. She puts the blue on his. And when they combine, there's an amazing reaction that we're too shy to tell you about. Explore it for yourselves. And get ready for something completely different.

The perfect product for couples who are completely indiscriminate when it comes to placing things on and in their genitals.

So let me get this straight: K-Y is selling a product that comes with two substances that can only be described by their color. I am supposed to put one of the substances on my genitals. My partner is supposed to put the other substance on her genitals. And K-Y is not going to tell me what is going to happen to us because they are too shy.

I think I'll pass.

Friday, October 24, 2008

People who eat cigars are disgusting

The list of things I've never seen before has just been reduced by one. This afternoon I saw a man eating a cigar on the subway (of course).

It's hard to tell from this picture, but this man is eating a cigar.

It was really gross, and this is coming from the man who takes pictures of barf and dead animals.

Monday, October 20, 2008

People who smoke cigars are assholes

This is a post that I will probably regret before the end of the day. In fact, I will probably walk in the front door to Kelley smoking one. She doesn't care what I call her. Besides, she might even agree with me on this one.

I probably should just point you to the Cigar Aficianado website and stop writing, because it's true that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Is there any public act that is more obnoxious than cigar smoking? With cigarettes, at least, there is the act of inhaling, where the smoker's lungs filter out some of the stink and poison. But people don't inhale cigar smoke. They just let the foul smell sit in their mouths for a while before releasing the fumes for the rest of us to choke on.

Keep telling yourself you look this good when you're smoking a cigar.

In New York it's illegal to smoke in any business except for licensed cigar lounges. I pass one on a regular basis on Broad Street. As I walk by, I cringe at the sight of fat men with pink faces and white hair sitting on leather chairs enjoining their cigars as the stock market up the street crashes and burns.

I'm not willing to say that everyone who smokes a cigar is an asshole, but I am willing to say that everyone who smokes a cigar is an asshole while he is smoking it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tonight we got a little culturized

Tonight, Kelley accompanied me to see a panel discussion with A.J. Jacobs and Daniel Radosh. They were interviewed by the wonderfully cynical David Rakoff.

Daniel Radosh, David Rakoff, and A.J. Jacobs.

A.J. Jacobs's most recent book is The Year Of Living Biblically (which I liked, but not as much as his previous book, The Know-It-All). Daniel Radosh's newest book is Rapture Ready!,which, as Rakoff pointed out in his introduction of Radosh, is worth the price if only for its "interview" with Stephen Baldwin.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why can't I stop taking pictures of horrible and disgusting things?

A month or two ago Kelley noticed a pigeon trapped in the wires under the elevated tracks of the F train. The bird was flapping wildly, desperate to free itself and resume its usual routine.

I wonder how many MTA employees have looked at this dead body and said, "Not my job!"

Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. The next morning, as I climbed the stairs to the subway station, I looked for the bird. It was dead. Today I looked for the pigeon. It was still there, and still dead, hanging like a sick bat.

This was the size of a squirrel, but a little better behaved.

A short while later, Kelley, Fay and I were riding the F train into the city. I was looking at Kelley, who said something about me not liking "those". I looked over and noticed a tiny animal about 12 inches from my face.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Taking stock of my photograph collection

On my ride home from work tonight I learned that I need to be a little more discriminating when it comes to photography.

I was on the F train in Brooklyn when I heard the telltale sound of a liquid hitting the floor. My first thought was of a homeless man was pissing himself. However, as I scanned the ground I saw, across from me, a growing pool of vomit next to a woman's feet.

You don't really want to click this image, do you?

It doesn't matter how many times I see people excreting bodily fluids on the subway, it continues to shock me. But that's not the point of this post.

As I exited the train I took a picture of the mess. When I tried to save the picture using the file name "barf", my phone asked me, "Overwrite existing file?"

Sweet Tards

Today I became the parent of a confectionery special needs baby! Mini Sweet Tarts normally have 3 chromosomes, but mine had an extra 1/2.

Unfortunately, this is not the Willy Wonka version of a 4-leaf clover. I didn't have a particularly lucky day.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Escape to New York

While I had a good trip to Delhi, I was happy to return to New York. One thing I missed about New York is how people are able to make something simple into something complicated.

The driver who picked me up from the airport was driving a car that would make a sound if the driver didn't have his seat belt buckled. My driver, instead of just buckling his seat belt, took the seat belt from the passenger-side and connected it to the buckle on the driver-side.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The journey from Delhi to Agra

Agra is the city in India where the Taj Mahal was built. I went there with Gopi (a student from my class), Nagib (a collegue from Australia), and Susmita (Nagib's girlfriend). We hired a driver to take us from Delhi to Agra for the day.

My trip to Agra was incredible, but not for the reasons I expected. The Taj Mahal was terrific, and definitely worth the trip. It's just that getting there and back presented the possibility for large blocks of time to be wasted, and those opportunities were realized to their full potential.

I woke up at 3:45 am to be ready for a 4:30 am pickup. The driver didn't know where he was going, so it wasn't until 6:15 am that I was finally picked up.

There was all sorts of traffic on the road to Agra.

When we got within a mile or two of the Taj Mahal, some sort of street festival slowed traffic to a trickle. People on the road were estimating it would take 2 hours to clear the offending intersection. This was incredible to me considering this is the only road from Delhi to Agra. The Taj Mahal is one of - if not the - most popular tourist destinations in the country. That a street festival could close this road was shocking to me.

Enveloped by the sight, sound and smell of traffic, we decided to abandon our car.

At 12:00 pm we got out of the car and told the driver to continue to the Taj Mahal without us, figuring that, even if the delay turned out to be 2 hours, it wouldn't matter. The driver was going to be waiting one way or another.

Riding around in a rickshaw, trying to get to the Taj Mahal.

So we crossed the road and hopped in an auto rickshaw for a harrowing ride through the narrow and crowded streets that approach the Taj Mahal.

The journey was well worth the hassle.

By around 1:00 pm we finally made it to the monument.

Monkey business

About halfway to Agra we stopped for lunch. There were two men with four animals in the parking lot.

I thought snakes only did this in cartoons.

First were the snakes. One of the men did the snake-charmer thing from the cartoons. It was a little disappointing that the tune he played wasn't the usual snake-charmer song. (If you want to hear the tune he was playing, you can watch a video I took.)

The other snake was available for photo ops. I didn't really want to hold the snake, but nobody else in my group wanted to, so I did.

I don't know what the monkey on the stick was supposed to be doing.

Then came the two monkeys. One was naked and had what I think was supposed to be a fancy mustache drawn on his face. The other was dressed in girl's clothes and had what I guess was supposed to look like makeup. It really looked like an ugly baby who had gotten into her mom's makeup. Or maybe a really low-rent drag queen.

Seeing the monkeys was fun, but I felt sorry for them for being on display for the amusement of tourists.

The man had the monkey jump up on my shoulders. It was a strange feeling to have a wild animal crawling around on me, but I must admit it wasn't an altogether unpleasant one. The downside was that I smelled like a monkey for the rest of the day.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Spiritual and material shopping

After work my driver took me to the Lotus Temple, which is a Baha'i house of worship. It was a beautiful building. Inside was a space for 2,000 or 3,000 people to be able to sit and pray. All religions are welcome here.

Despite my insistence that my god requires I praise him through photography, the staff refused to allow me to take pictures inside the temple.

The nicest part of the template was that it was situated on grounds that were large enough that, by the time I reached the template itself, the sound of the surrounding traffic was almost completely drowned out.

After we left the Lotus Temple, I assumed Rahul knew I wanted to return to the hotel, because I was reluctant to even go to the Lotus Temple in the first place. I was really annoyed when I noticed we were pulling into a parking lot, and it wasn't the hotel's.

I told Rahul that I wanted to return to the hotel. He said I should go inside and take a quick look. He had taken me to Delhi Haat Craft Cottage Industries, a tourist trap of a market.

Since we were already there, I figured that I might as well go inside. Reluctantly I left the car, hoping I could find something to bring back for Kelley.

As I entered the store I was assaulted by a man named Naresh. He explained that I arrived late and that usually his store is filled with tourists and shoppers. Then he explained to me some important rules I must follow in order to take advantage of the unique opportunity offered by his store.

I was to walk to the back of the store and work my way to the front, being sure to stop at every single section. I wouldn't want to miss any of the quality products for sale, would I? Everyone pays the same price at the store (no haggling). Everything is high quality. Naresh told me all of this in a certain way that also told me "just do as I say so I don't have to repeat this to you over and over until you finally relent."

You can make shirts, you say?

Just as I had started tuning him out, Naresh mentioned that he can make shirts, pants and suits. I was actually hoping to get some custom-tailored shirts made when I was in India.

Naresh asked me if he wanted to get fitted or if he should take the measurements from the shirt I was wearing. The shirt I was wearing happened to be a shirt that fits me well, so I had him measure the shirt I had on.

He looked at my shirt and said it was made in India, that he could tell by the stitching. I showed him the "Made in China" label on the collar. He said "Oh, they have started sewing the Indian way now."

The shirts weren't as cheap as I had expected ($24/shirt), but they were still much less expensive than any shirt I could get back home. Hopefully they will fit properly and won't fall apart on first washing.

Breaking up with Rahul

Early in my relationship with Rahul he asked if I had plans to visit any attractions in Delhi. At the time I thought this was genuine curiosity, so I answered honestly and told him I was planning to go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal on Saturday with some colleagues.

From that point on, Rahul would ask me at least twice per day if I had made travel plans yet. He repeatedly asked me to use his company and to request his services. While I was a little apprehensive about that - he did get us lost on the first day - I didn't know any other drivers, and I liked him, so I agreed.

Well, during the week I mentioned to Gopi (a student in my class) that I was going to Agra. He lives in Bangalore (in southern India) and had never been to see the Taj Mahal. I invited him, and he decided to come along.

Hiring someone who would drive safely was important to Gopi. He knew of a safe driver and wanted to use this driver. I had my own driver I wanted to use, but Gopi insisted on his driver. Since the only argument I had for my driver was that I didn't want to hurt his feelings, and since he had already proven himself able to get lost, we agreed that we should use Gopi's driver.

On Thursday afternoon Gopi tracked down a travel agent at the office where we were working. The 3 of us were discussing the plans for Agra in front of the office, when I looked across the street and notice Rahul smiling and waiving excitedly at me. That made me really uncomfortable. I was cheating on my friend, right under his nose.

I had to break the news to Rahul that I wouldn't need him on Saturday, and I wasn't looking forward to it. I actually was a little stressed about having to do that. I liked Rahul, and I had told him I would have him drive us to Agra. One evening he told me it would make him "very happy" if he could take me to Agra, and "very not happy" if he couldn't.

Fortunately, Rahul gave me an easy out. This morning he asked me if I would need him on Saturday. I told him no, and that was the end of it. Um, and I also gave him a big tip as I prepared to leave his car at the end of the day. As we said good bye, he said that meeting me had made him "very happy". We shook hands, then I returned to my room - alone.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A lesson on not being a beef-burger bigot

My hotel is located in the East Delhi Mall, and there is a McDonald's on the ground floor. I decided to try it for dinner tonight.

If you are looking at the prices, 45 rupees equal 1 dollar US.

I stared at the menu for about 10 minutes, trying to figure out what to get. Nothing really sounded all that appealing to me. But I decided on a McVeggie, a McChicken and an order of fries. I ordered my meal to go and returned to my hotel room to eat.

In clockwise order starting in the top-left, McVeggie, McChicken, fries.

I was pleasantly surprised by the taste, especially of the McVeggie. It was a good Indian approximation of a McDonald's hamburger. The McChicken sandwich was also good. The only part of the meal that was awful were the fries, which tasted like regular McDonald's fries, but they had been sitting around for too long, making them soggy and cold.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's complicated, my relationship with Rahul

After Monday's debacle, Rahul wasn't brazen enough to ask for a tip. But soon thereafter he started hinting. He started subtly on Tuesday morning: Do drivers in your country make a lot of money? We don't in India. By Tuesday afternoon he became more direct: Are you happy with the service?

I didn't think I was supposed to tip the driver. I was told by someone at the office where I was working that I shouldn't tip the driver. I started tipping him, but then his behavior took a change in a direction that continues to baffle me.

Due to restrictions on photography, this is the closest picture of the Akshardham temple I could get.

He started really encouraging me to visit tourist spots. I can understand his willingness to take me anywhere if I asked, but he was suggesting. On Wednesday he took me to the Akshardham temple, and then to a restaurant for dinner.

Half of the restaurant was dedicated to Indian sweets.

At the restaurant he insisted on paying for my food. We argued back and forth on this matter for a while, before I finally communicated to him that I was going to pay for my own food.

When I told my class about my night, they explained the first part (his eagerness to take me places) as he was likely being paid based on the mileage he drove each day. The only explanation for the second part (his eagerness to buy me dinner) was that he liked me. Gopi asked if we had a romantic dinner.

I dismissed this theory based on the fact that one of the first things we talked about when we met was his family. Then again, that could have been a ruse, and not even a very well concocted one at that. He did claim to have a 1 year-old child and a 6 month-old child.

Rakhi Sawant wants to show you her jigs

I took this photo from today's Times of India. I just can't imagine this woman, with her sexy posing and glamorous clothes, dancing a jig. I thought only drunks and leprechauns did that.

The quote reads "I can't wait to don my Zeebra outfit and break into a jig every time someone hits a six."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Accomodations

When I visited Chennai, I stayed at a fancy hotel. Even the most simple tasks, such as getting into an elevator, seemed to require the assistance of hotel staff. By the time I left I was looking forward to returning to the US just so I could open doors for myself again.

My hotel is on the upper floors of the East Delhi Mall, fun for all ages!

The hotel I am staying at in Delhi is very different. It is called the Lemon Tree Hotel. The one I am staying at is located in the East Delhi Mall. It is a decent, European-style hotel. Service is friendly without being effusive. I have no complaints on the hotel. Well, maybe I have one.

The hotel staff looks like villains from the old Batman television show.

Lemon Tree's gimmick is a lemon-and-lime theme. Their hotel stationary, pencils, bathroom amenities, etc are a shocking shade of yellow and green. Unfortunately, their reception staff's uniforms are also subject to this theme. It is perhaps the most hideous hotel attire I've ever seen.