Saturday, September 1, 2007


This will be my last post before I leave India; it almost certainly won't be my last post to this blog. I haven't told every story I intend to tell from this trip, and there are other stories that aren't finished yet. In particular, over the last two days I've done a lot of walking and picture taking of the parts of Bangalore I spent a lot of time in that I'll want to post when I have time.

Tonight, I turned in my Microsoft-issued cell phone and had dinner at New Shanti Sagar. It broke my heart when Brownie/Dennis/Goldie, the Microsoft dog with at least as many names as working legs (the poor thing apparently injured his right front paw) followed me most of the way to Bashyam Circle, and I had to tell him to go back. This is a hard thing to tell a dog, both practically and emotionally.

Lufthansa 755 to Frankfurt, Germany (ETA, 8 AM Local)
Lufthansa 444 to Atlanta, Georgia (ETA, 2:30 PM Local)
Drive to Pittsburgh (ETA, Wednesday PM)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Other people's pictures

One of the things about my picasa account is that it's all pictures I took, or at least pictures taken with my camera, and for various reasons it seems easier to keep it that way. However, mostly because I didn't get pictures in Savandurga, this is a big post of pictures I didn't take.

These first two were pictures of taken of the whole research group, though Christian isn't in these (we took some pictures, and then took some more, and were missing a different person each time!)

The rest are from Savandurga. I took this one from the car window as we approached the mountian.

We thought this rock looked like an elephant. Or an elephant trying to imitate a rock.

I think I'm checking my cell phone reception. I promise I also took in the spectacular view!

View from the top!

The Top.

Climbing down...

This fort is one of nine that once made up Bangalore's defence network.

See no, speak no, hear no...

Monday, August 27, 2007


I know I'm taking care of this rather late, but does anyone want a postcard from India? Send me an email or leave a comment (by Wednesday) - I'll delete your comment after I take down the address.

[Update August 31] Postcards have been sent!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Independence Day

From Miscellaneous India...
I'm not really in the mood to write a great deal about this - see the below post for an explanation of why I'm in an unhappy mood.

However, while I was posting about the depressing events in Hyderabad (and the exciting and awesome hill climb today) I wanted to mention these pictures which are now in my Misc. India album. A week ago Wednesday (August 15) we were strongly advised against going to work because it was Indian Independence day, and lest we make Microsoft look unpatriotic, most of us took the opportunity to do some Bangalore sightseeing. The captions tell most of the story, so take a look at the album if you're interested.

Not in Hyderabad

I am in Bangalore. Depending on how outward-looking your favorite news sources are, you may or may not start hearing a great deal about Hyderabad in the next few days. Hyderabad is one of the closest major cities to Bangalore, but we're talking about a significant distance. In any case, no one has any idea what's going on yet, but two bombs went off in Hyderabad and they're reporting something like 40 people dead, a number that keeps rising.

There were two attacks that were successful from what we know now, around 8 PM - that's 10:30 AM for those of you on the east coast. The attacks were at popular tourist/family destinations, one was at a popular Gokul Chaat store and the other one was at Lumbini Park where a laser show was taking place.

It was an odd irony to hear about laser shows, I was speaking about laser shows today when nine of us from the lab climbed Savandurga, essentially a big brother of Stone Mountain, and my suggestion that this mountain would be a reasonable place to project a laser show as well was ... um ... not enthusiasm - "then they'd put this place in Lonely Planet and it would ruin everything!" I didn't get any pictures: I woke up late and got my camera - sans batteries. However, I mapped out the way we walked up the mountain:

View Larger Map

Monday, August 13, 2007

(Corporate) Culture and Parathas

Revi had promised to show Mike, a frequent visitor to India who works in Redmond, this good paratha place on Commercial street, Jason needed to go to Commercial Street to check up on a gift he was getting for somebody, Udai was the person that initially told Revi about this paratha place, and I like food and entertainment. So we all went.

Revi worked at Microsoft both in project teams and at MSR (but not as a researcher) before she left for graduate school, and Mike has been at MSR since about 1996. They told some amazing stories about the pre-dot-com-bust (and immediately post-dot-com-bust) days at Microsoft; mostly stories I won't repeat here. One exception is that I had never heard the story of Bedlam DL3, which was a pretty wild story.

The Microsoft I work for - at Microsoft Research, in India - is not the Microsoft that these guys described, not even close. The company they described was incredibly intense in terms of lifestyle, time, and emotional impact - not quite investment-bank intense but definitely on the same level. Working for MSR India has been, well, notably less intense. We all worked crazy late hours on our conference submission to be sure, but all throughout my internship I've gotten in and been pretty much alone (except for my advisor, Aditya, who works a time-shifted schedule for his family's sake) and gone home after most everyone else (though rarely, if ever, have I been the last research employee to leave). Even so, I've spent much less time at "Scientia" (the name of our office building) than I do in Wean (CMU people know that this means little - I spend LOTS of time in Wean). I think most people here are pretty good at the "work/life" balancing act, which has been a nice to see on a large scale.

[Update: It makes sense that the day I write this entry I accidentally oversleep till just after 9 AM (rolls eyes)]

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Metropolitan Badami

I've finally uploaded the pictures from the second day in Badami. They're extensively commented as usual, but I think I'm going to be too lazy to map them all out.

Day Two in Badami was not actually spent in Badami. We took buses to get from Hubli Junction to Badami on Day One (buses as in the plural of bus - at the Hubli bus station we were pointed to this random bus to some unheard of place that I only ever referred to as Point C (jokes for nerds!) where we were able to catch another bus to Badami. However, we didn't necessarily trust this system to get us back to Hubli in a timely manner to catch our train Sunday night, so we hired a driver, Suresh, for the whole day to both take us to two surrounding ruins in the towns of Pattadakal and Aihole and then drive us back to Hubli (in style!) for the train. I'm very glad we took the buses there, and I'm equally glad we had Suresh take us back.

From Badami Etc.
In any case, both Pattadakal and Aihole were fascinating places. Pattadakal was this place where a lot of different designs for temples and shrines and idols were tried out; many didn't work, but many caught on and were familiar from other temples. It oddly reminded me of Granddaddy's workshop - the way things had obviously been worked on, set aside, and then "piddled with" over many years.

Aihole was also pretty nifty; the temples there were not as impressive, but there was one very well put-together temple that actually reminded me of pre-Gothic cathedral design, but based on whatever scraps I know of pre-Gothic cathedral design it's simply a case of a similar design working well for temples in general. Also, we were able to walk out onto the roof of one of the structures, and there are some good pictures of that in the Picasa album. Also, it didn't rain the whole time like it did in Pattadakal. Good times.

Friday, August 10, 2007


From Badami Etc.
Most of my pictures from Badami are now uploaded; I've got a few dozen left to upload and then I may map them all out like I did in Hampi. We had a great if slightly rainy weekend, and none of us had our purses stolen by monkeys, which is more than some people could say (the picture to the left is someone trying to retreive such a stolen purse).

Now everyone is starting to file out - of the people that went on that trip, two have left (Prasad and Natalie) one is leaving tonight (Nels) and the other is leaving in a week and a half (Christian). Then I leave in three weeks and Camilo leaves after that; I guess I have a great deal of time left, but with everyone else leaving I'm in a very "leaving" mindset; it feels like I'm about to leave too!

How many software engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

From Miscellaneous...
Two weeks ago my supervisor, Sriram, invited the Rigorous Software Engineering group (of which I am a part) over to his house for a fantastic lunch and much Xbox playing. Afterwards, most of us went to Lalbagh Botanical Gardens and then to Vidyarthi Bhavan, which quite possibly serves the best dosa in Bangalore. I've been delayed in posting the pictures; here they are!

In other news, this means I managed to borrow a USB/5-pin connector off of someone and will be posting a link to my Badami pictures soon!

Monday, August 6, 2007


This came up in the last post, and so it's worth saying something about. So the road I live on, the one that goes towards Sankey Tank, used to be called Sankey Road, but it is now Chowdaiah Road. There is a drive all across India to name things less British sounding names, and I imagine the newspapers and such will be mentioning this more as we approach August 15, when the American expats in India will celebrate with the Indian citizens our collective history of saying in the clearest possible terms that we would like the British to leave, please.

Anyway, it seems that the city itself has finally managed such a name swap, even though it took a few years and approval from something like 18 agencies (due to the simply stunning power of Indian bureaucracy), and is now properly Bengaluru. I'm all for it, even if it means that my domain name is already obsolete :).

No Riot Today

From Miscellaneous...
Since I can't upload pictures until I figure out what I did with my USB connector cable, here's an interesting story. So in April 2006... well, no, in 2000, well...

Okay, start at the beginning. People in India are big on movie stars. And not in the Mel Gibson/Paris Hilton sense - at least when compared to the United States, movie stars are heroes and champions and role models. Assuming I'm not the most intense West Wing fan you know, think about what that person thinks of Martin Sheen, and then keep going in that direction for a good long distance and I think you're getting there.

Anyway, Dr. Rajkumar was one of these people, and that Wikipedia entry gives a lot of background on the rest of this story. He was a Kannada movie star - Kannada being the state langauge of Karnataka, of which Bangalore/Bengaluru/that place I'm at is the capital. By some descriptions Rajkumar was the Kannada movie industry, which is different from Bollywood, which is Hindi, or the lesser-known but quite large Tamil movie industry...

I digress. Rajkumar was a star, hero, and a champion of the Kannada language in general. He was kidnapped in 2000, and Wikipedia says the event "threw the Karnataka government into crisis" and boy do I believe it. Either Kentaro or Prasad said that there were riots at this point because the government was not doing enough to get them back. So that's 2000.

Like a number of movie stars, he had a house in Bangalore in the pleasant-yet-accessible neighborhood Sadashivanagar near Sankey Tank, which is to say right behind the office of Microsoft Research, India. And so when he died in April 2006, that is where his body was taken. Most of the employees at that time went home, but the few that stayed got some awesome pictures of the riots, which resulted in most of the (very strong, two layer) windows of our building getting destroyed.

This leads us to last night, right after we had boarded the train back from Hubli to return to Bangalore on the overnight train. We got a flurry of text messages from Sriram and Prasad telling us not to go to work tomorrow until we'd checked our Microsoft email at our apartments. Apparently money for a memorial to Rajkumar was not being released, and so the same people that planned the aforementioned charming memorial service were planning to march from a movie studio through Sadashivanagar to the Chief Minister's house, which is about two blocks north of where I live. Microsoft was pretty well prepared for this occasion - the insurance companies made them buy a number of bright blue Battle of Seattle-esque riot curtains to protect the building from rocks, but even so we all went home until we found out at about 10:30 that the Chief Minister had skipped town (I believe the official line is "previous arrangements in Delhi"), taking most of the wind out the sails of the protesters - someone said something about them trying to convert the march to a hunger strike, but I don't know if that got anywhere.

And that's the story of how there was no riot at Microsoft today.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Badami, Etc.

Gave the first of two talks today on some CMU-related things (Twelf), it was well received by the MSRI crowd and I was happy about that.

Got profiled by Microsoft Research's PR team, and while that's really awesome I really hope they change the picture (I gave them a great picture of me in front of the Queen's Palace in Hampi that Jason took, but they made it a ridiculous-looking windswept sunglass-wearing headshot).

Going to Badami this weekend with five other people, and while I'm kind of exhausted after the talk and want to just lie down for a long time, it should be a fun and exciting trip!

[Update: They did fix my picture. And I'm back from Badami, and can't find my darn USB cord so that I can upload the pictures from the trip. So that will have to wait 'till at least tomorrow I'm afraid!]

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I wonder what they'd call the Indian magical academy?

So I'm a Harry Potter fan, but I wouldn't consider myself a particularly rabid fan by any means. However, when I mentioned around the office that I'd reserved a book at Blossom Books, that they would be released at 5 AM, and that I was thinking about showing up for the release, I quickly developed a reputation as THE office Harry Potter fan which was as amusing as it was undeserved. Even if I didn't get there at 5 AM I felt like I needed to show up pretty early or I'd be letting my reputation down!

From Miscellaneous...

Most of the 50 or so people at line when I showed up at 5:50 AM seemed as surprised as I was that there were 50 other people there - it was not a festival atmosphere, there was only one under-15-year-old I spotted in the line, and there was not a removable-scar-tattoo to be seen anywhere. That said, it was a happy atmosphere of quiet excitement, with the exception of the one guy who decided to spend the 20 minutes where they were out of books arguing furiously with the shop owners in order to jump the rest of us in line when more books came. (And I was told there were no lines in India! This was, admittedly, by far the most organized line I've seen in 6 weeks.) Another surprise was that I was the only non-Indian person in line (race not nationality; I overheard a few obviously British accents.) I think most of the foreigners were attracted to the other big bookstore in town, I think it's called Legacy or Legend or some other L-word.

In any case, a number of other pictures (with captions and timestamps) are in the Misc. India album that you can get to by clicking on the picture above. After I finished the book on Saturday, Tracy read it from Sunday to Monday, and now Shipla has it, and Prasad has indicated he'll probably read my copy when he gets back from Tibet - I'm thinking I may have everyone who has read my copy write their name on the inside cover.

Fourth of July

I posted my Hampi pictures on July 4, which was basically non-crazy moment before the POPL deadline last Tuesday. However, we did do some fourth-of-july celebrating at Opus, which I've mentioned before. I've got one of the earlier on pictures in Picasa, but most of my pictures from the evening weren't very good.

From Miscellaneous...

There was karaoke, as it was a Wednesday night, and a large group of people (including me) did an awful, awful rendition of Surfin' U.S.A. Someone sang Take Me Home, Country Roads and I both sang my heart out from the audience (there was a lot of singing-along going on) and surprised myself by feeling a little homesick (that's a song we sang at Camp Glisson, where I worked for two summers during college. I don't know if non-facebook people can see these, but here is a picture from Surfin' U.S.A. that pretty well captures the painful awkward :).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Next Chance I Get

It's been an intense few weeks since the Fourth, as we were trying to get a paper on our project submitted to a pretty big conference, POPL. We got the paper submitted, it's nifty, and we won't know if it gets accepted until long after I'm out of India (the end of September, basically).

It's exactly halfway through my 12 week internship this weekend, and since it hasn't all been work for the past two weeks, I'll try to mention some of the interesting bits of July in the next few posts.

[Update: 12 week not 12 month]

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

More Hampi

I just posted and commented on (and, for the most part, mapped) 108 of the 140 or so pictures I took in Hampi - and that's with my camera batteries dying twice during the weekend! Enjoy, I'll put an overview of the trip here --> <-- next chance I get.

Monday, July 2, 2007


I left work a little bit early (okay, 6, but I got in after 10!) today because I was tired, and I realize to my enormous dismay that I've forgotten my USB connector at the office so I can't upload pictures; so much of this trip I want to narrate in pictures, so I'm going to hold off on writing until I can do it properly.

In the meantime, Nels has put up some pictures, I especially like this one from the Queen's Bath. The girl in the picture is Natalie - Natalie, Sonnett, and Nick are three astrophysicists who were invited by Christian, a Microsoftie from Denmark, to come to Hampi, but when Christian got sick and didn't tell us about them they appeared as somewhat of a surprise on the train ride. Nevertheless, a awesome (some might say cloak-and-dagger-ly) time was had by all.

Some bookkeeping: since I've started collecting lots of links of places and people, and because in general none of my own photo albums include pictures that include me (because I took them!) I've put up a bunch of links over to the right that should fill out a lot of background that I'd never find the time to explain thoroughly on my own...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Busy week into busy weekend

Gosh things have been busy! A couple of updates.

  • Last weekend I reserved my copy of Harry Potter Book 7. I get it at 5 AM July 21st, which is to say 4.5 hours before it will be available for you Eastern Daylight Time suckers.

  • I'm heading to Hampi this weekend with Prasad, Nels, and Jason - Christian got sick and Pavol got busy.

  • My mentor, Aditya, has a new son! His wife had a baby a week ago, sorry I didn't blog about that!

  • I got the Harry Potter reservation (pictured above) last weekend when we went down to the main drag (M-G Road). M-G stands for "Mahatma Gandhi," and some of us Americans think it's strange that it's not called "Ghandi Road," but coming from a city where Ponce is a road I suppose I have little room to complain. My Misc. India album now has pictures of us bowling, and of the aftermath of an apparently fatal windstorm near M-G road.

Friday, June 22, 2007

See Rock City

A delayed post about my trip to Mysore - work is pretty intense right now, and will be at least for the next week or so, so I have had less time to blog. I mentioned pictures of the trip two posts ago, but I will try to tell some stories now. No travel this weekend, but we have tickets to Hampi next weekend. Mysore was fun, though it seems to be more of a tourist destination for people who live in India - Pavol, Jason, Nels, and I may have been half the white guys some people saw all day there. It's not the place you need to spend more than a day at, according to everyone we've talked to (and I agree) - in short, I'd declare Mysore the Rock City of the metro-Bangalore region. That said, for a day trip, it was quite nice.

We saw the palace, which was interesting, and Jason and Pavol rode an elephant while Nels and I stridently did not ride an elephant. After that we took an autorickshaw up to the temple atop Chamundi hills, which was kind of a mistake in retrospect. See, these autorickshaw things, mechanically, are are like a cross between a decent motorcycle and a really awesome lawnmower, not the kind of thing you necessarily want to use to get three people up a large (say, Stone Mountain-sized) hill. Our lawnmower barely, barely made it up the mountain - we were getting passed by everything, including large farm equipment. It made me glad that we didn't haggle down the price (which was less than $5 equivalent already), as this driver probably melted his engine in the process of getting us up the mountain.

In general, and especially at the top of the hill, poverty was more evident than it usually is in Bangalore... it was at times quite striking, there were definitely a number of begging children that followed us around for some distances on occasion. However, the increased amount of obvious poverty in Mysore when compared to Bangalore was offset by a curious effect that in Mysore, everyone was following us around for some distance - people selling flutes would follow us playing the flute, kids would start up conversations any way possible and then try to direct us to particular markets or sell us drugs (one young guy just shouted "Marijuana!" out of nowhere). In this environment you quickly train yourself to ignore everyone that you're not explicitly interested in facilitating a commercial transaction with (say, an autorickshaw driver), and as a result of this effect you notice beggars less - you've already had to turn off your instinct to engage with people to avoid getting anywhere without being sold things. I was trying to get Pavol to teach me Slovak so that I could respond to people asking me questions/trying to sell me stuff in Slovak and they would go away - a similar strategy actually worked for me in France.

When we walked down the mountain, we were so in ignore-everyone mode that we (or at least I) had to consciously think about the need to re-engage with people, that the people we were encountering on the big staircase were either being friendly or wanted to practice English (or perhaps wanted to take a picture with us.)

That's all for Mysore, at least for now. Tonight I was invited randomly by Kentaro to go to dinner with a young full-time employee and a visiting professor from NYU at the Windsor Hotel, which is right next to my apartment. The food was north Indian - it was supposedly Lucknow cuisine but I was told it seemed more typical of Hyderabad. Whatever, it was wonderful, a much nicer restaurant than I'd been to since I got here, the food all smelled like perfume and tasted fantastic.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I finally stopped by an ATM today. It was a slightly alarming experience, because I got the (equivalent) to an amount that I would usually get in the United States, all in 100 Rs. bills, which are equivalent to about $3. However, I'm used to seeing $20 bills come out of an ATM, so it seemed like I had withdrawn an absurd amount of money.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


It's Afternoon in America and Really Crazy Early In The Morning in India. I'm taking a day trip by rail to Mysore, and if you read that page on Wikipedia you will know more about Mysore than I do.

[Update: Oh my goodness need to write about the trip; in the meantime here is a link to one of the picture albums. The other picture album from the trip is just 70 pictures of Jason and Pavol riding an elephant.]


I've seen three traffic accidents in the past two days. Yesterday I walked to work with Kurtis, who was briefly my apartment-mate before shipping out north to set up probably legal community radio stations with former Princeton professor Randy Wang. We heard a terrible screech as we approached the Windsor Manor Road Bridge, which I cross to get to work, and when we approached the the left-hand lane there was a guy laying down in front of an autorickshaw with his motorcycle a good fifteen feet out in front of him; people were helping him up already, though, so I'm hoping he was okay.

Windsor Manor Road Bridge Accident
The second accident was way more hilarious. Right next to the Windsor Manor Road Bridge is the Windsor Manor Rail Bridge, and today as I walked over the road bridge I noticed that a bus was stuck under the rail bridge! As a train went over the bridge full-speed, I recalled again the difference between tort law in America and India - when I was on the train to Princeton from NY Penn Station, we had had to slow to a crawl for several miles because a truck had hit a bridge and that bridge been subsequently cleared by enough engineers that we could go over it, but not enough engineers that we could go over it fast.

The third accident was minor, and I would have gotten a picture but it was essentially right underneath me and because it all gone quite quickly. Rubbernecking is serious business when driving basically takes the skill of a Blue Angel pilot, and a curious motorcyclist fell off his bike, causing a couple of cars behind him to collide slightly with each other. No one seemed particularly bent out of shape about this, mind you.

This is a good time to point out two things - whenever I have a tiny thumbnail picture in this blog it is a link to a Picasa web album, so you should click on it and see all the other pictures in the album! Also, I've updated most of the links so far: the miscellaneous album, which I will continue adding bits of things to, now has some pictures from the bus ride back from the retreat, the retreat album has better pictures of the pool, and this google map now has the correct location of my office, as well as the route I take to work.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


My friend Rahul from Princeton who is now an paramedic in Pittsburgh sent me an instant message asking "How is my motherland," referring to India. I replied that it was good, but that I either have a nasty cold or my body is unhappy with me breathing here. If you ever have a choice between living in urban India and smoking a pack a day and your only goal is keeping your lungs healthy, I'd have trouble making a recommendation.

I had been thinking about "motherland" on the walk home from Quiz Night at a bar/restaurant called Opus with Nels and Jason, particularly after I nearly got run over in an intersection. For some reason I connect the idea of "motherland" with Great Britain, and it is often amusing to the Americans how, well, unexpectedly British certain things are here. The assumption I started working from was that India had really broken ties with its colonial past, but a number of things - from the way they say "dots" and "dashes" in Morse code (this came up during the trivia) to the whole bit about driving on the left side of the road - remind me that such as one of many reminders that that is not entirely true, nor could it possibly be entirely true.

The left-hand-side thing was, if you hadn't guessed, why I nearly got run over at the intersection, but there was also a quirk about a traffic light there. The bigger problem comes in everyday interactions - when you walk towards someone else, you may not even think about it but you will both "defer to the right" and therefore stay out of each others way. When I pass someone - in a hallway or particularly in a staircase - I tend to defer to the right as I have learned to do for over a decade, but they will naturally defer to the left, which means we step in front of each other. In recent days I have frequently continued up a staircase after such an encounter muttering "defer to the left, Rob, defer to the left."

The Dream

I want to write something about how Micosoft Research, India got started, and I wasn't sure I wanted to write this story because I didn't hear the whole conversation. But a conversation with a friend made me want to write this down. I apologize if this is rushed, I'm trying to get to work. Anandan is the driving force behind the creation of this lab, and he was talking with another researcher during the retreat when I walked up. The conversation was along the lines of Anandan recalling having had a dream (as in hope, not as in I-was-sleeping) at some indeterminate time in the past - the dream basically was that someday there would be international students - American and Eurpoean students - studying in a lab in India under the mentorship of Indian researchers. Which is, of course, what I am doing.

Most of the interns here are undergraduates - this was a surprise to me, partially because I would never have thought to do this as an undergraduate. I didn't have the research focus at the time, and even if I had... well, at this point in my life going to MSR India only seemed a bit more unusual than going to MSR Cambridge (England) - but two years ago I wouldn't have been interested in eating Indian food, for instance, which I now love. I suppose in the past two years I've grown in ways that made the simple fact of traveling to India seem less unusual.

And then it occurs to me that two years ago, this lab didn't exist yet. Oh right. That dream of Anandan was only realized in the time since I've graduated from Princeton. It seems like two years ago we were only just getting worried about sending unskilled tech jobs to India. And while I realized, in the process of applying for this job, that it was a little odd for me to go to India just in terms of demographics (see the tagline for this blog), it was the partially overheard comment about Ananadan's dream that made me realize what didn't seem odd - it didn't seem strange to think of MSR in Bangalore, India as a place where research on par with other academic institutions around the world is done.

But while that is a truth, I suppose it's a recent truth. And that is wild. My world moves fast.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Visual Studio

I am at work waiting for Visual Studio to install so I can hopefully get some work done - today is a process of being very excited about starting and getting into the project, and being very frustrated and annoyed at the random hurdles needed to get there.

MSRI Angsana Retreat
However, the retreat was amazing - I have some pictures up on Picasa. I was pretty jet lagged, but I still managed to stay up until midnight Sunday night - some of the interns and a lot of the employees sat in a circle and sang beautiful songs in a wide array of beautiful Indian languages. I started learning about the various languages that existed in India before the English this weekend, but that is a post for the future.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Living in the Future

It is 9:30 PM here, and jet-lagged Rob is exhausted. Dad asked me to explain who Nels was and what "living in the future" meant, and this fits nicely with saying what I did today. The only order of business today was connecting with Nels, which I finally managed (Peerappa smiled knowingly and showed me I had to press "0" twice). There are three interesting things about Nels.
  • Nels is one of a few American interns here this summer - there will be four or five total.
  • We are working on the same project for the first half of the summer
  • He happens to work two offices down from me at Carnegie Mellon
Nels decided to work for MSR India a few weeks before I did - his research interests are more directly aligned with this project - and knowing I would have a friend here was a contributing factor in me deciding to come as well. I got in touch with Nels through his cell phone, and it looks like I'll probably get one too. That will be convenient, because my internet connection isn't quite good enough to consistently do Skype well.

Nels also coined a phrase "living in the future" to describe the effect of the time difference between India and the United States. The idea is that, while it is 9:30 on Saturday here, it is only noon Saturday there. My day is done, and yours is only halfway over (or perhaps just beginning, if you sleep late). When you wake up Sunday morning, don't bother living Sunday - just call me. I'm already finished with Sunday, I'll let you know how it went. This thought is the basis of the joke that I'm "living in the future."

I went to a busy shopping district with Nels and Jason, another intern who is a rising senior at Harvey Mudd, to look around, buy a surge protector so I can plug in my laptop more conveniently, and eat dinner. It was busy but fun - there are lots of street vendors and more than a couple of beggars, but if you disregard the fact that they get right up in your face (Indians have a somewhat different idea of "personal space") they seemed friendlier and more polite than ones in most American cities.

Tomorrow I go on a two-day retreat with all the people I'm working with before actually starting any work. It's a pretty good deal!

Where I Am

Where am I? I realized pretty quickly that I didn't know much of anything about how to answer this question beyond "In Bangalore, India." Luckily, I have the internet and an unusual landmark right outside my window: a golf course! Google Maps only located two of these in the city - a golf course in the middle of an urban area is already kind of unusual, so this didn't surprise me.

After I found me, I speculated that I might be able to find Microsoft's offices, based on a fuzzy memory of how I was driven here from there last night, so I took a walk, which was thwarted by a wrong turn and the fact that I need to break in these new shoes.

Here is a map of the walk which includes my apartment and where I currently believe I would be, were I Microsoft Research India.

I also think that my address may involve 28/1 Cunningham Road, 560 052, but that is not yet enough information to do anything with. I'll see.


Miscellaneous India
Here are pictures of my apartment. My apartment is one of four in a kind of suite-like setup - those four, and possibly others, are managed by Peerappa (possibly Peeyappa). I've realized I need to keep the door out to the suite closed; otherwise Peerappa thinks I need something. This will make it harder to meet my suitemates by chance - I don't even know if they exist, and if they exist if they are Microsoft people.

Electricity is funny in the apartment - a piece of plastic is attached to my door key so that removing my door key kills *all* the power to the apartment. Furthermore, every plug has a light switch next to it, allowing power to to the socket to be cut off. This seems awesome and obvious, once it has occurred to you that, say, your TV or cell phone charger drains power when plugged in, so you should be able to turn it off your charger without unplugging it, and turn off your TV when you leave the apartment. I'm not sure how this interacts with the fridge, however...

[Update 6:30 AM June 10] There are four switches in the apartment with red lights on them. One is the master power switch, and the other three control the air conditioner, the hot water heater, and the fridge. None of these turn off when the master power switch turns off. The fridge is off (nothing in it!) and the air conditioner is off (really, now) but I was very happy when Jason mentioned the whole hot water heater being on a circuit thing, because the first shower was rather cold...

Friday, June 8, 2007


In airport time a day and a half has passed, but during the process of that I went 9 and a half hours into the future (I adopted this term for flying east from Nels) so that it's really been just over a day.

I had a croissant at McDonald's in Frankfurt because it was 9 AM. Then I went ahead and switched to India time on my laptop, which made it 1:30 PM. I contemplated eating lunch...

The plane ride was uneventful, unless you count me sticking out like a sore thumb, which has happened frequently enough in my life that I actually don't consider it eventful. I thought of Thomas Friedman watching a Bollywood production in which the hero kind of seemed, to me anyway, like a Ken Lay style brilliant businessman slash scumbag; he was redeemed/redeemable only because it was more the government than the middle-class shareholders that were ultimately screwed over. The government was played by a judicial panel of white guys that spoke middling Hindi.

Upon arrival, I managed through the zoo of the airport (it took me 45 minutes to get my bag - customs took about 15 minutes...) and found Suresh, who had a sign with my name (correctly spelled) and who got me to my apartment.

Now I'm going to take a malaria pill, a Benadryl or two, and pass out for a few hours.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


At the request of a number of friends and especially family members, I decided to try to keep an online journal during my 12+ weeks in India; I think it is more convenient than emailing lots of people, in any case. As a warning, this whole journal it is likely to go away after the summer is over, I am not sure I approve of leaving dead journals floating around everywhere.

I'm writing this on a laptop flying from Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta to Charlotte, North Carolina. I walked the entire length of Hartsfield today - I had time, so I took the moving walkways from the atrium to Terminal D, and then took the moving walkways from Terminal D to Terminal E to get a smoothie because the food selection in Terminal D is a little lacking. From Charlotte I will fly to Frankfurt, Germany, and from there I will fly directly to the Bangalore airport, where I was instructed to walk outside the airport and look for someone holding my name, "possibly slightly misspelled." I am to introduce myself to this person; he (I presume he) will take me to the Microsoft-provided housing I will have for the summer.

Why The Heck Are You Going To India?

First, while I plan to mostly talk about my impressions of Bangalore and India on this blog, I wanted to start with why I'm having these impressions in the first place:

My role this summer is in the Rigorous Software Engineering group at Microsoft Research in Bangalore. If nothing else, I find it exciting that for the first time I can explain to even non-computer-scientists what I'm doing. The first thing I can explain to people is that I'm trying to make Windows crash less in the future. If their eyes haven't glazed over already, then I can explain that one of the reasons Windows locks up and becomes completely unresponsive is that a driver, one of the little pieces of software that helps all the hardware (iPod, printer, camera card reader, video recorder, hard drive, mouse...) work. Drivers are usually written by people and companies that really want to create hardware, not write drivers, so the drivers are often badly written and get stuck in loops that they can't get out of - when this happens, Windows will stop responding. If people are glazing over at this point, I explain that I'm trying to make that happen less. Otherwise, I can explain a little bit about how this is relates to software property checking, which is what I'm doing - the above is just my take on why Microsoft is particularly interested. That's the idea, anyway.

So in large part of why I am going to India because that is where I was able to find the most interesting internship. It is a risk, because my background is different than that of the project I'm working on - not to mention that, at this point in my career, it isn't like I have *that* much background period - but I hope it is a risk that will pay off.