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!]