Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kaaterskill Falls

Katy and I went to my nephew Tom's wedding in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania over Memorial Day weekend. We left Cambridge on Friday night and drove about halfway, staying at a small motel in the Catskills. In the morning we backtracked a bit to visit Kaaterskill Falls. This is an easy hike, and you can do as much of it as you feel up to. It begins at a sharp kink in 23A, with these previews of coming attractions:

The trail then meanders upstream; you're never out of earshot of the water.

In perhaps 15 minutes you get to the main falls. Wow.

You can chose to declare victory at this point or press on up the hill; the hike really turns into a bit of a scramble from here up. You're soon rewarded with a nice view of the lower cascade.

If you keep climbing, the trail becomes harder to follow but eventually tops out a short distance from the head of the upper cascade.

Continuing upstream a bit, you eventually get to an easy crossing point and can head back toward the brink. We took turns with the camera.

This is the downward view from my perch.

You can see from two pictures back that the skies were a little threatening, so we turned around and began the scramble back to the base of the falls. Partwar down there is a trail the hugs the edge of the cliff; it's well worth taking for its view of the upper cascade.

Monday, May 21, 2007

OK, I'm Twittering

I've created an ID on Twitter (zorts, of course...). I'm not sure I see the point, but why not?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Google Gets It

I don't know if Google has a sustainable business model or not, but they do understand how to make technology relevant and accessible.

As I explore Hyderabad, I usually carry a GPS receiver (set to record my position periodically) and a digital camera. When I get back home, I upload the photos into iPhoto and the track information into Google Earth (which, BTW, Just Works; plug the GPS into the USB port, select "Tools->GPS->Upload), and - poof! - the track appears...). I decide which pictures are worth sharing and then upload them to Google's Picasa photo site using Google's iPhoto export plug-in. Next I create placemarks in Google Earth at points on my track where I want to add photos or other annotations. I can add links to the Picasa-hosted pictures with about 4 clicks: select "Link to this photo", pick a size, copy the resulting URL and paste it into the placemark's description.

Once I've completed the annotations, I save the placemarks and path to a .kml file and upload it to my home web site. (This is the one piece that, as far as I know, Google won't host for me.) I then navigate to Goggle Maps and type the URL of the .kml file into the search box. This generates a map page with the content of the .kml file overlayed onto the map. Click "Link to this page", copy the URL, paste into the blog with a suitable link comment (hint: click here...), and I'm done.

I suspect I could use Google Maps to do the placemark creation instead of Google Earth, but I like the snappiness of the local application.

The integration still leaves a bit to be desired, but this is cool stuff! I'm just floored that it's possible, let alone relatively easy.

Greg Papadopoulos recently listed Google as one of a handful of global computing systems that will eventually take care of most of our computing needs, and given the way that I haved become so completely enmeshed in All Things Google, I have to agree.

Still quiet

I went out for another ride today. Here's the path, with some photos and (sparse) notes. I'll try to add more detail (and inline the pictures) later, but I want to get this posted before the thunderstorm rolling in takes out the power...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Into the quiet

Hyderabad is brooding.

I went up onto the roof of my flat last night at about 11PM and was shocked to see - nothing. Usually the streets near my home are buzzing in the evening with vehicles, people and often music from wedding celebrations; last night all that was gone. The only movement and sound I observed came from the many feral and household dogs that infest the area. It was creepy.

This morning there was traffic, but far less than usual. Some groups were calling for a bandh (general strike) as a protest to yesterday's bombing of Mecca Masjid and it seems to have been well heeded. Given the lack of vehicles, this seemed a perfect time to climb aboard my bike and explore.

This time I headed southwest, toward Golconda Fort and the Qutub Shahi tombs (which were unfortunately closed). I puttered around a while, when to Our Place for lunch, and then explored MLA Colony (where I've been before) looking for a back way shortcut for my next trip to Golconda.

You can see my route on Google Maps. There is also a photo album for the trip:

Into the Quiet

[cheesy Flash slide show deleted]

Friday, May 18, 2007

Well, isn't THIS interesting?

A bomb exploded today at Mecca Masjid, a large mosque near Charminar. At least 12 people are dead - 9 from the blast, and 3 as a result of the subsequent unrest and police response.

I took these pictures on my first weekend in Hyderabad in April 2005, when Haranadh and Murali drove me around to see Charminar, Chowmahalla Palace and Golconda Fort. Here is Charminar:

I took this picture of Mecca Masjid (as well as the following one of Osmania Hospital, where many victims of the blast were taken) from a balcony in Charminar.

Praveen (my driver) said that tomorrow has been declared (in his words) "a holiday" and that stores will be closed. More like a day of mourning or, perhaps, curfew.

Mecca Masjid is just over 4 miles (as the crow flies) from my flat.

Monday, May 14, 2007


OK, I've known for ages that NPR makes a lot of its material available via podcast, but this week the coin dropped and I actually gave it a try. It's just AWESOME to be able to listen to my favorite shows - On Point, This American Life, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. This is reason enough for me to renew my membership to WBUR for another year...

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I put another 15 miles on the bike today and took a few pictures on the way. I also found a potentially interesting place for visitors to stay, took care of some minor bike maintenance and met some scarecrows (sort of).

None of this was supposed to happen; I had plans to spend the day visiting a farm village south of Hyderabad with Anil and Anu, who have relatives there. But I got a message from Anil last night saying that the family had gone away for a wedding, so we rescheduled for tomorrow. This left the day free, so - heat be damned! - I decided to go biking.

My first stop was a gas station to try to get air for my tires; they seem to lose air very slowly and were a little softer than I would wish. I found that the nipples on the bike tires are not standard automobile-tire nipples,so I pedaled down Road #10 to a place I got air the last time my tires were low. Sure enough, their hose fitting was double-sided, and on my first visit I just happened to pick the right side, so I didn't notice the issue. Anyway, I got air and then turned left off Road #10 and into Banjara hills.

My sense of direction failed me completely; I'll try to post the GPS track as an update, but when I looked at it I was embarassed at just how far off course I was. Not that it mattered; my wanderings were bounded by large, easily-recognizable roads. And the exploring was fun!

My first scarecrow really is a scarecrow. As I passed this construction site, I noticed a rather odd-looking worker near the top:

On closer examination, I discovered it's a scarecrow.

Why is this here? I can speculate: cheap security, good luck charm, memorial to a fallen worker. Who knows?

A few miles later I came upon a Hindu temple (a common occurrance) with this interesting feature:

The rest of the temple is pretty typical.

Just past this temple, I pulled in to check out the "Zion Guest House". I was shown several rooms; the first was OK, the second was actually quite lovely. The location, on Road #14 near KBR Park, is quite a plum, and while it's expensive as guest houses go - Rs. 1600/night, or about $40 - it's much cheaper than, say, the Taj Deccan, and far more homey. In retrospect, it wouldn't have been a bad choice for me; at about Rs. 48000/month, it's much cheaper than my flat and would be easier. Ah, well; perhaps a place for guests, if I ever get any.

As I prepared to get back on my bike after this stop, I discovered that my basket was missing a part of the bracket that holds it to the frame; it must have loosened and fallen off without me noticing. This determined my course for the rest of the ride, as I went back to Pedaller's Point for repairs.

The fellow who does assembly and repair at PP recognized me as I rode up and gave me a big smile; he fixed the basket immediately and adjusted my brakes. He insisted that I should return if I have any problem at all with the bike; I think my "wacky old foreigner" persona opens doors for me.

With the repairs complete, I pushed on to Kashmir Emporium for a few games of backgammon with Feroz, and then home to collapse.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Care Package

Actually, several care packages: one physical, others electronic.

I got a call around mid-afternoon from a UPS delivery agent, asking me to meet him at the IBM mail room to accept a package. Katy had warned me that a package was on the way, so I wasn't entirely surprised.

What was a surprise was the Rs.1511.31 customs fee! Whatever it was had a declared value of $100; India assessed 36% duty, and UPS added another percent for acting as the government's agent. Call it $37! Outrageous!

But - it was worth it.

Yes, it's a one cup coffee funnel, filters, and a half pound or so of (presumably) my beloved Kona blend. After a month of decidedly less than wonderful coffee, it was a real treat.

But best of all was a very sweet note from Katy. It's a good thing India can't assess customs on what that is worth to me...

The electronic packages (courtesy of gmail, with no duty assessed...) contained pictures of home. Here are two of my favorites. RuthAnne at the kitchen table, in a skirt Katy bought last weekend at NEFFA:

And some gorgeous flowers from the garden:

Thanks, hon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Supper at home

I've been eating nearly all of my non-breakfast meals out for the past month. Let's face it: I can get a great meal for under $5, with no cleanup, no hot kitchen... eating out is the rational thing to do.

Still - I do miss putzing around in the kitchen, so tonight I came home and made this for supper.

Clockwise from the top:

  • curd (yogurt)

  • mutter paneer (cheese and peas in spicy tomato sauce)

  • mango nectar

  • basmati rice

  • ginger pickle

  • cooked potatos

OK, so I didn't really make all of it; the mutter paneer was microwaved from a pouch, the pickle was spooned from a bottle, the mango nectar came from a carton, and the curd is not homemade. But I did cook the rice and potato (in my trusty pressure cooker), and I did eat at home.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

More biking

This afternoon was, again, a bit overcast and so cool enough to make biking enjoyable (where "cool enough" means "not insanely hot..."), so I once again roamed around, this time heading southeast.

I rode down toward Abids, where I've been doing my shopping for household goods, but never got close. I veered off northward to escape from traffic, and found myself looking at this little shop.

As I stood there fiddling with the camera, a gang of boys came by and insisted I take their picture. They were delighted when I enthusiastically agreed (what else was I going to do???) and then showed them the resulting picture.

After a stretch of pedaling along just hoping for the best, I found myself back on familiar territory - the shopping lane where I bought hangers and a crescent wrench for my bike. I followed the lane to its end, turned left and back toward Punjegutta. Eventually I popped out onto the road that passes the Taj Residency, er, Deccan, where I saw THIS sign:

My Cambridge neighbors would no doubt approve.

Rather than turn onto a known-to-be-busy road, I backtracked a bit and came out onto Road #1. Turning right, I finally scratched a curiosity itch and stopped at City Center. Yep - it is, in fact, a mall.

Complete with McDees!

The reminder of my trip was an adventure. I didn't really want to go back to Road #12, since that would have meant traveling on, and crossing, Road #1 twice, and going home via Road #10 is a LONG trip, so I tried a shortcut up Road #4, intending to cut over to Road #13. I missed my turn, though, and wound up traveling through a very crowded, very poor section of Banjara Hills. I really did not want to get lost, but I didn't want to stop and stare at a map a lot, either. By pure luck I wound up veering left and up a very steep hill, which came out incredibly close to home on Road #12. If I had not taken the turn I did, I would have wound up trapped at the head of the valley between roads #10 and #12, forcing me to backtrack. Let's hear it for intuition!

Exploring on bike

I woke up yesterday (Saturday) to beautiful biking conditions: the sky was a bit overcast, and it was still cool from the light rain we had overnight. I hopped on my bike and headed out, with a vague goal of finding Apollo Hospital (I pass signs for it every day on the ride to work). I took the GPS, which recorded this track of my wanderings.

I soon found myself wandering around in "MLA Colony". (A "colony" is basically a neighborhood; I haven't yet discovered what the "MLA" means.) I pulled off the road onto a rise behind this house to look around.

Here's a closer look at that enormous graphic on the side of the house. An India mixed Morris jig?

In a classic bit of contrast, this fellow was wandering around in the scrub just behind that elegant house.

The open land isn't really completely undeveloped; there are these walls all through it. I'd love to know what the story is behind these: are they new? Very old?

Descending from the knoll, I passed by this pond on the way back to the road. They're hard to see, but there are what I think are herons wading about.

I left the colony and headed back out the Road #12 and on toward Apollo Hospital. I found it; it's big. In the parking area I met these critters...

..and saw another sign I like.

Finally I wandered home, stopping for ice cream and a few other detours along the way. One of them took me past this example of, ah, "interesting" Hyderabad architecture.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Our Virtual Date

Last week Katy and I made a virtual date to see Jonathan Coulton at Johnny D's, a club in Somerville near our house. The plan was for me to call Katy's cell phone via Skype at the appointed hour and have her put me on the speakerphone.

Several events intervened between the making and keeping of the date. First, my Skype account died; Skype suffered some sort of billing glitch that nailed a number of people on April 26th, and I was one. By the night of the date they STILL hadn't reactivated my account. Luckily, I had, er, ah, "other technical means" of placing a call to the U.S. from Hyderabad via the Internet as a backup.

The second thing is that JoCo announced that he would try streaming video of the show live via Ustream. Cool!

So - at the appointed hour I called Katy and wound up getting an excellent audio feed from the cell phone. I lucked out, because Ustream's video feed was pretty good, but the audio on the feed was awful.

This hybrid system chugged along GREAT for the first 10 minutes or so, until shortly after JoCo joined openersPaul and Storm on-stage. Then disaster struck: it's raining this morning in Hyderabad, and we had yet another power cut (we've been having them on and off all night).

45 minutes later I managed to reacquire all the signals, just as Paul and Storm closed their set. Katy wandered over to the camera and waved at me; it's REALLY dark, so I couldn't make out her features, but I could see her silhouette. Yea!

So, we talked for a while, Katy bought some swag, and then we disconnected so I could commute into work. Once there, I called back (no video feed, though...) and got the remainder of the concert, right through to the encore.

Thank you, JoCo and the Internet, for making this date possible.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

What's your sign?

I love the signs here, and I'm going to periodically post a few of them.

Not a sign, just a pretty sunset. This is looking up Banjara Hills Road #12; my house is mile up the road. (Click on the photo and look at the bigger image; it's really nice.)

Road Hazards

The road that winds behind HiTech City, past "Secret Lake" and into Jubilee Hills often has "interesting" road hazards, like these.

Here's a closer look; I also accidently caught someone, er, with his pants down.