Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stuffed Animals on Spring Break

Since we are in town for the entire spring break, the kids are getting lots of plain old play time.  I am not sure what exactly is going on but there is some serious stuffed animal adventures in progress here.  Will is conducting some kind of stuffed animal warfare and has co-opted every remote control in the house for military use.  Eva built a zip line for a stuffed hamster.  I don't have a picture of KC but his quest is to tear down the zip line and eat it.  I am sorry to say that all the hard work done by the lovely women who cleaned our house today has been thoroughly undone.

Posted via email from Cathleen Phelps

Saturday, March 27, 2010

First Trip to Bangalore: Photos and Impressions (Updated)

I arrived in Bangalore at 1:30am Monday and left and 3:30am Friday, normal flight schedule given the time zone in India and flight schedules from North America and Europe.  My itinerary left Washington Dulles Saturday afternoon and stopped over in Frankfurt.

There have been books written about the Indian IT services explosion, and four days in Bangalore is not enough to add much to that story.  Suffice is to say that Accenture has more employees in India than any other country and its largest single office building is in Bangalore.  Accenture is in fact typical, I lost track of the Fortune 500 logos on usually very large buildings.  For the size of the IT services business in India, I was still surprised to learn that it is a relatively small portion of the Indian economy.  Indian GDP is about $1.2 Trillion, and only $50B of that is IT services.  

Economic development in Bangalore, and all of India, is occurring much faster that the development of underlying infrastructure.  I would love to be selling diesel electric generators there, because every office building has its own.   Traffic is congested and chaotic (but I actually don't think it takes longer to get around than it does in LA).   The mix of vehicles is fascinating.  Swarms of scooters and motorcycles, small cars, trucks, buses and ubiquitous yellow 'auto rickshaws' (little three wheel taxis with what sound like 125cc motorcycle engines).  There are also still cows roaming the city, and I could not figure out what they were eating.  Dairy products are an important part of the local diet (cheese and yoghurt) and all the cows I saw appeared to be for milk.  The cows roam the roads, and create their own traffic challenges.

I had a driver named Anbu during my visit, and he was excellent and endless source of information about Bangalore and what we saw driving around.  It turned out that Anbu collects scooters, and he was excited about the yellow vespa-ish scooter in the photos.  He said it was a 1976 and considered a classic.  We also saw an old Lee Enfield motorcycle that Anbu said was made in India and also an old classic (it had a lovingly restored look).  

I loved pretty much all the food I had in Bangalore, mostly Indian except one evening Thai at the excellent Thai restaurant at the Oberoi Hotel.  There were generally two Indian food choices, North Indian and South Indian.  North Indian is usually what one sees in Indian restaurants in the US (chicken tikka masala etc).  Southern Indian is more rice and bean oriented.  In addition, the majority of people at least in Bangalore are vegetarian.  The tray of food in the photo is typical of the lunches I ate every day.  This one was from the food court across the street from the Accenture Bang4 office.  All of the food I had was good, and I was surprised that even cafeteria food tasted freshly cooked and well spiced.  My Indian colleagues kept asking if the food was too spicy for me, but it was no hotter than most Thai or Indian food in the US (though I am told by friends that some specific dishes are scorching hot).    

Bangalore is currently 9.5hrs ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.  Because of the time difference days were long (awake early to check the prior afternoon's US email, work all day followed by dinner with colleagues, then back to the hotel to get morning email from the US).  I did take a two hour break Thursday afternoon, and Anbu drove me by the Karnataka Parliament House and Law Courts, as well as to a couple of good gift shops.  Both gift shops had stacks of business cards from prior Accenture customers and told me how many of my co-workers bought rugs that they shipped back to the US.  I was much more modest.  

There are a lot of festivals in India, and an important one Rama Navami which occurred this year on 24 March.  I saw many of the floats from the celebration on the way to the office Wednesday, but the photos do not do them justice.  Anbu explained that people stayed up all night partying and dancing to celebrate, and I wondered what this did to productivity the next day. 

I stayed at the Leela Palace on Airport Road, which seems to be centrally located, though not actually close to anything.  Bangalore is a very spread out city with an occasional denser spot, often where the city has encroached on a preexisting village as it grows.  The Leela is very popular with expats coming to Bangalore, and there are not that many choices for good business hotels.  I actually think I saw half the business class cabin from my flight checking in with me when I arrived at the hotel.  The service at the hotel was excellent, and as I was leaving early Friday morning the man working the front entrance to the Leela offered to have his picture taken with me.  He and everyone else I met went out of there way to be helpful.  I asked about his uniform and he said it was in a 
Rajasthani style, though I think interpreted by the British.

Professionally this was an extremely productive trip, and I have no doubt I will be going back.  When I do I will build in a little more sightseeing time.  

Posted via email from Bill's Photos & Miscellany

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Video - Junior Indoor Bouldering Series #JIBS

Eva does not appear in this short video (link above), but she she did
compete in the JIBS competition at the Philly Rock Gym (PRG) last
Saturday where the video was taken. We did not stay for finals (it
would have been a very long day and overnight stay in Philly) but from
the video it looks like they were great. If you have never seen
indoor rock climbing, the video provides a quick sense of the sport.

Posted via email from Bill's Photos & Miscellany

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Eva Upside Down in the Gravitron During the JIBS Comp at Philly Rock Gym

Eva competed in the Junior Indoor Bouldering Series (JIBS) event at
the Philadelphia Rock Gym (PRG) today. They have an interesting
climbing feature they call the gravitron, which I would call a cave.
Many of the gravitron routes, including the one Eva is on in this
photo, start inside climbing upside down on the ceiling, then you exit
and navigate climbing up onto the roof to finish the climb. Not easy
and not something I could do. Eva also tried to make a very difficult
climb on the outside of the gravitron with a very slippery hold, but
just could not make it.

Eva climbed very well today. She made a couple of the hardest climbs
I have seen her make, and had a personal best in her overall score.
Unfortunately the competition was tough and Eva placed fourth in her
age group. The top four places, especially 2 - 4, were very close so
the competition was very strong. It was good to see Eva climbing so
confidently and she is psyched for her next comp.

Posted via email from Bill's Photos & Miscellany

Junior Indoor Bouldering Series - PRG Valley

Eva is competing today in the JIBS bouldering comp. This is a much nicer gym than the other PRG. Eva is rested and sugared up so hopefully she will do well. Lots of familar faces here but none of her SportRock teammates.

Sent from Bill Phelps' iPhone

Posted via email from Bill's Photos & Miscellany

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Cove

I first saw the movie The Cove in May at a private screening where director Louie Psihoyos discussed the making of the movie and brainstormed ideas about how to shut down the Japanese dolphin slaughter depicted in the movie.  I am not surprised The Cove won this year's Oscar for Best Documentary, and I truly hope the associated publicity helps achieve Louie and Ric O'Barry's goals of protecting and preserving marine mammals. 
The Cove is a great movie.  If you like action/adventure movies go see it.  If you like amazing film making go see it.  If you are interested in the plight of marine mammals, and the role of a very small number of countries in perpetuating their slaughter, go see it. 
It is great to see Louie continuing his mission in the US with this sting operation on a Santa Monica sushi restaurant described in today's NYT.  I can't wait for this story to become a documentary as well. 

Posted via email from Bill's Photos & Miscellany

Monday, March 08, 2010

Sweeney Todd at Signature

We took Will to see Sweeney Todd at the Signature Theatre in Arlington on Sunday (info).  It demonstrated that horror presented live on stage is much scarier than horror on screen (or video game).  Will is 11, and at intermission decided he wanted no part of the second half of the play.
We *love* Signature Theatre and based on the first half we saw, Sweeney Todd was typically well sung and acted.  I especially liked Mrs. Lovett.  However, this is the second time I have seen Sweeney, and it has not grown on me.  As well done as it was, it was still relentlessly dark. 
I struggled to find a character to like.  Sweeney is psychotic.  The Judge and Beadle are indescribably vile and evil, the more so as representatives of societies values.  Mrs Lovett is a callow opportunist.  Anthony is naive and clueless.  Who's to like?  What's the attraction in seeing Sweeney kill his beloved wife who he believes long dead? I take issue with Signature's web site calling this a 'thriller musical comedy' - I would call is a 'relentlessly dark and depressing musical comedy". 
I would like to go back and see the second half of the play at Signature for the sheer quality of the performance, but this is not a play I will seek out.  I find it amusing that Sweeney Todd is considered a great piece of art while parents fret about violent video games.  Maybe if the video games had better music they would be more easily accepted. 
If you are interested in the play, I found a very good synopsis here

Posted via email from Bill's Photos & Miscellany