The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Return to the beginning

Diane has joined me in London for a couple of days, and since this is her first time here, I thought it important to take her to the #1 Touristy London Thing of All: the Tower Bridge. The reader may recall that the City re-painted the bridge over the summer, so large parts of it had tarps draped over it while we had our first residence. Well, the painters have finished the bridge approaches:

Here's the "before" picture, in August:

Note also that the temperature fell a bit between the first and second photos. Strange how that happens in six months. In fact, it started snowing shortly after I took the top one, which explains why we've returned to the hotel a bit. We'll come back when it's warmer.

Another walk around Delhi

Apparently, Chandni Chowk (चाँदनी चौक) is closed Fridays in observance of the Islamic Sabbath. The formal shopping center, anyway. I'm willing to bet the actual street and neighborhood of the same name remained open this afternoon, but I could not convince my auto-rickshaw driver to take me there. I couldn't seem to break the language and cultural barriers separating him from an understanding that I just wanted to walk around without actually going in anywhere. In fact, I spent a lot of time this afternoon trying to convince people—mostly taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers, surprise—that my entire purpose was to walk around in Delhi without a fixed destination.

So, I let the guy take me to a carpet shop, and after spending a couple of minutes getting hard-sell from the salespeople inside I left. Wouldn't you know, the driver thoughtfully waited for me outside, and followed me down the street suggesting all manner of temples and shops he would happily take me to.

At some point he gave up, and let me take photos in peace. Here follows a quorum:

In New York people say you can get anything you want, any time of day. New York hasn't got anything on Delhi's entrepreneurs:

Continuing the walk:

One out of two isn't bad:

This I can't quite interpret. I think it means, put your green and red garbage in the green can, and put your blue garbage in the blue can. This leaves me curious where the yellow, teal, and chartreuse garbage goes:

Our residency ends tomorrow afternoon, and with the exception of the post-residency party and the trip out to the airport (Sunday morning at 4:30), I may not have another opportunity to leave the hotel. That's too bad. I hope we have a more open schedule when we go to Shanghai in April.

I will make it a priority to return to India in the next few years. Next time I'll do more of the tourist stuff.

Delhi residency, day 2

Hypotheticals in class can lead to cognitive dissonance if you think too hard on them. Today, for example, Ian invented the cell phone and admitted taking bribes, Ryan paid a high price for his seat in class, Elena punched Bob for trying to steal hers, and Nathan's wife spoke through him. All this after Bob and Kacie counted M&Ms for us.

Best not to dwell.

Instead, here are two more photos from yesterday's trip to the Red Fort:


Much Stats homework tonight; more photos tomorrow.

Old Delhi tour

They loaded us up on buses and drove us to the Red Fort and Old Delhi this afternoon. First stop, the Red Fort:

Within the Red Fort grounds are a number of buildings, including the Diwan-i-Am, or audience chamber:

Also the Khas Mahal:

We then snagged about three dozen of the now-happiest rickshaw drivers in the city, and went to the Jama Masijd mosque. (I mostly took short videos on this trip, which I hope to upload to YouTube when I return to the U.S.) Then there was the bus ride back to the hotel, which reminded me, in a way, of the Kennedy Expressway...with pedestrians, goats, stray dogs (always), and live chickens:

Tomorrow we're in class just about all day, so I may not have any new photos until later in the week.

Delhi residency, day 1

After waking up at 4:30 for two mornings in a row, I really would like my body to figure out what time zone it's in. Maybe the problem is the Indian half-hour (it's 11½ hours ahead of Chicago, not 11, not 12), or possibly it was the two overnight flights in a row? Maybe I should just be glad I've had a relatively easy time getting to a point where I go to sleep at night (last night around 9:30pm) and wake up in the morning, instead of the reverse.

Meanwhile, back in Raleigh, it looks like they have some weather this weekend:

Tonight: Snow likely before midnight, then snow and sleet. Low around -4°C. East wind between 13 and 21 km/h, with gusts as high as 40 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total nighttime snow and sleet accumulation of 8–12 cm possible.

Saturday: Snow and sleet before 1pm, then freezing rain and sleet. High near -4°C. Northeast wind around 24 km/h, with gusts as high as 47 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New ice accumulation of less than a 1 mm possible. New snow and sleet accumulation of 8–12 cm possible.

Friends have reported stockpiling mac and cheese and wine. In some respects, I wish I were there. In others...well, it's going to be 20°C and foggy in Delhi today, while we Dukies go out to the Red Fort and Old Delhi.

More, with photos (I hope), tonight.

It really does make sense

Armed with two cameras and a Garmin Edge 305, I set off towards Connaught Place around 1pm and, eventually, found it. (There was this roundabout, see...and I didn't count correctly.) Total trip, 6.1 km, 1 hour 22 minutes, 15 auto-rickshaw drivers asking me where I wanted to go, 4 random people asking about the camera, no injuries. (Google Earth file)

Oh, and about half a million stray dogs, like this one who I didn't see until I almost stepped on her:

Living in New York and Chicago my entire life turned out to have prepared me quite well for navigating Delhi. Crossing a street requires a trust in the laws of physics (and in the forebearance of drivers) that one also learns in Manhattan:

As I noted earlier, though, everyone on the road here—including the pedestrians—seems to be totally aware of everyone else. Or, maybe, they're just aware of imminent collisions.

More photos:

Delhi residency, day 0

I'm still digesting Delhi, and in just a few minutes I'm about to walk to Connaught Place, to give me more to digest. Quickly, though, some notes from the cab ride from the airport to the hotel yesterday:

  • Kudos to Lonely Planet, directing me to (a) the money-changing booth at the airport and (b) the pre-paid taxi booth. The Thomas Cook just outside baggage claim charged no commission on the exchange--except they kept a few rupees as a "fee". (The calculation was pretty straightforward: I bought Rs 6,340, and they kept 340.) There was a similar "rounding" issue at the pre-paid taxi booth, where I got voucher to get to my hotel for Rs 250—except that the money-changer gave me no bill smaller than Rs 100, so really my taxi was Rs 300. Duke's orientation letter said taxis cost Rs 1000-2000. Maybe they should have read Lonely Planet, too.
  • Drivers in Delhi have what I may charitably describe as a liberated attitude toward traffic laws. Strangely, I felt totally relaxed about the driving for the entire 20-minute trip. So, apparently, did the scooters, auto-rickshaws, horses, pedestrians, bicyclists, lorry drivers, and stray dogs that my driver completely failed to hit. Since everyone behaves the same way, everyone knows what to expect, so the free-for-all just works. Also, not having seat belts (or, for that matter, any other visible safety equipment) probably makes everyone more vigilant on the roads.
  • This morning's Times of India headline gave me an immediate perspective shift: "As ratings plunge, Obama gets tough on outsourcing," reporting on the State of the Union address. As an American reading the speech[1], I scarcely paid attention when he said "it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the USA." Indians, however, sat up and heard very clearly the paragraph that followed. They apparently dismissed it, too, with the India Times writing, "As has now become the norm, the President invoked the growth of China and India to gee up the home constituency on the economic front, where a continuing slow-down and job loss has bedeviled his first year in office."
  • I have not yet died from eating or drinking anything. I think I may have overestimated the risk; both dinner last night and breakfast this morning seem to have done nothing more to me than eating food with a similar amount of oil and spice would have done back home. This does not mean I'm going to go swim in the Ganges; but I do feel a lot more relaxed about it having been here a full day.

Time now to finally leave the hotel for a bit. More photos later today.

[1] I had hoped to watch it live, but my 8-hour delay in London meant I was in the air somewhere between Baku and Kabul during the speech.

Sod this 'winter wonderland' bollocks

Via several sites, a NASA photo of Great Britain from Thursday noontime:

The U.K. doesn't usually get a snow cover at all, let alone one this thorough. The U.K. Met Office has an explanation:

In most winters, and certainly those in the last 20 years or so, our winds normally come from the south-west. This means air travels over the relatively warm Atlantic and we get mild conditions in the UK. However, over the past three weeks the Atlantic air has been ‘blocked’ and cold air has been flowing down from the Arctic or the cold winter landmass of Europe.