Travel trauma

I’m about mid-way through a world tour of sorts, there are many places I’m am not visiting so it doesn’t feel right to call it a world tour, but with trips to Canada, the mid-west, Russia, I am currently on the west coast on the United States and have China, Israel, Germany and the UK, it might as well be.

You get two reactions when discussing this with people. 1. Envy, of sorts. People struggle to see how they can possibly get a chance to visit so many places, well me too. Visiting a city or country for 36hrs is like not being there at all. 2. Air miles and upgrades. All you want to do after all this travel, is more travel. Sure, the upgrades are nice when they happen, but mostly they don’t.

This week both these topics have come up multiple times in reaction to my schedule. As I sit here at Cafe Encore in San Francisco, I am reminded the reason I typically travel with the same airline(even though lately its been like poking yourself in the eye with a stick but i still do it); same with hotels, car hire etc.

The simple reason is, to avoid travel trauma. When you know how a system works stick to it. You know how late you can be to the airport; How to get through the TSA with minimum of hassles;  flights delayed, who do you call? Missed connection? Know which are the good and bad seats, know where the Exec. lounge is? What tickets allow you to use it?

Things go wrong all the time, my ability to cope with that, not getting stressed out, is the single most important thing. After all it’s not vacation where you get there and collapse under the strain. Nope, for my trips, it’s show up, turn on, perform. Travel traula can do a lot more than take the edge off your performance, it can ruin your whole day and make the trip a waste of time.

Update: [Thanks for the comment and calling me out on the typos, Gareth Emery.]

What does it really mean?

This in the Starbucks between the h and k gates at Chicago O’Hare airport. What does it really mean?

  • It didn’t actually pass inspection?
  • The inspector found some things wrong, but nothing that would kill consumers or injure staff?
  • The inspector couldn’t be bothered to check everything?

Either way I’m guessing substantially passed isn’t great news.

Opportunity and the G Spot

I had a bunch of other cuttings from the newspapers on my Bangalore trip, they didn’t really define or represent the trip, they just showed the big discontinuity between the modern, progressive India, and the pace at which the people are evolving to meet those demands. On the way back I flew via London, one of the few remaining options now American Airlines has cancelled their Delhi flight.

In the terminal I picked up a copy of the Independent newspaper from Friday. It had some great coverage and content on the Murdoch/News International phone tapping scandal, including this troubling commentary from Hayley Barlow on Murdoch and her time and since at News International; there a thoughtful piece by Philip Henscher on the “Spy in a bag”.

But for the defining commentary on Britain, look no further than the letters column, aserbic, sharp, witty, and intelligent it was all there. Here are the last two letters from the column, brilliant.

Traffic, Health and Death in Bangalore

clip from the Times of India

So, this article in the Times of India goes to some length to describe why Bangalores drivers are the worst. But the real problem is the way that life interacts with traffic in Bangalore. The narrow streets, the unfinished roads, the volume of traffic, especially motorcycles and mopeds is just stunning. There is almost no perceivable traffic order and priority everyone just heads in every direction at once and cuts in and out honking all the time.

There are a number of things that make it worse, much worse. You need to understand that cows are sacred and deemed to be a good luck charm. Even in the city they are easily found wandering freely, helping eat the trash and what ever else they can find that can be swallowed, not I didn’t say digestible, cause I don’t want to look. I did see a cow one day eating, chewing what looked like the remnents of a brown paper bag.

Wednesday though there was a massive traffic jam on the way to the hotel, eventually we pulled alongside a man pulling a cow in the road by a piece of rope, tethered to the cow by what looed like a steel bridal through his nose. The guy was far enough from the kerb to cause the traffic jam. Just before we got to him, I could see a massive stream of urine and the cow defacting as the man struggled to move the cow. The guy wasn’t looking at the cow, he was too busy talking on his cellphone. Surreal, when worlds collide.

It wasn’t surpising when this small van passed us the next day, on the side of the van it said Coffin Box, Funeral Box, Embalming or some such. My first reaction was wow, given it was something like 37c/98f I hope the body is properly embalmed, but on closer inspection, there seem to be wheels on the bottom, maybe it isn’t a coffin afterall. Yep, Bangalore traffic is pretty unusual.

Energy wars

While here in the US there is a program to discourage energy use, or to economize, as we approach the summer in Texas the energy utility companies will be encouraging us to move the dial up on the a/c, if you’ve got a smart meter, they’ll be doing it remotely.

None of that in Bangalore, the front page of the Times of India is screaming out to “keep the fans and ACs around the clock”. The temps are comparable to ours and I’m guessing that less than 20% of the population of Bangalore has access to AC. So next time you are wondering why there is an energy crisis, imagine this scene being repeated across India, Africa, and the far east…

In some ways, we could consider the current behavior in US as a forerunner for much tougher times to come.

Disconnected service

I’m out in Bangalore and its been crazy. My driver just took an hour to drive 8km to take me to dinner, that pretty much explains why I eat in, but more on the traffic and driving later.

By today’s 5* standard the Leela Palace where I’m staying is a 7* hotel, every detail is taken care of. Room service tidies everything, including dirty laundry, which gets folded and if I leave it in a bag, cleaned, laundered and folded better than I’d ever get it done in the US OR UK.

But like many things here, the have processes but they are disconnected. Every night the maid comes in and does the night setup on the right hand side of the bed, I always sleep on the left.

I kept a newspaper from Monday, but everyday room service comes in and tidies everything, including yesterdays papers and as we know, no self respecting businessman wants yesterdays news. I had to ask for it back, and lock it in my case.

And so it was today while I ran 5-miles indoors on the treadmill, I watched a team of 5 “electricians” rewire lights on a wall in the gym. I’m sure those connections were getting covered in gaffer tape… Which is a shame, because that wall is actually a water feature. Disconnected service?

Posted from WordPress for Windows Phone

Texas A&M Slides – Technical and Professional Careers

Here are the Technical and Professional career slides I used for yesterdays CSCE 481 Seminar at Texas A&M University. Thanks to Prof. Robin R. Murphy, PhD, IEEE Fellow; Raytheon Professor of Computer Science & Engineering; Director, Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue – for inviting me to speak, and to the students for all the great questions afterwards.

If I can be of any help in your future, please get in touch.