Friday, August 31, 2012

Shrinking World

While writing this blog over the last several years I have adopting a style of writing from the first person.  While this is great for a personal blog, this is not the best literary style to employ when writing for larger audiences.  To give myself greater writing skill, I will be using more professional style writing techniques on occasion.  In particular when I tackle more wide ranging topics like I am attempting today, I will employ a third person, more news like style.

The subject on which I am writing is something that has been bothering me for a while.  As a person who loves to travel, I am becoming increasingly more distressed by the number of countries and regions of the world that are essentially becoming no-go zones for tourists/travelers.  

With each passing day greater numbers of societies and countries are becoming locked away from the average day-to-day tourist or traveler who would seek to explore them.  There are two primarily drivers of this phenomenon – the growing clout of radical religious groups and the decay of societies due to economic failure or the corruption of civil society by criminal elements.

A scan of the recent news shows the impact of these drivers.  In the African country of Mali, formerly a secular society, Islamic gangs have risen up and taken over a great swath of the country.  These gangs have implemented harsh Sharia law and have undertaken the destruction of the religious landmarks of the ancient city of Timbuctu.  Foreigners from most of the world were free to wander Mali in comparative safety prior to this recent uprising.  Yes – it was a tough place to get to and travel was rough, but it was definitely accessible to anyone willing to put up with a little bit of travel hardship.  Now it would be a foolhardy experience for any foreigner to enter these lands.

What makes this situation all the more sad is these same Islamic gangs are destroying the priceless heritage of this country.  The UNESCO world heritage site of Timbuktu has come under attack from these gangs as being un-Islamic.  The world heritage site consists of three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia and the associated tombs of Islamic saints.  These mosques have been in existence since the 15th century and hold great significance to the local followers of Sufi Islam.  Due to the beliefs of the Islamic gangs who follow a different sect of Islam, the gangs have destroyed parts of the mosques and many of the graves.  In doing this they are robbing the Malian people of their heritage and the world of an important part of Islamic and African history.  

In parts of Central America narco and gang violence has reached such extreme levels that even previously safe tourist havens are no longer necessarily safe places.  Gang violence has been reported throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  Though it is still possible to travel through these countries, it would be a daunting experience to wander the back roads of this part of the world without significant personal protection.

In Eastern Africa, Zimbabwe has been turned into an economic basket case by Robert Mugabe.  Traveling throughout this country is difficult at best due to the overall decay of society brought about by the severe economic disturbance.  Though Mugabe continues to hold power he has personally destroyed much of his country.  Instead of being a beacon of prosperity to its neighbors Zimbabwe is now a mess that can’t even feed it’s own people.  Traveling in Zimbabwe is a dangerous and not recommended experience.

Even countries that are experiencing economic growth and development like India have places that are becoming no go zones for outsiders.  In the northeastern region of India, conflict between the local Bobo people and followers of Islam has created chaos and driven thousands from their homes.  Though travelers may still reach this part of India, it probably isn’t the best idea as violence tends to spring up frequently.  Being an outsider caught in the middle of an orgy of communal violence is a very frightening spot to find oneself.

There are no easy answers as to why these trends have arisen and continue to gain steam.  Perhaps it is a reflection of a world in decline as the population soars, global warming changes the environment and economically growth comes to a standstill.  

Regardless it seems that we will all be made less well off by this trend.  If it is difficult to travel and visit places it seems that the tolerance for different ideas and thoughts will diminish.  The value that is gained from sharing viewpoints from different cultures will be lost and collectively human civilization will be worse off.
Those are just some thoughts on a wide ranging subject that has been bothering me for a while.

We are off to the mountains for the long Labor Day weekend.  We haven’t spent much time at our condo this summer so I hope we can make up for it over the fall.  There has been just so much going on in our lives that it has been difficult to find time to get up there.

We’ll spend through Sunday there and then it we will head back down here to Denver.  There’s a lot of work that I need to do around the house to put everything back together from the construction.  Sometime next week I will take some pictures to show how the kitchen turned out like and post them here.  The general contractor is still working on my punch list but for all intents and purposes the kitchen is done.

I hope everyone has a great weekend a head.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Onward through India and Back Home

(Started writing this while I was India and I have only now gotten a chance to finish it.)

The adaptation of your body to a time zone 12.5 hours ahead of your home takes a toll upon your body.  This toll reflects it’s in several different ways.  First it seems all you want to do is sleep.  Second, when you do sleep you tend to wake up at hours that are definitely not normal.  This morning I found myself exhibiting this second condition as I awoke at 4:00AM this morning.  Of course, I had fallen asleep at 8:30PM so I suppose my waking at that time wasn’t that unusual.

As a result of waking at 4:00 this morning I was able to watch the sunrise dawn upon the slowly waking city of Pune.  My vantage spot to watch the transition from darkness to the golden light of dawn was superb as my hotel room is on the eighth floor of the Le Meridien.  The Le Meridien Hotel is located exactly opposite the Pune Train Station and I had a perfect view onto the platforms from which the trains came and went.

Looking down into the train station as the night faded away, I could see dozens of people sleeping on the hard concrete of the platforms.  They slept in groups huddle up against each other for protection and to ward off the night chill.  Most at least had blanks but some lay on the ground without anything underneath them.

Even as the train station sprang to life with the coming masses of commuters the sleepers on the platforms remained in slumber.  I guess after so long sleeping in these open areas they had become immune to the noises generated by the crowds and the passing trains. 

As the sunlight grew brighter, my attention turned to the exotic looking cityscape of Pune.  There were different shaped towers and building with unique steeples and domes on their roofs.  It was a cityscape of different and alien features to me, but the foreignness of it drew my attention even more.  I wondered of the different things that were going on throughout the city.  What kind of breakfast were most of the people who lived in those buildings eating?  What kind of work would these people get up to in the day?  Was there some kind of version of the “Today Show” to which TV’s in this strange place were tuned?  So many questions roiled through my brain – but there won’t be any answers just by standing by and looking.

I broke my gaze off the scene in front of me and I went and got a shower and prepared myself for the long work day ahead.  After my shower I returned to the window to catch up on the happenings at the train station.  Most of the sleepers had now arisen and cleared off the platforms.  I wondered if they had just been sleeping there because they were waiting for trains or whether these train platforms were their homes.  Sadness struck my heart as I watched a mother and her two children sitting on one of the platforms further from the hotel.  It was difficult to see them clearly as they were far away but it certainly looked as through they were living there.  One of the children appeared to be a young child – perhaps only 1 or 2 years old.  Despite her age she was already living on the streets by all appears.  That made me sad, but it is a reality about life in India.  So many of the people live in poverty and have no homes that they can call their own.  At least this young child had a parent and was not living on the street as an orphan.

Eventually I had to give up my voyeuristic viewing and start getting ready for the day.  This would be my first full day that I would spend in Pune so I was feeling a little uncertain of the terrain around me and felt the need to add some extra time to my work commute.  Arranging a ride to work for the day had been a hassle as the hotel did not seem to have many drivers on staff.  At last I managed to get their transportation desk to return a call to my room and inform me that a driver would be available as I had requested at 10:30AM to take me to my company’s facilities. 

My company’s offices in Pune are quite large.  We occupy two entire 10+ story buildings.  They are huge and house several thousand people.  Finding my way to the specific location that my team is located in the Pune office definitely took a little bit of doing.  First of, I did not say the last name of my contact point right and so it was kind of difficult to work with “Access Control” to get access to the right floor of the right building.  Once I resolved that issue and made it to the 1st floor of Building A, I did manage to find where I was supposed to be sitting.   (In the US we would call the Indian 1st floor as the 2nd floor.  What we would call the 1st floor is actually floor zero in India.)  My team member in Pune had reserved an office for me.  Given the discussions that I was to be having it was definitely beneficial to have an actual office as opposed to sitting in the open cubicle area.

In general my trip to Pune was very good from a business perspective.  I connected with all the people I needed to meet and held some very good discussions.  Though the visit to Pune was brief – only 2 days, I came away with a positive feeling for our business in that location and I must say, I found the city to be nice and seemingly less crowded than other places in India.  

My return trip from Pune to Delhi and then from Dehli back to the United States was little bit interesting.  The Indira Gandhi Airport in Dehli is huge!  Since I was coming in from a domestic location, I had to exit the domestic part of the terminal and change over to the International Terminal.  To do this, I had to actually leave the airport building itself and then come back in through another entrance.  Because of security the way it is in India, I was almost not able to get back into the building.  I ended up having to run the length of the building and then jump through hoops to come back into the building.  It was pretty crazy and for a while I thought I was going to miss my flight back to the US, but thankfully I managed to make it.  

Once again I managed to get into business class for the flight home.  In some ways it didn't make that much difference because I ended up sleeping for almost the entire time.  I guess if I had been in coach I wouldn't have been able to sleep the way I did, so in the end run it was truly worth it.  

At takeoff though I experienced a little problem that would haunt me the whole flight.  I put my iPhone on the side of the seat right next to me.  Unfortunately for me, there was a gap between the seat cushion and the frame of the seat.  Of course you can imagine what happened - the phone fell down into the seat.  This normally wouldn't be a big deal except it was the lay down flat business class seat and my phone literally disappeared into an abyss.  I tried several times throughout the flight to retrieve it without any success.  After landing I started ripping the seat apart as much as I could and still I couldn't get it.  Enlisting the help of a copy of flight attendants we all tried to get it out and it just wasn't happening.  There were two mechanics at the gate who one of the flight attendants called.  They were able to take a few more things off the seat and within 2 minutes of their arrival it was back in my hands.  I thanked everyone profusely as I had just gotten the phone 3 weeks before and I didn't want to have to pay $600 (the price without a contract) to get a new iPHone 4S from AT&T.   A dodged a big bullet with that one.

Once I got home that day I was able to stay up all day before succumbing to the pressures of jet lag.  It really has taken my body a bit to acclimate to get back here to the US this time as I ended up getting sick on Thursday.  I thought at first it was something I had gotten from India, but when Zack came home sick from school on Friday, I kind of felt it wasn't something from India.  I probably got it because my body was run down from the immense amount of jet lag, but it wasn't the proverbial "Delhi Belly" that is a frequent malady of travel to India.

Keeping the blog up to date has been suffering as a result of all the things going on in life.  I hope to find more time to write in the coming weeks as I have so many different thoughts for great blog posts running through my head.

Additionally, with fall about ready to start in the mountains above Denver I will be starting my annual pilgrimages to some of my favorite spots to take pictures of the autumn foliage.  I'll be sure to post the best pictures here.  Speaking of photography - I believe later this fall I am finally going to start enrolling in photography classes.  There are 2 different photography classes being offered at Arapahoe Community College I hope to take in November.  Hopefully this will have some big impact on my photographic abilities.

I hope everyone has a great weekend ahead.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Denver to Delhi

Arriving at night by air to the 8th largest city in the world one would expect a horizon filled from end to end with the yellow glow of sodium vapor lights.  This was definitely not the case as United flight 82 floated from the sky down to the tarmac of Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.  There were clusters of lights here and there but in general the sky did not have the intense glow of light noticed in many other cities.  Perhaps though this is a good thing as other cities utilize too much electricity and create massive amounts of light pollution for no good reason.

As my airplane landed in Delhi I had now spent over 20 hours in my journey from Denver to Delhi.  I left home around 10:00AM on Friday morning.  Leaving Denver on United Airlines I first stopped in Newark, New Jersey for several hours before boarding United Flight 82.  This flight was a direct flight from Newark to Delhi with no stops.

Both of my flights went off without so much as a hitch.  My first flight was about 30 minutes late taking off.  But given I had a three hour layover in Newark it didn't really matter.  Due to my constant schedule of getting up at between 4 and 5AM for work, the flight from Denver to Newark passed in very quick fashion as I slept almost the entire way.  Arriving in Newark I had almost 2.5 hours to kill, so I spent much of the time just walking back and forth throughout the terminal.  Given my next flight was scheduled for 15 hours it was my intent to get as much physical activity as I could in those 2.5 hours.

The flight to Delhi boarded about 20 minutes late.  As soon as boarding began I was so glad that I had managed to secure an upgrade to business/first class.  Economy looked to be packed and having flown transatlantic flights in a 777 before I was not looking forward to the fact that my original assigned seat was in the absolute last row of the airplane.  Though it cost me 35,000 frequent flier miles and $550, the ability to fly upfront was so worth it.  On top of having the much larger seat of business class, this 777 was configured so that all seats in business/first were the same and were capable of reclining to be beds.  Though I have flown business class to Asia and Europe before, this was the first time I was to experience seats that could fully recline to be beds!

My plan for this flight was to stay awake as much of the flight as was possible.  For the first 4 - 5 hours this wasn't too hard as I spent my time reading, watching the Avengers and enjoying a good dinner.  However about 5 hours into the flight I found the urge to sleep to be too great and I succumbed and spent the next 6 hours sound asleep.  Waking up I found that there was still another 4 hours to fly!  Talk about a very long flight.

The remaining 4 hours passed quickly as I continued reading my book.  The book that I was reading was called "The Lunatic Express" and was about traveling on the most dangerous highways, railways and airlines in the world.  The author - Carl Hoffman is a freelance writer who has made a career of visiting some of the most dangerous places on the planet and writing about them for magazines such as the National Geographic, Wired and Outside.  For whatever reason he decided it would be an interesting experience to embark on a five month journey around the world to ride on these most dangerous methods of transportation.  From the buses of South America to the taxi vans of Africa and the railways of India, Mr. Hoffman managed to explore the means of transportation most of us would want to avoid.

One whole chapter of his book was dedicated to writing about the railways of Mumbai, India.  Some of the trains that traverse Mumbai are the most packed trains in the world.  According to statistics cited in the book, in the year 2000 over 4500 people were packed onto each train that runs through Mumbai.  More frightening than that figure is between 2003 and 2008 just under 21,000 people died on the trains of Mumbai.  Some died when they fell out of the over crowded trains, others were simply smashed to death by the never ending crush of people.  Though I won't have the opportunity to travel on the urban trains of Mumbai during this current visit, the experience must be unreal!  (Imagine how busy these trains are...  over 7 million people ride the trains - A DAY!!  No I am not a danger freak, but I couldn't imagine what it would be like to be in the midst of that amount of humanity!)

Our descent in Delhi was banal.  There was nothing of note about it.  In the far distance there were streaks of dry heat lightening and as we got closer more lights did begin to appear.  But the landing and taxi to the gate after being in the air for over 15 hours was anti-climatic.  Our taxi to the gate was short and before I knew it the we were parked and the door of the airplane was opened.  As soon as the door was open the smell that is distinctly India filled the air.  It is not an unpleasant smell at all.  Just like various parts of the US have their own smell, so does India.  The smell is a combination of dust and wood smoke.  It is very different than the smell associated with Denver that is usually very dry and lacking of any kind of humidity.  Over the numerous trips I have made to India in the last decade I have come to associate this smell as some thing very Indian.

Arriving at the Indira Ganhdi Airport I was surprised at how modern and efficient it was.  Keep in mind that my experience in flying into India has been limited to the old HAL airport in Bangalore.  This airport which has now been replaced by the Bengaluru International Airport, was old, crowded and very utilitarian.  As a result of that experience from 6 years ago, I had come to expect all Indian airports to be the same.  Fortunately I was very wrong about that and Indira Gandhi airport is one of the more efficient well-run airports that I have experienced.

(Inside of the Indira Gandhi International Airport)

Processing through immigration and customs took no time at all.  Before I knew it was headed to the airport exit and the moment of nervousness - would there be a driver waiting there for me.  (Past experience in Bangalore had got me used to the idea that arriving at an Indian airport was a crazy out of control activity.  Essentially once you left the security of the baggage claim you immersed yourself into a wild west kind of atmosphere where everyone wanted to get a piece of you.)  There was a driver waiting there for me with a placard with my name on it.  Furthermore I was surprise in the fact that the environment was exceedingly calm and sedate.  There were no hoards of people trying to direct me to this cab or that rickshaw.  It was far different than what I expected.

The gentleman with the placard handed me off to my driver who was a turbaned Sikh from the Punjab.  We had a pleasant conversation a long the way from the airport to the hotel.  The drive was calm and relatively speedy.  There were no major traffic tie ups and before I knew it we where going through the intense security surrounding the Gurgaon Leela Kempinsky Hotel.  How my employer has managed to secure a reasonable rate at the Leela is beyond me, as the Leela is one of the most exclusive hotel brands in all of India.  They are renowned for their service and well appointed hotel rooms.

Security at the hotel is very tight in response to the Mumbai hotel attacks that occurred in November of 2008 and killed several hundred people.  Needless to say, I did not feel slighted in anyway by having my luggage and myself scanned.  It was interesting to note the soft methods of security that have also been implemented.  Instead of having hotel guests register in the lobby, you are met by hotel personnel and escorted to your room.  All the registration activity then occurs in your hotel room.  Most guests see this as a way for extra customer service and it is, however my view is that it keeps people from lingering in the hotel lobby, which in turn keeps down the number of targets for any terrorist group targeting a hotel lobby.  Bottom line on all this is that security is tight and it is appreciated by me!

Pictures of The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon Delhi NCR, Gurgaon
This photo of The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon Delhi NCR is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Once I was officially checked in, my goal was to sleep as quickly as I could to acclimate myself to the time zone.  Taking a sleeping pill as soon as I was done talking to everyone I needed to talk to at home, I was asleep within an hour or so.  It took me about 15 minutes to figure out the dialing codes to get an AT&T access line.  My employer provides us with AT&T international calling cards that keep rates down and also make it easy to make international calls.

Photos of The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon Delhi NCR, Gurgaon
This photo of The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon Delhi NCR is courtesy of TripAdvisor

(The above photo from TripAdvisor shows the typical room at the Leela.  They are modern and very stylish.  The really cool thing about the shower is that it is one of those "rain" showers. That is the shower head is like 2 feet x 2 feet and the water just rains down on you like a rain shower.  It's very cool.)

Waking up this morning I felt relatively rested and after checking in on the latest doings in the world and my e-mail, I went off to get breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  Breakfast was good and filling.  I found some wonderful Indian food to eat and I was happy as a clam.

Returning to my hotel room after breakfast I decided to watch some TV and then take a nap.  I expected to sleep only about 2 hours but before I realized, it was 8PM and the sun had already set.  So much for getting up to anything here in Gurgaon!  But it was so worth it as after that nap I awoke feeling truly rested and ready to face my week in India.  Now as I wrap up for the evening it is slightly after midnight on Monday morning.  I will stay awake for another hour or so and then it is off to bed.

I'll try and write some more as the week progresses.  However it might be difficult as my work schedule for this week in India is extremely full.

Thanks and peace to al1! ~J.

Monday, August 6, 2012


In the unlikely event there are living creatures on Mars, if one of them happened to be in the vicinity of the "Gale Crater" an earth day ago, it would have been surprised by the sight of a large silver object floating down from the sky.  As the large silver object neared the surface, a loud sound would have filled the very thin air as retro-rockets fired to softly land a foreign beast on the ground.

That foreign beast is the Curiosity rover that has finally arrived at Mars and against all the odds has successfully reached the surface in one piece.  In recent years it seems like most of the United States attempts to land a space craft on Mars have been successful, but the reality is that less than half of all tries since the 1960's have succeeded.

Through out Sunday evening, both Zack and I patiently checked the Internet to see the status of the Curiosity landing.  We were both eager to understand whether or not this spacecraft would survive it's risky descent to the Red Planet.  What is so extraordinary about this spacecraft is the fact that it is the largest object that has ever been landed on Mars.  It is the size of a small car and weighs about one ton.  In the grand scheme of things here on earth that is probably considered pretty small.  But for it have made it though the great distance between the Earth and Mars and then survive entry into the Martian atmosphere is pretty remarkable.

Additionally, if you read the details of how NASA was landing this thing on the surface you would have thought it had been dreamed up by a mad scientist.  Because the rover is so big and ungainly, they couldn't use the tried and true mechanisms of either airbags or rocket landers.  Instead they came up with this new funky mechanism called a sky crane.  Literally this was something out of a science fiction movie and the dudes and dudettes at NASA actually made it work.   If you want more details on the sky crane, you'll need to read it on NASA's website or in the MSM as I don't want to try and describe it here.  For a good drawing and description you can see this page on the NASA website:

(How absolutely cool is this photo?  This is a picture of Curiosity descending to the Martian surface on it's parachute.  This picture was taken by the NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has circled Mars since 2006.)

What's all of this going to prove?  Is Curiosity supposed to find life on Mars?  Nope - I don't think it is going to find life, nor do I think it is going find evidence of past life.  The goal of Curiosity it to continue the investigation started by it's predecessors Spirit and Opportunity and determine what the climate on Mars once was like.  Through this continuing investigation of prior climates on Mars, scientists will gain a much better understanding of Mars and it's history.  This in turn will provide a strong foundation for any future missions that look for evidence of any past or current life on Mars.  Additionally, this kind of research will help us better understand our own planet and the changes that it is going through. 

Why is any of this important to me?  Well, call it a recollection of fond childhood thoughts.  You see when I was 10 years old in the glory days of the US Space Program the United States pulled off a major coup by landing not one but two probes on the Martian surface.  Those two probes Viking I and Viking II proved that Mars was reachable.  If we could put these 2 landers down at different places on Mars when our competition - The Soviet Union couldn't get anything there, then it seemed like it would only be a few years until our astronauts were walking the surface of Mars.  So as is typical for a 10 year old Mars thrilled and fascinated me.  I had pictures and topographic maps of the Red Planet plastered to my walls.  I imagined going there an exploring the wide open spaces and fantastic landscapes. 

If you didn't know this, Mars is home to some pretty big landscapes!  It has the tallest mountain in the solar system - Olympus Mons.  This volcanic mountain is over 3 times as high as Mount Everest!  On top of having the tallest mountain, Mars also has the deepest and longest canyon in the solar system - Valles Marineris.  Both Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris are proof that Mars was once geologically active as Olympus Mons is an extinct volcano and Valles Marineris is an ancient rift valley.  An all of this glorious geography is on Mars!!

Though almost 40 years have passed since the Viking missions and no human has yet to set foot on Mars, it still has the ability to cause flights of fancy and dreams of roving the Martian landscape.  I hope that Curiosity will provide Zack with the same kind of imagination and thoughts as occurred to me all those long years ago.  I don't hold out any thoughts that Zack would ever be an astronaut and walk on Mars, but I do believe with his love of psychics, astonomy and space exploration he could one day help design a science package that is sent on another Mars mission.  Or maybe he could be the science lead for a 2030 Mars Rover. (And by the way - if some one is going to walk on Mars in either my life time or Zack's life time, I hate to admit it but they are going to be Chinese - not American.  Sorry America, we might continue to send robotic space probes to Mars, but our national will to send people to Mars just doesn't match up with the realities of what it is going to cost.  So we were the first to the moon, but the Chinese are going to be first to Mars.  That's why they have their little test space station up there floating in the cosmos.)

I hope the national news media keeps Curiosity in the spot light as it begins it's journey of discovered across the Gale Crater.  Hopefully another mass shooting or some scandal involving Tom Cruise or Kim Kardashian doesn't drive this story from the headlines.  (There is no insensitivity meant by the statement about mass shooting, I am just saying hopefully there won't be any like what we have seen in the last 2 weeks!!  As for Tom and Kim - coverage of them will probably sell more advertising, so I guess it is a forgone conclusion they will get more coverage than will the Curiosity mission.  How sad!)

That's about it for this Monday.  As for day-to-day life - things are hectic as I am trying to get a ton done before I head to India on Friday.  It should be an interesting trip, but it isn't coming at the greatest of times.  Next week is Zack's school registration and hopefully the completion of most if not all of the work on the kitchen. 

Tonight when you go to bed take a look at the sky and see if you can see Mars.  From the Earthsky website  "in early August 2012, the planet Mars makes a conspicuous triangle in the southwest to west after sunset with two other objects – the planet Saturn and bright star Spica".  Even if you can't see Mars in the sky, just stop and think of what we as a species have placed on another planet and realize that through this effort we might gain a better understanding where we have come from.

And with that thought - thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Due to the fast pace rate of change in today's world, India has become a frequent destination of business travelers.  As my career resumes many of the characteristics it had before Patty's illness, India it seems will once again be on my travel itinerary.

Friday I made reservations to travel to India for the first time in over six years.  My last trip to India occurred in November of 2005 as I  finished the implementation of a major outsourcing project for a major utility client.  For that project alone, I traveled to India 3 different times, becoming a regular on Lufthansa flights from Frankfurt to Bangalore.  In the intervening 6.5 years my company's foot print in India has become ever larger and more diverse.  Instead of now traveling to just Bangalore, my company has facilities in just about every single major city in India.  As a result, this trip will take me to unfamiliar territory in the north and on the west coast of the country.

 (The Flag of India)
Given the pace of change within India and the length of time it has been since I was last there, I am not sure what to expect.  I am sure the cities will be more crowded than before and that technology will be everywhere.  During my trips in 2004 and 2005 it seemed that everyone had a cell phone and this was before everyone seemed to have a cell phone here in the United States. 

I am sure I will be amazed at the pluckiness and determination of the Indian people.  Though so many still live in poverty there is a determination in each and everyone of them to advance their station in life.  While so many of us (me included mind you) are happy to be content (i.e. read that as stagnate) in our station in life, it seems that every one in India has a plan to make their lives better.  It's an amazing feeling to step onto the streets and feel overwhelmed with this sense of purpose from everyone.

My trip is going to be a bit more wide ranging than how I traveled in the past.  Instead of spending all of my time in Bangalore, I will be spend three days in Gurgaon and two days in Pune.  Gurgaon is considered one of the four satellite cities of New Delhi - the capital of India.  It is located approximately 30 kilometers to the south of New Delhi and ranks among the top cities in India in per capita income.  Additionally, Gurgaon is also the only Indian city to have successfully distributed electricity connections to all its households.  However the lack of transportation infrastructure has made Gurgaon only 11th on India's Life After Work index.  The index developed by India's Business Today ranks Indian cities on their livability.

Pune is another very large city located close to the western coast and a short distance from India's largest city Mumbai.  (Mumbai was formerly known as Bombay.  Along with the neighboring urban areas, including the cities of Navi Mumbai, Thane and Pune, it is one of the most populous urban regions in the world.)  Pune has a rich history that goes back for hundreds of years to approximately 800 AD. 

My purpose for this trip is also much different than in the past.  During my previous times in India I was always there working on behalf of one specific client.  This time I am going to meeting with executives in my companies business process outsourcing unit and to spend time face-to-face with my delivery team.  This is a marked change from how I have operated through out my career in the past.  Previously, I was always assigned to a specific project that had a defined beginning and end.  Now I am part of my company's overall management structure and I have teams of people who report to me in an ongoing permanent relationship.  I am still getting used to this working arrangement as it is very different than what I am used to. 

Due to the pace of my schedule and the itinerary of my travel to India I am not sure that I will have much time to see anything other than the inside of my hotel and the office.   Working hours for me while in India will be between 1 or 2PM to midnight or so.  Hopefully this will allow me to take some of the morning time and get out and see some things.  Though Gurgaon is only 2 hours to the north of Agra and the Taj Mahal, my goal with any free time I have it to get into Delhi proper and see the Red Fort of Delhi. 

Wikipedia describes the Red Fort in the following way.  "The Red Fort (usually transcribed into English as Lal Qil'ah or Lal Qila) is a 17th century fort complex constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan[1] in the walled city of Old Delhi (in present day Delhi, India) that served as the residence of the Mughal Emperors. It also served as the capital of the Mughals until 1857, when Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled by the British Indian government. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.["  And given I am a big person of lists, the Red Fort appears on the official list of "1001 Things to Do Before You Die".  So if there is any free time accorded to me - there is where I will be heading.

 (The Red Fort)

As for the rest of our lives, things are going well.  Zack returns to school in two weeks on Monday, August 20th.  He is somewhat looking forward to it as I think he is getting bored with summer.  The greatest news of this summer is that his entire anxiety/OCD issue has continued to be at bay.  He hasn't had one "fear monger" or  OCD moment in months.  For once I really feel like this battle with anxiety is behind us.  He will continually have to be vigilant about anxiety and OCD as he gets older, but he can now manage these issues on his own.  Truly I don't think there was going to be anything we could do to get him through his anxiety issues at an earlier age.  The medication he takes does help with the issue, however it took the natural development of his intellect as he grew up to really provide him with the tools to overcome the anxiety.

The work on our kitchen is almost complete!  The only major pieces of work yet to be completed are the installation of the back splash and the hood over the stove.  After that it all comes down to punch list items.  This weekend I bought the stools that we are using around the eating area of the island.  They look great in conjunction with everything else.  I'll be sure to post photos when everything is totally done.

I hope everyone has had a great weekend!  Enjoy the week ahead.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

A few facts about India:
- It's the largest democracy in the world.
- Second most populous country in the world after China.  There are currently an estimated 1.2 billion people who call India home.
- India is the largest English speaking country in the world.
- India has more post offices than any other country in the world.
- India has the world’s third largest road network at 1.9 million miles. It also has the world’s second largest rail network, which is the world’s largest civilian employer with 16 million workers.- Each day trains on India's railroads travel the equivalent distance of going to the moon 3.5 times
- India leads the world with the most murders (32,719), with Russia taking second at 28,904 murders per year (Though this is an interesting fact the per capita number of murders is low.  For example in the US we have about 310 million people and yet we have approx. 17,000 murders.  Our per capita murder rate is much higher than India's.)
- Every major world religion is represented in India. Additionally, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism all originated in India.
- India has the world’s largest movie industry, based in the city of Mumbai (known as the “City of Dreams”). The B in “Bollywood” comes from Bombay, the former name for Mumbai. Almost all Bollywood movies are musicals