picture of a chunk of tree with the word "log" on it
March 4 - 16
Chennai to
Fred Hansen, Winter, 2005

Friday, March 4

Friday I awoke, and there we were. In India. Mostly the vista was that of grimy buildings. And the smell was that of ashes. Susan tells me they have not had rain in months and several of the good water wells were contaminated by tsunami flooding. So the water situation is not good. Nonetheless, there seems to me no explanation of the ash smell.

Having been up so late the night before (website), I returned to bed. I awoke at 11:47 and remembered that the one tour I wanted to go on in Chennai was at noon. I hurriedly dressed, grabbed an instant-heartburn sandwich from the galley (something like baloney, but with white bits embedded), and hustled out to the buses. Lo, some students didn't show up and I got to go on the trip even without a reservation. We were off to tour a film processing company. The roads are crowded with motorbikes, buses, trucks, cars, and even bullock carts. The street fronts are full of the typical Asian narrow stores, although the buildings are higher than Vietnam, Cambodia, and Guilin. The colors here seem yellower; perhaps due to the affect of the more southern sun on the thicker air. The first notable ancient bullock cart was carrying a modern load: rebar for a concrete building. On our return trip, the second notable bullock cart was towing a flatbed cart 2x3 meters carrying four men. Together they were steadying the load: a shiny new steel and plastic phone booth, upright.  Soon after that we passed a truck carrying some festive framework festooned with flowers. It followed another truck from which a half dozen men were strewing flowers in the path. Some sort of religious celebration, I suppose.

All official signs have advertising: Stop, Slow, directions, street names, ... Everything has a sponsor.

Prasad, the film production company was more interesting in that we got to see some typical Bollywood footage than in that we got instruction in how to do what they were doing. The first stop was the processing lab. Film comes from editing by its production company in negative form. It is developed, color corrected, printed with its sound track, and then the prints are developed and shipped. The two main technical tasks done at the facility are color correction and sound track mixing. We saw both happen.

Color correction is necessary because the lighting conditions, film stock, and cameras vary from one shot to the next. This make a considerable difference in the images: some bluer, some redder, some darker, some washed out. I have tried color-correcting snapshots with tools like photoshop. It ain't easy. I never know what the effect of changing one particular primary color will have on the overall image. The pros at Prasad made it look easy. Up would come a shot. Flip flip would go the hands, and there was the color, lush and vibrant, the way Kodak made the universe. The editor could easily go through the 500 shots of a film in a day or two. Not so easy was sound mixing. There the editor was backing up and replaying bits of a scene progressively adjusting the mix until it was right. My own ears were not able to detect the changes he was making. Perhaps they were overtaxed; all editing and reviewing is done at maximum volume--that's how it is going to play in theaters. The DVD  production area showed a designer at work creating the menu area of a DVD. They have the capacity to dub eight languages and run subtitles for 32.

Languages were a particular concern. India has 18 official languages. And English is common as well. No one language will suffice for the entire country. Various strategies cope. Usually each language is covered by a sepearate producer who buys the appropriate rights and rejiggers the film for a particular market. Sometimes subtitles, sometimes dubbing, sometimes a complete remake of the film. For any of these options, Prasad is happy to provide the necessary technical assets and production facilities. It is no wonder then that films are all musicals in the MGM-1930s tradition. Lots of singing and dancing. These play well in any language and often do not need dubbing or subtitles. Pat Curtin explained to me further on the bus home that the Bollywood product is a major force for globalization all the way from Algiers to Zanzibar and on to Indonesia.

That reminds me of a review on the (free aboard ship) BBC website of a book about the decline of American hegemony. It seems Europe is coming together and will be a force in the world. A force stronger than the US. We are coming to a world not dominated by the US, but divided among the US, Europe, China, India, and the Muslim consciousness.  Resources, especially petroleum, will be a problem as these other spheres improve their standards of living. The US faces a double whammy as its gluttonous use of oil and huge balance-of-trade deficits combine to make its economy untenable.

It has been my hypothesis for many years that wars are caused by resource allotment issues. You've got it, I want it, we're gonna fight. In my time, it has seemed that the world was increasing in civility and could now work out such issues in bargaining rather than the battlefield. Having visited a killing field near Phonm Penh, I am no longer confident. The twentieth century was the seat of the bloodiest battles ever undertaken by mankind and prospects for the twenty-first are grim.

Saturday,March 5, 2005  1:20 PM (GMT+0530)

 Ashen redolence
    Smites our senses.
        Slamming heat.
Chennai welcomes us.

Chennai, we are told is the home of the world's second largest "beach within city limits." The largest being in Rio de Jenairo. Although hit by the tsunami, Chennai was largely spared due to the size of the beach; the road beyond was flooded, but little damage to buildings occurred. The sad part were the hundreds of people, many young women, who had gone out for a healthful jog on that morning and never returned.

Today I am off to Delhi and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Another old pile of rocks. In much better repair than Angkor Wat, but in other respects I wonder if it will really be as impressive.

Sunday, March 6 (written Mar 16)

Yesterday on the bus to the airport a student had a seizure. Amazingly they were able to get him fixed up in time to catch the next flight and continue on with the tour. He is still a bit disconnected, however. On the bus from the New Delhi airport I killed a mosquito. Too late. He was full of blood already.

When we arrived at the hotel they put on quite a show. Leis, brow dots, drummers, soda, costumed doormen. As I was walking to my room a porter grabbed my bag and insised on carrying it. He was a bit put out when I told him I had no money for a tip. The room did not live up to the splendor of the hotel's welcome, being rather old and "tired." The A/C did not work, but my roommate Russ decided to call and they did fix it. Slept well.

We had to get up at 5:15 to catch the train to Agra. The "Taj Express". Once, surely an elegant train, but now it, too, is a bit tired. Breakfast was a box with donut, egg, and some bread. Did not sit well in my stomach. (Probably the donut. Sugar is not tolerated well right now.)

Our arrival at the Ashok in Agra was attended by much the same ceremonies as in New Delhi. The floor for three inches from each wall was covered in blossoms. The shopwas stocked with tee shorts already bearing "Semester at Sea visits Agra." Our room was okay, but not elegant. All meals were taken in the same room. Buffets with mostly slightly Indianized versions of western food. Russ ordered Indian food and it came gratis, a pleasant surprise. Drinks, including water, were extra.

After arrival there was an optional visit to a "craft exhibition." Right, just more shopping. I expected tourist schlock in wild abandon. I was disappointed when it turned out to be an upscale western sort of store. It was selling Indian crafts, but from industries, not individuals. First was the rug demo: he tied one knot. Then they showed a pelthora of beautiful rugs, telling us for each how long a family worked on it. One exhibit was of a pattern book; a series of cryptic symbols each representing somenumber of knots in some color. These seem to be old patterns repeated time and again. Somewhere there is someone doing detailed design of these rugs. Medium quality rugs are 625 knots/sq inch (25 knots/inch) and highest quality are 1600 k/in2 (40 knots/inch). The rug prices were okay, but I have no need of more rugs.

Other shops sold marble tables, ceramics, cloth goods, and jewelry. The jewelry was especially disappointing in being quite western. I did find a tie I might have bought, but I showed-off by pointing it out to a student looking for a tie for her boyfriend. She liked my taste andd bought the tie. I found no others worth looking at.  The ties were $15 and up, so not a real super bargain, especially w/ mundane patterns.

Lunch, then time for a nap.

Not 'til 2:30 did the buses leave for the first actual toruing. And that not to the Taj, but to the "Red Fort" at Agra. The fort was started in 1565 by the Mughal emperors. The PEacock throne was installed there in 1642. The British captured it in 1803. Since the fort was of the back story for Doyle's The Sign of the Four--the second Sherlock Holmes novel--I was interested to see it. However, most of it was closed to the public because the Indian army still uses it for barracks and training. All we got to see were parade grounds and old shell buildings. Important items have moved, so we saw the place where X once was: the Peacock Throne, some precious Jewels, the harem, .... There was a nice view across the river to the Taj, but it was too far to get interesting pictures without a really long lens.

(My eyes generally pick out small areas of interest. I probably need a much longer lens to capture the kinds of things my eyes are seeing. Or train my eyes to see bigger things.)

Finally, after 3, we rode on over to the Taj. After 3 hours on a plane, three hours on a train, and a couple of hours on a bus, I was finally to see what I came for. And see it for only an hour or so. Entry to the Taj is through Sikh friskers who don't take any guff. Most things one might carry are disallowed: food, drink, keys, ...; you can take in cameras, and as usual video cameras if you pay an extra fee. (I told no one that my camera was video capable; it takes only a few seconds of video.) 

The Taj site is carefully planned to enhance the drama. Once through security you are still outside the wall and must pass through the main gate. For maximum impact, this gate is set up directly facing the Taj so immediately as you come through you get the full view.

It is still quite a walk from gate to Taj. With reflecting pools and gardens on the way. I was going back and forth getting various shots when a guide grabbed me and started to tell me exactly where to stand or sit to get the "best" shots. I followed his direction, but most of the shots did not make the final cut. And then he wanted $10 for guiding me. I was annoyed. We settled for three.

One must remove ones shoes to mount the platform holding the Taj. It is a religious place, a mausoleum. Up close the Taj is huge. It is symmetric. It is mostly white, but there are dark streaks in some of the marble blocks.  Fittingly Islamic there are no depictions of animals. But there are depictions of flowers. The designs were made primarily by inlaying slivers of  semi-precious, translucent strone. Guides take a flashlight to them and show how the color shines through the stone and then even through the marble. The design is highly repetitious. Three or four designs accounted for all the decoration. Repeated over and over. An accomplishment, but pale in comparison with the wildly imaginative bas relief decoration of Angkor Wat.

The inside of the Taj is open, but photography is prohibited. There's little light, and not much to see. A central altar has a casket on one side, the only unsymmetric feature of the entire site.

Toward the end the sun came out. I stood on a corner of a reflecting pool taking pictures that combined the Taj, its relfection, and the colorful saris of passing Indian women. The flow of saris is wonderful, but very difficult to capture in pictures.

Water towers seen from the bus had masonary stairs instead of steel ladders. The village is typically Indian: little cookie-cutter shops cheek-by-jowl along the street.  No real front walls. Much apparent chaos. Litter. There were walls along the train tracks. These serve as barriers over which the village detritus is tossed. The most exciting thing that happened during our visit to Agra was a cops-and-robbers shootout. But we only read about it in the paper.

The evening hours were enlivened by loud music from the pool. Some of the students were dancing to it.

Monday, March 7
This morning we traveled 25 miles from Agra to visit an abandoned city, Fatehpur Sikri. A Shah wanted a son and sought out a Muslim Saint who prophesied a son from the third wife. The Shah made promises. The son arrived. To keep the promises, the Shah named the son after the prophet and moved his capitol to the prophets village. After 15 years and millions of stones, they "suddenly" discovered there was not enough water to support a city. Shah left. City died. Almost paradigmatic: rich guy makes tremendous investment invovling many workers and taxes from many more. Then he just ups and leaves. So much of the wealth of India, it seems to me, has been diverted into impractical piles of rocks.

The focal point of most site lines in the main plaza was something called the private audience building. It is two stoies high with a central one story pillar. There are narrow galleries around the perimeter where the second floor would be and walkways from the corner to a broad area atop the central pillar. It is assumed that the emperor sat there and gave audiences, but there are alternative explanations for the building.  See the pictures.

At one point a female student was talked into wandering off with a guide. Not clever. I tried to follow, but lost them. All students were accounted for at the buses, but that student took a path that others had followed with less pleasant results.

Leaving the site I looked more closely at the walls along the road. Extending outward toward the road were paritions every couple of meters. Amazing. Clear evidence that the serial shop syndrome was already in force four hundred years ago. Each shop is about the size that a single person can manage: plan, stock, count inventory, supervise shoppers, transact sales. Some say that Indians are highly entrepreneurial and thus driven to have shops. I wonder if it may also be that there is a fundamental lack of trust because each Indian must fend for him/herself. Without trust it would be difficult to hire personnel so shops could become bigger. 

On the return trip I saw two haircuts underway. Frontless shops leave no one wondering what anyone else is doing. Indian, it has been said that no Indian is ever truly alone. Many jobs are staffed with two or three people checking each other. There is even an assistant driver on the bus. He sometimes watches traffic, and always opens/shuts the door, but mostly just sits.

Many shops had signs STD PCO  or STD ISD PCO The guide traslated these as Public Calling Offices. For a small fee one may call any one in India from an STD and anywhere in the world from an ISD.  Every village in India, he said, is now on the telephone network. I imagine that in most villages one may give out the number of a local PCO so people elsewhere can call you. Indian has now got the information infrastructure needed in a modern world.

So much more infrastructure is needed, Edith pointed out: clean water, sewers, garbage collection, roads, property registration, .... It wouldn't hurt to have a considerably progressive tax system. But that is unlikely given who sets up the tax system. As it is, the rich invest in their own creature comforts rather than in industry capable of raising the general welfare and building new wealth.

Edith suggested the phrase, "Eau de DEET," which seemed to me the basis for a haiku, but nothing came to mind.

In the afternoon there was a visit to "Mother Terresa's Ashram." But Mother Terresa was in Calcutta. This turned out to be just a little offshoot organization running an orphanage. I opted out and dozed. Students who did go were quite affected. They spontaneously took up a collection for the orphans.

Then we sat around the hotel for three more hours before leaving for the return trip of the Taj Express. We could have, I thought, traveled out in the morning, visited the fort, the Taj, and Fatehpur Sikri and returned that same evening. Then we could have visited Delhi as well as New Delhi. As it was, there was a large amount of empty time in Agra. (But a one day trip would surely have been too much for me. Travel is tiring.

One student alighted to use a bathroom in a waystation. While rearranging his load, BAM, someone swooped by and made off with his pack containing passport, credit cards, etc. Sigh. He was able to get passport replaced and continue on the voyage, but the hassle was large.

Tuesday, March 8 (writing from notes, March 16)
Traveled this morning through New Delhi. From Pittsburgh, I was barely aware that there was both a Delhi and a New Delhi; not a clue about the difference. Tremendous difference. Delhi itself is pretty much the same, I underastand, as any other Indian city: busy crowded streets lined with tiny shops. Dirty, noisy, and smelly. The Brits noticed these disadvantages. In 1911 they began construction of New Delhi a few miles away, completing it in 1921.

New Delhi has wide streets with parkland on both sides. Many wide intersections with circular plantings in the middle. The buildings are solid, not ramshackle. (Actually, more solid than needed. They were built to European needs, with walls sufficient to keep out the cold and snow that never appear in Delhi.)

Our visit area of visit was the government buildings. Very imposing, sturdy, and even  almost beautiful. The legislature meets in a large round building. There is a parliamentary system where the lower house is elected and the upper house appointed by the governments of the 29 individual states. (There seems to be more differences between states than there are between American states. This is consonant with the relative youth of the country. Over time, there may be more uniformity. There was already a debate in the newspaper about displaying the Indian flag at sporting events. It seems there is some loyalty to "India" as opposed to state-specific loyalties.

Housing and shops are also much more sturdy, cleaner, and spread out than in other Indian cities. I wonder if the Indian government is ever lulled into thinking that India is like the place where they themselves live. Do their middleclass surroundings blind them to the poverty and disease so prevalent throughout the country? Do they make legislation to deal with real problems or with the types of problems that they see around themselves? Of course, like any political system, there are many factors, not one, determining what legislation gets through.

One current topic of legislative debate is the passage of a VAT, a value-added-tax. In this system, every industry pays a tax based on the difference of the price of their purchased materials and the value received for their goods. This is regressive, it imposes more of a burden on those who buy a lot than on those who save. The poor buy a lot and cannot save. What is more, however, there is still a central sales tax in effect; another regressive tax. There are supposed to be plans in effect to phase out the sales tax, but no such legislation has been passed.

We stopped briefly at India Gate, a world war I memorial. See pictures.

Then a Sikh temple. No shoes OR socks. And my hat was not appropriate head cover. Instead we all head to wear scarves over our heads. No turbans, though, like the real Sikhs. The temple had some nice domes and architecture, but was tucked in among other buildings such that there were no good camera angles.

Inside the temple is pretty empty. No pews, people sit on the floor. I did as well and it felt peaceful. There is a central altar area bounded on the side nearest the main door by a prayer rail. Behind the rail is a shiny brass trough with a slot at the bottom. The drill is to approach the rail, drop money in the trough, and kneel to pray breifly before moving to the floor area. The side of the altar to the left of the prayer rail has the musicians. One guy on drums and two on things that looked like little pianos with bellows at the rear. All three guys both sang and played. Of course the words were unintelligible to us, but the atmosphere was good. Behind the altar was the staging area where one priest got ready to take over from the other. Also there was the computer. Actively in use, but no clue as to what it could be for. In the center of the altar area was the altar itself. Not large, say a meter square and half a meter high. Atop it is the central object of worship, a book containing the writings of the ten prophets who founded Sikhism. The priest attending the altar has a large plume which he waves over the book. I assumed it was to keep dust off. There could be some religious significance, but the Sikhs seem more practical than sentimental, so I don't imagine a religious purpose.

The day was a special day, I think. At any rate people were arriving and leaving at random rather than attending some sort of actual service. After we returned our scarfs and reshod ourselves, they gave us a pamphlet describing Sikhism. I was intrigued. There does seem mcuh superstition to the religion. The excerpts of the prophets writings seemed commonsensical, yet perceptive. They believe in peace and yet, they are ready to fight "if necessary." The most striking difference from Hinduism is a strong egalitarian emphasis. There are no inherent differences between people. Women have the same rights to worship as have men. (I don't know about women clergy, however.) Over the years since their founding three or foour centuries ago, the Sikhs have done relatively well economically. I wonder if that success could be due to egalitarianism. A caste system succeeds to the extent that human ability is inherited. That portion of success due to environment and training might would be lost in a less egalitarian system.

After the Sihks we visited the estate where Gandhi lived his last days. His room was indeed ascetic, but the estate grounds were quite pleasant. On January 30, 1948, the morning of his assassination, Gandhi walked from his room into the garden. The path is marked now with a concrete walk way upon which are laid raised foot prints representing his steps. It was interesting to see people walk down the walkway and actually balance atop his footprints. As though these people could fill Gandhi's enormous shoes. I wondered how many of them would willingly make the sacrifices called for by Gandhi's approach to non-violence. Is his a realistic approach to peace? Is there any better approach? If many are to survive on the resources suitable for only a few, then all must settle for less. The alternative is to arrange to have fewer people or more resources. But how?

Next we visited the Bahai temple, one of only a dozen or so Bahai temples across the world. It was beautiful. A white blooming lotus on a huge tract of land. A much bigger investment than the Sikh temple. A beautiful building. But so far down a path that I shunned the journey to avoid the sun. And apparently there was not much to see inside.  There were no pamphlets, so I know nothing more of Bahaiism.

We were told that guide tips were included in the price of the tour. When we mentioned that to the guide, he was surprised. It was news to him. I do believe that the approved budget for trips does include tips and the fireld office pays over that money. But does the tour company pockket the tips? Or was our guide just seeking more? It would be right in keeping with the business ethics we encountered everywhere on the streets.

Again we had a whole afternoon with nothing to do. I was lucky to find a student who needed to observer primates for a course. So we took off for the zoo in a little auto-rickshaw. (A three wheel golf cart running on natural gas.)  She observed a couple of Lion-tailed Macaques. I wrote  these notes in my journal. And we returned. A very pleasant afternoon.

The return flight was notable only for the first minutes. There had been too many mosquitoes in the terminal, on the walk to the bus, in the bus, and while boarding. The first minute after door close, the steward wlked the aisle with a bug bomb. We all cheered and were no longer bothered by teh mosquitoes. I do not know how many genes were damaged among the passengers. But fewer of us caught malaria than we might otherwise have done.

Arriving hot and tired at the ship, we found that we had a one-hour wait to board the ship.  I know the ship's personnel were as frustrated as the students at the delay. I wish there were a way they could have planned better and had more personnel to search our bags. My discomfort was almost enough for me to suggest that on future returns to the ship, I would choose instead to spend time waiting in an airport to board a plane for Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005  10:15 AM on ship
Someday I'll put in something about my trip to the Taj Mahal. Today I want to forget all that and try again to build Mozilla Composer.

Didn't get it done. Still hung up on trying to get commands to execute. For some reason the commands are fully expanded into windows path names; and these are not understood by the Unix shells.

Friday, March 11
Yesterday I wound up just reading Dan Brown's first book on Robert Langdon, Angels and Demons. This morning I finished it. This afternoon I have been working on downloading and sorting my pictures from the New Delhi trip.

Goal:  several picture caption files with links to 512-max versions of the pictures.
Link to a pictures file from each log file. And a separate listing of the pictures files.

Build ProFTP in linux partition so we can surely kill the qnx partition.
Split qnx space to composer and web/pictures areas.

Exercise:  2.2 km in 33 minutes.

Saturday, March 12

All "pollywogs" are to learn the following poem.
Dressed in kelp from neck to knee
He rules in solemn dignity.
Oh Great Neptune with feet like frogs,
Teach us not to be polliwogs.
We beg to join on bended knee
The exalted Shellback fraternity.
It seems to me it ought to be written:
Duressed ink help phone neck Tony,
He roll sin soul men dig nitty.
Ogre ate nap tune wiff fetal Ike flogs,
Tee chestnut ooh beep oily Wogs.
Weap egg to joy non-Ben Denny
Dee eggs all teds Hell pack flat turn itty.

First thing this morning I reorganized the disk on my laptop to get more space for managing pictures and the website. Then I wrote a lengthy addendum to Fisher's talk yesterday bemoaning our use of oil. Next I merged Narwold's slides into the course notes. Now it is 3 PM and I've done "nothing" on my logs. The next step is to build a smaller application to display pictures; one that dis-integrates the creation of thumbnails.  (I already wrote a standalone thumbnail generation script yesterday.)

Sunday,March 13, Neptune Day
We cross the equator in a day or two, but today is Neptune Day, the day for initiating Pollywogs--those who have not crossed the equator--into Shellbacks, who have. I have had an amazingly strong revulsion toward the whole process, so I am sitting at the other end of the ship writing these notes. Part of the reaction, I suspect comes from the realization that I am not particularly recognized aboard ship. True, they did approach me to auction off my head for shaving, but they never came back. Indeed, they had too many heads to auction off in the time available. My Global Studies notes have gained some thanks, but I don't know how to work these contacts into conversations. That and the fact that S has been exceeding busy with challenging student-faculty relationship issues has left me feeling a tad isolated.

Exercise: treadmill, 2.5 km, 40 min
(For "FRED Hansen\selectedPictures", remember that the picture files are copies of the 512 thumbs for "picture archives\selected". And "selectedPictures\thumbs" are further reduced to 128.)

This afternoon I have reorganized all pictures:
    renamed those earlier given text names back to their source names
    reduced to one copy of original files and one set of selected files
    taught genthumbs to not overwrite an existing file  
    moved all captions files to picture\ archives/captions

Monday,March 14
Did nothing much last evening. Played bridge with Ellyn and the Grindstaffs. Spoke to Susan about our lack of communication.

This morning I finished up the pictures website. This afternoon I've made a tool to find all unlisted pictures and generate a list of them. It took entirely too long. Sigh.

I also arranged to have dinner in our room with S.

Remaining task:
    separate the captions file so as to have one file for each city
    as per comments in pictools/notes

Wednesday,March 16
Dinner went well. We got a chance to have a conversation and reconnect. To my dismay I later learned that S spent some of the evening mulling over particular events. It seems the students have posted a petition asking for a debate between one of the professors and a defender of feminism. S is reluctant to give the person a platform to further spew his (adjective deleted) words.

Yesterday morning I just did the global studies notes. Linda Winkler had talked about AIDS and I wanted to get it down with pictures because it is an important topic.  In the afternoon, I had two tiny tasks to improve the pictools suite. It took the whole afternoon. Sigh. But as I write, I am finally uploading the pictures to the physpics website.

The website is public. But still does not have my logs. They are on paper. This afternoon begins an effort to get them in.

Exercise: walked both ways on all internal corridors: about 1.3 miles.
Lunch: decided to go "native". I ate a peanut butter sandwich and three slices of pie. (Yup, pie. Sometimes they cook the good stuff.)

After global studies I napped. I'd had a full-colon backache and not slept that well last night. Eating too much sugar at dinner cleared out the problem. The next table had passed around birthday cake.

Birthday cake again tonight. At least I didn't gorge on it tonight.

We have arrived in Kenya. Logistical preport and diplomatic briefing at 8PM.
Then I pack and leave for Tanzania at some time early in the morning.
We are supposed to avoid wearing blue to avoid getting bit by tse tse flies. But all I have are blue jeans. Sigh. Probably can buy something at a hotel for some outrageous price. {As it turned out there were no flies, and thus no tse tses.}