Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Hot Sunday in Vapi

It's "cooled off" today: a mere 35°C rather than yesterday's 40°C. (That's 95°F and 104°F)

We walked down to the Toral Dining Hall for a lunch time "thali" with Tim Morse who is here on business from Richmond. Thali is a traditional all-you-can-eat meal of about 12 small dishes and several types of roti (bread) and rice. In Gujarat it's "pure veg". It costs 200 Rs each (about $3.50). Who needs fast food?

The other picture of the day was taken by Lon two weeks ago on his Sunday walks. He particularly liked the massive horns on this cow (bull?). It was tied up to a tree in a posh section of Vapi. (Yes, there really is such a thing as up-scale Vapi.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

"Cloud Computing" in India -- The Saga Continues

This actually happened back in March, but I'm just now getting around to getting it on the blog.


I needed to combine some pdf files for Field Ecology Governor's School documentation. I like to keep my Word files to a relatively small manageable size (experience speaking here), but then need to combine them to send a single file to the Virginia Department of Education in Richmond.

However, my copy of Adobe Acrobat no longer works with my current system -- ahhh, the wonders of system upgrades. Adobe wants a small fortune ($300) for a stand-alone copy of Acrobat -- and it doesn't appear to be available for the Mac. They'd much rather sell you a "Creative Cloud" subscription -- but that's not so great when you have a not-so-broadband Internet connection. It also costs more than I want -- about $20 per month for full access. Regardless, I opted for a $10/month plan that has limited Acrobat capabilities, but has most of what I need. I still could use a better Internet connection, but it's do-able.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, when I went to buy the subscription, they won't sell it to me in India. No problem -- I'll use John's "magic" VPN that gives me a U.S. internet address. BUT (you knew there had to be a "but" coming) BSNL (our Internet provider) cuts off service whenever I set up the VPN. Zero connection through the VPN. Good connection when I turn it off.

OK -- I also have a Vodafone 3G dongle to get to the Internet. It's slower, but acceptable for most work. Turns out, I couldn't get the dongle to connect -- I got a message that I wasn't authorized to use the service. Hmm…. Sounds like maybe I haven't paid the bill.

You need some background here. The Vodafone dongle was arranged through Ruby Macons. Even though we pay the bill, we can't access the account records because to log-in you need a one-time password that is SMS'd to the phone of record. Whose phone it is, we can't figure out -- it's neither my phone nor Lon's. We can't change the phone number because we can't access the profile. We also wish we knew who was getting the billing notices because it's also someone else's email on the account.

Fortunately, Vodafone makes it easy to give them money. You can do a "Quick Bill Pay" without having to log into the account -- anyone with a valid credit or debit card can put cash into the account. (Smart business move there!) We periodically add rupees to the account, but we actually have no idea of how much the service actually costs. So, I added 5000 rupees (about $85) to our account -- that should cover me for a while. Instantly, I had Internet access. Problem solved. The VPN works fine with Vodafone.

After all of this, I was able to get purchase my "PDF Pack" and get my work done. But it's a pain to switch Internet connections whenever I need to VPN -- and to remember to turn off monthly subscriptions when I don't need them.

Such is life in "The Cloud" in India …

Back in Vapi

I've arrived back in Vapi. Life goes on …

This billboard has been up for about a month now, but I still can't figure out the connection between red chili powder and toothpaste.

Some time in the last three weeks, a curb was installed on both sides of a small underpass under NH8 to prevent 2-wheelers from using it. It obviously didn't take long for someone to provide a way through. The underpass is also popular with pedestrians and cattle. Unfortunatley, it's impassible in monsoon, which will add a good bit to my walks.

And finally,
Vehicle inspections are not routine in India. This truck tire looked like something had been biting chunks off the edge.  I'm still amazed at how few traffic accidents there are considering the congestion and the total ignoring (if not outright rejection) of traffic laws.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Luna Moth

On the other hand, maybe spring is here. This male luna moth was on our deck door this afternoon. The colors are much more vivid than usual. One book mentioned that the first spring emergence is more colorful than the later summer broods. I have never seen one out this early -- especially since it's been below freezing for the last three nights.

A close-up of the head and shoulders. The large antennae show that this is a male.
A close-up of the eye spot on the upper wing. The wings are covering the eye spots on the lower wings.


I thought that being back in the U.S. for April would mean I'd hit the peak of spring.

But this year has been so cold, that spring is delayed by about 2 weeks -- and looks to be on a compressed schedule. Right now the redbuds are just hitting their peak, the serviceberries are just past their prime, and the dogwoods are just beginning to bloom. Oak and pine pollen were out in full force while I was in Richmond these past two days -- every car is yellow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Christmas in April

I'm back home in Virginia for the first time since early December of last year.

So I'm just now catching up on Christmas cards and newsletters. It's a lot of fun reading cards and letters from friends and family -- and I'm not even really aware of those who missed the Christmas deadline and sent "New Year's" or "Groundhog Day" letters (as if I haven't been guilty of that more than once…). Many thanks to all who kept in touch.

And it's good to be distracted from all the "IMPORTANT TAX INFORMATION ENCLOSED" pieces that took the better part of a day to open and organize (the real reason I'm back here in mid-April).

Monday, April 7, 2014

Memories ...

This doesn't exactly relate to India, except that when my old Mac died last summer shortly after arriving in Vapi, I couldn't get a new Mac with the full complement of RAM. So today I rectified that situation by installing 16 GB of RAM. Hope this makes my computer a bit zippier! (Might even consider an upgrade to Mavericks as well … )

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A New Red Bicycle

After a couple of weeks of mulling it over, I took the plunge and bought a bicycle. I haven't had one like this since I was 12 years old: single-speed, 24", bell, rear carrier, front basket, and made of heavy steel. I took it for a spin before leaving for a 3-week trip back home to the States. Now I'll have to get up enough courage to actually ride in Vapi traffic! (And I have to raise the saddle.)