What? A year already?

How time has flied! It has been a year since I joined ThoughtWorks. In the last 12 months, I've:

  • Visited ThoughtWorks India in Bangalore
  • Worked in 3 totally different projects (.Net desktop app, build & deploy at an enterprise level, and Agile coaching) in 3 different locations (London, Connecticut, New York)
  • Became a committer of an Open Source project, DbDeploy.net
  • Attended ALT.NET conference in Seattle
  • Started ALT.NET NYC with a bunch of great, like-minded developers
  • Edited 4 ThoughtWorks IT Matters podcasts
  • Helped out with recruitment (code reviews, office interviews, phone interviews)
Skills and tools that I've learnt/developed that I didn't think I would otherwise:
  • Agile project management, planning, estimation (Mingle)
  • Presentation and coaching (PowerPoint!, public speaking)
  • Build & Deploy (CruiseControl.NET, Cruise, TeamCity, NAnt, MSBuild, PowerShell, etc.)
  • iPhone development
  • Mocking (NMock, Moq)
  • UI Automated testing (Selenium)
What I can't quantify is the amount of learning I've done during this time. Working with smarter people than myself drove me to self-improvement in ways that I did not think I can or would.
I don't know what would happen in the next 12 months but one thing for sure, I would definitely enjoy it.

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Spoiled Living

After spending two weeks in India, I've came to realize how spoiled we live our lives in the western countries. Most people won't think they are spoiled but they really are. We take many things for granted, sometimes we think it is our 'rights' to have access to basic necessities such as clean water and electricity. Any of us would be, and should be, shocked to find that neither clean running water nor reliable electricity are something Indians take for granted, even in big, well developed urban city such as Bangalore.

We bitch and moan when the gas prices raises by a few cents or even dollars, when most people in India can't afford a motorcycle, let alone a big gas-guzzling SUV.

We drink water out of plastic bottle because it is trendy and convenient, not because the tap water is unclean and will make you sick for a few weeks.

We surround ourselves with electronic gadgets and electrical appliances because we crave our creature comfort and think electricity is abundant as the air we breath, not because we need to light our dwellings and preserve our food.

We live in large houses not because we need the space but because we can.

The way we live our lives in the western world is not sustainable in any shape or form. We as a nation are such a hypocrite when we ask developing nations such as India or China to curb their carbon emission and domestic consumption level when we live such spoiled lives.

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Hung Identity

In the pilot episode of Smith, there was a scene where the main character Bobby drove up to an apartment garage in his boring suburban Ford and then walked into an empty apartment. There, he changed out of his boring paper cup salesman suit into an expensive designer one. He replaced his cheap sunglasses with a fashionable designer version. Did the same with his watch. Then he drove away in an Aston-Martin.

I was struck at the similarity when I was packing to come home last Friday in Bangalore. I had this routine on every trip where I would swap out my local identity with the destination one. So last week I was taking out Indian Rupees from my wallet and replaced them with US Dollars. I took out my temporary key card to the ThoughtWorks India office and my local cell phone and replaced them with my New York Metro card and my iPhone. I picked the clothes that were appropriate to the climate in New York when I land, as well as the 'identity' I want to project while I travel. (I picked a TW polo shirt and a khaki chinos)

Am I the only person that do this? Or perhaps I am a 'sleeper' secret agent?

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Two weekends in India

Today is really the first day I have time to catch up with personal stuff since I arrived in Bangalore over a week ago. Last weekend four of us decided to arrange a tour of Bangalore ourselves after the semi-official one was canceled due to not everyone had arrived yet. We rented a mini-van for a whole day and visited the local zoo first. The zoo is about just over an hour drive away from our hotel and we got to take in a lot of local scenery as we drove there.

We went on a safari bus tour through the zoo and got to see closeup bears, deers, lions, and tigers. The bus driver was a bit mad, in my opinion, since at one point he drove the bus to within 6 foot of three lioness. He then proceeded to bang on the door to get their attention so we could take better photos! As if that was not enough, he also opened and slammed shut the door to get the attention of the lioness furthest away from us!

After the safari tour, we drove to the botanical garden. It was fine but nothing special there to report…

By that time we were all very hungry and we told the driver to take us to the M G Road which is the main shopping road in Bangalore. I'm ashame to say but we had KFC for lunch as one of us (not me) had upset stomach and wanted to have American food instead of Indian. While we ate our chicken sandwich, we spotted some very funny signs in the road side. One of them was, "If you cross the road here, you will be surrounded by blood pools." Another one goes, "Cross at pedestrian crossing, give way to vehicle."

I managed to score a good deal on some jewelery for Leah but didn't manage to get any dresses for her since I wasn't sure which style she wants.

Yesterday over 40 of us went to an organized tour of Mysore, which is about 3 hours drive away from Bangalore. We set off pretty early in the morning (around 7:30AM) and drove to a place to have breakfast. Even after spending a week in India, I still haven't gotten over eating more or less the same food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But as Indian food is the only option, we all ate it up quickly.

The first destination was the summer palace for the Sultan. Interesting place, and funny how everything that went bad was blamed on the British…

We then drove up Chamundi Hill where a temple was located. I did not
go inside, partly because the queue was too long but also I had to take
off our shoes. I am lazy, what can I say! The view of Mysore from the
top of the hill is pretty spectacular, the photos from my iPhone really
can't do it justice.

We had lunch at a 5 stars hotel and they had lots of Indian deserts which I consumed with great enthusiasm. After a week of not really having any sweet food, it was haven! After lunch we were entertained by a local magican outside the hotel. Despite he performed all the usual tricks (balls in cups, etc.), he was so slick that all of us were impressed.

The last destination of the tour was the palace in Mysore. The palace is huge and again we were forced to take our shoes off to go inside. This time I joined the group and after walking bare feet for over an hour, I had never appreciate footwear as much as I did when I put my shoes back on!

By then it was pretty late (around 5:30PM) and there wasn't really time for the shopping trip, which originally planned for 2 hours in downtown Mysore. We ended up visiting a Government approved shop (whatever that means) and I managed to find couple of Indian dresses for Leah for relatively inexpensive price.

The trip on the way back was a bit scary, even for me the crazy driver. The bus driver wanted to get back to Bangalore before 10PM so he drove pretty fast all the way, sometimes as fast as 60+ mph which was scary in an Indian bus on Indian road! Thankfully, we got back in one piece but there were couple of times where we almost hit some truck or cut off another car.

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I say Bangalore, you say Bengaluru

After two 8 hours flight from Chicago with Frankfurt in-between, we finally arrived at Bangalore last night around midnight. I was so looking forward to a hot shower and a change of clothes before we got to the baggage claim area and found that our luggage were not loaded onto our Lufthansa's plane in Frankfurt due to the delayed United flight from Chicago. Lufthansa people gave us some money and basic toiletries. Somehow there is a toothbrush in the pack but no toothpaste. There is a small bottle of shampoo but no shower gel or soap.

Our bags won't arrive in Bangalore until Saturday morning so I'll be living in my clothes for another day…

The hotel we are staying reminds me of the one I stayed in Portugal. It
is spacious but bare. I'm sharing the 'apartment' with two other ThoughtWorkers and each of us have our own bathroom which is nice. There is also a kitchen but somehow I don't think we'll be using much of that. There is a DSL line in the apartment but no Wi-Fi so we'll have to schedule when each of us get connected in the evening. After spending two nights in a 5 stars hotel in Chicago it
is quite a contrast but is just fine for two weeks.

Today is just an orientation/induction day so nothing serious yet. Tomorrow there is an organized sightseeing tour around Bangalore but with our bags arriving scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning, I am not sure whether we'll do the tour.

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