Thursday, February 25, 2016

Safe Drinking Water

There is nothing like Western Civilization. Most places in the world you cannot trust the tap water; you have to keep your mouth closed in the shower, and use bottled water to clean your teeth.

Places where it is safe to drink the water are the usual suspects. It helps to be small and rich, the outlier is Brunei, not Western, but small and rich:
  • North America - USA and Canada, safe north of the Rio Grande
  • South America - none
  • Africa - none
  • Asia - Brunei, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Singapore, South Korea 
  • Oceania - Australia and New Zealand
  • Europe - Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Vatican City

Graphic derived from the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) data

And an interesting article by Jane Brody of the New York Times, Staying Healthy While Travelling the Globe

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ravla Khempur Hotel

We arrived here for afternoon tea, but it was almost dusk. All meals seem later in India than at home. We approached the hotel through the city, the tall walls that surround the Hotel abut the local city, it is a surreal contrast.

A member of the family who owned the hotel graciously showed us around, the family Hindu temple, the museum, the main hotel lobby and then an example hotel room.

Our guide said the family, Indian aristocracy, that owned this property during the British Raj were able to keep it after 1957 and the creation of the modern state of India. The laws said such properties would not be taxed, and the owners would not be taxed on money they made by using the properties. It was a way to preserve the expensive properties intact. If this is true, it was a better system that what happened in the UK at the same time in history.

It was such a nice setting to have tea in front of the hotel.

Outside the hotel

The hotel inside the walls

The Temple

The Museum of the 18th century owner - his ground level and basement mancave

Hotel main lobby

Hotel room about $130 a night

And outside the walls it was now almost dark


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

Solar-powered lighting comes to the Mini-Library

A new update for the library, it now beckons you in the dark with miniature LEDs fed by a roof mounted battery and solar panel.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Shri Lakshmi Narayan Temple

It was almost sunset, and we followed the crowds to the carved stone entrance at the low end of the temple. Inside was a huge open space, no rugs, no chairs, just a marble floor. At the far end were two colorful, larger than life "human" figures, brightly lit. No pictures allowed.

The crowd swelled and quietly sat cross-legged on the floor facing the figures. The lights over the figures went out, and curtains were drawn. A few minutes later a conch shell was blown like a horn, and the curtains were withdrawn and the lights came back on. Loud recorded music and chanting in Hindu and Sanskrit filled the room, the crowd joined in the chanting.

Then the priests started flicking water, ostensibly from the Ganges, over the crowd.  In a short 10 minutes it was complete, and the crowd dispersed.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Swastika

In the West the swastika is only used by radical groups, and is strongly associated with the Nazis, and has an evil association.

In India it is a symbol of good fortune, and it is seen throughout the country on buildings, shrines and T-shirts. After a time you get used to it.


The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being." The motif (a hooked cross) appears to have first been used in Neolithic Eurasia, perhaps representing the movement of the sun through the sky. To this day it is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Border Crossing

Late in the day at the border crossing between Rajastan and Haryana, on the road from Jaipur to Delhi

Interstate tourist fees are collected at state boarders on tourist buses, and all buses seem to have "All India Tourist permit" in big letters on the front glass.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Fighting Entropy Again

There was a patch of ground, on the street side of the fence, that was soggy. The water meter showed not movement so I suspected the "city" water line, before the meter. I made explorational holes, but found nothing. I finally traced the issue to a bad sprinkler control valve that was continually weeping a minute amount of water, but enough to create a soggy area over time.


and After

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Indian Matrimony

India is a different world. About 90% of Indians have a family arranged wedding. The emphasis is to join two families, not two people. The classified ads are divided into ethnic and regional groups. Most families are seeking a B'FUL girl for their "handsome" well-educated son. Working in the US is a bonus.

Things that are important are the ethnic group, being tall, slim, and being "fair," that is having a light complexion. There are ads for skin lightening in the newspapers, a la Michael Jackson.

See below, there are a few "Caste no bar," but in general caste is a big deal.  While I was in India a Dalit university student committed suicide, a big news story.

One of the strangest things is the belief in Astrology, not only the astrological sign, but the exact place, date, and time you were born. Tricky as life is a continuum, there is no exact birth date. I was told most Hindus use the time the umbilical cord it cut.

Monday, February 15, 2016

MS150 Training comes to Town

It is February and the cyclists are passing through New Ulm on their training run. The fast group are serious and fast, and have a strict dress code. The slow group are varied in shape, size, dress, and music choice. Click the picture!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mahatma Ghandi museum, Delhi

This is a wonderful museum, at the house and gardens where he spent his last days before he was assassinated in 1948.

This is a large building and grounds in a good part of New Delhi. He asked for or was given two bare rooms on the ground floor.

Art inspired by his life upstairs.

The route from his two rooms to where he was killed is 
delineated with footprints

Diorama of his return from South America in 1915

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Granite Collection

I have had these rocks long enough, with an office move they will be left behind, "donated," to the next occupant

From Left to Right, Back to Front

  • Marble Falls, Texas
    • From Granite Mountain, the same pink granite was used in the Texas State Capital in Austin. The largest and only rock that has not flown.
  • Rio de Janerio
    • A friable rock from the bank at a railway station
  • Mount Palomar, California
  • New Hampshire stream bed
    • Part of the 30 kg of rock flown back home on Southwest Airlines
  • Giza, Egypt
    • Smuggled in a handbag from the sand near the Giza pyramids by our guide 
  • Iceland 
    • Lava rather than granite from outside of Reykjavik 
  • Mykonos, Greece
    • A monogranite
  • Lands End, Cornwall, UK
    • Pebble from the beach
  • Cozumel, Mexico 
    • Coral from the beach

Thursday, February 11, 2016

An India receipt with 15% tour deduction

Good arithmetic training. 
  • We purchased 2 food items and 2 glasses of wine, three lines on the bill
  • The tour company had a 15% discount with the hotel
  • Where is page 896202?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Indian Village

In general Indians are very open to being photographed

Small Hindu shrine

These kids were not in school, but hanging around. When asked about the rabbit on his shirt, the kids disappeared and returned with a white rabbit.

Happy people

Another shrine in orange, sometimes you see these with silver too

Babysitting I think 

Classroom, with Hindi and English letters. About 20% of Indians speak English.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Taj Mahal, Agra

View from the north looking south across the river. Totally symmetrical,
 the left and right buildings are a mosque and a non-mosque copy 

Nothing is easy. Four lines to get in, they separate men from women, foreigners from natives
South Entrance

Inset colored stone

The four pillars are like lighthouses, and are angled slightly outwards so 
in the event of an earthquake the pillars will not fall on the main building