Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Road to Vadodara: Halfway Home

Well, its been a week in India and so far (knock on wood) no "Delhi Belly." I'll try to have a post about my impression of India, the people, driving and the trip in general later. For now, enjoy a few photos of my trip from flickr.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Road To Vadodara: Heathrow to Vadodara

When I die, and there if there is a heaven, it will look like business class on the flight from London to Mumbai. I was expecting just wider seats and better food. What I got was a very comfortable seat that reclined into a bed, with a personal video unit, hot food service, noise canceling headphones and attentive service from flight crew.

The seat was so comfortable that I fell asleep almost immediately after take-off and snoozed for 3.5 hours, missing the first hot meal. The flight attendant later apologized to me for not showing me the seats bed feature sooner, but didn't want to wake me up and show me because I looked so peaceful. I told her that it didn't matter since the seats were so comfortable even in the upright position. She latter brought me an extra sandwich for a snack.

Fuck you Air Canada and the horse you rode in on.

After reading about 2\\3 of "No Country for Old Men" by Cormac McCarthy, I watched "Mr. Brooks" and a British TV show about India.

Then we landed in Mumbai. In a word, disorganization. Inefficient, disorganization. And lines, dear Gawd, lines everywhere.

Despite being told by both the Air Canada and British Airways ticket reps that our bags were going to go directly to Vadodara, we had to pick them up. I'm glad we asked or we would have just gone through without them. So after waiting to get our bags, we waited in line to pass them through an X-Ray machine at customs. This was after waiting in the line at Immigration to get out Passports stamped. We then waited in an long, slow line to go through ANOTHER identical X-Ray in order to re-check our bags and get another ticket issued for our flight to Vadodara.

That won us the privilege of standing in line to get a bus to the domestic terminal, one which lated over an hour. Of course, at the domestic terminal, we waited in line to go inside and then another line to go through security - again - and have our bags X-Rayed for the third time by an identical X-Ray machine. Another stamp on our tickets and another sticker on our bags ans we were in Mumbai's fairly new domestic departure lounge. The place was full as it seemed everyone and their cousin was going to Jaipur that day (I later found out a big cricket match with Pakistan was happening). The business lounge did not open until 1 hour before our fight so we tried to stave off jet-lag included unconsciousness with Red Bull and Pringles.

We had landed with 5 hours time difference between flights and except for stopping in lines, we no had 1.5 hours to spare.

But just when I thought my adventure was over, a little more excitement. Our flight, for some reason, was not announced by the attendant in the lounge, though the rest were. We discovered tha the flight was boarding and hurried to the gate where, expectedly, we waited in line. It was a short line but added just enough element of delay to make things exciting.

When we got through, we discovered that instead of going down a ramp to the plane itself, we were being loaded on buses to be taken to the planes. Trying to muscle my way through to the Vadodara line was difficult with the cricket fans everywhere and I got there just as the bus pulled away. With the other guy I was flying with on it.

There was about 25 minutes until the flight was to leave and I was sure I was going to be stranded in Mumbai. Gawd know where that plane was.

Finally, a bus arrived and I was able to get on, after some elderly people in wheel chairs were loaded. A touch more excitement as one of those elderly jumped out of his chair, screamed something in Hindi and hobbled angrily off the bus.

The bus ride was under a minute long. It pulled us to a plane that was about 150 meters from where we lined up. Most of that minute was taken signaling to turn.

We got on the plane and sat in very roomy and comfortable business class seats. The flight was slightly delay while the crazy old man who had jumped off the bus earlier was retrieved by his son, who was also on the flight. Once in the air, we got fresh juices and an exceptional scrambled egg breakfast and one of the best cups of tea I have ever had. The service of Jet Airways, even on the local flight, was exceptional. It reminded me of the old Ward Air or CP Empress Class.

Fuck you Air Canada and the horse you rode in on.

We landed, gathered out luggage and headed to the hotel with the driver that the company we were coming to visit had sent.

I'll do an entire post on "Driving in Vadodara" later, suffice it to say, horns are used more than breaks and "traffic lights" are used to inform the driver of breaks in the fence. The ride was as exciting as anything Canada's Wonderland could cook up.

We arrived, checked in and took a walk. Lots of stores, with lots of clerks and people there to help you. Lots of motorcycles and rickshaw carts. And poverty. Despite looking a little like Spadina Ave in Toronto, RC Dutt Road also had its share of the darker side of India. For more than a block as we walked, were followed by a woman and her three children under 4 who seemed to be begging. We did a lap and as we approached the hotel from the other side they were there again. One of the saddest things I have ever seen. I am still unaware of the subtleties of Indian society to understand this any further, but I was shocked. It was pretty clear she was homeless.

The rest of the day was supposed to be a 20 minute nap before lunch. It urned into our bodies deciding to help make the adjustments our brains were trying not to. We slept for most of the rest of the afternoon, had supper and fell asleep about 8:00 local time. I just woke up and began writing this at 5:00 am.

I'll be a little tired later, but a least I shifted into sync with the locals. Another day of exploring Vadodara until we have to work.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

The Road to Vadodara - Red Eye to Heathrow

I found out while lining up to board that they guy I'm going with wasn't sitting with me. Apparently he got business class and I was put in steerage. Being 6'2" and 270lbs, that presented a bit of a problem for an over night flight.

I sat near the back and as luck would have it, no one was seated with me on right side, so I had two seats to myself. Unluckily, the light didn't work. I moved to another seat to read and when I returned, both of my lovely Air Canada pillows had been absconded by other passengers, who were roving the aisles in packs of two or three, looking for places to lay down.

I managed to curl up and contort to fit on the seat and snoozed for a few moments, only to be awakened by our steward jamming his cart into my foot, which was, through positional necessity, sticking out the end of the seat into the aisle. I managed to straighten out and have an orange juice. A few minutes later my scalp regained feeling.

We hit quite a bit of turbulence, but I was able to block that out by listening to the stewards cat fight over which outfit Daniel Craig was wearing in some fashion magazine was best. Thank God, or may have actually gotten some sleep.

No one joined the "mile high club" on this flight that I am aware of, and I would have been as my seat was in front of one of the toilets. If masturbation counted, it might have happened by accident as a man tried to pee when we hit our regular bouts of turbulence. It was hard to tell - everyone was sleeping and no one seemed to be smiling when the left the loo. But you never know.

The sun came up at about 2:00 am and we landed at 2:30 to a busy London - its 7:30 here. The British Airways lounge is quite nice, lots of tea, coffee and bacon sandwiches. Next is the 10 hour Mumbai leg, in about 1 hour. I'd better get more bacon, I don't think I'll be seeing it for a while.

18 hours to go....

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Road to Vadodara - YOW

I am watching "dog diving" right now.

Apparently, in some parts of the United States of America, it is now a sporting event to throw a bundled up towel into a pool and have a dog chase and jump into the pool after it. The dog who jumps the farthest wins. Right now, that's a little yellow lab named Grizzly. I suspect that the gambling community is involved with the creation of this sport. Or inbreeding. Perhaps a bit of both.

I still can't fathom why this is being televised on ESPN, but it is and I'm watching it. So are the few zombie business men at the airport bar here in Ottawa. I am on my second beer but I don't think there are many more to come, not at $9.50 a pint. For Rickards Red.

Its pretty empty here, despite the long snaking security line I just got out of. I had my 'Axe' body spray confiscated because it was in a 150 ml container and the limit was 100 ml. I guess they have a warning about Al Queda preparing to attack by driving catholic school girls and hard-bodied strippers mad with 'Axe' desire. Or something like that - its getting very hard to tell the catholic school girls apart from the strippers.

Better safe than sorry I suppose.

Another dog has jumped. Looks like a black lab.

There is a young, dark haired Winnona Ryder sitting at the end of the bar. She is slowly sipping her ginger ale and leafing through her Cosmo, pretending not to notice every guy in the room is eyeing her. Not me, of course, I'm a married man and in no way did I imagine what her face would look like while she received cunnilingus. That would be the weaselly little Brit zombie next to me.

Dirty old bastard.

I'm finishing my beer now and getting ready to go to the gate. I have another hour but Rickards just isn't $10 beer good.

Looks like the black lab has beat the yellow one, who was apparently the reining champ.

Somewhere in America, a small man in a tight fitting green checked fedora is collecting $10 from another man, who is his brother and his father.

Only 27 hours to go.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On the Road to Vadodara...

Well, my posting will be more intermittent, sporadic and, perhaps, incoherent over the next few days. Despite the joy that watching the partisan battles on the blogsphere gives me (or not), I actually am a businessperson and I have to pay my bills. So, the client I currently work for is sending me, like Hope Lamour and Crosby to the right, on The Road to Vadodara, (India) to help them with their sub-contractor. I'll be heading out tomorrow (November 15th) on my 27 hour flight and I'll be returning on December 3. Luckily, India has a fairly decent internet infrastructure so I'll be able to post on occasion - perhaps a report, maybe a video or a flickr set.

But between now and perhaps Saturday (Ottawa time) I will be fighting jet lag, bad airport beer and liquor and recycled 767 air, so if I post or comment something that seems odd or even slack jawed insane, please forgive me.

View Larger Map

Vadodara is 10 1/2 hours ahead of Ottawa and the long term forecast is sunny and between 32C and 34C. So there is an upside to all this.

So keep in touch and try not to let the politicians screw the place up while I'm gone.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Moral Relativism of the Conservative Party

It is a moral certainty that no human or institution owns another human being. From that moral certainty we arrive at a second moral certainty - that no human or institution may, without the express consent of that person involved, take the life of another human.

In other words, murder is morally wrong, in all circumstances. Period. End of story.

But now, as both Chet Scoville and James Bow have so aptly pointed out, our government and the Conservative Party of Canada no longer agree with that assertion. For them now, it seems, the value of a human life is dependent on circumstances, dependent on political relations ships and on vague definitions of things like "democratic state with respect for the rule of law". They say now it is dependent on whether the process used to take the life was done correctly and fairly.

In short, the CPC now believes it is possible for another person or institution to own another human, if the circumstances are "correct". They now say that another person or, worse, the State, may now take the life of another person, against their will and without their consent, simply because of what they do, or where they do it, or if our government is friendly with the government of the state in question, or if it fits in with their own domestic policy aspirations.

All of this means that the Conservatives now consider the morality of the taking of a human life to be relative to the circumstances of their own choosing - the very moral relativism they have always stated one of the greatest failings of the left. Only they have done it with perhaps one of our most widely held moral certainties.

Many of their supporters are trying to minimize and obfuscate this position by stating it is merely the government choosing not to "defend" a self-admitted double murder who was "correctly" and with "due process" sentenced to die - Ronald Smith in Montana. They are attempting to justify this by pointing out how horrible Smith's crimes were and that he has admitted his guilt. But this only serves to further demonstrate their moral relativism. That no person or state can take is a moral absolute regardless of what the person did, where they did it or who they are. What Smith did or how fair the process by which he was sentenced to die is irrelevant to the fact that as a human no one can morally take his life. Except if you are a member of the Conservative government.

It is wrong for a state to take Smith's life without his consent, just as it was wrong for Smith to take the lives of his victims without their consent. A murder planned by friendly people, following the rules in a fair process and living in a "free" and "democratic"country is still a murder, regardless of the process.

If our government won't stand up for that principle of moral certainty and seek clemency for the most heinous, like Smith, because they accept the moral relativist position that human life can be taken if the circumstances are right, then they accept that any citizen's life can be taken if circumstance match those they decide are right. They have joined in this belief regimes such as Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, Idi Amin. They agree on fundamentals - that human life can be taken by the state if the circumstances are "right" - and differ only in degree. And that minor degree is something that allows what Hannah Arndt called "the banality of evil" - that seemingly minor policies and actions by ordinary individuals can be used to perpetrate tremendous evil that seems banal and normal.

And this morally indefensible situation and policy was thrust upon Canada without consultation, debate or input from our supposed representatives. Once again, demonstrating that authoritarian, secretive, anti-democratic and arrogant nature of the Conservative government. It is even possible that this outrageous position was announced to simultaneously appeal to their angry, revenge-seeking socially conservative base and to draw attention away from the government's problems with the In and Out Scandal, poor polling numbers and once again its anti-democratic actions against it s own party members.

Canada is ruled, it seems, by an anti-democratic, authoritarian and secretive government that now considers the value of human life to be negotiable upon political considerations. This is nothing short of creeping fascism. Imagine what they would do with an unstoppable Majority. This is no longer about things like tax policy, the amount of social programs or the level of state interference in the economy. This Conservative Party has fundamentally, arbitrarily and unilaterally changed the relationship between the citizen and the state - the citizen is now expendable.

All Canadians of principle and everyone who respects the basic human right that no other person or institution can take away a human life - whether they are "left" or "right" Liberal, principled Conservatives, NDP, Green, Bloc, FCP or any other - should fight this change in policy by the Harper government. The principled must call their MP, write their MP, send letters to the editor and demand a proper debate and a repeal of this position. Principled Conservative need to re-claim their party from these extremists.

And if the Conservative Party continues with this policy, they have lost the moral authority to govern and any law or regulation they pass should be ignored. Refuse to cooperate. Stop paying taxes, license fees or other tariffs. Do not obey them.

Do not let the moral relativism of the Conservative Party drag Canada into a terrible darkness.

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