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The wine and dine at debconf16

For the wine connoisseur

FOR the Wine Connoisseur

All photos courtesy KK . If any deviations, would put up labels sharing whose copyright it is.

Before I get into all of that, I was curious about Canada and taking the opportunity of debconf happening there in a few months, asked few people what they thought of digital payments, fees and expenses in their country and if plastic cash is indeed used therein.

The first to answer was Tyler McDonald (no idea if he is anyway related to the fast-food chain McDonalds which is a worldwide operation.) This is what he had to say/share –

You can use credit / debit cards almost everywhere. Restaurant waiters also usually have wireless credit / debit terminals that they will bring to your table for you to settle your bill.

How much your bank charges depends on your Canadian bank and the banking plan you are on. For instance, on my plan through the Bank Of Montreal, I get (I think) 20 free transactions a month and then after that I’m charged $0.50CDN/piece. However, if I go to a Bank Of Montreal ATM and withdraw cash, there is no service fee for that.

There is no service fee for using *credit* cards, only *debit* cards tend to have the fee.

I live in a really rural area so I can’t always get to a Bank Of Montreal machine for cash. So what I usually end up doing, is either pay by credit and then pay of the balance right away so I don’t have to pay interest, or when I do use my bank card to pay for something, I ask if I can get cash back as well.

Yes, Canada converted to plastic notes a few years ago. We’ve also eliminated the penny. For cashless transactions, you pay the exact amount billed. If you’re paying somebody in cash, it is rounded up or down to the nearest 5 cents. And for $1 or $2, instead of notes, we’ve moved over to coins.

I personally like the plastic notes. They’re smoother and feel more durable than the paper notes. I’ve had one go through a laundry load by accident and it came out the other side fine.

Another gentleman responded with slightly more information which probably would interest travellers from around the world, not just Indians –

Quebec has its own interbank system called Interac (https://interac.ca/en/about/our-company.html). Quebec is a very proud and independent region and for many historical reasons they want to stand on their own, which is why they support their local systems. Some vendors will support only Interac for debit card transactions (at least this was the case when I stayed there the beginning of this decade, it might have changed a bit). *Most* vendors (including supermarkets like Provigo, Metro, etc) will accept major credit and debit cards, although MasterCard isn’t accepted as widely there as Visa is. So, if you have one of both, load up your Visa card instead of your MasterCard or get a prepaid Visa card from your bank. They support chip cards everywhere so don’t worry about that. If you have a 5 digit pin on any of your cards and a vendor asks you for a 4 digit pin, it will work 90%+ of the times if you just enter the first 4 digits, but it’s usually a good idea to go change your pin to a 4 digit just to be safe.

From the Indian perspective all of the above fits pretty neat as we also have Pin and Chip cards (domestically though most ATMs still use the magnetic strip and is suspected that the POS terminals aren’t any better.) That would be a whole different story so probably left for another day.

I do like the bit about pocketing the change tip. As far as number of free transactions go, it was pretty limited in India for few years before the demonetization happening now.

Few years before, I do remember doing as many transactions on the ATM as I please but then ATM’s have seen a downward spiral in terms of technology upgradation, maintenance etc. There is no penalty to the bank if the ATM is out-of-order. If there was significant penalty then we probably would have seen banks taking more care of ATM’s. It is a slightly more complex topic hence would take a stab at it some other day.

Do hope though that the terms for ATM usage for bank customers become lenient similar to Canada otherwise it would be difficult for Indians to jump on the digital band-wagon as you cannot function without cheap, user-friendly technology.

Cash machines: Uneven spread, slowing growth - Copyright Indian Express

The image has been taken from this fascinating article which appeared in Indian Express couple of days back.

Coming back to the cheese and wine in the evening. I think we started coming back from Eagle Encounters around 16:30/17:00 hrs Cape Town time. Somehow the ride back was much more faster and we played some Bollywood party music while coming back (all cool). Suddenly remembered that I had to buy some cheese as I hadn’t bought any from India. There is quite a bit of a post where I’m trying to know/understand if spices can be smuggled (which much later I learnt I didn’t need to but that’s a different story altogether), I also had off-list conversations with people about cheese as well but wasn’t able to get any good recommendations. Then saw that KK bought Mysore Pak (apparently she took a chance not declaring it) which while not being exactly cheese fit right into things. In her own words “a South Indian ghee sweet fondly nicknamed ‘the blocks of cholesterol’ and ‘reason #3 for bypass surgery’.” – KK

So with Leonard’s help we stopped at a place where it looked like a chain of stores. Each store was selling something. Seeing that, I was immediately transported to Connaught Place, Delhi

Connaught Place, Delhi

The image comes from http://planetden.com/food/roundabout-world-connaught-place-delhi which attempts to explain Connaught Place. While the article is okish, it lacks soul and not written like a Delhite would write or anybody who has spent a chunk having spent holidays at CP. Another day, another story, sorry.

What I found interesting about the stores while they were next to each other, I also eyed an alcohol shop as well as an Adult/Sex shop. I asked Leonard as to how far we were from UCT and he replied hardly 5 minutes by car and was shocked to see both alcohol and a sex shop. While an alcohol shop some distance away from a college is understandable, there are few and far around Colleges all over India, but adult shops are a rarity.

Unfortunately, none of us have any photos of the place as till that time everybody’s phone was dead or just going to be dead and nobody had thought to bring a portable power pack to juice our mobile devices.

A part of me was curious to see what the sex shop would have and look from inside, but as was with younger people didn’t think it was appropriate.

All of us except Jaminy and someone else (besides Leonard) decided to stay back, while the rest of us went inside to explore the stores. It took me sometime to make my way to the cheese corner and had no idea which was good and which wasn’t. So with no idea of brands therein, the only way to figure out was the pricing. So bought two, one a larger 500 gm cheap piece and a smaller slightly more expensive one just to make sure that the Debian cheese team would be happy.

We did have a mini-adventure as for sometime Jaminy was missing, apparently she went goofing off or went to freshen up or something and we were unable to connect with her as all our phones were dead or dying.

Eventually we came back to UCT, barely freshened up when it was decided by our group to go and give our share of goodies to the cheese and wine party. When I went up to the room to share the cheese, came to know they needed a volunteer for cutting veggies etc.

Having spent years seeing ‘Yan Can Cook’

and having practised quite a bit tried to do some fancy decoration and some julian cutting but as we got dull knives and not much time, just did some plain old cutting 😦

The salads

The Salads, partly done by me.

I have to share I had a fascinating discussion about cooking in Pressure Cookers. I was under the assumption that everybody knows how to use Pressure Cookers as they are one of the simplest ways to cook food without letting go of all the nutrients. At least, I believe this to be predominant in the Asian subcontinent and even the chinese have similar vessels for cooking.

I use what is called the first generation Pressure Cooker. I have been using a 1.5 l Prestige Pressure Cooker over half a decade, almost used daily without issues.

http://www.amazon.in/Prestige-Nakshatra-Aluminium-Pressure-Cooker/dp/B00CB7U1OU

Prestige 1.5 L Pressure Cooker

1.5 Litre Pressure Cooker with gasket and everything.

There are also induction pressure cookers nowadays in the Indian market and this model

https://www.amazon.in/Prestige-Deluxe-Induction-Aluminum-Pressure/dp/B01KZVPNGE/ref=sr_1_2

Induction base cooking for basmati rice

Best cooker for doing Basmati Biryanis and things like that.

Basmati is long-grain, aromatic rice which most families used in very special occasions such as festivals, marriages, anything good and pure is associated with the rice.

I had also shared my lack of knowledge of industrial Microwave Ovens. While I do get most small Microwave Ovens like these , cooking in industrial ovens I simply have no clue.

Anyways, after that conversation I went back, freshened up a bit and sometime later found myself in the middle of this –

Collection of Wine Bottles

Random selection of wine bottles from all over the world.

Also at times found myself in middle of this –

Chocolates all around me.

CHOCOLATES

I tried quite a few chocolates but the best one I liked (don’t remember the name) was a white caramel chocolate which literally melted into my mouth. Got the whole died and went to heaven experience :). Who said gluttony is bad πŸ˜‰

Or this –

French Bread, Wine and chaos

French Bread, Wine and chaos

As can be seen the French really enjoy their bread. I do remember a story vaguely (don’t remember if it was a children’s fairy tale or something) about how the French won a war through their french bread.

Or this –

Juices for those who love their health

Juices for those who love their health

We also had juices for the teetotaller or who can’t handle drinks. Unsurprisingly perhaps, by the end of the session, almost all the different wines were finito while there was still some juices left to go around.

From the Indian perspective, it wasn’t at all exciting, there were no brawls, everybody was too civilized and everybody staggered off when they met their quota. As I was in holiday spirit, stayed up late, staggered to my room, blissed out and woke up without any headache.

Pro tip – Drink lots and lots and lots of water especially if you are drinking. It flushes out most of the toxins and also helps in not having after-morning headaches. If I’m going drinking, I usually drown myself in at least a litre or two of water, even if I had to the bathroom couple of times before going to bed.

All in all, a perfect evening. I was able to connect/talk with some of the gods whom I had wanted to for a long time and they actually listened. Don’t remember if I mumbled something or made some sense in small-talk or whatever I did. But as shared, a perfect evening πŸ™‚

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Eagle Encounters, pier Stellenbosch

Before starting, have to say hindsight as they say is always 20/20. I was moaning about my 6/7 hour trip few blog posts back but now came to know about the 17.5 hr. flights (17.5x800km/hr=14000 km.) which are happening around me.

I would say I was whining about nothing seeing those flights. I can’t even imagine how people would feel in those flights. Six hours were too much in the tin-can, thankfully though I was in the aisle seat. In 14 hours most people would probably give to Air rage .

I just saw an excellent article on the subject. I also came to know that seat-selection and food on a long-haul flights are a luxury, hence that changes the equation quite a bit as well. So on these facts, it seems Qatar Airways treated me quite well as I was able to use both those options.

Disclaimer – My knowledge about birds/avian is almost non-existent, Hence feel free to correct me if I do go wrong anywhere.

Coming back to earth literally πŸ˜‰ , I will have to share a bit of South Africa as that is part and parcel of what I’m going to share next. Also many of the pictures shared in this particular blog post belong to KK who has shared them with me with permission to share it with the rest of the world.

When I was in South Africa, in the first couple of days as well as what little reading of South African History I had read before travelling, had known that the Europeans, specifically the Dutch ruled on South Africa for many years.

What was shared to me in the first day or two that ‘Afrikaans‘ is mostly spoken by Europeans still living in South Africa, some spoken by the coloured people as well. This tied in with the literature I had already read.

The Wikipedia page shares which language is spoken by whom and how the demographics play out if people are interested to know that.

One of the words or part of the word for places we came to know is ‘bosch’ as is used in many a places. ‘Bosch‘ means wood or forest. After this we came to know about many places which were known as ‘somethingbosch’ which signified to us that area is or was a forest.

On the second/third day Chirayu (pictured, extreme left) shared the idea of going to Eagle Encounters. Other people pictured in the picture are yours truly, some of the people from GSOC, KK is in the middle, the driver Leonard something who took us to Eagle Encounters on the right (pictured extreme right).

Update – I was informed that it was a joint plan between Chirayu and KK. They also had some other options planned which later got dropped by the wayside.

The whole gang/group along with Leonard coming from eagle encounters

It was supposed to be somewhat near, (Spier, Stellenbosch). While I was not able to able to see/figure out where ‘Eagle Encounters’ is on Openstreetmap, somebody named Firefishy added Spier to OSM few years back. So thank you for that Firefishy so I can at least pin-point a closer place.

I didn’t see/know/try to figure out about the place as Chirayu said it’s a ‘zoo’. I wasn’t enthusiastic as much as I had been depressed by most zoos in India, while you do have national reserves/Parks in India where you see animals in their full glory.

I have been lucky to been able to seen Tadoba and Ranthambore National parks and spend some quality time (about a week) to have some idea as to what can/happens in forests and people living in the buffer-zones but those stories are for a different day altogether.

I have to say I do hope to be part of the Ranthambore experience again somewhere in the future, it really is a beautiful place for flora and fauna and fortunately or unfortunately this is the best time apart from spring, as you have the game of mist/fog and animals . North India this time of the year is something to be experienced.

I wasn’t much enthused as “zoos” in India are claustrophobic for animals and people both. There are small cages and you see and smell the shit/piss of the animals, generally not a good feeling.

Chirayu shared with us also the possibility of being able to ride of Segways and range of bicycles which relieved me so that in case we didn’t enjoy the ‘zoo’ we would enjoy the Segway at least and have a good time (although it would have different expenses than the ones at Eagle Encounters).

My whole education about what a zoo could be was turned around at Eagle Encounters as it seems to be somewhere between a zoo and what I know as national parks where animals roam free.

We purchased the tickets and went in, the first event/happening was ‘Eagle Encounters’ itself.

One of the families at Eagle Encounter handling a snowy eagle

Our introduction to the place started by two beautiful volunteer/trainers who were in charge of all the birds in the Eagle Encounters vicinity. The introduction started by every one of us who came for the ‘Eagle Encounter’ show to wear a glove and to have/hold one of the pair of snowy owls to sit on the glove. That picture is of a family who was part of our show.

Before my turn came, I was a little apprehensive/worried about holding a Owl -period. To my surprise, they were so soft and easy-going, I could hardly feel the weight on my hand.

While the trainer/volunteers were constantly feeding them earthworm-bits (I didn’t ask, just guessing) and we were all happy as they along with the visitors were constantly playing and interacting with the birds, sharing with us the life-cycle of the snowy Owl. It’s only then I understood why in the Harry Potter Universe, the owl plays such an important part. They seem to be a nice, curious, easy-going, proud creatures which fits perfectly in the HP Universe.

In hind-sight I should have videod the whole experience as the trainer/volunteer showed a battery of owls, eagles, vultures, Hawks (different birds of prey) what have you. I have to confess my knowledge of birds is and was non-existent.

Vulture at the Eagle Encounters show

Vulture, One of the larger birds we saw at the Eagle Encounters show. Some of the birds could be dangerous, especially in the wild.

The other trainer showing off a Black Eagle at Eagle Encounters

That was the other Volunteer-Trainer who was showing off the birds. I especially liked the t-shirt she was wearing. The shop at Eagle Encounters had whole lot of them, they were a bit expensive and just not my size 😦

Tidbit – Just a few years ago, it was a shocker to me to know/realize that what commonly goes/known in the country as a parrot by most people is actually a Parakeet. As can be seen in the article linked, they are widely distributed in India.

While I was young, I used to see the rose-ringed parakeets quite a bit around but nowadays due to probably pollution and other factors, they are noticeably less. They are popular as pets in India. I don’t know what Pollito would think about that, don’t think he would think good.

Trainer showing off a Hawk at Eagle Encounters

As I cannot differentiate between Hawk, Vulture, Eagle, etc. I would safely say ‘a Bird of Prey’ as that was what he was holding. This photo was taken after the event was over where we all were curious to know about the volunteer/trainer, their day job and what it meant for them to be taking care of these birds.

Update – KK has shared with me what those specific birds are called, so in case the names or species are wrong, please take the truck with her and not me.

While I don’t remember the name of the trainer/volunteer, among other things it was shared that the volunteers/trainers aren’t paid enough and they never have enough funds to take care of all the birds who come to them.

Trainer showing Hawk and background chart

Where the picture was shot (both this and earlier) was sort of open-office. If you look closely, you will see that there are names of the birds, for instance, people who loved LOTR would easily see ‘Gandalf’ . that board lists how much food (probably in grams) did the bird eat in a day and week.

While it was not shared, I’m sure there would be a lot of paperwork, studies to get the birds as well as possible. From a computer science perspective, there seemed to be lot of potential for avian and big-data professionals to do lot of computer modelling and analysis and give more insight into the rehabilitation efforts so the process could be more fine-tuned, efficient and economic perhaps.

Hawk on stand

This is how we saw the majority of the birds. Most of them had a metal/plastic string which was tied to small artificial branches as the one above.

I forgot to share a very important point. Eagle Encounters is not a zoo but a Rehabilitation Centre.

While the cynic/skeptic part of me tried to not feel or see the before and after pictures of the birds bought to the rehabilitation centre, the caring part was moved to see most of the birds being treated with love and affection. From our conversations with the Volunteer-Trainer it emerged that every week they had to turn away lots of birds due to space constraints. It is only the most serious/life-threatening cases for which they could provide care in a sustainable way they would keep.

Some of the birds who were in the cages were large, airy. I wouldn’t say clean as what little I read before as well later is that birds shit enormously so cleaning cages is quite an effort. Most of the cages and near those artificial branches there were placards of people who were sponsoring a bird or two to look after them.

From what was shared, many of the birds who came had been abused in many ways. Some of them had their bones crushed or/and other cruel ways. As I had shared that I had been wonderfully surprised by seeing birds come so close to me and most of my friends, I felt rage about those who had treated the birds in such evil, bad ways.

What was shared with us that while they try to heal the birds as much as possible, it is always suspect how well the birds would survive on their own in nature, hence many of these birds would go to the sponsor or to some other place when they are well.

The Secretary birds - cage- sponsors-adopted

If you look at the picture closely, maybe look at the higher resolution photo in the gallery, you will see that both the birds have been adopted by two different couples. The birds as the name tag shows are called ‘Secretaries’.

The Secretaries make a typical sound which is similar to the sound made by old typewriters. Just as woodpeckers make Morse Code noises when they are pecking with their beaks on trees, something similar to the sound of keys emitted by Old Remington typewriters when clicked on was done by the Secretaries.

One of the birds in the cage,

This is one of the birds in one of the few cages. If you see a higher-resolution picture of the earlier picture, the one which has ‘Secretaries’. Also as can be seen in the picture, there is wood-working happening and they are trying to expand the Rehabilitation Centre.

All in all, an excursion which was supposed to be for just an hour, extended to something like 3 odd hours. KK shot more than a 1000 odd pictures while trying to teach/converse in Malyalam to some of the birds.

She shot well over 1000 photos which would have filled something like 30 odd traditional photo albums. Jaminy (KK’s partner-in-crime) used her selfie stick to desired effect, taking pictures with most of the birds as one does with celebrities.

I had also taken some but most of them were over-exposed as was new to mobile photography at that time, still am but mostly it works.

Lake with Barn Owls near Eagle Encounters

That is the lake we discovered/saw after coming back from Eagle Encounters. We had good times.

Lastly, a virtual prize distribution ceremony –

a. Chirayu and KK – A platinum trophy for actually thinking and pitching the place in the first place.

b. Shirish and Deven Bansod – Metal cups for not taking more than 10 minutes to freshen up and be back after hearing the plan to go to Eagle Encounters.

c. All the girls/women – Spoons for actually making it to the day. All the girls took quite sometime to freshen up, otherwise it might have been possible to also experience the Segways, who knows.

All-in-all an enjoyable day spent in being part of ‘Eagle Encounters’ .

Day trip in Cape Town, part 2

Debconf16 logo

The post continues from the last post shared.

Let me get some interesting tit-bits not related to the day-trip out-of-the-way first –

I don’t know whether we had full access to see all parts of fuller hall or not. Couple of days I was wondering around Fuller Hall, specifically next to where clothes were pressed. Came to know of the laundry service pretty late but still was useful. Umm… next to where the ladies/gentleman pressed our clothes, there is a stairway which goes down. In fact even on the opposite side there is a stairway which goes down. I dunno if other people explored them or not.

The jail inside and under UCT

I was surprised and shocked to see bars in each room as well as connecting walkways etc. I felt a bit sad, confused and curious and went on to find more places like that. After a while I came up to the ground-level and enquired with some of the ladies therein. I was shocked to know that UCT some years ago (they were not specific) was a jail for people. I couldn’t imagine that a place which has so much warmth (in people, not climate) could be ‘evil’ in a sense. I was not able to get much information out of them about the nature of jail it was, maybe it is a dark past that nobody wants to open up, dunno. There were also two *important* aspects of UCT which Bernelle either forgot, didn’t share or I just came to know via the Wikipedia page then but nothing else.

1. MeerKAT – Apparently quite a bit of the technology was built-in UCT itself. This would have been interesting for geeks and wanna-be geeks like me πŸ™‚

2. The OpenContent Initiative by UCT – This would have been also something worth exploring.

One more interesting thing which I saw was the French council in Cape Town from outside

The French Council in cape town from outside

I would urge to look at the picture in the gallery as the picture I shared doesn’t really show all the details. For e.g. the typical large french windows which are the hall-mark of French architecture doesn’t show its glory but if you look at 1306×2322 original picture instead of the 202×360 reproduction you will see that.

You will also the insignia of the French Imperial Eagle whose history I came to know only after I looked it up on the Wikipedia page on that day.

It seemed fascinating and probably would have the same pride as the State Emblem of India has for Indians with the four Asiatic Lions standing in a circle protecting each other.

I also like the palm tree and the way the French Council seemed little and yet had character around all the big buildings.

What also was interesting that there wasn’t any scare/fear-build and we could take photos from outside unlike what I had seen and experienced in Doha, Qatar as far as photography near Western Embassies/Councils were concerned.

One of the very eye-opening moments for me was also while I was researching flights from India to South Africa. While perhaps unconsciously I might have known that Middle East is close to India, in reality, it was only during the search I became aware that most places in Middle East by flight are only an hour or two away.

This was shocking as there is virtually no mention of one of our neighbours when they are source of large-scale remittances every year. I mean this should have been in our history and geography books but most do not dwell on the subject. It was only during and after that I could understand Mr. Modi’s interactions and trade policies with the Middle East.

Another interesting bit was seeing a bar in a Sprinbok bus –

spingbok atlas bar in bus

While admittedly it is not the best picture of the bar, I was surprised to find a bar at the back of a bus. By bar I mean a machine which can serve anything from juices to alcoholic drinks depending upon what is stocked. What was also interesting in the same bus is that the bus also had a middle entrance-and-exit.

The middle door in springbok atlas

This is something I hadn’t seen in most Indian buses. Some of the Volvo buses have but it is rarely used (only except emergencies) . An exhaustive showcase of local buses can be seen here . I find the hand-drawn/cad depictions of all the buses by Amit Pense near to the T.

Axe which can be used to break windows

Emergency exit window

This is also something which I have not observed in Indian inter-city buses (axe to break the window in case of accident and breakable glass which doesn’t hurt anyone I presume), whether they are State-Transport or the high-end Volvo’s . Either it’s part of South African Roads Regulations or something that Springbok buses do for their customers. All of these queries about the different facets I wanted to ask the bus-driver and the attendant/controller but in the excitement of seeing, recording new things couldn’t ask 😦

In fact one of the more interesting things I looked at and could look day and night is the variety of vehicles on display in Cape Town. In hindsight, I should have bought a couple of 128 GB MMC cards for my mobile rather than the 64 GB one. It was just plain inadequate to capture all that was new and interesting.

Auditorum chair truck seen near Auditorium

This truck I had seen about some 100 metres near the Auditorium on Upper Campus. The truck’s design, paint was something I had never seen before. It is/was similar to casket trucks seen in movies but the way it was painted and everything made it special.

What was interesting is to see the gamut of different vehicles. For instance, there were no bicycles that I saw in most places. There were mostly Japanese/Italian bikes and all sorts of trucks. If I had known before, I would definitely have bought an SD specifically to take snaps of all the different types of trucks, cars etc. that I saw therein.

The adage/phrase ” I should stop in any one place and the whole world will pass me by ” seemed true on quite a few South African Roads. While the roads were on par or a shade better than India, many of those were wide roads. Seeing those, I was left imagining how the Autobahn in Germany and other high-speed Expressways would look n feel.

India has also been doing that with the Pune-Mumbai Expressway and projects like Yamuna Expressway and now the extension Agra Lucknow Expressway but doing this all over India would take probably a decade or more. We have been doing it since a decade and a half. NHDP and PMGSY are two projects which are still ongoing to better the roads. We have been having issues as to should we have toll or no toll issues but that is a discussion for some other time.

One of the more interesting sights I saw was the high-arched gothic-styled church from outside. This is near Longstreet as well.

high arch gothic-styled church

I have seen something similar in Goa, Pondicherry but not such high-arches. I did try couple of times to gain entry but one time it was closed, the other time some repairing/construction work was going on or something. I would loved to see it from inside and hopefully they would have had an organ (music) as well. I could imagine to some extent the sort of music that would have come out.

Now that Goa has come in the conversation I can’t help but state that Seafood enthusiasts/lover/aficionado, or/and Pescatarianism would have a ball of a time in Goa. Goa is on the Konkan coast and while I’m eggie, ones who enjoy seafood really have a ball of a time in Goa. Fouthama’s Festival which happens in February is particularly attractive as Goan homes are thrown open for people to come and sample their food, exchange recipes and alike. This happens around 2 weeks before the Goan Carnival and is very much a part of the mish-mashed Konkani-Bengali-Parsi-Portugese culture.

I better stop here about the Goa otherwise I’ll get into reminiscing mode.

To put the story and event back on track from where we left of (no fiction hereon), Nicholas was in constant communication with base, i.e. UCT as well as another group who was hiking from UCT to Table Mountain. We waited for the other group to join us till 13:00 hrs. We came to know that they were lost and were trying to come up and hence would take more time. As Bernelle was with them, who was a local and she had two dogs who knew the hills quite well, it was decided to go ahead without them.

We came down the same cable-car and then ventured on towards Houtbay. Houtbay has it all, a fisherman’s wharf, actual boats with tough-mean looking men with tattoos working on boats puffing cigars/pipes, gaggle of sea-gulls, the whole scene. Sharing a few pictures of the way in-between.

the view en-route to Houtbay

western style car paint and repair shop

Tajmahal Indian Restaurant, Houtbay

I just now had a quick look at the restaurant and it seems they had options for veggies too. Unfortunately, the rating leaves a bit to be desired but then dunno as Indian flavoring is something that takes time to get used too. Zomato doesn’t give any idea of from when a restaurant is in business and has too few reviews so not easy to know how the experience would have been.

Chinese noodles and small houses

Notice the pattern, the pattern of small houses I saw all the way till Houtbay and back. I do vaguely remember starting a discussion about it on the bus but don’t really remember. I have seen (on TV) cities like Miami, Dubai or/and Hong Kong who have big buildings on the beach but both in Konkan as well as Houtbay there were small buildings. I guess a combination of zoning regulations, feel of community, fear of being flooded all play into beaches being the way they are.

Also, this probably is good as less stress on the environment.

Miamiboyz from Wikimedia Commons

The above picture is taken from Wikipedia from the article Miami Beach, Florida for comparison.

Audi rare car to be seen in India

The Audi – rare car to be seen in India. This car has been associated with Ravi Shastri when he won it in 1985. I was young but still get goosebumps remembering those days.

first-glance-Houtbay-and-pier

First glance of Houtbay beach and pier. Notice how clean and white the beach is.

Wharf-Grill-Restaurant-from-side-and-Hop-on-Hop-off-bus

You can see the wharf grill restaurant in the distance (side-view), see the back of the hop on and hop off bus (a concept which was unknown to me till then). Once I came back and explored on the web came to know this concept is prevalent in many a touristy places around the world. Umm… also By sheer happenchance also captured a beautiful looking Indian female πŸ˜‰ .

So many things happening all at once

In Hindi, we would call this picture ‘virodabhas’ or ‘contradiction’. this is in afternoon, around 1430 hrs. You have the sun, the clouds, the Mountains, the x number of boats, the pier, the houses, the cars, the shops. It was all crazy and beautiful at the same time.

The Biggest Contradiction is seeing the Mountain, the beach and the Sea in the same Picture. Baffled the mind. Konkan though is a bit similar there as well. You have all the three things in some places but that’s a different experience altogether as ours is a more tropical weather although is one of the most romantic places in the rains.

We were supposed to go on a short cruise to seal/dolphin island but as we were late (as had been waiting for the other group) didn’t go and instead just loitered there.

Fake-real lookout bar-restaurant

IIRC the lookout bar is situated just next to Houtbay Search and Rescue. Although was curious if the Lookout tower was used in case of disappearance. lost people, boats etc.

Seal in action

Seal jumping over water, what a miracle !

One of the boats on which we possibly could have been on.

It looked like the boat we could have been on. I clicked as I especially liked the name Calypso and Calypso . I shared the two links as the mythologies, interpretation differ a bit between Greek and Hollywood culture πŸ™‚

Debian folks and the area around

Can see few Debian folks in the foreground, next to the Pole and the area around. Also can see a bit of the area around.

Alone boy trying to surf

I don’t know anything about water sports and after sometime he came out. I was left wondering though, how safe he was in that water. While he was close to the pier and he was just paddling, there weren’t big waves still felt a bit of concern.

Mr. Seal - the actor and his handler

While the act was not to the level we see in the movies, still for the time I hung around, I saw him showing attitude for his younger audiences, eating out of their hands, making funny sounds. Btw he farted a few times, whether that was a put-on or not can’t really say but produced a few guffaws from his audience.

A family feeding Mr. Seal

I dunno why the birds came down for. Mr. Seal was being fed oily small fish parts, dunno if the oil was secreted by the fish themselves or whatever, it just looked oily from distance.

Bird-Man-Bird

Bird taking necessary sun bath

typical equipment on a boat to catch fish-lot of nets

boats-nets-and-ropes

People working on disentangling a net

There wasn’t much activity on the time we went. It probably would have been different on sunrise and would be on sunset. The only activity I saw was on this boat where they were busy fixing and disentangling the lines. I came up with 5-15 different ideas for a story but rejected them as –

a. Probably all of them have been tried. People have been fishing since the beginning of time and modern fishing probably 200 odd years or so. I have read accounts of fishing companies in early 1800s onwards, so probably all must have been tried.

b. More dangerous one, if there is a unique idea, then it becomes more dangerous as writing is an all-consuming process. Writing a blog post (bad or good) takes lots of time. I constantly read, re-read, try and improvise till I can or my patience loses out. In book you simply can’t have such luxuries.

hout-bay-search-and-rescue-no-parking-zone

No parking/tow zone in/near the Houtbay search and rescue. Probably to take out emergency vehicles once something untoward happens.

hout-bay-sea-rescue-with-stats

Saved 54 lives, boats towed 154 – Salut! Houtbay sea rescue.

The different springbok atlas bus that we were on

kraal-kraft

The only small criticism is for Houtbay – there wasn’t a single public toilet. We had to ask favor at kraal kraft to use their toilets and there could have been accidents, it wasn’t lighted well and water was spilled around.

Road sign telling that we are near to UCT

For us, because we were late we missed both the boat-cruise as well as some street shops selling trinkets. Other than that it was all well. We should have stayed till sunset, I am sure the view would have been breath-taking but we hadn’t booked the bus till evening.

Back at UCT

Overall it was an interesting day as we had explored part of Table Mountain, seen the somewhat outrageously priced trinkets there as well as explored Houtbay sea-side as well.

The Iziko South African Museum

This would be a bit long on my stay in Cape Town, South Africa after Debconf16.

Before I start, let me share the gallery works, you can see some photos that I have been able to upload to my gallery . It seems we are using gallery 2 while upstream had made gallery 3 and then it sort of died. I actually asked in softwarerecs stackexchange site if somebody knows of a drop-in replacement for gallery and was told/shared about Pwigo . I am sure the admin knows about it. There would be costs to probably migrate from gallery to Pwigo with the only benefit that it would be something which would perhaps be more maintainable.

The issues I face with the current gallery system are few things –

a. There is no way to know how much your progress your upload has taken.
b. After it has submit, it gives a fake error message saying some error has occurred. This has happened on every occasion/attempt. Now I don’t know whether it is because I have slow upload speeds or something else altogether. I had shared the error page last time in the blog post hence not sharing again.

Although, all the pictures which would be shared in this blog post would be from the same gallery πŸ™‚

Another thing I would like to share is a small beginner article I wrote about why I like Debian.

Another interesting/tit-bit of news I came to know few days back that both Singapore and Qatar have given 96 hours visa free stopovers for Indians for select destinations.

Now to start with the story/experience due to some unknown miracle/angel looking upon me I got the chance to go to Debconf16, South Africa. I’m sure there was lot of backend discussions but in the end I was given the opportunity to be part of Debcamp and Debconf. While I hope to recount my Debcamp and Debconf experience in another or two blog posts, this would be exclusively the Post-Debconf Experiences I had.

As such opportunities to visit another country are rare, I wanted to make the most of it. Before starting from Pune, I had talked with Amey about Visas, about Debconf as he had just been to Debconf15 the year before and various things related to travel. He was instrumental in me having a bit more knowledge about how to approach things. I was also lucky to have both Graham and Bernelle who also suggested, advised and made it possible to have a pleasant stay both during Debcamp and Debconf. The only quibble is I didn’t know heaters were being made available to us without any cost.

Moving on, a day or two before Debconf was about to conclude, I asked Bernelle’s help even though she was battling a burn-out I believe as I was totally clueless about Cape Town. She accepted my request and asked me to look at hostels near Longmarket Street. I had two conditions –

a. It should not be very far from the airport
b. It should be near to all or most cultural experiences the city has to offer.

We looked at hostelworld and from the options listed, it looked like Homebasecapetown looked to be a perfect fit. It was one of the cheaper options and they also had breakfast included in the pricing. I booked through hostelworld for a mixed dorm for 2 days as I was unsure how it would be (the first night effect I have shared about previously) .

When I reached there, I found it to be as good as the pictures shared were, the dorm was clean (most important), people were friendly (also important) as well as toilets and shower were also clean while the water was hot, so all in all it was a win-win situation for me.

Posters I saw at homebasecapetown

While I’m not much of an adrenaline-junkie it was nice to know the activities that could be done/taken.

Brochures and Condoms just left of main hall.

This was again interesting. While apologies for the poor shaky quality of the picture, I believe it is easy to figure out. There were Brochures of the city attractions as well as condoms that people could discreetly use if need be. I had seen such condoms in few toilets during and around Debconf and it felt good that the public were aware and prioritizing safety for their guests and students instead of having fake holier than thou attitudes that many places have.

For instance, you wouldn’t find something like this in toilets of most colleges in India or anywhere else for that matter. There are few vending machines in what are termed as ‘red light areas’ or where prostitution is known/infamous to happen and even then most times it is empty. I have 2-3 social workers as friends and they are a source of news on such things.

While I went to few places and each had an attraction to it, the one which had my literally eyes out of socket was the ‘Iziko South African Museum‘ . I have been lucky to been quite a few museums in India, the best rated science museum in India in my limited experience has been the ‘Visvesvaraya Industrial & Technological Museum, Bengaluru – India‘. A beer from me if a European can get it right.

Don’t worry if you mispronounce it, I mispronounce it couple of times till I get it right πŸ™‚ .

Looking up the word ‘Iziko’ the meaning of the word seems to be ‘the hearth’ and if you look at the range of collections in the museum, you would think it fits.

I was lucky to find couple of friends, one of whom was living at homebase and we decided to go to the museum together.

Making friends on the road

So Eduardo, my friend on the left and his friend, we went to the museum. While viewing the museum, there were no adjectives to describe it other than ‘Wow’ and ‘Endless’ .

See –

fossils of fish-whale-shark ?

OR

Giant fish-whale-dolphin-shark some million years ago.

and

Reminder of JAWS ;)

While I have more than a few pictures, the point is easily made. It seems almost inconceivable that creatures of such masses actually were on earth. While I played with the model of the jaws of a whale/shark in reality if something like that happened, I would have been fighting for my life.

The only thing I missed or could have been better if they had some interactive installations to showcase the now universally accepted Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species‘ I had never seen anything like this. Sadly, there was nobody around to help us figure out things as I had read that most species of fish don’t leave a skeleton behind so how were these models made? It just boggles the mind.

Apart from the Science Museum I was also introduced to the bloody history that South Africa had. I saw –

The 1913 native land act which was not honored .

I had been under the impression that India had got a raw deal when it was under British rule but looking at South African history I don’t know. While we got our freedom in 1947 they got rid of apartheid about 20 years+ . I talked to lot of young African males and there was lot of naked hostility for the Europeans even today. It was a bit depressing but could relate to their point of view as similar sentiments were echoed by our forefathers. I read in the newspapers and it seemed to be a pretty mixed picture.

I can’t comment as only South Africans can figure out the way forward. For me, it was enough to know and see that we both had similar political histories as nations. It seemed the racial divide and anger was much more highly pronounced towards Europeans and divisive then the caste divisions here between Indians. I also shared with them my limited knowledge and understanding of the Indian history (as history is re-written all the time) and it was clear to them that we had common/similar pasts.

As a result, what was surprising (actually not) is that many South Africans have no knowledge of Indian history. as well otherwise the political differences that South Africa and India has in the current scenario wouldn’t have been.

In the end, the trip proved to be fun, stimulating, educative, thought-provoking as questions about self-identity , national identity, our place in the Universe kinda questions which should be asked all the time.

Thank you Bremmer and the team for letting me experience Cape Town, South Africa, I would have been poorer if I hadn’t had the experience.

The long tail in a common’s man journey to debconf16 – 2

This is an extension of part 1 which I shared few days ago. This would be a longish one so please bear.

First of all somebody emailed me this link so in the future a layover at Doha Airport will be a bit expensive from before, approx INR 700/- added to the ticket costs 😦

Moving on, Let me share an experience I shared one of the last few days I had while I was in Cape Town –

Singer singing some great oldies from 60's , 70's till 90's.

Singer singing some great oldies from 60’s , 70’s till 90’s.

I had booked a place near Long Street, Cape Town using Bernelle’s help. What I had not known at that time that near Long Street there are free walking tours every couple of hours. I took part in all the tours and those were nice experiences. Where they start the walk, there was the gentleman pictured above. I was amazed by this gentleman’s rich voice. He strummed lot of classics from the 60’s, 70’s till the 90’s . I had two coffees and thought I was at a premium rock concert. It was a bitter-sweet experience for me because I could see that he has such prodigious talent and still he had to struggle to survive to make ends meet. I did my 2 bit but wish I could have done something more.

Side note – Before I forget there is one trick of feh which I use to view images without it getting very high-resolution (especially on my low-end systems) –

β”Œβ”€[shirish@debian] - [/run/user/1000/gvfs/mtp:host=%5Busb%3A001%2C006%5D/Card/DCIM/Camera] - [4621]
└─[$] feh -g 1350x1000 .

This actually makes it far far easier to traverse through the 1000 odd photos of the trip that I have in my personal archive without doing any sort of conversion methodology. Btw, it took me time but finally was able to create an album at gallery.debconf.org . Haven’t been able to upload photos as came across an error which I have shared at https://lists.debconf.org/lurker/message/20161113.215659.fce58823.en.html

Moving on, here’s the funny story/experience I wanted to share –

could have been arrested ;)

What happened was this. This is from the Doha Airport. I had seen big buggies (ones similar to golf carts) which was ferrying people from end of the concourse to the other. I had been walking the whole day and even with the horizontal escalators and everything, it takes a toll. I was half-tired, half-sleepy and saw a buggy stationed. From behind it looked like the buggies I had seen. As there was no place to park my behind there, I entered into the buggy and sat there. Around 15-20 minutes later a Doha cop in another buggy came to me and asked me if something had happened ?

I had no clue what he was talking about. He told/shared/asked me in friendly tone whether I had committed a crime or wanted to report a crime. When I replied in negative to both, he asked then why I was sitting there. I replied it was for stretching my legs and it was the buggy which was being used to transport people from A. to B. He gently told me I had entered into the wrong one and it was actually a cop buggy. I couldn’t believe it. He did go his own way as he saw I was dead-tired. After 10-15 minutes, half-believingly I came out of the buggy and to my shock the gentleman was right. There was nothing to do but solder on to find a spot in this big airport. I shared this with few friends and family and managed to elicit few laughs hence sharing.

The somewhat sad one was I had met a couple with a baby. Now as shared before, Most Airports including the Doha Airport is Air-Conditioned/Climate-Controlled and is probably in mid-20’s so it was more than cold for me. The couples with the baby were from Asian sub-continent. From their clothes and the way they were, they were not very well off. I do remember them sharing that they had a death in the family and hence were going. I didn’t know at that point in time that there was something called bereavement fares and if they were able to take opportunity of those tickets. But this is besides the point . The issue was that their baby had been running a high-fever and the A/C was making matters worse. I had seen a pharmacy but no clinic in the airport. It was much later I came across http://dohahamadairport.com/airport-guide/facilities-services/medical-emergencies but as can be seen on the web-page it doesn’t tell whether the services are chargeable or not. I assume it would be paid, although in some of the ‘developed/industrialized’ countries it is rumoured not to be for simple ailments such as the baby was going through. Have no idea if that’s true or not. I also don’t know how it equates with travel insurance as well as most travel insurance is also supposed to help you in situations like these. I was concerned as it was a baby and babies as all know are very very fragile. If anybody has an idea or had similar experience would like to know specifically related to International Airport environment as it has ‘transit’ issues unlike in domestic airports where I don’t think it would be a bit more easy.

Now coming to my own inadequacies/lack of foresight which I had mentioned I will share, I had asked/queried and got to lead a Debian-installation workshop on the Open Debian Day. I had done a few earlier and had installed it a few times on my system and for my friends, relatives and some clients. The only bad experiences I had were to do with UEFI but even those in the jessie releases had got resolved quite a bit, so was pretty confident. The day before the Installfest was to happen, ‘Mensah Nyarko Yaa Dufie’ (one full name) of Ghana approached me to install Debian on her system. I had some older version of the Debian DVD either 8.1 or 8.3 and had known that 8.5 had been released just a few days back. Had seen pretty fast internet (as far as downloading Debian DVD) is concerned hence asked her to wait a bit while I downloaded the newest image. I sha256summed it to make sure that the image was bit-to-bit perfect.

Now I hadn’t bought a pen drive/disk from India as I was under the impression that in such conferences, pen drives should not be an issue. I had asked Bernelle privately before via e-mail as well and she had assured me that some pen-drives would be available. She gave me a handful of HP pen drives. The pen drives as we came know during our usage were somewhat flaky. It would pop out/lose connection even with the slightest nudge to the lappy.

Somehow I was able to transfer the image to the usb disk. As people say hindsight is 50:50 maybe it was not such a smart move on my part to download the big DVD image and maybe I should have got the netinstall iso . Be careful, the link I have just shared is of the old version, if you have good web link and want to try the newest stable netinstall head to cdimage.debian.org . Apart from that goof-up I dunno (still) of anyway to know if a copy from an .iso image to usb was successful or not and did it do correctly –

I did the following command –

sudo dd if=/path_to/debian-dvd.iso of=/dev/usb-mount-point

which is usually /dev/sdb on all of my systems . Her system was a brand new HP (don’t remember the model details) which she had bought just a few weeks/months before debconf. We tried a few times but it failed at installing the boot-loader stage. I asked Ritesh Raj Saraff (a friend and DD) and while he had some ideas, none of them worked. Ritesh later pointed out Steve McIntyre and shared he is part of the Debian-Installer team. At that point in time, I had no clue who Steve McIntyre was otherwise I probably would not have approached him. He quickly acquiesced to my request and shared that he would be there for the workshop. With load of my mind little bit, I apologized to mensah and asked her to be at the workshop the following day. I had no clue what was wrong at this point in time, whether it was the iso image in the usb disk or a UEFI issue. This also wasn’t good for my confidence but as somebody from the Debian-Installer team was there, I was somewhat relaxed.

Next day, some more people came for the Installfest. While I had made 2-3 copies, clearly it was not enough as more people came. I was in a frenzy and asked Deven Bansod, Keerthana Krishnan, Prabaharan Jaminy (the whole GSOC and Outreachy attendees) to volunteer to help out in making more iso images on usb disks. I introduced mensah to Steve McIntyre and we tried 2-3 times to get debian installed on the system but it didn’t move from the same place. Ritesh shared that dd had a memory leak and hence cat was a better way to do it. So we did –

$ cat debian.iso > /dev/sdb
and soon other machines had debian sporting on their desktops.

But mensa’s lappy wouldn’t get move from the boot-loader stage. Suddenly Steve had the bright idea (light bulb moment) that maybe the .iso is corrupted/usb disk is bad or something is incomplete. We started on another usb disk.

Now this is where I have a query – While I don’t want to compare, in Ubuntu there was an image self-checking mechanism where probably behind the scenes (backend) the checksums published in a file are compared with checksums generated by apps. which are on the .iso image. While it does extend your time, the end result is you know if there is some issue on the decompressed image on the usb disk. AFAIK we don’t have anything similar. The only two things I know is the wiki page and of course the various checksums of the image as shared at http://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/8.6.0/amd64/iso-cd/ or http://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/8.6.0/amd64/iso-dvd/

If anybody knows of any movement or a bug in the BTS which I can follow for the above issue please let me know.

This time Steve was able to install it without any issues. I asked him whether he had to make some specific FAT/Ex-FAT/NTFS partitions as some new UEFI-based lappies need one or more but he replied in the negative. While mensa did get her debian install, the GUI didn’t come while command-prompt was available. Then Steve added backports to the sources.list, got the new kernel, new Intel/Nvidia drivers (think it was one of those hybrid models IIRC) and she was able to boot into GNOME-Debian.

I didn’t saw any bug-reports about checksumming state of the applications before installation but did couple of reports about badblocks support and memory checking and from action on both bug-reports it is also need of the hour (although the earlier one has been marked as won’t fix :().

In this whole thing, I liked/appreciated the way Steve handled things, I intuitively understood/knew that he wasn’t just part of the Debian-installer team but someone better. I can’t explain it but it was there. A little investigation in the evening and it turned out that he had been Debian Project Leader for two consecutive years (2008 and 2009) . In hindsight it probably was a good thing I didn’t know that before otherwise I probably wouldn’t have interacted with him and it would have been my loss. To have been the DPL and still being so humble while technically being so proficient, I was amazed and didn’t know what to make of it.

Here i.e. in India, if somebody wins even the mohalla elections (neighbourhood elections) the person carries a big chip on her/is shoulder not just till he is on the seat but even beyond, and here was an example of a previous DPL asking time from one of the developers in a video if it’s possible in the next couple of days.

Lastly,last week have able to report 2 bugs upstream. The first one is of youtube-dl . It’s somewhat complicated hence will not go there atm. The second and more surprising one was from ‘nano’ our esteemed text-editor- Hopefully the bug will be fixed once a new version comes.

Science Day 2016 at GMRT, Khodad and learning.

Hi all,
First things, first. I haven’t been blogging for number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is basically I need a place to put up the photos and for that I need to pay. Most of the free sites where you are able to upload pictures have a limit like 1 GB or something while at the same time privacy, copyrights are both issues at least on the free sites so it’s demotivating to blog without pictures.
Read more…

Debutsav 2014 Experiences – Day 1

This again will be a tell-all from a perspective of an organizer of Debutsav 2014 with some left-over notes of Day 0 as well.
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Debutsav 2014 Experiences – Day 0.

Hi all,
This would be not so brief notes on organizing #Debutsav 2014 this time around.
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GNUnify, Science Day

Hi all,
This would be a longish post, in part I’ll be dealing with Diaspora Yatra, GNUnify and the rest about Science Day we did in GMRT
Read more…

The Mozilla Community meetup

This shortish post would attempt to share some of the musings and things I experienced during the Mozilla India meetup.
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Debian Utsav COEP 04-02-2012

Hi all,

This is going to be a longish post Β about the 1st #debutsav I was part of.

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Ideas for Debian Utsav

This post attempts to share some ideas of what could be done/achieved in Debian Utsav 2012.
Read more…

MinDebconfPune2011 and future

Hi all,
This would be a bit longish post about the #MiniDebconfPune 2011, what worked and didn’t and some suggestions for the road ahead.
Read more…

MiniDebconf 2011 Day 2

This longish post would attempt to chronicle some of the experiences on day 2 of #minidebconfpune(the final day of MiniDebconf 2011)
Read more…

MiniDebconfPune2011 – Day1

This blog post would attempt to chronicle the experiences on day 1 of #minidebconfpune2011
Read more…

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