Thursday, September 30, 2010


We've covered bits and pieces of the closing days of TWU XVIII with Ending on a High Note and Graduates. The only piece we didn't really cover was the ceremony.


After a brief slideshow put together by the trainers Felix and Elian, we announced diplomas. The first several graduates gave a speech upon receipt. Hilariously, the speech-giving ended by request. Now that's an agile, adaptable team!

Elian was my coach and presented me with my diploma.


Out of nowhere, there were chants for dancing. I knew it'd be much less fun without the other half of the award-winning team.


Six and a half weeks later, SG Hill is a graduate of the University and has 160 hours of project experience.


The next project begins Monday in sunny Los Angeles, California.

Note In an effort for cleaner posts, picture attributions popup when holding your mouse over the pictures. The first three were taken by Sumeet.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ending on a High Note

On Thursday the members of TWU batch 18 put their party shoes on and celebrated the experience in style. Our after-work destination was a place on 100 ft. road by the name of High Note. The elevator signs here always get me.

High Note 003

Our night started with an award ceremony. We recognized students for their stand-out performances in work-related tasks such as most talkative, food vacuum, and delhi belly. My orphanage dance-off proved memorable to the crew as I walked away with the night's first award.

Dance Award

From there, the night took an unexpected turn; a project was launched. One of our trainers, Felix, was the first to request a picture with my glasses. One thing led to another, and an eventually we got photos of almost the entire class.

High Note 018

We couldn't quite get everyone during the High Note celebration. For this reason, my side-project continued into another day and began to incorporate just about everyone. The waitress at our last lunch in Bangalore also was keen to get involved.


Note There are far more phenomenal pictures than this post could possibly show. They're part of my Flickr set here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Back to the City Detour: Mysore Palace

On the way to Kabini for our safari we stopped off at Mysore for breakfast. As referenced in part 3 of the Into the Jungle series, this was the first time I'd seen monkeys in the wild.

The journey back home saw us stopping at Mysore again, twice. Our first visit was to the Royal Orchid hotel for lunch. There is also a Royal Orchid next to Diamond District, where we spent our first week of TWU for sessions. These are both incredibly posh places with delicious food. The Diamond District version also includes Geoffrey's, who proudly claim to be Bangalore's most happenin' English pub.

IMG_1711 IMG_1711 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

The group split after lunch. Sumeet, Derek, and I went to the tourist-friendly Mysore Palace for a barefoot exploration (with audio tour). Kyle and Richard had already been, so they and Sumeet's wife headed toward the shopping district.

DSCF3577 DSCF3577 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

The palace had burned down nearly a century ago. Since then it has been rebuilt in somewhat of a unique fashion -- this structure blends the Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic architectures. The result is something impressive and befuddling. It's one of the few palaces that feels like a patchwork of varying influences without much coherence.

DSCF3581 DSCF3581 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

Photography was not allowed inside the palace, which is unfortunate because I can't locate an example of the stunning 3d-like paintings. We picked up all kinds of fun facts along the way, like the virtual fire-proofing of the new palace after the old one went up in flames. The most memorable result of these instructions to me were the giant pillars that looked like carved wood in an octagonal room; they were actually cast iron.

IMG_1715 IMG_1715 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

Fun Fact #1 Entrance to the palace is Rs. 20 for residents of India and Rs. 200 for foreigners

Fun Fact #2 After shopping proved to be more expensive than anyone had hoped, we all met up outside the palace for a group photo

Into the Jungle: Part 4 [Jeep Safari]

In part 3 we saw the monkeys taking over the climbing nets.

Soon it would be time for the reason we came: a Jeep Safari. An all-too-familiar overcast sky was encroaching as we neared in on the scheduled time for the expedition. As the Jeeps began to pull up into the parking lot, droplets of water were making us all nervous. We pressed the crew to leave a bit early. They refused and we left a typical 15 minutes late.

DSCF3533 DSCF3533 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

The ride out of the resort to the park was longer than I expected. Our crew stopped at the midway point to let someone off and read the park rules. While there, we smartly pulled down the plastic window on the front of the Jeep to avoid getting any more wet.

Kabini Safari Rules

We saw over a ton of animals, which wasn't all that difficult considering the weight of an Indian elephant.

Three deer were near the entrance of the forest. Our excitement couldn't be contained, evident by the dozens of pictures we all have. After two hours passed, the deer were much less impressive -- we saw at least a few hundred during the day.

DSCF3515 DSCF3515 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

The boar proved very fast and difficult to capture. The monkeys seemed exceptionally agile, even for monkeys, and were hanging out near this man-made salt pit.

Kabini Safari 019

Elephants were plentiful in Kabini. We saw both the wild and domesticated varieties.

IMG_1614IMG_1614 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

IMG_1603IMG_1603 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

There is a chart when entering the resort that keeps track of the animals spotted. On virtually every day there was a leopard. This day didn't break the chain. (video)

DSCF3456 copy DSCF3456 copy by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

Our tour guide was extremely excited to have spotted a leopard in the wild. He shook all of our hands just after the above video was shot. This ended our two hour safari for the day. The most exciting bit of the next day's safari was easily spotting India's national animal: the tiger. (video)

DSCF3531DSCF3531 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

A special thanks must go out to Sumeet for capturing so many stunning photos and our tour guide, whose excitement and enthusiasm made the experience better for us all.


DSCF3466 by sumeet.moghe, on Flickr

Note With great luck, and the weather patterns typical of this region, the rain stopped by the time we began the actual safari.

Note strictly speaking, it was everyone but me who saw the Tiger due to a legendary bout with asthma.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Today was the last day of ThoughtWorks University XVIII. The schedule was fairly light.


After each iteration in a project, we reflect with a retrospective. The task for this futurespective was to imagine we were six months in the future, managed to be let back into High Note, and had completed a successful project. We wanted to write down what did go well and what didn't go well.

It's a pretty cool technique for getting the fears and risks of a project directly out of the customer's mouth. It's also a useful technique for realizing the fears of new and confidences of new TWU graduates.

Our successes ranged from completing the University to learning new technologies and successfully deploying products. Our imagined failures had a much wider range. We thought of things as wild as QAs (Quality Analysts) being eaten by tigers. More mundane shortcomings were brought up as well, like spending too much time on trivial tasks.

Richard's Birthday

Friend of the blog, Richard, turned 22 today. If you'll recall the previous birthday posts, we have a few traditions here: kicking and caking. Richard was fortunate enough to avoid one of them. We'll head to the video to see which one.

Note This certainly isn't the last post of India. We at the blog have quite a few more things to say in the coming days.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Fifth and Final Pecha Kucha Night

Wednesday night of the last week meant it was time to gear up for ThoughtWorks University XVIII's final Pecha Kuchas. These presentations have been the highlight of the trip for me and I can't believe we went through them so fast. As is to be expected at this point (sorry, TWU XIX), we had another phenomenal round of speakers.

A record 33% of tonight's speakers mentioned me. The topics we covered tonight weren't always given away by their titles (or first slides).

  1. Humour by Rohit
  2. The Family by Nitin
  3. What Have We Learned From Our Mistakes? by Sanjiv
  4. Be A Career Super-Hero by Sumeet
  5. Canadian Winter Demystified by Felix
  6. Mr. Bean by Kiran
  7. Homebrewing by Julie
  8. The Truth About Tigers by Chirdeep
  9. Breathing by Derek [Video]

I was able to capture all of Sumeet's Super-Heros presentation on video. With his permission, it is reproduced here.

Note Sanjiv is from the last TWU batch. He was one of the organizers for the TWU Amazing Race

Challenge bonus points available for those who can guess the three which mentioned me (email submissions OK)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Into the Jungle: Part 3 [Monkeys]

We last left off as the crew headed out to explore the other areas of the Jungle Lodges & Resort. It was at this time that the monkeys came out to play.

DSCF3268 DSCF3268 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

If the monkeys weren't enjoying a Coke® by the water, they were hanging out on the net.

DSCF3278 DSCF3278 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

Sumeet's place was the center of most monkey business, as a group engaged in some rough-housing. [Update: added video]

Maybe what is most amazing about all of this is how regular it seems to everyone. Certainly this day was my first time seeing monkeys in any setting but a zoo. It was already my second time seeing monkeys out of captivity, however. We stopped for breakfast at Mysore and found some rather hungry and bold monkeys -- one even stole a sugar cane!

DSCF3200 DSCF3200 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

The last bit I have to share comes in the form of advice derived from stories we've heard since being here: don't feed the monkeys. It's well-known that monkeys are smart. Once they get food, they start to expect food. It's not long before they become ornery with visitors who aren't feeding. With all of this in mind, I've never seen a better-placed sign.

Don't Feed the Monkeys

Monday, September 20, 2010

Into the Jungle: Part 2

After getting acquainted with our new setting and breathing the kind of fresh air that makes one glad national parks exist, we headed to lunch.

Before coming here I thought the popularity of the buffet was dwindling. If this experience has taught me anything about buffet-style eating, it's that it's alive and well in Southern India. The vast majority of meals are served buffet-style, and I still forget the fork four out of five times.

Net Riders

From the lunch area you could spot two potential things to have fun with:

  1. Nets
  2. Tree Houses

Lucky for us, we spotted one area with both.

Some of us stayed grounded for photos at first, but couldn't resist the temptation to climb for long. Derek and Rahul sprinted to the top, looking like rope-climbing pros.

Net Climbing at Kabini

Rahul was the only one bold enough to go above the net and swing down.

IMG_1564 IMG_1564 by sumeet.moghe on Flickr

Soon our curiosity about the other areas of the place began to grow. We left the net behind just in time, as monkeys waited to take over.

Monkey Waiting

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Into the Jungle: Part 1

We simply had to make the last weekend we'd spend in India a memorable one. Our last weekend trip was organized by fellow Chicagoan Derek. The other members of our crew included Sumeet, Sumeet's wife Amrita, Pankhuri, Richard, Kyle, and me.

Cottages This Way

It's about a five hour drive to the Kabini Jungle Lodges & Resort from Bangalore. The lodge is rated 5-stars and is one of the best in the world for Safaris. I haven't had the chance to share an Indian key yet, so I'll take that opportunity now. This is how you get into your lodge.

Indian Key

The cabins were gorgeous and amazingly comfortable. The bed provided the best night of sleep I've had since leaving my memory foam at home. We were just feet from the lake. Mother nature cooperated beautifully with our last weekend's adventure.

Me in Front of Cottage

After dropping off our luggage at the lodge, we spent plenty of time taking photos of the surrounding area. Several adventures were set to begin.

Safe Swimming Sign

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Paddles of Fury

Note This post is inspired by Richard's latest post.

Since TWU began, we've been playing some serious ping-pong here at the office. In youth, I played pretty often. In the past few years I've hardly picked up a paddle. The good news is that classic, sought-after suburb-of-Detroit form is back; most of the time my arms can't even be seen clearly.

Arms of Fury

I have been quite lucky in my ventures so far, utilizing the net as almost a third player. Often times opponents will seek to adjust the magical wonder out of said net.

Perhaps It's a Net Problem

We're pretty lucky here -- both offices in Bangalore feature foosball, ping-pong, and a few instruments. Our Diamond District office also has a snooker table, which I recently learned is different than pool.

Did You Notice? One can easily guess the date of the picture by the state of the beard

Friday, September 17, 2010

Request-A-Post: Dessert

Each and every weekday at TWU, we undergrads have the privilege of catered lunch. It's generally colorful, delicious, and at times predictable.

Colorful Lunch

Wednesday is the only meat-day. There is usually one dish in the buffet-style line toward the end with chicken. Most days have a specific order to the buffet:

  1. Pick up plate
  2. Walk by forks
  3. Get flat bread
  4. Get flavorful rice
  5. Get white rice
  6. Choose dal or curry
  7. View the extras, including sweets
  8. Sit down
  9. Realize you forgot fork

Lunchtime Sessions

Occasionally we have lunchtime sessions by the trainers. It's on such days that we tend to eat around circular tables.


It was requested this picture be taken in honor of the number of sweets present at this table: 24.

"You're only supposed to take one!"

Note It's not really a requirement to only take 1 sweet.

Note Sweets here are way sweeter than anything I've ever tasted.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thought, Ghosts, and Round 4

Another week down and another phenomenal round of Pecha Kucha completed. We had topics ranging from thought-provoking to outright hilarious. No videos this time, but we've got proof of a certain bearded fellow enjoying himself.

IMG_1526 IMG_1526 from sumeet.moghe on Flickr

Keeping up with tradition, Sumeet has uploaded the slides below.

  1. Dabbawalas of Mumbai by Sudeep
  2. Biometric Technology by Vikram
  3. Small Reflections of a Great House by Hardik
  4. Philosophy of AI by Prateek
  5. The Defect of Thought by Yang Kai
  6. Our Space Time by Che Kai
  7. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Elian
  8. How Ol Charlie attacked Intelligent Design with Occam's Razor by Ananth
  9. What Are You? by Mahadev, dance-off expert

It's almost impossible to pick just one quote to share, but I think I have to go with one from Mahadev.

"What are you? Some guys get offended if you ask this question. Others don't...and those guys are ghosts."

Fun Fact When two souls go for the same body, they have a merge conflict.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Card-Carrying Membership

Minutes from the Diamond District apartments and almost a rite of passage for Westerners, the Manipal Univesity Hospital is definitely deserving of its own post.

View Larger Map

I headed there on week two for exactly the reasons you'd suspect (no worries, I'm fine now). The doctor was very good and knew almost exactly what to prescribe by simply looking at me. I was taken by the differences from the medical facilities in the States to here.

One of the first surprising things is one pays before visiting the doctor. My visit was Rs. 300, or about $6. I also became a member for Rs. 100 ($2). Another Rs. 400 for the prescriptions, and I had spent under $20 for a trip to the hospital. It's service like this that makes it an unquestionably wise decision to go at the first sign of trouble. Seen below is the back of my membership card. Impressively, the front contains my name and vitals; it was printed as I wanted waited for mere seconds.

Manipal Card

Prescriptions are different here as well. It appears a doctor's note isn't necessary for medications. A coworker, upon seeing my malaria prescription, asked why my name was on it. As I waited for my electrolytes and general stomach-bettering prescriptions, I snapped this photo of the pharmacy.


In all, my visit was 2 hours at the most. I went on a Friday and began feeling better by Sunday.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Birthdays in Bangalore

We touched on birthdays briefly with Prateek's celebration last month. Having a large group means you get the opportunity to celebrate several birthdays. While the kicking tradition was covered, there was something missing from that occasion that has since also become a tradition.


My flatmate turned 11 a few weeks ago, or so he claims. He was the first person I've seen caked, and the first at TWU XVIII.


Next it was Yang Kai's turn. The caking was restricted this time, but he made a special request.

Yang Kai Turns 25

Kaushik is legendary for his Control+S motioning in Dumb Charades. When he turned 21 last week, he was quite possibly caked more than anyone.

Kaushik Turns 21

With at least a few more celebrations to go, I've never enjoyed having an April birthday more.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bangalore's #1 Socialite

Wednesday at lunch last week, our TWU colleague Vatsal was on the phone. One thing led to another and soon I was on the phone. It was a short, but good chat with one of his best friends.

A few days passed and the weekend arrived. Four other TWU-ers, plus me and three friends arrived. One of those friends was none other than the girl I had a phone conversation with -- Paulami. She also happened to be Bangalore's #1 socialite, knowing the manager of every bar in town.

Our place of choice was a club in UB City. The place featured top 40 music, which effectively meant my requests were met with blank stares. This was my first time in a club, though I think I blended in pretty well.

Test-Driving a New Experience

Why the laptop? I was heavily inspired by Atreyee's Pecha Kucha last week, which focused on test-driving new experiences.

One of the perks of showing up to a social venue with a well-connected person is the immediate access to the DJ. I tried for quite a while to get something I knew to rock the place, but time after time my requests fell on deaf ears. Frustrated, I shifted gears.

Me "Okay about a dedication?"
DJ "To?"
Me ""
DJ "Blogspot? No. No URLs."
Eventually, we reached a compromise.

Fun Fact 1 Command issued at time of picture: rake test:units

Fun Fact 2 A waiter brought us some fries midway through the night. We thought someone in our group must've ordered them and began to indulge. Shortly thereafter, the waiter hurried back, took them off our table, and proceeded to place them on the table next to us...where the party began to eat the fries.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Highly Anticipated Indian Paintball Exposé

I've never played paintball before, and I certainly didn't think it'd be one of the experiences I would have in Bangalore. When the announcement was made in the middle of the day Thursday, I decided to try it out.

We left the office around 1:30 and drove for an hour to the paintball fields. We were instructed to wear long sleeves and pants. We showed up in varying outfits. Not wanting to ruin one of my precious few shirts, I went in a far too revealing t-shirt. We had someone play in sandals. Rahul, the organizer, came in slightly more formal attire. See if you can spot him.
The Group (2)

The guy running the paintball business struck was more than a bit hilarious. He casually demonstrated how to shoot by picking out an extremely small target near an employee and fired away.

Me Did you just fire at that guy?
Him *smirking* I'm a very, very good shot.
Some time later, a question was asked by one of our teammates.
Aarti Do the paint balls hurt?
Him *smirking* It hurts...slightly more than a mosquito bite...and slightly less than a sledgehammer.

The Games

The total cost including transportation was Rs. 600 ($12.93). For that we had two games.

The first was bluntly named "DeathMatch". Two teams started at opposite ends of the field and ran behind barriers of varying heights whilst firing paint at one another. There is a scoring system for this, and our team won by one point.

The next game was more of a strategy game. Each team had a captain and there was a flag in the center of the field. The objective was to get the flag and put it on the other team's base without getting hit. As a twist, only the captain could touch the flag.

I was on defense for the second time, which definitely had its pros and cons. I was out of harms way for the most part, but I was also just standing. Go figure, I was hit in both rounds from far exactly the same spot.
Hit Twice in the Same Painful Spot!

Note Yuyutsa is the name of the place.

Fun Fact I asked if paintball was big here. When I found out it wasn't, naturally I inquired if this was the largest and only paintball company. It's not, but most close up shop after 3-6 months. Yuyutsa has been around for five years now.

Friday, September 10, 2010

100 ft Road Shopping

One of the first things a Westerner hears about coming to India is to pack light -- no need to bring a lot of clothes. The rationale being the clothes here are super cheap. After shredding my only pair of pants here in Mascal, it was clear I needed some clothes. The problem with this solution is how little I enjoy shopping for clothes. It took weeks, but finally I headed to some nearby shops on the famous 100 ft road.

View Larger Map

The first I ventured into was Adidas. Moisture-wicking shirts in the US go for about $40 when not on sale. It's actually the same cost here; roughly Rs. 2000 for a shirt. Onwards.

I see tons of people wearing Pepe Jeans. It's a brand from London that was surely reasonable. Unfortunately it was the same story -- 30 USD for a pair of jeans. Having not brought all that much cash with me, I moved onwards.

Finally I arrived at a place having a 60% off sale: Bossini. Upon further investigation, this company seems to do everything. Still, I was glad because I walked out paying less than Rs. 2000 ($43) for 2 pairs of jeans, a polo shirt, and an Indian robot shirt.

Indian Robot Shirt

Note The robot shirt is a shade of green

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Burritos: "Why Would You Do That?"

There continues to be surprising interest in the food here from the West. I'm happy to report here on a few more things I've discovered.

New for me during this trip is eating breakfast. While it's often too early for me to have something spicy, I make sure to always get juice. The best mixed fruit juice I've ever had is here. The mango juice is quite good as well, and this is the first time I've tasted the extra-sweet litchi.

Litchi Juice

Lunch is something different every day, with a common element of laughter. In the US we have Chipotle, Qdoba, and the like everywhere. What makes this important? A burrito like this is a common meal.

Chipotle Beef Burrito"Chipotle Beef Burrito" by Khaz on Flickr

We don't have tortillas here, but we often have chapati. Chapati is like a tortilla made of wheat. Rice is also served, so I tend to make mini burritos. This always encourages stares and inspires laughter with a quote.

"What you're doing there...with the rice and chapati, is just too weird. Why on earth would you have rice and bread? Nobody does that."
Which is a fair point. They are both of the same food group. Unsurprisingly, I'm not the only American to be pulling this maneuver.

For dinner during last night's Pecha Kucha, we ordered some excellent wraps from Kaarti Zone. The wraps came in a box in several types. I went for paneer last night, which is supposedly similar to cottage cheese (though it doesn't taste it). It was so good that some of us ordered it again tonight. I went with the also-delicious chicken.

Wrap in a Box

Fun Fact paneer is completely lacto-vegetarian (no eggs).