The Logical Philosopher

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Placebo Effect in Alcohol

She giggled a little. Softly. Like she was getting away with something wickedly secret.

"Well, how about it?" I offered. I set my wine glass down and reached for a clean one. "I'll pour you some. You seem old enough." She paused, tilted her head and giggled a little more, only this time with her fingers pressed over her lips, and the sounds starting to rumble from deep in her gut.

The wide eyes of two women sat across from me. One, LP-ette, a bond formed by a twenty-eight year friendship (with some marriage at the end). The other, LittleH, our 5 year old daughter. Both couldn't believe I was doing this, but for very different reasons. To the sound of more excited giggling and snickering I pushed my chair back and walked over to the wine bottle, preparing to pour another glass for LittleH. More giggles, with some snorts added in for effect. At five years old it was as if Santa had arrived again: Mom and Dad were inviting me to be adults with them and drink some wine at dinner!

"Are you sure?" I called over my shoulder.

With another resounding bout of giggling as my reply, I took it as an affirmative reply. With my back turned reached behind the wine bottle and picked up another batch of liquid to share - only instead of wine she was getting the next best thing for a 5 year old: cranberry juice I had at the back of the counter.

Returning to the table LP-ette glanced over at the 2 glasses, immediately knowing what was up, decided to play along. LP-ette looked at me rather disapprovingly and shook her head. "Whoooh Daddy. I can't believe you're doing this. Not that she isn't getting old enough, of course," she added with a smile to LittleH while she grabbed hold of the glass.

It was as if time froze with the aura of breathless anticipation in the air. Punctuated by yet another round of giggles she raised the glass up to her lips, hardly able to contain herself. She paused, the oversize glass trembling in her little hands. "Daaadddd," she drawled, "I can't drink this!" It was as though reason had finally grabbed hold of her, the wafting placebo scent of wine swirling below her nose.

"Why not?" we asked in unison, glancing around to see if there were others around; Riley jumped up, sensing something was amiss, and trotted over. With 3 faces looking at her she broke into full on laughter, point at her mom and I. "Because, you know. Wine makes you...makes you....OLD!" With that reply it was now our turn to break out into laughter.

It took a few tires but she finally suppressed the giggling enough to have a sip. As the liquid hit her lips her eyes grew like saucers. "Hey! This is good!" And just as quickly as she had clamored to join in with a glass of wine, she went from sips to draining the entire glass in about 3 gulps. Looking mighty satisfied she smacked her lips. " know what guys? That tasted like water and grapes!"

Epilogue: After she was finished we did tell her what was in the glass. She was a mixture of disappointed and relieved that she had not drunk any wine so "she wouldn't get any older like you guys!". What she did seem most impressed about was that she was able to drink out of an adult glass for the dinner hour. It was as almost as her karma was chanting "Small wins, LittleH! Be thankful for small wins!"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Holy Cow (India Part 3)

Finally we arrived in Mysore, a 200km drive away from Bangalore. We took some time to visit Cubbon Park, where we were greeted to fruit and food stands which provided some color to the day:

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The Mysore Palace was amazing. Built in 1912 it was by far the most decadent piece of craftmanship I have ever seen. It was a 3 story stone building, adorned with incricate stone carvings, guilded columns, stain glass ceilings and ivory / rosewood carved doors. There was even a golden throne which is used for occasional royal ceremonies.

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The palace was also where we experienced the true indian experience of having to bribe some guards to let us in.

Upon entering the Palace grounds there were signs everywhere that said "No Photography", with directions to "store" your camera at a booth. Yet everywhere we looked people were taking pictures. Not wanting to leave our cameras at some random booth, we opted to keep them, as most people seemed to be doing. We went to enter the temple, some people going single file through the metal detectors and some just walking around. Again, being the only foreigners there we were quickly singled out by the guards.

"Excuse me sirs. Please stop there. Do you have a camera?"

We paused, not sure of what to do next, and looked at each other. A tentative reply was given: "Ummm. We don't plan on using it, if that's what you mean"

The guard looked us up and down, then signaled to his partner. "He'll take you to discuss the issues."

Before we knew it we were shuttled off to the side into a small nook. "You see sirs. There are no cameras allowed." He paused for a beat, then extended his hand and his eyebrows simultaneously. "...unless of course you wish to give a simple tip."

I looked at my coworker with a "I-can't-believe-this-is-happening" look.

"How about 20 rupees?" I said, peeling a bill out of my pocket.

His fingers wiggled with anticipation. "Oh no sir. American dollars only please."

I couldn't believe it. Here we were, people streaming into the temple, some using the metal detectors and voluntarily being frisked, and some just walking around the line if it was too much of a wait. We, however, were being asked for a "simple tip" to continue our passage. My coworker looked at me and pulled out his wallet, fishing out an American dollar bill.

"Ahhh, yes. Thank you sirs." he grinned. Then he pulled the 20 rupee out of my hand and vanished back into the temple.

On the way home we took some time to visit the Shri Chamundeshwari Temple, which is atop the Chamundi Hills. Vendors sat outside selling flowers and beads for the offerings:

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Statue of the demon Mahishasura:

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Purchasing tickets at the Shri Chamundeshwari Temple - note the cow I had to walk around to get to the ticket booth.

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I decided we had driven this far and I wanted to go check out the temple. Given my last episode with the shoes, my coworker offered to stay outside and hold my shoes this time for me.
There were 2 tickets I could purchase, a 20 rupee and a 200 rupee ticket. A mixture of not knowing which one to purchase and the attendant not speaking English, I handed over 200 rupees and headed for the line. It looked like a long wait but being the only tourist had it's privilege so I pretended I was an aloof American and walked to the front of the line, handing my ticket to the guard as I went. My reward? I came out as LP the Blessed:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Holy Cow! (India Part 2)

In Part 2: How I also got overcharged (no surprise there) and (almost) attacked by a Cobra.

A weekend off during my travels for work while in Bangalore India equaled 2 things: Silk Shopping + Temple Sightseeing!

For the first day off we were luck enough to have a guide give us a walking & driving tour of the city. Our guide was from Banglore Walks, and seemed to have a vast knowledge of the city's rich history. She also knew where all the deals were and took us shopping at the Flower & Silk Markets, a showcasing of the vibrant colors the city had to offer.

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We took some time to walk around the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1760 it is almost 240 acres of flowers, trees and other architecture (including a swiss watch made of flowers with the Seven Dwarves (made out of cement) placed around it. Seriously. Seven Dwarves and a Swiss watch. Talk about a random monument.

Many of the trees were well over 100 years old, with this Silk Cotton Tree one of them. Each of the roots you see was 2-3 feed high off the ground, and the diameter of the main trunk about 10 feet.

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Just outside the Botanical Gardens in Lai Bagn is the Kempegowda Tower. Pearched at the top of a hill it was uilt in 1513 as one of the 4 towers that originally marked the edge of Banaglore.

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It was not easy to keep the pace, but we added another visited another well know temple - the Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple. It has several monolithic pillars, one of them made famous by the landscape painter Thomas Daniell in his composition piece of India, painted in 1799.

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At the entrace to the temple was a bull used for offerings.

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The actual inside of the temple top (seen below), but the entrance was below and was actually a cave carved into the rock.

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Outside the Temple stood some Snake Warnings:

Throughout the city you will see these posts, which warn travellers that snakes may lie nearby.
Later in the week at the office I was at I was about to take a short-cut around one of the buildings I was in but one of the locals stopped me. "Oooh, don't go that way" he warned. "Head round on the path instead. There are some creepy crawlies there." It was evening so I assumed he meant the mosquitos and other bugs which would give me life threatening illnesses.

"You mean like some spiders?" I queried, spinning around and realigning myself to the path.

His reply was matter of fact: "Actually no. I meant cobras."

As you can see, having Snake Warning posts would have come in handy where I was.....

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Overcharging, the standard for tourists:

Next we headed to Telugu to see some more sights. Everywhere we travelled we were the only 2 non-Indians visiting, which set us up to be prime targets to be poached off of.

To enter into the temples you need to remove your shoes. Fortunately there usually is an enterprising young man that will watch them for you - for a small price of course. He wanted paid (20 rupees, or about 50 cents) to watch the shoes but we told him he would get paid after we came out (and got our shoes). Sure enough, after we came out he gave us our shoes and asked me for 20 rupees. I paid him, but he looked at me disapprovingly and kept his hand out.

"20 rupees each!" he barked. Just wanting my shoes, I peeled off another 20 and stuffed it into his palm, grabbing my shoes at the same time. After I got back to the car I asked our driver how much we should pay.

"One rupee sir, and not a rupee more!". Then my coworker turned to me and noted, "Hey, I paid him 20 rupees for each pair as well!"

Score = 80 rupees, 78 over budget. I think we had just made his financial day.

Here's a shot of the Temple - it was big enough I had to stitch 2 shots together to get it all in:


Intricate stone work on the edges of the temple:

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And this all happened before noon ... next up, Part 3: Bribing a security guard ...

Friday, January 08, 2010

Holy Cow! (India part 1)

Shortly after this point in the trip I honestly thought I was going to die...

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I arrived into Bangalore, India, on a Friday evening. Almost 35 hours of travelling non-stop had me wiped, but I was determined to let the timing work for me as my arrival time gave me 2 days to explore the city before starting work on Monday morning. Because the trip was planned at the last minute, I didn't really have any expectations (good or bad) to set myself up for. The only thing I really wasn't prepared for was the traffic. Specifically the masses of traffic and polar opposite amount of regard for traffic rules:

The traffic pictures you see here was a pretty typical scene, but the best I saw was a family of 4 on a motor-cycle (and a family of 5 in a tuk-tuk). They just sandwiched the kids in-between the parents on the bike. The rest of the time most of the women rode side-saddle, with their scarves hanging down looking like they are about to be spun into the gears of the bike at any moment. Busses passed carts pulled by donkeys, and road construction warnings consisted of a simple orange cone placed about 3 feet in front of a massive hole or pile of dirt... and the orange cone was optional in most casts.

There were some serious points I thought I was going to die in a grizzly traffic accident, but it (almost) never happened. The one time it did was the night I was riding with a coworker in a tuk-tuk. Imagine a 2 stroke scooter with a 2 person cab on the back, and then masses of traffic just moving around you. Cars just use the road lines as a suggested guide. No, wait. They don't actually use road lines. The mantra is a mix of: "honk to pass" , "fit 3.5 cars into a 2 lane road" and "if you need to go down the 1 way road the wrong way, that's ok as long as you keep honking".

Our driver was going down the middle of the street - more on the "wrong" side than the "right" - and a motor cycle decided to pass on our right. Unfortunately the car coming at us didn't have enough room to pass on the left so it just nonchalantly swerved in front of us, honked, and tried to pass on the right...which was exactly where the motorcycle was. It was at this point I thought I honestly thought I was going to die a wicked death on the streets of Bangalore. Tires screeched, bodies flew and our driver just gunned it and deftly maneuvered around any flying debris. After a moment the driver let off his throttle and peered back. "No problem sir! Just the motorcycle, not us!" he seemed to scream at us. With that he spun back around and promptly gunned it towards our final destination.

Yet it was just another day on the Banglore streets for our driver...