Archive for Travel

My Fourth Trip To India: Part 7

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 24, 2017 by itnerd

The journey back to Canada was….. scary in more ways than one. Let me explain how starting with the drive to the airport. Here’s what it looked like from my perspective:

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The drive was nerve wracking. Partially due to the volume of traffic, partially because of the risks that people take by cutting people off or trying to move forward by any means required. Staying in your lane? Nope? Speed limit? No need for one. It was a very long 45 minutes. To put that in perspective, it took me 20 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel when I arrived. That was when I foolishly thought I was used to the driving in this place.

Things at the airport actually went pretty smoothly. Once I got past the security checkpoint which required you to hand over your itinerary and your passport for examination by an Indian soldier with a machine gun backed up by another Indian soldier with a machine gun, I checked in with Air Canada. That was quick and so was clearing passport control and security. Even boarding the flight was efficient and civilized. Unfortunately that’s where the good part of my journey home ended.

The first six hours of the flight (which was 14.5 hours long) were uneventful. I managed to watch Passengers, the last four episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, and four episodes of the second season of Cyberwar which is a show I’d recommend to anyone who is interested in hacking and the people who pull off hacks. But that changed when a passenger became a problem. From my vantage point which was almost across from him on the left side of the plane, he was belligerent in multiple languages And though I did not see it, he had apparently assaulted a woman in front of him. When he was confronted by flight attendants, he then soiled himself and that was not pleasant to smell. Now the flight attendants worked really hard to keep him calm “ish” for the rest of the flight, but it was clear that they were concerned enough that the you could feel the speed of the plane increase. I thought we were going to divert to the nearest airport, but we managed to land in Toronto 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled landing time which was scheduled to be 5:05 AM this morning. That’s where things got real. The plane taxied directly to a gate that was away from any other aircraft and Peel Regional Police boarded the aircraft. I managed to get my phone out to record a video. Sorry about the shakey cam:

They held us on the plane while this was going on and then for about 15 minutes afterwards. When we finally deplaned, I spotted him in the arrivals area:

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That’s him standing on the right while the cops question the flight crew on the left. I went looking online to find out what if any charges were laid and I was unable to get those details. But seeing as it doesn’t take much to get tossed into jail for causing a disturbance on a flight, I imagine that he will be doing some time the grey bar hotel.

After that excitement, it was a trip through customs, picking up my bags which was made easier because of the Tile Sport, and then getting picked up by my wife for the ride home. I got home at 6AM and crashed until noon where I did some laundry and then went out to see a client.

Now, let me wrap up a couple of loose ends. I previously mentioned that I would have to use multiple contact lenses in a day because of the pollution that was present in India. Since getting home, I’ve had use two different cleaners to get them back to a state where I could wear them comfortably. One is Clear Care Plus which is a peroxide based cleaner that I normally use. That takes six hours to clean my contacts. But before I use that, I use Boston Simplus for four hours. As for my skin, it hasn’t completely recovered. But it is way less itchy than it was 24 hours ago. That shows you how bad the pollution was.

That about wraps things up from my latest trip to India. It was a different sort of trip with some unexpected twists. I have to come back in the near future, and it will be interesting to see what experiences that brings.

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My Fourth Trip To India: Part 6

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 23, 2017 by itnerd

I’m completing my last day in India and I want to wrap up a few things before I head to the airport for my 14 hour flight home. First of all was the smog issue. Now it wasn’t as bad as I heard it was going to be. Apparently according to the locals, it was a lot better than has been in the last few weeks. However, this is what I’ve seen during my stay here:

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You can see the smog in the above picture. If that’s better, I’d hate to see what’s worse. Also, I have noted that my skin is very itchy which is something that I had never experienced here before. Besides that, I am lucky that I brought two pairs of contact lenses as they have become unwearable by the time the business day is over and I have to swap them out for a fresh pair if I want to be able to see and be comfortable while doing it. That’s also something that I have never experienced before. It will be interesting to see how long it takes my body to recover from this smog.

Now one thing that I have not done to this point is show you the sights of Gurgaon. Here’s what the drive to and from my client looked like:

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One thing that caught my attention was this:

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The sign says “Be Alert, Accidents hurt.” No offense to anyone who is Indian, but drivers are insane here. I can’t believe how people drive around here as this sort of driving would land you in jail in a lot of other places. Not to mention that there is a very liberal use of the horn. I said early in this trip that this no longer bothered me. That was true until today where I was back to feeling like I was taking my life into my own hands by being driven around these parts. It also didn’t help that in the parking garage at my client’s office, I almost got hit by a car that must have been doing 60 KM/H in a space where you shouldn’t be doing anything over 10 KM/H.

Now, some final notes about the Le Meridian Gurgaon. One is in the form of photos of the lobby:

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This is a stunningly good looking lobby that is clean. When I say clean, I mean that I can never find a speck of dirt. It’s pretty freaking impressive. There’s a bar and two restaurants that are in the lobby that can take care of your eating and drinking needs like this in my case:

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This is a Kingfisher beer which is a local brand of beer that is available elsewhere. I really liked it and I’ll be seeing if I can grab a few cans of it when I get home as I really liked it.

On the whole, this hotel has top shelf service. I will admit that they sometimes struggle with service at breakfast if you show up for breakfast at 7 to 8:30 AM. But beyond that, I have zero complaints.

I also got a chance to do a final workout today. Here’s the result:

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While I was working out, I got to watch a wedding celebration which was unique to see. I wished that I took some photos, but I was focused on my workout. That was a shame as it was really interesting to watch.

The hotel did have problems with the TV service this week where for significant periods of time you could not watch TV. Well, when I got back to my hotel room, I found this:

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The manager of the hotel personally signed an apology letter on letterhead which is on great quality paper. Now this is how you do customer service. Rogers and Bell Canada, you need to pay attention as this is how you treat customers.

Here’s the bottom line. I really would recommend this place if you need to stay someplace in the Delhi region as this is a great place to stay.

Now, while this was a business trip with very limited amounts of time to get out and do something other than business. I did have the opportunity to go out and get this for my wife:

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I dragged along my client to negotiate the price of these items at a shop that was not a place that tourists would go to. On the left is a scarf. On the right is a jacket. The middle is a fridge magnet which was tossed in as part of the deal. Originally, it was going to be 15000 Rupees. That’s $294 CDN. My client managed to get that down to 12500 Rupees which is $248. Could I have done better? I don’t know. Maybe I could. I guess I am taking the view that any discount is a good discount. And it is likely better than anything that I could have done on my own. Whatever. I know that my wife will really like these items.

Now, by the time you read this, I will be on the way to the airport to fly home. I plan on arriving somewhere between 3 and 4 hours ahead of my flight to make sure that I make my flight on time. And I will be posting my final part of this travelogue when I get home. Stay tuned for that.

My Fourth Trip To India: Part 5

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 22, 2017 by itnerd

Today was another day of interviews in terms of getting support agents. By the end of the day we had one more tech support agent identified. But we found a second candidate as well that we will consider. It depends on the two remaining interviews that we have tomorrow. We likely won’t get all four agents hired while I am here, and we are fine with that as we are prioritizing quality over quantity as that will get the best results for this tech support operation. Now, a couple of people have asked me via e-mail why I am helping to build this tech support operation. The fact is that I have built contact centers in the past and I actively consult on how contact centers can deliver the best possible service and how they can get the right staff on board. Thus this is totally within my wheelhouse.

Lunch today was a quick one as we had a lot of candidates that were being interviewed. We went into the Cyber Hub to a pizza place called Instapizza. The service was quick and the personal sized pizzas that we got were great. The Cyber Hub has a ton of places to eat and you could spend weeks exploring them. It’s simply a must do if you’re in Gurgaon.

After the business day was done, I returned to the hotel and did a workout. I did a 40 minute stationary bike ride followed by 12 minutes on the treadmill. Here’s the result:

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I must admit that my Apple Watch is really helping me to focus on working out which is a good thing as I am not keen on leaving the hotel to wander around. You might say that the warnings that I have received since I started to take on clients here in this country have really been ingrained within me. Speaking of the hotel, I can’t say enough good things about the Le Meridian Gurgaon. The food at breakfast and dinner are outstanding and the place is visually stunning. The staff here go out of their way to make sure that you have a good time while you stay in this hotel. Finally, it’s a short drive to the Cyber Hub if you want to go there for a night out. If you need to stay in Gurgaon, you have to choose this place.

Tomorrow is my final day in the country with a couple of interviews and to tie up some loose ends. Before I leave for the airport, I have to do a GoToMeeting with another client in North America to do some training. I also have a training session with a German customer tonight in India time. The fact that I am in India doesn’t stop me from having deal with other customers. Stay tuned for that.

My Fourth Trip To India: Part 4

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 21, 2017 by itnerd

My second working day in India was taken up by interviewing candidates for the tech support team that my client is building. By the end of the day, we had identified one candidate. Sure we interviewed lots more people than that. But we’re being picky as we want the best people for this tech support team. That’s why we spent all day to get just one person to fill one of the four open positions that are up for grabs.

We went to lunch in the Cyber City to a place called the Cyber Hub Social. This is one of those places with a different sort of vibe as evidenced by these pictures:

Besides the restaurant, they have small offices that you can rent by the day or the hour. Handy if you need a place to work for a bit or you’re trying to start a business which is a popular thing to do in India. They have a very unique menu and if you like unique drinks and a unique take on Indian and western cuisine.

Oh yeah, this is how you get your bill:

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You get your bill in this box. It’s kind of cool actually.

After my day was over, I headed back to the hotel to do a workout for the second day in a row. The Le Meridian Gurgaon workout room is well equipped:

Besides the workout machines that have the ability to track heart rate, calories, and allow you to play your tunes from your iPhone via a USB port and watch TV, this place has weights too. I did three things both days that I have used the workout room. Treadmill, elliptical, and recumbent stationary cycle. Each for 15 minutes. Here’s my results from yesterday and today via my Apple Watch Series 2:

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I plan to work out on Wednesday as well. Thursday is a non starter as I am going to do a training session with a client in North America via WebEx before I head to the airport for my flight home.

Tomorrow, I am going to finish off the interviews. Stay tuned for how that goes.

UPDATE: I had dinner at the restaurant in the hotel and I had a pasta dish that was great. Here’s a picture of the restaurant:

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My Fourth Trip To India: Part 3

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 20, 2017 by itnerd

Today was a very long day. After breakfast, I spent the day with my client interview the three candidates that hoped to run the technical support operation that they were building. It was a panel interview and I was very tough on each candidate in terms of getting them to answer questions about how they would coach, train and mentor those under their leadership. But at the same time pressing them how they would deliver customer service and deal with escalated situations. In the end, we chose a candidate who was articulate and who wasn’t the best in all areas. But very good in every area. It’s that sort of balance that allowed him to end up on top.

The client’s office is next to the DLF Cyber Hub which was where I went to have lunch at an Italian place that I have been to before. While I was out, I noted that it didn’t seem as smoggy as it was this morning. Nor did I smell the smog. I wonder if that means that this area has been plagued with is lifting? We’ll see as I am here for three more days. But it is top of mind based on the front page of this local paper:

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If you look at the picture that is captioned with the words “Pollution Check” you’ll see participants in the Delhi half marathon wearing smog masks. That does not inspire confidence.

After returning to the hotel, I decided to do a workout today in the hotel gym. I did stints on the elliptical, treadmill, and stationary bike. I’ll post pictures of the workout room later in the week as it was a very nice place to workout in.

Right now, I’m going to shower and then have a bite to eat. Because tomorrow I start to interview the tech support agents. I am looking for people who will deliver world class service for my client and take charge of issues so that they’re worked to resolution successfully. I’ll give you an update on how that goes tomorrow.

What’s In The IT Nerd’s Bag When He Travels? The 2017 Edition.

Posted in Tips with tags on November 20, 2017 by itnerd

Since I came out with this look and this look at what gear I travel with, I have made some significant changes to what I carry on the road. Thus I felt that while I was traveling in India, I do an update on what’s in my laptop bag when I travel.

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The majority of my gear is stored in a ProCase Universal Electronics Accessories Bag that I got from Amazon. It is thin and organizes the gear that’s in it via two dual sided compartments.

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In this part of the case from left to right, I have VGA to Display Port, DVI to Display Port, and an Ethernet to Thunderbolt adapter for my MacBook Pro. All of these are from Apple. Next is a Nomad Universal Cable that has Mini USB, USB-C, and Lightning connectors on it. Besides that is a Thunderbolt cable.

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In another compartment, I have a Microsoft travel mouse. I also have several USB drives. One has macOS High Sierra and another has Diskwarrior… Not that the latter works with High Serra. There’s also a 16GB USB drive that’s blank in case I need it. Finally, theres a SD card reader in case I need it.

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From the left starting at the top, I have a EZOPower 6 Foot Braided Sleeve Mini USB cable. Below that is a flat Ethernet cable. And below that is a Native Union Lightning cable. To the right is a Kensington USB hub and below it are two USB to USB-C adapters.

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From the left starting with the top, I have a charge cable for my Apple Watch, and I have this Orico drive enclosure that has a Samsung 850 EVO SSD in it. To the right is my  Olixar Travel Adapter With 4 USB Ports with associated adapters which charges my iPhone 7 Plus, Apple Watch Series 2, or any other device that can be charged with a USB port.

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This is the full Apple World Travel Adapter Kit which allows me to plug my MacBook Pro in to power it anywhere in the world.

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The Apple World Travel Adapter Kit along with the Olixar Travel Adapter With 4 USB Ports fits inside this Herschel Supply Company Bag.

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Speaking of the laptop bag, it’s a Tucano Figura Medium. It’s old, as in a decade old. But it’s so durable you could never tell and it’s never failed me. Though if I had to replace it I’d have problem as the company no longer sells this model. It provides a good amount of protection as well as easily accessible pockets for things like airline tickets and other documents. Not to mention the ability to hold my MacBook Pro related items. Plus I can slide the case through the handle of my carry on bag so that I have nothing on my shoulder. It’s also easy to pull out the notebook at TSA checkpoints. Given how much I travel, all of that is important to me.

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Finally, this MacBook Pro with Retina Display is in my laptop bag as it has always been a reliable traveller as it has proven to be rugged and durable.

As you can see, I travel with a fair amount of stuff. But trust me, it doesn’t take up a lot of space nor does it add that much weight. And it’s all come in handy at one time or another. Hopefully, I’ve helped someone travel smarter, but if you have a tip or a suggestion, feel free to leave me a comment below.

My Fourth Trip To India: Part 2

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 19, 2017 by itnerd

It’s Monday morning in Gurgaon India and I am typing this up after having breakfast at the Le Meridian Gurgaon which is where I am staying this week. Before I get to my accommodations, let met tell you about my flight to India.

Unsurprisingly, my Air Canada flight to New Delhi was 30 minutes late leaving Toronto, and 40 minutes late arriving in New Delhi. Part of that that was due to waiting 10 minutes on the tarmac at Indira Gandhi Airport for a gate, likely because we were late. Now the flight itself wasn’t bad from an Air Canada perspective. Though I had to deal with a flight attendant who’s command of the English language wasn’t the best as passengers would ask for Coke and get Whiskey and Coke for example. At one point I swapped drinks and food with someone who got that and a chicken meal when he asked for vegetarian. That was a bit of a fail. Beyond that, besides the usual crying babies and the like that you tend to get on long haul flights, someone actually put their bare feet on the arm rest to stretch out and couldn’t understand why people might be upset at that. Seriously. It was a long 14 hours the air. At least I got to watch Spider Man Homecoming and Transformers: The Last Knight to pass the time.

It took a while to get through customs because of the volume of people. But once I actually got up to the customs agent, it was quick. So was finding my luggage thanks to the  Tile Sport that I put in it. I tried to use the audio function to alert me to the location of my luggage, but I couldn’t hear it in the din of the airport. My next stop was to go get local currency in the form of Rupees. Now normally I do this before I leave Toronto. But ever since the country devalued the currency earlier this year and took notes out of circulation, they’ve been hard to come by outside of the country. Thus I took $200 USD to a currency exchange counter in the airport and got roughly 12000 Rupees in exchange. I highly recommend that you get some Rupees as cash is king, and generous tipping is expected.

From there, I went out into the arrivals area and met my driver from the Le Meridian Gurgaon where I am staying this week. I’ve stayed here before and I know that this hotel is upscale in every sense of the word. The driver took my bags, loaded me into his car, and we took the 30 minute drive to the hotel in the typical Grand Theft Auto style of driving that is typical around these parts. Strangely, it used to freak me out, but now it doesn’t bother me.

We soon arrived at the hotel where check in was quick, painless and efficient. After of course being put through a metal detector and my bags were X-rayed because security is really top of mind around here. Now I got a small room with a king sized bed, which means that you get a great room as evidenced by these pictures:

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A couple other things that I’d like to highlight:

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Just like earlier this year, I had this writing on my nightstand. If anyone can translate this for me, I’d really appreciate it.

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All the remote controls were hidden in this box on my nightstand which added to the upscale nature of this hotel.

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I have a decent sized area to set up my tech in. You can see that I have my MacBook Pro along my Apple Watch sitting beside it getting a charge, and a cable to charge my iPhone with lots of space left over.

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The only thing that was a #fail was this speaker with an Apple 30-pin connector. Hotels have to figure out that it’s 2017 and you need Bluetooth, USB-A, USB-C, or Lightning connections if you’re going to offer this sort of tech in your rooms. The room does redeem itself with better than average WiFi.

Now as for the view from my room….. Well this is what I got:

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I am not concerned about the construction site, it’s the haze from the pollution that scares me. The second I landed I could smell it and it was far from appealing. I will let you know how bad it is as the week goes on.

Now I am going to wrap this up and meet my driver downstairs to start my day. I’ll have updates as the week goes on so stay tuned.