Tuesday, November 23, 2004

documentation time

Work has taken on a whole new direction this week. Previously Ewan and I were both on the Tarbato, the wire-road project. We were getting the tandem drive cart up and running. It worked! We successfully got the 5-speed tandem working - derailleur limits set and everything. Prim, Krishna, and Balaram loaded up the train with 800 kg of weight (not including the two pedallers), and the tandem pulled it. I won't say it was easy to pedal up the test track's 2 degree grade with the weight, but it was definitely doable. No harder than pulling a ~5 degree grade on a normal bike. We have video of the tandem working, complete with the 800 kg behind it. Once we get that editted, I'll put it up on the site. An overhead-wire road isn't the easiest thing to visualize. And then, two people moving 800 kg by pedalling isn't easy to visualize either.

At any rate, Ewan is now on a pedal-powered generator project aimed at non-electrified rural markets. I'm on the Tarpul project: the wire bridge. The Tarpul is Ecosystem's current product. I have a design for a bearing-test jig that needs to go to our fabricator, and there are some other maintainance/QA tools to think about and get built. However, the primary responsibility is to write documentation for the entire Tarpul.

Documentation - big job. The goal is to create a package that would be useful to a group that wanted to build wire bridges for their rural mountainous areas - South America, Africa, and on. Elsewhere.

The Tarpul won a a Tech Award last year. Between the current Tarpul and its potential to benefit rural mountainous areas beyond Nepal is a package of extensive documentation. By extensive, it needs to fully document the motivations, specifications, and procedures to fabricate and erect a bridge that requires civil-engineering surveys/concrete/land-management, mechanical-engineering wire-tensioning/rolling/machining/welding, management of local labor, logistics, finances, and more. Wow, but can you imagine how awesome a book it'll be when it's done? 2,000 Nepali villagers use the existing bridges every day. Can you imagine how many people elsewhere could use a bridge just like the ones we know how to build?

Monday, November 22, 2004

mail bag

Wow, a lot of people I know are reading this blog. I'll move back to posting about Nepal tomorrow, but today it's mailbag! To that effect, I should reiterate that I am at competition weight, not compton weight. The two look a lot alike, and there were some misreadings. While in Nepal, I've been eating well, biking quite a bit, and lost some weight. However, I am not approaching the trimness of Shop TA Patty Compton. Competition weight.

With the reception the Catwoman review has received, I'm considering what I really thought of Troy. Two weeks ago, Ewan, Nini, Anisha, and I went to Kathmandu's one theater that is unique, in that it shows Western movies in addition to the ubiquitous Hindi movies. We were hoping for a little piece of home. Unfortunately, that little piece was Troy. At least it wasn't a Bollywood movie.

The one Bollywood movie I've seen marked the previous "worst movie ever" before Catwoman. About an hour and a half into it, the screen went black and I thought "that wasn't much of an ending, but at least it's over". It turned out to be intermission. I didn't know movies had intermissions. Between ripping of Meet the Parents, the repetitive song and dance with out-of-context backgrounds where girls danced with scarves, terrible writing full of illogical leaps in plot development, and acting like my junior high's christmas pagent, that truly was another waste of unexposed film.

I was always told Marlon Brando is significant in the history of film because he changed the way actors act. Instead of doing the same thing as in stage acting, he behaved on screen like people really behave. The story goes that this was called method acting. Bollywood apparently hasn't rented A Streetcar Named Desire, nor any other movie made in Hollywood since 1951. Those irritating Bollywood actors were exagerating like the audience was between twenty and sixty feet away, when in fact we were right there, the camera three feet from their faces, as we suffered through their performances. And they kept striking poses as the camera swooped around them. It was terrible.

We rented Himalaya (also known by the name Caravan) a week ago. It was awesome. It's talked about a lot here in Nepal, as it's a story about salt traders who live in the remote, high-altitude deserts of Nepal - places called Dolpo and Upper Mustang. They go into Tibet by yak caravan to harvest salt, then go down near India to trade the salt for grain. They live in between the two places. The actors are local people from Dolpo, and the lead actor turns out to really be who his character is. It was nominated for best foreign film when it came out in 2000. It turns out our bosses know the people who made the movie. Awe inspiring.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

worst movie ever

No matter what anyone tells you, no matter if it only costs 35 cents to rent, no matter if you're in Nepal and trying to find a way to fill the time between the great masala for dinner and bed in two hours, no matter if it's a pirated DVD of the french version made in Pakistan, do not ever, ever watch the movie Catwoman.

No part of the 35 cents I paid went to Warner Brothers studios, Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, or that guy from Law and Order, but I still have half a mind to write them all a letter, asking for my money back, since I spent one and a half hours of my time watching them waste miles of just fine unexposed film.

As a side note, the movie cut out in the last ten minutes to the credits of a different movie set to a ho-down theme. I attribute this to the Pakistani pirates slipping up - probably only because they'd left the room to let the pirating machine go on auto pilot as even they couldn't take it. This ho-down-credits part was kind of in keeping with how terrible the rest of the experience was. If you went to the scene selection, you could get back and watch the movie's end - not that it mattered.

Yo Nepal ho.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Tihar festival

Since I've arrived in Nepal, it seems like there have been festivals about every other day. That's not so far from the truth - this is the festival season. It's big, like our Christmas and New Year's.

Today was the festival of lights. Yesterday was the day dogs were worshipped. Instead of getting kicked and having spark plugs thrown at them, the dog of Kathmandu (street dogs and otherwise) got wreathes of flowers, tikas on their foreheads and paws, and a meal of meat and eggs. Our bosses' dogs got especially nice wreathes and meals that Vishnu and Koche made.

Two days ago was the day to worship crows. Sunday is the day to worship your brother. There is no day to worship your sister. But there is a day to worship yourself.

I uploaded pictures from the Annapurna trek tonight. I hadn't done it earlier as there were over 50 photos and the connection here is dial-up. All of the photos are available in 800x600, and the ones I really liked are available in extra-large versions. Just click on the 800x600 shot to get the larger version, when available.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

getting to competion weight

I'm losing weight. Yesterday I took my pants off without unbuttoning them. Best shape of my life.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

bombing in Kathmandu

Today we were having lunch at the office and there was what sounded like a big explosion. It turned out to be more than two miles away, near downtown Kathmandu. There have been several bombings since I've been here, but never so large that you could hear it across town. The bomb was at a large building under construction by the government - a building next to the major north-south street we take a couple times a week.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

funeral pyre at the bagmati

Today Ewan and I went straight to the test site this morning to take the tandem tarbato out for a shake-down run.

When I got there, one of the Nepali EcoSystems guys, Balaram, mentioned he saw us last night on our way to the Birenda Convention Center - going across one of the small foot bridges that cross the Bagmati river, which seperates Patan (same city as Lalitpur) and Kathmandu.

I remembered crossing that bridge, and asked about the fire a group of people were together around below the bridge, on the bank of the Bagmati. The smoke was billowing up across the bridge. The people crossing were all covering their mouths and noses as they walked with their hands - we couldn't, since we were biking.

Balaram said that was a funeral pyre. The Bagmati's sacred to Hindus here, and funerals typically cremate the body on its banks.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

photos up on the web site

After getting back from the trek, I tried one last time to get the photo gallery program on williambeecher.com to work and boom, it worked. I'm not sure what changed, but now the program works and lots of photos are up - they're at williambeecher.com/beecherinnepal/gallery. Also up on the web is Ewan's account of the trek. His website, Kathmanduit.com, has a great map of where we were, with clickable photos interspersed. The photo of a 5'4" porter's three lashed-together huge duffel bags sitting on a bench next to my backpack is an amazing sight. The map is at http://www.kathmanduit.com/trekmap.htm.

It hit me today that this blog and the photos on my site have no reference to each other, so I'll get some continuity-headers together soon with links between them - something to really tie the website together.

I went to work early today to see the outcome of the presidential election, as our bosses have the BBC and CNN. I can't believe this.

Today after work, we went over to the Engineering University next door to us because we heard there was an energy-generation conference put on with IIT Bombay. It turned out it was across town at the Birenda International Convention Center. Wow - that place was incredible, unlike anything place I've been in here in Nepal. We got let in by the guards on account of being white. That's a ticket to a lot of things here.

The conference turned out to be PhD-style presentations on highly-specialized national-scale energy production and distribution - neural networks modeling and the like. Not exactly what we're doing, but we were approached and asked if we were the as-of-then-unseen Italians scheduled to come. Kind of exciting!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

note on the trekking posts

All three of the below posts written during trekking were done by hand - I just transcribed them now to the blog.

Apparently, once someone climbed Mount Everest with a laptop and a satelite phone - carried by sherpas - to post up-to-the-minute on the internet. I didn't do that.