Posts Tagged With: lost


We take an early train to Bharatpur. Distances across India are vast. From Bharatpur, another long bumpy ride by bus to our hotel. Tourists travel the distance to see Fort Agra and the Taj Mahal. Transportation is quite reasonable on these trains, but Ranvir tells us we are on an expensive train for upper middle class people.

It has a toilet and food service. That is, snacks and drinks to enjoy in your seat.


Sleeper cars cover longer distances with a dining room and other amenities. Economy cars, the general population uses, are bare bones. Mainly because patrons steal the light bulbs, cut off the padded seating, remove any piece of wood or metal they can pry loose, no curtains or shades remain, fixtures of any kind disappear. Even the floors have holes in them where boards have been removed.  While we laugh, Ranvir reminds us that poor people think it is their right to take from the government. He adds that they are beginning to crack down on such things and provide better cars for them. He describes families with a bunch of kids, sacks of food and maybe a live chicken.

A grand hotel with over 2,000 rooms is our reward after a long day of travel. It’s nice to have luxury hotels to stay in, but this one was my least favorite.

Shiny, clean and beautiful, but you walk miles to your room. The restaurants and lobby are sandwiched between the upper and lower residential floors. I have no sense of direction and have to memorize each left or right turn in an ordinary hotel. This one is a huge challenge.

The elevators are inconveniently located and using the marble steps the intuitive way to get to your destination. As new groups come in, hotel staffers position themselves in the hallways to give directions. Apparently, I am not the only one who has problems finding my way around.

But I got my art fix.

I knew I had to pass about 30 paintings and pieces of art before I turned left.

When I saw this painting it was my set of stairs.

And pass the drum, before I found our room.

When I passed the phone, I knew where to turn downstairs to the dining room.

The grounds around the building are just as vast as the hotel itself. Beautiful and green and spacious. I saw only workmen, never anyone from the hotel enjoying it. If I had a week to stay, I wouldn’t need the cues.  I changed money at this hotel and they wouldn’t take small bills like tens or fives. Twenties or a fifty, only. Their limit, $5o a day. Then they gave me mostly small denomination rupees and apologized.  I was a bit discombobulated here as I complain a bit tongue in cheek. And, as always the food is excellent.

We visited Fort Agra before the Taj Mahal, but I’m posting my pictures of the Taj Mahal taken by a professional photographer.

The Taj Mahal is now one of the seven wonders of the world since so many of the ancient wonders of the world are gone, such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Temple of Artemis and the Statue of Zeus  all destroyed. If you click on the links, it will take you to Wikipedia where you can see and learn about these magnificent pieces.  The only ancient wonder of the world to survive is the Pyramid of Giza.

Look at the picture carefully and you can see just how huge this beautiful building is. The people are like little midgets. The Taj was abandoned and deteriorated for many years. Vandals chipped marble and removed tiles from areas. Some places inside have not, and never will be restored. The outside is being fully restored.

It was mobbed when we visited. Wall to wall people, crowding to get inside with lines waiting a turn to get in. It was a crush. The towers were engineered with a slight cant toward the outside of the domed center in case they were to fall and crash, they would not damage the main building. When you stand in front of one tower, it is so perfectly aligned, you cannot see the exact same tower behind it. Twenty thousand workers toiled 22 years to build it. The verses of Holy Koran are inscribed on it.

This  group is single women on the trip. Behind, Diane and myself. Front, Sandy, Ellen, Kathy and Trish. Notice the tiny figures on the Taj veranda. You get a better idea how huge this building is. It was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal in 1648 A.D. Their remains are encased in flowery decorated Centotaphs hidden from our view by a mesh screen. We could  peek into the darkened room, but could see nothing with clarity. Better to buy the post card.

Our group from left to right: Standing, Hugo, Adam, Kris, Chuck, Pam, Otto, Paul Theo, Carol, Hazel. Seated: Diane, Sandy, Ellen, Kathy, and Me. On the outside of the building, are marble panels, tiles and inlay marble of great craftsmanship. The towers, too, have intricate patterns. And high above, the  inscriptions. A wonder of the world. How did their architects learn to build so well?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Larry Greenemeier, writes for Scientific American. He sites a study about voting by mail that may make you reconsider that practice.

The biggest challenge to voting accuracy in the U.S. isn’t hanging chads or hacked voting machines—it’s the mail. A new report by the Voting Technology Project (VTP)—a joint venture between the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—finds that even though absentee ballots account for about only a quarter of all ballots cast during an election, the number of uncounted absentee and election-day ballots may be roughly the same.

The researchers estimate that up to 3.9 million absentee ballots were requested but not received by voters in the 2008 presidential election. Another 2.9 million ballots sent to voters requesting them were not returned for counting. And 800,000 returned absentee ballots were rejected for one reason or another. In all, 21 percent of requested absentee ballots were never counted in 2008—35.5 million requests for absentee ballots led to 27.9 million mail-in ballots being counted.

The researchers acknowledge that they can only speculate as to what happens to these uncounted absentee ballots. In some cases, they note, absentee ballots can be intercepted before they even get into the mail stream. Other concerns are that people can buy or sell these ballots. There aren’t any strict chain-of-custody procedures for ensuring that the person who receives an absentee ballot in the mail is the same person who returns it, the researchers say.

Absentee and early voting has long been available to military personnel and voters unable to cast ballots in their home districts, but this convenience has more recently been extended to encourage people to vote and to ease the sometimes chaotic conditions found at polling stations on election day. Currently 36 states (plus the District of Columbia) now offer no-excuse absentee ballots, early voting or some combination of the two. Oregon and Washington have done away with traditional polling places entirely. All voting there is conducted by mail.

The report’s authors argue that the country needs to reverse the trend towards increased absentee and early voting. States should discourage absentee balloting among voters who do not require this service, they say. Likewise, election officials should quash the idea of Internet voting until the technology can be secured and audited. The researchers also call for additional research into new methods to get usable ballots to military and overseas civilian voters securely, accurately and quickly, and to make sure those ballots are returned in time to be counted.

The practice makes me wonder. Before going on the road with Jim, I worked our polls every year. There are so many inconsistencies in the way voting is regulated from state to state that it gave me pause. The rules can change from year to year. Such as: a person who Decline To State, is given a ballot with no party candidates on it. That person can request any ballot, Rebublican, Democrat, Green Party etc. but you are not allowed to tell them that or ask them what ballot they want to vote. Some come in shocked that their ballots didn’t contain the names of the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates on their primary ballot.  (But, mums the word.)  I thought that was a stupid rule.

At our polls, you can watch the county employees counting the vote. But, not the absentee ballots that are counted later. I think our county deserves a good conduct medal for how they conduct the voting, but there is plenty of room for abuse if a rigidly partisan person is the Supervisor of Voting.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at