Kerala Calling

Back from Thiruvanantapuram

2018-02-18 Kerala Business Trip

I just returned from a two weeks business trip to Thiruvanantapuram  (“Trivandrum”, as the English colonialists referred to it to simplify it’s name), the vibrant capital of Kerala. It is located in the southernmost part of India and on the shores of my beloved Malabar Coast. Since I am responsible for a team located there and working for my company the occasional visit every now and then is required to keep up a vivid relationship. This is already my second functional team leadership and from the previous many true friends have remained with whom I am still in close contact.

This time my visit was a special one since I arrived one day short of my 50th birthday, so I planned a surprise dinner … I asked my friend Jaise to invite a bunch of people from my previous team for a dinner in a restaurant without revealing the reason. He told me later that he really enjoyed the attempts to guess the story behind … My current colleagues and myself met a little earlier and hid in a separate room until on the other side, in the garden, the gathering was complete. While Jaise asked them to guess the reason for it we appeared out of thin air … the reaction was overwhelming and really moved my heart. Find a photo of the crew above …

Why I love to be there

It is difficult for me to put all my feelings towards people, culture, food and geography into one Blog Posting, but I will try nevertheless.

There is basically only one thing I don’t like when I am there – the ubiquitous pollution. Everything else is so loveable, heartwarming, bright and positive that it’s a real cure for the dark German’s soul to be there. People show real affection and curiosity, nobody is cool in the negative meaning of the word. Tolerance is deeply rooted in the cultural DNA of a densely populated area; Hindus, Muslims and Christians live together peacefully since centuries. The food is *delicious* (Kerala has been the world’s capital of spices growing and trading for millennia) and plays a central role in the daily routines. The weather is … well … warm.

Kerala Water

The Arabian Sea is warm as well and a dangerous challenge for a swimmer (depending on where you try it) – strong currents, often not visible on the surface, can make it an exhausting exercise to return to the safe beach. An unforgettable view is the Arabic Sea at night time: Hundreds of fishing boats line up on the horizon, visible as pearls of light. This time I was there in the dry season, only a little rain fell every now and then during the night. But make no mistake: For a middle European rain feels like a warm shower at a temperature of 30°C.

For somebody loving water as much as I do Kerala is the place to be.  It features a long coastline towards the Arabian Sea on the one side and the Backwaters on the other side. The latter are large sweet water lakes connected by channels.  Besides that there are many waterfalls coming down from the Western Ghats …

… all those together ensure that the humidity of the air never falls short of 100%.

Malayalam

Talking of warm showers – that’s the feeling listening to Malayalam creates inside me: Warm water trickling over my skin. It is one complicated language, belonging to the Dravidian family of languages. They have 13 vowels and 36 consonants (numbers differ according to whom you ask). Only the occasional english word and some grammatical tricks make it possible to at least understand what is being discussed (most of the times it is food anyway).

Travelling alone

Kochi

After the working part I reserved a few days for travelling and exploring some sights. I visited Fort Kochi which was the first European trading post in India. It was erected by the Portuguese and later taken over by the Dutch, before India became a part of the British empire. Christianity entered India from here and in the local museum many artefacts from those times are exposed. Since most Indians are deeply religious – regardless of what they believe in – Catholicism had a stronghold here for centuries.

On the more earthly side especially the Chinese fishing techniques (flat nets moved with a crane) are a local speciality here and always a scenic motive. Long before the first European set foot here Kochi (previously Ernakulam) was a trading portal towards the Arabian and Chinese world. Not so scenic, but strongly recommended by Muju, the Auto Rickshaw driver, was looking at carpets. I complied, but did not buy one and he – hopefully – got his provision …

Alleppey

The next day I spent in Alleppey with my friend and colleague Anoop – an Alleppey local –  and partly with his wife and daughter. He took me to a Toddy Shop in the Backwaters which was only reachable by boat. As always we had delicious food and, a small exception from daily routine, alcohol (Toddy is a very light wine made from palm juice).

And Back

The last day I spent in Thiruvanantapuram again, buying sweets and snacks with Roshni and Gatha and, finally I was donated my own Dhoti by Sumesh (see photos for reference)

And then? … Home to freezing temperatures, snow and German winter darkness …

Amazon CloudDrive Pricing

German Summer Scene

Being Ripped Off

Amazon recently informed that they will withdraw from their “unlimited cloud storage for 60€/year” offer. This offer is now discontinued; instead they will soon charge 20$/year for 100 GB and 100$/year for 1 TB of cloud storage – only photos can still be stored unlimited for Amazon Prime customers.  Oh well … so it’s about time to re-think my backup strategy.

I used to use ArqBackup and pushed my complete user folder to Amazon CloudDrive – admittedly not the smartest possible solution, but hey – *they* said “unlimited” … now I had to think about it once more. Backing up my whole user directory is convenient without doubt; but then on the other hand the difference between 20€ and 100€ gives reason for thought.

After looking a little bit closer I found that besides my photos there are mainly two types of files I want to back up on their cloud: My digitalised Super 8 movies featuring the younger me and my documents, most of them packed into DevonThink libraries.

Planning For Backup

After analysing my demand I reorganised my filesystem structure accordingly. The DevonThink libraries get their own directory since the app does not work well with cloud sync; all other documents go to the “documents” folder which is synced to iCloud. Movies get their own directory in “Amazon Drive” from where they are synced to Amazon CloudDrive. For Documents, DevonThink and Lightroom catalogs (excluding all objects with name matching the “.lrdata” pattern) I set up Arq to backup them to Amazon cloud. Now my demand for backup is 70 GB for Movies and 15 GB for documents, which still gives me some space to breathe.

The Hard Part

What Amazon does not tell you is the fact that their “Trash” counts against your available space. The retention period is 30 days, only after this period deleted (read: moved) objects will be really removed. Since I wanted to verify the effectiveness of my setup I had to manually delete everything in the Trash bin (~50.000 objects or ~600 GB) which is a really cumbersome procedure. Amazon lets you select 3.000 objects max which often does not work properly due to the buggy web interface. The deleting alone took a few hours yesterday … a simple “Empty Trash” button would do the trick much smarter, Amazon!

Jumping off the cliff

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Burning the Bridges

just a few minutes before writing this post I cut all the ropes to my previous internet service provider. I have always been a satisfied customer of HostEurope. Their service offering is definitely cutting edge with a fair price tag and they never left me standing in the rain. But I decided to reduce complexity and focus on the essentials. I found that running my own virtual machine on the internet becomes more of a burden over time. I did not really benefit from the advantages for quite a while. So I moved three domains to my new provider InternetWerk and terminated my previous primary domain “kister.org” – thus also indicating the beginning of something new.

Moving On

I set up the new KisterBlog and as you witness I am starting to populate it; this will become the source of Kisterness over time, everything too long for Twitter and too long lasting for FaceBook will go here in future.

Partnering Up

My new internet service provider InternetWerk is a small company, but the service quality is – at least as far as I am able to judge this early – far above expectations. They respond to support requests ultra quickly. My first request was answered within fourteen minutes on the Saturday night before Christmas! The pricing model is more than fair. They handle things really professionally and the tool kit for maintaining the web page is up to the mark. Couldn’t be happier at this point with my choice, so a big recommendation for this company! … even if people criticise them for using the WordPress-Name and -Logo on their homepage in contradiction to the WordPress Foundation Trademark Policy.

Happy New Year 2018

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Happy new 2018 to you

I wish all of you a happy new year 2018! May your wishes come true and may your year be blessed with health, happiness and success!

The House in Crete, Chapter 1

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How it all began

Ever since I’ve been to Greece the first time in 1987 I wanted to live there. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but this dream was in the back of my head for the last thirty years. In 1987 I visited Thassos and Samothraki with my girlfriend Wiebke and was overwhelmed with the friendliness of the people, the beauty of the nature, the taste of the food and wine and, of course, the warmth of air and sea. I could proceed listing up positive memories here forever, but either you have been there yourself and know what I am talking about or not and then you definitely should close the gap.

After that I spent many holidays in Greece – in Peloponnese, in Samos, in Crete, in Corfu … but Crete was the essence of what I love in Greece and I definitely lost my heart to Plakias in the south cost of Crete.

I don’t remember exactly when it was, but at some point in time I started to research real estate offers in Crete, but without any concrete and real dedication …

How it continued

Early last year my older daughter Lea thought aloud about holidays in Plakias and reminded my of my dream, which at that time was pushed aside by other priorities. When I heard Lea talking Plakias I remembered my old, half forgotten dream and researched once again …

… and BÄM, there it was: My dream house in Myrthios, with a view of the Libyan Sea from the bedroom, and a f f o r d a b l e! The more I thought about it the more I liked the thought of buying it. Unfortunately it was not available any more once I decided to contact the seller one day later, but now my decision was made. The seller was very friendly and provided me contacts of real estate agents in Crete, so I contacted them, made appointments, booked flights for Karin and myself and went there.

Our Trip was a miracle of efficiency and determination. The first appointment with the wonderful Nikos Sartzetakis of Crete Properties4u was a full success. He showed us a small, but absolutely lovely house in the heart of Plakias – close to the Kosmos, but located in a dead end street with no traffic and no walkthrough crowds. Only the price tag was a little steep …

How I did it

I am a pretty security oriented person and always preferred saving the money first and spend only what I have instead of spending borrowed money. But then I pay premium premium for a life insurance which more or less is a bet that I get old enough to use it. Of course I negotiated like a pro and finally managed to push the price down by 13% of the initial offering, making it much more affordable …

I decided to trade in security for fun and after one night of heavy thinking (and calculating) I decided to buy the house and fill the financial gap with the life insurance’s premium which I redirect into mortgage. Hell, you only live once and who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow? Fun now at my age is so much more reasonable than security later!