Tuesday, January 9, 2007

More standard update…

Hi All!
After the TV script, here is a more conventional e-mail about my
The flights to Hyderabad (via Amsterdam) were long and tyring, however my
Elite status with KLM made the flights more bearable -- I sat in the
frontmost rows of Economy class and had a free seat next to me. I got meals
earlier than the rest of the passengers and could pass security in Amsterdam
without waiting in a long queue with all the Indians. Also, the AMS-HYD
flight was full of babies, but the all sat in the back so they didn't
disturb me. I also disembarked the flight early and my luggage came quite
early. I met Ola (Another graduate student working with Moshe) again at
Hyderabad and we shared a taxi to the hostel.
The next day, I went alone to tour the city while Ola stayed at the
Hostel. I went to Charminar, where I met Daniel -- another IJCAI delegate
from Berlin, Germany. We decided to stick together. I didn't take a camera
with me, but Daniel did, so I will soon copy his pictures and post them
We toured various parts of Hyderabad including the Buddha statue and a
more modern part of town where we ate at McDonald's. It turns out the
McDonald's here does not serve beef -- only chicken. The meal cost 101 Rupee
(1 Rupee = 0.1 NIS = US$ 0.023). Next we took a Riksaw to the conference
opening ceremony and ate the very spicy meal.
I have met here several AI people I know, including Michael Wellman, who I
met on the flight, and Kevin Leyton-Brown and Vince Conitzer who I met at
the opening ceremony. I also took Moshe's role in introducing Ola to these
The accomodation here is very good. The (private) room is comfortable as
an American hotel, and the accomodation includes a nice breakfast. I was
very postively surprised.
Now I'm listening to the keynote talk of IJCAI. The wireless network does
not really work well, but there is a wired connection here as well. I will
explore this issue later.

This message was sent by Alon Altman (alon@8ln.org) ICQ:1366540
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-=[ Random Fortune ]=-
Why on earth do people buy old bottles of wine when they can get a
fresh one for a quarter of the price?

Monday, January 8, 2007

The Amazing Race - Hyderabad

(I decided to write my experiences as an episode of "The Amazing Race"...)

The Amazing Race - Hyderabad

This is Tel aviv Ben Gurion Airport - The first pit stop in a race around
the world. Teams arrived here at the end of the last leg for a mandatory
rest period that allows them eat, sleep, and mingle with other teams.

ROUTE INFO: Go to Hyderabad, India. Take a taxi to the Vasam Kutir, where
you will receive your next clue. You have $100 for this leg of the race.

Team Ola has booked a flight through Frankfurt, while team Alon has booked
a flight Amsterdam. Team Ola's flight is scheduled to arrive at 00:30, a
full hour before the flight via Amsterdam. This puts team Ola in first
place. The captain of team Alon's flight now announces that they will be
arriving ahead of schedule. Will team Alon catch up with team Ola. Stay

Team Ola was assigned a seat in the back of the plane, she is now last in
the queue for pasport control. Team Alon's flight has arrived early. Team
Alon has arranged to get the front-most economy class seats and priority
baggage handling. Team Ola is still now changing cash at Hyderabad airport.

Both teams pass custom simultaneously and decide to share a taxi to the
next route marker. They split between them the $18 cab fare and
simultaneously arrive at Vasant Kutir, where they find the next clue.


A detour is a choice between two tasks each with its own pros and cons. In
this detour, teams should choose between two ways to spend their free day in

In SIGHTSEE, teams must travel to Charminar, an ancient monumenting of the
Qutub Shahi period. There they must find the toursit information post and
ask for this map, and their next clue. This task may take some time but
does not require skill.

In STUDY, teams must stay in the hostel and prepare their conference talk
for the next day and pass a "dry run" of the talk. The dry run can be done
with quickly, but may stifle less skillful teams.

Alon: Sightseeing seems a lot more fun. Opening hours are between 9AM to
5:30PM. We might as well stay here for the night.

Ola: I'm tired and I want to sleep. I'll choose study.

The next morning team Alon calls for an "Auto Riksa" or mini taxi to take
him to the location. He agrees with the driver on a fare of 140 Rupee and
begins his journey, meanwhile Ola stumbles with the fact that she does not
have the right version of her talk. Who will finish the task first? Who will
arrive last at the pit stop and face elimination? Stay tuned.

After a long 30 minutes of dangerous driving in the narrow streets of
Hyderabad amidst the very dense traffic, team Alon finally arrives at
Charminar. The Riksha driver does not have change and thus team Alon is
forced to pay 200 Rupee for the ride. After circling Charminar, team Alon
finds no tourist information point in sight. Team Alon decides to enter this
formidable structure in search of the next clue.

Meanwhile, team Ola struggles with her partital version of the talk, with no
Internet access and while forced to stay at the hostel, she has no choice
but to try to prepare for a dry run using the old version of the slides. She
gives one dry run, but fails.

Team Alon's tourist status is immediately detected and they are forced to
pay 100 Rupees for the entrance, 20 times more than the fare Indian citizens
have to pay. After buying 20 tickets, team Alon now climbs the steep spiral
stairway in order to look of a tourist information station, but in vain.

Alon: I understand that saftey is not a major consideration in India.

Looking in every direction from the top of Charminar, facing a spectacular
view team Alon could not find any information point. In deperation, they
decend though a second spiral staircase, only to find the tourist
information point right in from on them.

Alon: Do you have a map of the city?
Vendor: Yes, 20 Rupee please.
Vendor: Here is your map, and here is your next clue.

ROUTE INFO: Attend the conference opening at IIIT Hyderabad starting 6pm.

Alon, having completed the detour is now in first place. However, his
location at Charminar is inconvenient for him. He decides to try and go for
the Fast Forward.

There is only one Fast Forward on each leg of the race. The first team that
finds it can skip all tasks and go directly for the pit stop. However, once
a team has used a Fast Forward they cannot use another one for the rest of
the race so they have to decide when it's most advantageous to go for it. To
claim this fast forward, teams must take a boat this Buddha statue and find
the clue hidden in its base.

Alon: Let's go. To this point, here.
Driver: Lubmini Park?
Alon: Yes. How much?
Driver: 60 Rupee. OK?
Alon: OK, Go!

Meanwhile, Ola is still struggling with her prestation. With only a few
hours to the opening ceremony, she doesn't have much time.

Alon (reads): "Lumbini Park: tickets required, 5 Rupee".
Alon: Two tickets please.
Daniel: Is this the right place?
Alon: Where are the boats?
Alon: Let's just go look.
Alon: Here! I see boats! And the statue!
Alon(reads): Motorized boat to Buddha statue - 30 Rupee.
Alon: Two tickets please.

However, the ticket agent is busy.

Alon: Come on!

Finally, the agent sells them the two tickets.

Alon: Where to?
Daniel: Here, motorized boats.
Alon: Where is the boat?
Local person: Wait here.

After several minutes of waiting, the board arrives and they are on the way
to the Buddha statue. However, upon arriving at the island the find that the
Fast Forward has already been taken.

Alon: Let's take the boat back and take a Riksha back to the hostel and then
we can still make it to the opening by 6PM.
Daniel: Ok.

Meanwhile, Ola finally completes a dry run and boards Riksha towards IIITH.
Due to the time lost by pursuing the Fast Forward, team Ola is now ahead of
team Alon.


A roadblock is a task that only one person can perform. In this roadblock,
that person has to listen to boring speeches and cultural performances and
then eat from the fine but spicy Hindu cuisine without consuming water for
several minutes. Once the food is consumed, they may get the next clue.

Ola: Who likes it hot? Choose before you open the card.
Ola: I'll do it.

Ola begins listening to the boring speeches. Meanwhile, Alon and Daniel
arrive in a Riksha and join Ola in listening to the speeches. The teams are
now tied for first place.

This message was sent by Alon Altman (alon@8ln.org) ICQ:1366540
GPG public key at http://8ln.org/pubkey.txt
Key fingerprint = A670 6C81 19D3 3773 3627 DE14 B44A 50A3 FE06 7F24
-=[ Random Fortune ]=-
No man's ambition has a right to stand in the way of performing a simple
act of justice.
-- John Altgeld