Magnet fishingSun, 16th Jun '24, 4:10 pm::

I woke up this morning to Juliet and the kids wishing me Happy Father's Day. It was gorgeous outside so I told her I'm gonna spend some time in the backyard by the pond. She excitedly asked me if I wanted to see my gift and I said sure! She gave me a box with a gigantic magnet and a long rope. Just last night we were watching a campy B-movie, Under Paris, where some kids were magnet fishing and I mentioned how strong some of those magnets are and that you can catch anything with it. Imagine my surprise to be handed magnet fishing gear not even 12 hours after that! She bought it weeks ago too.

I spent some time throwing the magnet in the backyard pond but didn't catching anything. I walked over to another pond and tried some more and to my horror, the magnet got detached from the rope and sank in the water mere inches from my feet. I tried to look for it with my hands but couldn't find it and felt pretty sad. Suddenly I remembered that Juliet said she got Naveen a magnet stick too! I asked him to bring it over and within a minute, I found my missing magnet!

So while technically, I didn't catch anything with my magnet-on-a-rope, I did catch my magnet-on-a-rope with Naveen's magnet-on-a-stick. I see this as an absolute win!

After we cleaned up, we had a little picnic breakfast at Boone Creek . The Brood XIII cicadas, largest group among all known broods, emerged a few weeks ago, and are loudly chirping all over our county. We have pretty much grown oblivious to their noise but whenever we share a video with anyone, they remark how loud the cicadas are in the background.

We watch Ultraman: Rising in the afternoon and Juliet's calling me right now to get dressed so we can go out to dinner. No idea where we're going but I'm psyched!

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Early wormMon, 29th Jan '24, 5:55 am::

Two weeks ago, I started waking up earlier each morning. I've always been a night owl and I believe I still am. But what I actually care about is not just being able to stay up late, but rather somehow get a few hours of quiet, uninterrupted time for myself. All these years, those were hours past 11pm. Now due to the kids' school routine, those are hours prior to 7am. The odd side-effect of waking up around 4am means that by 9am, I've already been up for 5 hours, ready for "lunch".

I don't eat breakfast or rather anything in the first 3-4 hours after I wake up. But due to a time-shift in my day, now I am ready for a meal when others are. Since I go to bed around 9-10pm now, my dinner is no longer around 8pm but earlier with the kids. Basically, after decades of trying to make the world adhere to my night owl routine, I have accepted that it would be better if I just adjusted a bit and accommodated everyone else instead, like my wife who has forever suggested I wake up early instead of staying up late.

It's barely been two weeks but it has honestly improved my life and routine so much. I still don't want to do it. I would much rather stay up till 3am while coming up with ideas or working on my to do list. But like eating healthy and exercising, I've accepted that this is the way.

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Unforced changesSat, 26th Aug '23, 2:20 pm::

Last night I went to bed around 11pm without much effort. I woke up minutes before my alarm went off around 6am this morning. I changed into my running gear and went for a short 30-min jog at the local park. Once back home, Naveen and I took out the trash and cleaned out our tortoise Rosie's cage. We did a bunch of other smaller chores and then freshened up.

Our neighbors gave us a bag of homegrown tomatillos last week and I wanted to make Salsa Verda with them. Naveen and I peeled and washed them, broiled them in the oven for 10mins, and blended them along with fresh cilantro, onions, and jalapenos. I added some fresh lime and salt and put it in the fridge to cool down. Juliet wanted fajitas for lunch so she prepared some beans, rice, veggies, and scrambled eggs. Once the salsa was cool, we warmed some tortillas and each of us made our own version of fajitas, burritos, and tacos. Even Leela finished her plate!

I don't expect every weekend to be like this but I hope we have more and more days like this where I get to exercise, help with household chores, prepare meals, and spend time with Juliet and the kids. My weekdays are starting to be predictable now with kids going to school and Juliet back in the ceramics course at our local community college. I absolutely love days when nothing exciting happens but alas that is rare.

Last couple of weeks we were busy with a series of medical appointments and Juliet has a bunch more coming up in September. Next weekend I am flying to Boston and week after to Texas. Towards September-end, Leela is undergoing surgery for ear tubes and adenoid removal. And it is in the middle of all of this, that I am trying to sleep better, eat healthier, be more active, and spend more time with family.

I'm not trying to force any of this overnight because I just can't force major lifestyle changes and make them stick. So instead I am slowly and gradually choosing options that align with my long-term life goals. I had never made salsa before in my life but today I did it because it just seemed like the natural thing to do before the tomatillos went bad. There's nothing extraordinary about exercising, cleaning, cooking, or feeding your own kids. But over the last decade, I stopped finding joy in these things. I did what I did because it needed to be done. Now I'm starting to do these things because I want to.

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Good bye FSThu, 10th Aug '23, 10:10 pm::

Twenty one years ago, Eric from Formulated Solutions reached out to me to design a website. First it was just a small Flash-based product brochure, then another with multiple product lines, then his main company site, and then a full e-commerce site with a PayPal shopping cart and customer portal. In 2004, I moved to Florida to work full time at FS, and steadily the company went from just 20-30 employees to 700+ at last count.

With growth, came complexity. At first we made products for tanning salons but soon after we got into personal care products, sunscreens, aerosols, and eventually high-volume brand-name pharmaceutical products. The web apps I built in 2002, running on PHP3, over time got upgraded and extended to run a full ERP system with MRP, planning, inventory, warehousing, quality, and project management modules used by hundreds of employees across multiple sites 24/7.

I made so many friends at Formulated over the years that more than half the contacts in my phone are tagged FS. I am making new friends here in Woodstock now but there's no way anyone can take the place of Eric, Brian, Kelly, Linda, David, Sandra, Jeff... I could keep listing names but you get the idea. When I look back, I can only recall the good memories of my years at FS despite the many, many stressful days I know we slogged through.

While I look back at these years with fondness and pride, due to Juliet's ongoing treatments, I have had a very hard time last few years to continue to take care of the FS systems. So this Monday, I said my last good byes and asked the IT team to turn off my access. It was bittersweet for sure. I will miss the camaraderie but I look forward to spending more time with Juliet now. Instead of doing our groceries online, I want to take her to local farmers markets for fresh produce. Instead of fast food, I want to prepare healthier meals with her.

I know not what the future holds but I know my past is full of trust, support, and love during my tenure at FS. I hope to build on that for the rest of my life. And Eric, thanks for taking a chance on me. It was a hell of a ride!

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GratefulSat, 15th Jul '23, 12:45 pm::

I started running again recently. Today I ran (and partially walked) 5mi at our local park. Twenty years ago when I started training for marathons and ultras, all I needed was my youthful ambition and gumption. Now at 42, I bring multiple herniated discs, varicose veins, and some extra weight with me on each run. And if I want to go far, I need to plan and prep properly. I also need a lot more motivation and discipline. After a few short runs, I started buying new running gear - running shorts, shirts, compression socks, headband, headphones etc. I will likely buy new shoes and water bottle/pack soon. I am excited because all of this modern gear is so much better than what was available in early 2000s. The shirts don't chafe, the shorts have pockets with zippers, the headphones conduct the audio through my bones, keeping my ears open!

The best thing I did was sign up for Nike Run Club App. I setup my running goals in the app and have a weekly plan that works well for me. The first week, Nike's Coach Bennett guided me via the app at every stage of the daily runs. Every run has a purpose, whether to get far, get fast, or just get started, said Coach Bennett's voice in my head. With every guided run, he suggests topics for me to think about as I try to keep moving.

Today it was about being grateful. What am I grateful about as I run today? Who am I grateful for? Who brings a smile to my face and makes me laugh so hard it hurts? The moment he said "grateful", I immediately pictured Juliet in my mind. I am grateful she came into my life. I am grateful she is here with me. I am grateful she is still doing her best to take care of me and our kids. I am grateful she loves me.

Three years ago when she first got diagnosed, our whole life turned upside down. Leela was a newborn, Naveen was not adapting well to school life, and the pandemic shutdown all travel and large events. Not surprisingly, I never got back into long distance running by my 40th birthday. Instead I took her from one healthcare specialist to another. 2020-2022 were tough years.

I am grateful that things are better now in many ways. Both the kids have adjusted well to our life in Illinois. Juliet has made a number of local friends and spends a lot of time doing arts & crafts. Her medical conditions have not drastically improved but we have both learned what works best for her - temperature control, no long drives, lots of breaks, minimal stress. And best of all, we are surrounded by beautiful nature and kind people. I could not ask for more.

I am grateful that I can run again. A lot of pieces had to get fall into place for me to be able to run again. For now, the chaos has died down enough for me to take an hour of my day to go running. I still have a ton of chores, paperwork, and medical stuff to handle, on top of actual IT/programming work, but my head is not on fire 24/7 these days and that is wonderful.

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Sedges have edges, rushes are roundWed, 28th Jun '23, 12:25 pm::

Last year, our focus was on setting up the inside of our house. We spent most of the year under construction with dust and debris covering one room or other. We continued the construction earlier this year and finally had everything done by mid May, just over a month ago. Since then, our focus has been outdoors, especially since the weather has been nice here.

Both Juliet and I were pretty familiar with the natural flora of Florida but we have almost no knowledge of the vegetation here in the mid-west. Last month we were fortunate to have Mr. Ders Anderson, president of The Land Conservancy of McHenry County stop by and educate us on the plants we have around our house. He pointed out a number of invasive species that we should eradicate, lest they snuff out the native plants. He showed me the healthy sedges we have and suggested we should plant more. Sedges look like grass but they're not grass. Rushes also look like grass, but they are neither grass, nor sedges. Here's how to tell them apart:

    Sedges have edges,
        Rushes are round,
    Grasses have nodes
        from the top to the ground.

I am not deeply into gardening or growing my own vegetables but I respect others who are. For my taste, I just want native, non-invasive vegetation around me so that we can help local wildlife, including birds, bees, and all sorts of insects and worms. And above all, I don't want the invasive species take over the native ones. So we're learning as much as we can, so that hopefully over the years, we can become a refuge for countless migratory birds and butterflies as well as a shelter for fireflies, humming birds, and rare plants.

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Call Me MaybeFri, 2nd Jun '23, 11:40 pm::

Juliet doesn't always keep her phone or smartwatch nearby when she is home. Normally it is not a problem since she does not get any urgent calls from the kids' schools or doctors, as those go to me. But I get pretty annoyed if I try to call her when I'm away from home and get her voicemail instead.

Not anymore! Thanks to the wonders of technology, I have figured out the perfect way to annoy her back and have her call me immediately. I hooked up a Sonos to the dozen in-wall speakers we have throughout our house and can use Spotify to blast a song at full volume no matter where I am in the world. Naturally, my song of choice is Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen.

Who needs a landline when you have Sonos?! Surprisingly, just as I was typing this, I realized that we do have a landline! It's the emergency line for the elevator via Ooma. I know landlines are a thing of the past and pretty boring in general but Ooma's tech and pricing is pretty cool. You buy the equipment online and they give you a phone number and service for free, with the only monthly payment being taxes and FCC charges (around $7 for my location). Their equipment is well-designed and cleverly solves the reliability vs. reach problem.

So here's the problem I needed to solve: The elevator's emergency phone line required an old-school landline connection over an RJ-11 phone cord. I cannot easily get a standard landline where I live so my only choice was cellphone or internet-based phone. Cellular phones do not have RJ-11 ports and even if I found one that did, cell service is not dependable indoors, at least not for life-and-death matters. This left internet-based phone service as my only option, but most VOIP (voice-over-internet) services offer phones that connect to standard Ethernet (RJ-45) and there's no cheap "adapter" to go from one to the other, at least not stably for an emergency phone. Additionally, the elevator's control box where the phone line would plug in, is far from my router. Now while I do have good wi-fi all over the house and even the yard, VOIP over wi-fi may work for casual usage but I would not recommend it for emergency phones.

That's why after looking online for months, I was elated to come across Ooma. They offer a base-station ($50 refurbished on Amazon) that plugs into your router with an Ethernet cord and a compatible wireless phone jack with a RJ-11 port (another $50 on Amazon) that can talk to the base-station over RF, without using your home wi-fi. This means I could keep the base-station in my network cabinet, mount the wireless phone jack right next to the elevator's control box, and get reliable phone service without pulling a new RJ-11 cable all across the house. And that's exactly what I did and it works great. It even has a dial-tone with pulse-dialing!

If blasting Carly doesn't work out next time, I might have to call our elevator's emergency line to get Juliet's attention!

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Looking for DocFri, 28th Apr '23, 1:00 pm::

While looking for a local doctor in our new hometown of Woodstock, IL, I came across this story of the "Last Doctor Standing", written by author R. Salvador Reyes, about his father in 2013. While Juliet is getting great care for her chronic conditions at all the local Northwestern Medicine (NM) facilities, she really wanted a personal-touch of a local doc who cares. Alas, that is becoming a rarity and this essay gives a behind-the-scenes look at how we got here as a country.

Growing up in India, we had a family doctor, "Dr. Patel". He treated our entire family at his clinic and sometimes even at our home. When he retired, his son took up the mantle and "Dr. Patel" continued to take care of our family. Knowing that there is someone nearby whom you can trust for any health issues, especially when the time comes to get a referral to a specialist, is so incredibly important. I miss that feeling of comfort.

On the flip side, both Naveen and Leela see the same Pediatrician and Leela absolutely adores her Dr. Pae. Any time she randomly coughs, she instantly gets excited and asks, "Go to Dr. Pae?" If we're lucky, Dr. Pae will stay at the local NM hospital for a long time. I wish she treated adults too!

While Juliet and I can see a general physician at NM anytime, it could be any one of the 4-6 different doctors. So although we get great care, it doesn't feel like seeing "Dr. Patel". Not sure how else I can explain this without sounding like an old man whining about the "good ol' days". I am inadvertently trying to recreate feelings from my childhood in the modern day, across the world. But I'm realizing that, as Sal wrote in his essay, "the small town family practitioner was a vital part of the social fabric," the keyword here might be 'was'. I might look for a Concierge medicine practice but not sure if that will suffice.

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I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe... in LoveThu, 2nd Mar '23, 1:20 pm::

Every morning when I drive Leela to daycare after dropping Naveen off at his school, I start playing songs from my own playlist until Leela stops saying "Not this." Then I add it to her own playlist and we both sing the song twice or thrice until we get to her school. Today we sang along to the remake of an old song "I believe in love" by Lily Collins from the movie Mirror Mirror. So far I've discovered that she loves Yellow Submarine by The Beatles, Best Day of my Life by American Authors, and Pump Up The Jam by Technotronic.

And of course being 3, she loves Baby Shark, Slippery Fish by Amy Liz, and Apples & Bananas by The Wiggles.

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Caring isn't sharing (anxiety)Wed, 18th Jan '23, 2:30 am::

This week I had a number of things stress me out all at once - work projects, home construction, paperwork. I felt pretty overwhelmed trying to manage everything but in the midst of it all, I had a minor epiphany that instantly calmed me down. While discussing with Juliet how stressed I was, I blurted out that "it is not even my own anxiety! It's other people's!"

And that was true. I wasn't the one who was really anxious about a new system going live, a coworker was. I didn't have to figure out the solution to the electrical issue, the contractor did. Sure, when working in a team, the successes and failures are shared. When hiring people for projects, if they mess up, you suffer too. But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about not letting others' worries, worry you. It's true that other people will have genuine concerns about new projects or upcoming tasks. But no matter how much you care about the people, their concerns are theirs, not yours. Repeat after me kids — You can care about a person without sharing their anxiety.

Even as I wrote the above carefully selected words, advocating for this "not-my-problem" stance sounds brutally callous to me. So let me explain with a simple example: If my close friend loses their job, it's normal for me to be concerned for them and worry about their well-being. Totally ok to worry here. Next, if they apply for a job and are super stressed about the interview process, I don't need to be worried with them.

It is ridiculous for me to worry about their job interview. Yet I often do. I guess once I start caring about their job loss, I start to care about all of their job-related anxieties too. And that just stresses me out for no reason. So now I've started to ask myself - is this my anxiety or someone else's?

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