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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Tue, 10th Jan '23, 2:15 am::

Juliet and I watched Avatar - The Way of the Water in Cinemark XD RealD 3D tonight and my mind is still stuck in the magical realm of Pandora. This was my first movie theater visit in 3 years and I am so glad I picked this movie. It was an absolutely breathtaking experience and I cannot wait to see the next one in 2024.

I have been busy as always last few months and I don't foresee my schedule getting any lighter the rest of the year. I hope to travel more this year than last few years, especially since Leela is starting to enjoy attractions more now. Naveen is turning 8 in a few weeks and I have a dream of setting up a full computer workstation for him and installing older versions of different programs for him to play with - 3D Studio Max, Photoshop, Blender etc. He is extremely interested in programming and loved the few short lessons in Python I gave.

Juliet is doing well and keeping my spirits up while I slog through stressful work projects. She is going to take another pottery class at the local community college and it really helps her work on her fine motor skills as well as build a social circle here. Last semester she made a set of really pretty cube-shaped containers that we now keep in our kitchen to store Taco Bell sauce packets.

It's pretty cold outside these days and there's still some snow on the ground. Last year around Jan-Feb, I saw snowdrops growing unexpectedly all over my front-yard and I am really hoping they come back again soon.

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Hello 2023Sun, 1st Jan '23, 5:45 pm::

We ushered in the new year last night with fireworks and champagne (well, sparkling juice for the kids). I couldn't believe it but both Naveen and Leela stayed up and were super excited. Today our au pair Josi took them both on a play date with another local au pair who takes care of two kids, about the same age as Naveen and Leela. Juliet and I had a relaxing New Year's Day and started season 3 of Emily in Paris on Netflix.

Yesterday our new neighbors Blaire and Mike left us a small gift basket for celebrations, along with ingredients for what they said was a Danish celebration tradition — rye bread, boiled eggs, and herring with onions — for Smørrebrød. Apparently it tasted great though I was barely able to stand the smell, still being vegetarian and all. We miss our wonderful neighbors Bevv, Brian, and Mike in Florida and it felt good to be welcomed here in Woodstock.

In just a little over a year, Juliet has made so many friends here and I have reconnected with so many of my family and relatives. The kids are thoroughly loving the school and daycare here. Of course the cold winter weather can't hold a candle to the wonderful sunny days Florida's having right now but this just feels home to me. I love snuggling up in bed with a warm cup of coffee and catching up on the phone with friends, watching cartoons with kids, or just talking with Juliet.

Last year I didn't make any specific resolutions but instead tried to form new habits. I started reading a lot more and I drastically improved my diet. This year I'm hoping to continue those and add routine exercise to the list. We spent 9 out of the 12 months under construction last year and I am hoping this year we will get to enjoy the fruits of our labor of dust and noise.

As I've grown older, I've noticed I have become a lot more accepting of things as they happen instead of doing everything to stick to plans and freaking out when they don't. Of course I'm always going to plan to the best of my abilities but life throws so many curve balls, it's best to just accept when unexpected things happen. Here's to a new year for all of us to learn and grow, love and forgive, live and cherish!

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Pet storyMon, 8th Aug '22, 12:15 pm::

My cats Giga and Tera were born 18 years ago today. Happy Birthday Giga! I miss Tera so much and I know Giga does too because after her passing, he has been so much more affectionate with our Chihuahua Lady Bug. In cat years, Giga's a spry 126 years old, though he is jumping and running less these days. Lady Bug is probably 15-17 years old and more docile too. We adopted her in 2010 from someone who didn't know her age but despite a ton of health issues years ago, she has recovered well.

We left Florida last winter after rehoming most of our pets that we could not bring to Illinois - our goats, chickens, tortoises etc. It has been a lot less stress for me but like Juliet and the kids, I do miss walking into the yard to pet them. And now with only aging Giga and Lady Bug, when at one time we had 4 devious cats and 2 loud dogs on top of the rest of the petting zoo, things are a lot calmer, quieter, maybe even a bit morose.

You read about life in books. You watch movies and shows about characters living their lives. But you never step back and think of your own life as just another story in the encyclopedia of homo-sapiens. While everyone sees themselves as the main character in their own lives and some even talk and write about themselves in depth, we rarely see ourselves as simply another tiny human going about our short lives doing typical human things. But the more I think about our pets, especially the ones no longer with us, the more I realize how much I am fulfilling my role as a standard-issue human-being. I pet the cat, I feed the dog, I throw a ball towards my child, I move heavy things for my wife. I am human adult.

In a world where people are hustling for fame and fortune, struggling to make a name for themselves, and striving to achieve productivity goals, I am patting myself on my back having taken a single celebratory cat photo earlier today. Not because I can't be productive or am done with goals but rather because thinking about my pets connects me to the saga of humanity while inventorying my achievements and failures singles me out and makes me feel isolated, unique.

Thinking of myself as unique and special with the agency to determine my destiny is exhausting. Accepting that I am human #106,839,249,965 going about my silly little life is relaxing and frankly, cute in a metaphysical way. There's no checklist of activities humans need to do to qualify as valid human and getting 100% in some exam or making $X of money would definitely not be on that list. But if there was such a list, getting nuzzled by a fuzzy cat should be on it, along with burning your tongue because you bit into food that was still too hot and staying up way past your bedtime because you enjoy the present company. These are human things, these little incidents, events, and activities weave the narrative of our lives. Pets, friends, family, love, kids, breeze, rain, that little bit of dirt still left over no matter how many times you try to sweep it into the pan with the broom — these tell the tale of our lives.

We love to read stories, play stories, watch stories, hear stories, and make up stories. And every single story is about life. There are no stories of rivers just flowing, molecules just colliding, and numbers just incrementing. Stories are about life. And life, when viewed through the eyes of a master storyteller with a penchant for small wonders, becomes ever so fulfilling. The passage of time, the grief of losing loved ones, the ennui of navigating human institutions — these hurt, stress, and aggravate me on an individual level but they make me feel like I am checking all the items on the being-human to-do list when I take a step back and observe.

Today I took a step back to observe. Tomorrow I have a ton of meetings and chores. C’est la vie.

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Fourteen yearsWed, 27th Jul '22, 9:30 am::

Fourteen years ago on this day Juliet and I said our vows in front of the Undine Falls in Yellowstone Park. Yesterday as I was driving with her, I remarked that had known our future that day and everything that was about to unfold, I would have done exactly the same things and made the same choices. I cannot imagine a better life, a life full of love, teeming with special moments, grounded in trust and mutual respect. On second thought, maybe I would have changed a few things, like saying “I love you” to her more often.

I love you, Juliet. Happy 14th anniversary!

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Making timeSun, 12th Jun '22, 4:50 pm::

This past week I promised myself that I will start making time for myself again. Over two decades ago when I started this blog, I was in the midst of college exams, homework, and projects and barely had time for anything other than studies, chores, and some work. And yet I always had time to write an update here. But last few years have been so exhaustively busy and stressful for me that while I made time to play with the kids and go out with Juliet, I pushed off my personal "me time" aside.

Add to that the long list of paperwork I have had to do and still haven't done, being alone in my office became the most opportune time to check things off the to-do list rather than relax, share my thoughts, or be creative like I used to. I don't even comment online anymore because if I have time to type paragraphs for strangers, I have time to update our Au Pair family profile so that we can find Adele's replacement once she leaves in early September. But thankfully, old tasks are getting done now and new todos aren't piling up like they did a year ago. The Au Pair family profile has been updated. I filled out the claim forms for moving damages from last year. I have the documents I need to register our cars here in Illinois and sign up Leela for day care. And soon my parents room downstairs will be ready.

Maybe then I can write down some of the thoughts that I've been itching to share for quite some time now. So next up will be my treatise on... love.

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Goodbye TeraFri, 10th Jun '22, 8:10 pm::

It was long time coming but I finally laid down my dear little Tera cat to eternal sleep today. I got her and Giga in 2004 and they have been as much a part of my life as any person. She was a shy, quiet cat who used to only come to me for many years. Over time some others charmed her and she started to run away from me because I was the only one to take her to the vet. But last few weeks she started to come up to me for back rubs. I had a feeling it was her time and gave her extra treats and rubs. I am sad she is gone but I am grateful she was there for me on days I needed a warm fuzzy nuzzle.

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