Tue, 29th Nov '05, 9:15 pm::

It's not supposed to be cold, gray, and rainy in Florida in winter!

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A Tribute to my Kandivali DadaSun, 27th Nov '05, 12:05 am::

A Tribute to my Kandivali Dada: I just received the unfortunate news that my mom's father, Navnitlal Modi (Kandivali Dada) passed away earlier today. He was over 74yrs old and had been of weak health for a while. Lately it had gotten worse and he was admitted to the hospital a few days ago. However, before he passed away, he blessed my cousin Khushboo and her new groom Nirav on the occasion of their marriage ceremony. And he was present when my cousin Kunal was engaged to be married. His four sons and one daughter (my mom) loved him dearly and had been with him throughout his long, eventful life.

I remember my summer vacation days as a naughty little scoundrel causing trouble every moment when I stayed with my mother's side of the family in the Kandivali suburbs of Mumbai, India. After his wife (my mom's mom) passed away due to cancer in early 1990's, I saw Dadaji as the quintessential Indian Sage. With his decades and decades of experiences living around the Indian sub-continent, Dadaji could discuss and debate on just about every topic one could imagine, from politics to science, from religion to mysticism. While I loved him as a kid, I began to fully appreciate his wisdom as I turned into a confused teenager.

It would be wrong of me to say that just one person influenced me primarily as I was growing up. Whatever I am today is a result of many many people who love me and still want to bring out the best in me by doing their little bit. I consider my Kandivali Dada to be among the respected few that I had the honor of learning from, in addition to of course, my parents. I have learnt so many things about life, so many little lessons that make me who I am, that I cannot thank my family enough. And add to that list my friends, my dad's friends (seriously! all of his awesome friends & their families), my boss Eric & his entire family, my past and current coworkers, and the numerous school teachers (like Mr. Sesh from RKC) that I had the fortune of learning from in the past two and a half decades.

The odd thing about learning lessons of life is that you don't always learn what people are trying to teach you. Kandivali Dadaji tried to teach me about astrology, alternative health/medicines, and ancient Vedic texts. I never learnt anything about that. Frankly, being a student of science, I couldn't swallow half the theories that astrology is based on. So inadvertently he taught me, one of my strongest skill today: critical analysis. Many times I would feel bad that I just spent four hours debating with him the ridiculousness of non-conventional forms of treatments like Electropathy. He would patiently explain his theories to me and give me a chance to counter them with my arguments. As a 15-yr old kid it was great because here I was, learning about the world, but in my own way. I was being given a chance to learn and believe what I wanted to.

It doesn't matter which part of the world you're in, most of the kids are forced to accept staunch orthodox beliefs and live up to pre-conceived notions of what's right and what's not, with no valid explanations or a chance to argue otherwise. If your parents think you need religion, you have no choice but to believe in God, Allah, or Krishna. If your grandparents think caste-system or racism is perfectly acceptable, you will grow up to be proud to hate others not like you. If everyone else around you tells you that men should go out and earn money while women stay at home and bear children, that's what you end up believing in. It doesn't even have to be this extreme. If the people you respect and look up to as a teenager tell you that lying every now and then to save your own face is perfectly normal, then guess what, you're gonna have issues with being honest. While I realize that every person is free to choose whatever they want to believe it, most of the kids just stick to trusting whatever they're taught during the early years of their life. Of course, exceptions exist but the norm is that you don't get much choice to pick your own beliefs.

Thankfully, I was given the chance to be an exception. And my Kandivali Dadaji was one of the few who supported my criticism and encouraged my curiousity. It would be so much easier to pay tribute to the man had he been a simple one-dimensional personality. I wish I could just say that "he was great fun to be with and brought my lots of candy." But I can't. For like the saying goes, he didn't just give me a free meal, he taught me how to fish. No matter how hard I try to remember him as the awesome grandpa who gave me free-stuff, I can't. My earliest memories of him have been overwritten by the long debates we had sitting cross-legged on the floor, in front of a little mandir and his wife's photo. With some people, you remember the hundreds of little incidents. But with some people, it's just one clear memory, so strong that, that is pretty much how you're going to remember them forever.

It's very easy to talk about someone that helped you at a bad time. In fact it feels so comforting to pay homage to someone who took direct actions to improve your immediate life situtation. However, it's not as easy to thank someone when the words they spoke six years ago suddenly impact the way you think of life today.

He was a very kind and disciplined man. He loved his children and grandchildren. I can't even imagine what my little cousins Ria & Yashika in Kandivali must feel right now. During the last few years of his life, I know both the kids had become very fond of him. And today I feel lucky and privileged to have known him not just as a loved-kid but more so as a growing up teenager who had too many unanswered questions.

I'm really out of words right now as his death didn't really come as a surprise to anyone in our family. We all knew his health was failing and it was only a matter of time before he left us. I guess I myself had come to a closure this April when I visited him. I was sad that I didn't spend more than a few hours with him but seeing how weak he was, I couldn't really expect him to talk for more than an hour or two anyway. Not knowing when I would be back in India, I pretty much bid my last adieu. I was kinda hoping that I would see him once more when I go back to India in January '06 but oh well...

He had a long, fruitful life. While I want to mourn his death, I also want to celebrate his life. Good bye Dadaji. Farewell.

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Sat, 26th Nov '05, 3:40 pm::

The chores for the day are done. Change kitty litter, wash car, look hot :) In fact, this is the first time I washed my car myself since I got it in June '04. I got it washed once early this year when I got it serviced. Since I mostly drive on paved roads and it rains to much in Florida, my car gets nature-washes quite often. Been a while since it rained heavily here so it was about time I cleaned it. It was kinda cool. Washing my car on my own driveway. It's a special type of feeling.

And now for some R&R.

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Thu, 24th Nov '05, 11:45 pm::

Ok I'm done with my database stuff now. Basically, I just made an automated tag cloud for my site. A tag cloud shows you the most frequently used words. The more a word is used, the larger its font size, the less it is used, the smaller its size. Just see it for yourself to get an idea of what I'm talking about. With just one glance, it gives you a pretty good overview of what things I often mention on my 'blog, or in turn, what matters to me. Just look at my friend Tay's tag cloud for a contrast. It doesn't take a genius to notice the "music" is quite important to him and "computer" is just as important to me.

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Thu, 24th Nov '05, 11:30 pm::

I was doing some database stuff on this 'blog and I realized that excluding this one, I've posted exactly 999 'blog entries i.e. I've 'blogged on 999 days (since I often 'blog multiple times on the same day but each day counts as one entry). This is officially my 1000th 'blog entry! Wow... And I'd have missed it had I not being trying to fiddle with my database right now.

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Wed, 23rd Nov '05, 11:15 am::

As part of the management team of a local social club, one of my dad's friends often said a quote that I find myself saying very often these days: "All suggestions are welcome as long as accompanied by a check." It's pretty brilliant when you think about it. Everyone wants you to do things without giving any thought to resources required to accomplish it. "How about we get 10 new computers and set up a sales team?" "Wow Harry, that sounds great! Did you come up with all of that yourself?"

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Sun, 20th Nov '05, 3:45 pm::

Big Picture vs. Small PictureWed, 16th Nov '05, 8:00 pm::

Disclaimer: It saddens me to write this 'blog entry because I know my family will read it and won't like many parts of it. Sorry but you won't be able to use this 'blog entry to show off my success to everyone. I haven't run a marathon today and I haven't written any software this week that'll change the Internet. But it makes me happy to write this because I think it's time for a reality check for myself and for everyone that I love.

The Game: It's a little game I call Big Picture vs. Small Picture. This is not about truth vs. false. In this game everything is true for only true facts are admissible. I can testify that nothing in the following statements is even remotely false. So let's get started.

The Small Picture: Even though I have a great job in US, I hardly have any savings. I can't send any monetary gifts back home to India for my only sister's wedding in January 2006, even though my cousin in UK pretty much paid for his sister's wedding and more. In fact, I spend more money on my cats than I send back to India. Any time my relatives in US ask me to come visit them for holidays, I decline saying I'm saving up to buy tickets to India for my sister's wedding. I admit to them that if I don't save each month, I won't be able to pay for the India trip. Whenever someone suggests that I get arranged married like my sister, one of my first excuses is that I can't afford to marry. Word gets around and now, I'm officially broke in the eyes of my family & relatives.

I wasn't always "broke". In fact, three years ago back in college, I was supposed to be doing pretty well with my high-paying student job. Just earlier this year when I went to India I was even seen as what you might say... "rich!" But for some reason, not anymore.

Immediate Analysis: If you just look at the small picture, and it is in fact quite true, clearly then it would seem that I must be bad at managing money and/or I don't care enough about my family in India to chip in for even a small part of my loving sister's wedding expenses. Somewhere in the last few months I went from being pretty "well off" to living "paycheck to paycheck" and since I am in full control of my fiscal habits, I'm the one to blame. Thankfully, my parents are very understanding and have never demanded anything from me. Never ever. For this and more, I love them more than any son can. Nevertheless, it appears to all that I'm reckless and failing. Hmm. Let's look at this scenario from a different altitude.

The Big Picture: In this round, we forget all the pesky details of day-to-day life and think BIG. A little over five years ago I came to US with a dream... the ever-so-romanticized American Dream. After years of reluctance, my dad finally, at the behest of my lovely sis, told me to go forth and conquer the world. I'm sure he didn't expect me to wage military wars on the entire world, but instead wished me best of luck to achieve everything I wanted in my life. I flew in to the magical land of the United States of America all cheery-eyed and dreamy. My mom and grandma were glad that their kid was finally going to get good higher education - after all who doesn't want an esteemed PhD dork in their family?

I spent four years in Rutgers New Jersey, half of them living with my aunt and uncle who still do their best to support me whenever they can. Two bachelor degrees with highest honors later, I moved to sunny Florida for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to head the IT department of a small-but-rapidly-growing company. Now that I was finally living on my own, I could do things I've always wanted! A three-pc home-network? Check. True bachelor-style bean bags? Check. Cute little pets that my sister and I have wanted since childhood? Check! Everything's great. I go to India in April '05 and everyone is happy for me. I'm a success!

I notice real-estate prices in my area go through the roof, especially the properties near the Gulf. It's either buy now or be priced out of the housing market for decades. Having realized that without physical assets, creditors in US don't care about you at all, I pooled all my resources together for the big buy. In two short months, I bought a cute little house near the beach. Now next year when I try to consolidate my three variable-interest (eeek) student loans, banks will not reject me outright because I shall be in possession of the revered home equity.

Immediate Analysis: Big dreams necessitate disciplined efforts and uncompromising patience. It took some time but it appears to anyone that I've managed to fulfill quite a number of academic, economic, and personal goals. Overall, things are great if you ask me. No bad marriage, no expulsion from college, no criminal charges, no pending lawsuits, no housing troubles, no bad debts, no employment issues, and no chronic illnesses. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping things stay just as good. I'm one lucky son of a gun. So... if everything is this peachy, what's with the pesky details I mentioned in the small picture above? It's all about the proper focus.

a. Focus - Adjustable: You need a telescope to look at distant planets. You need an electron microscope to research how to better fabricate the carbon-nanotube fibers that strengthen the structure of the spacecraft that will get you to these distant planets. Notice the complexities between the two sentences. Dreaming, big-picture satellite viewing is simple. Even though it requires planning, experience, and wisdom, it won't get your hands messy. On the other hand, doing it, living in the nitty-gritties of actually implementing something is a dirty job. We dream in big screen but alas we live in the small picture. And the day you stop adjusting your focus is when you're stuck living a life you cannot take control of.

Very often, people, including yours truly, get so entrenched in one view, that they fail to see things for what they really are. While immediate events have immediate consequences, they also have long-term effects. How we handle situations in the short term impacts what will happen in the long term. My dad once told me that intelligence is the measure of how long does it take a person to walk into a room and understand everything that went on, is going on, and will go on. I propose a corollary that intelligence is the measure of how long it takes a person to switch from small picture to big picture and vice versa. What does this have to do with me you ask? Let's see.

b. Focus - Sticky: The problem with changing focus is that it doesn't want to change. We don't like to see things differently than we already do. It goes outside our comfort zone. You can get a new pair of running shoes today but it's so much more comfortable to spend that money on junk food and sit back & watch TV all evening instead of months of persistent training for a marathon. Notwithstanding my trifling excuses, I can buy a plane ticket to anywhere in the US today and have a great time with my family & relatives. It is so much better than putting $150/month extra towards the principal on my home mortgage. I used to be so free with my money; back in college when my primary goal was getting a degree. But I have to constantly get into the big picture view and remind myself that now I'm in the hardwork and struggle phase of life - these are the years I need to be saving up for the next phase of my life - graduate studies.

Selective Sacrifices: Nobody's saying that I need to give up on enjoying my life in order to maybe some day achieve my ambitions. If you saw me at the BBQ party at my house this weekend, you'd very well know I'm not giving up on any fun. However, I have given up on the extravagant lifestyle that I so lavishly savored during my pre-mortgage era. No more $500 impulse shopping bills and no more $100 on martinis. Just like no more cheese and pizzas till my health is back to my doctor's approved standards.

You cannot sacrifice today for tomorrow and you cannot spend everything today and have nothing for tomorrow. It's a delicate balance between the two and the sooner a person realizes this, the better. For me, a house is an investment. I was more than happy living in the 100 sq.ft. bunker in New Jersey. I don't need a mansion to keep me happy. To me, my house means that instead of spending and giving away like the young grasshoppa, I'm saving like the ant. Adhering to ancient wisdom is a GOOD™ thing.

Consequences for me: It's great that I have a house because when I decide to go for my PhD years from now and devote 5-6 years of my life to science, I will have a pool of savings I can rely on, without having to worry about food and next month's rent. Many people pursue PhDs right after their Bachelors, mostly living like poor college students throughout the course. I didn't want to. I wanted a break between BSc and PhD. I want real-world experience. I want to know that some day my research and inventions will actually make a difference. Hence, I'm glad to have a job where I face production scenarios every single day that demand novel theoretical solutions.

I've said this over a hundred times already that if I cared about money, I'd be selling plastic granules in Kolkata right now. It is a very respectful trade and many people I know back home live happily every after with their families by engaging in wholesale businesses. However, it is just... NOT ME. I'm a student of science, always was, always will be. Till the day I died I would regret the 8-10 hours a day I spent trading because that is not what I wanted to do. My problem is that while I can remind myself this on a regular basis, everyone around me forgets it. Then I get compared to my cousin in UK, whom I love dearly, but have entirely different ambitions in life from. His noble ambition, from my personal knowledge, was to provide the best standard of living for his family. He woke up each day knowing that he needs to make ends meet for his family and that it is up to him now. He is my personal hero because on an absolute scale, what he does requires a lot more dedication and perseverance than what I do.

Consequences for my family: If my parents wanted the same thing from me as my cousin, they would have made it very clear from day one that my aim in life should be to send $x to India every single month. But they didn't. They told me to get the best education I could and fulfill all of my dreams. They supported me throughout and I'm happy that they did. Yet, every now and then, people question if they did the right thing, if I am doing the right thing, if I still love my own family, if Brazil is going to win the next World Cup Soccer. People question, people talk, people raise unfounded doubts, and above all, people make mountains out of mole hills. That's what people do. And that is when things go sour. And that is why I feel so compelled to write a pretty revealing personal 'blog entry like this one to make things perfectly clear.

I feel like I've always been lucid and honest to my family and relatives, in fact, to pretty much everyone that asks me a question upfront. I never lie about serious issues though I may lie about how many girls I've kissed ;)

Honest Ramblings: I feel excited to tell my family every other day that OMG I LOVE YOU. There is nobody else in the world I love more than you guys. If something unfortunate happened tomorrow and my family needed anything, I would take the next flight to India to help out (after notifying my work of course; not gonna run away boss man! Don't worry). But I wonder, since when did I become a BAD son? I thought I was doing everything right in life - in the big picture sense. I never said I was perfect and I was pretty much pathetic during the months of August-October this year when I was down with god knows every illness known to pirates in the 1700s.

Penultimate Moanings & Whinings: It's no surprise that a single person living alone, far away from all family and friends, will get pretty down and depressive when faced with prolonged chronic illnesses that prohibit all forms of social interactions. In English, that means hell ya, I was sick, alone, and did I mention sick?! Of course, I was sad and weak. I couldn't even hang out with my friends! I'd have to be pretty crazy in the head to actually enjoy any of that. Worst of all, I spent all my savings on medical bills and ended up breaking my promise to my sister that I'll do my best to send her a small gift soon. I'm sad that I broke a promise but I'm crushed that people treat me like it's my fault that I had all these medical expenses. Ok... so I don't have an extra $1000 lying around anymore. Does that mean I'm a loser or a weak person altogether and need support from every person who walks by just to hold myself together in life? HELL NO!

The Winner: Life's a game. It's a balancing act - between truth and false, good and evil, right and wrong, big picture and small picture. Who's the winner in the match Big Picture vs. Small Picture? Neither side exactly. Only the ones who can juggle the two fluently will "win" the so-called game of life.

Sometimes, people stop juggling. If the people who love me the most, don't stand back and take a look but instead suspect my intentions, capabilities, and strength, it's gonna be an uphill climb. I can never stop loving them but I'm kind of disheartened that the ones closest to me assumed that I've somehow forgotten what's important. I don't think at this age and stage in life I have to give any explanations on why I spent $300 treating my cat's bleeding foot. I don't expect anyone to understand WHY I like my cats, but I do expect them to not to criticize me for the day to day decisions I make in my life.

It comes down to the classic "I'm old enough" debate now. I'm old enough to know what I'm doing so please stop judging, taunting, and sneaking in remarks about what I do or not do. If I'm about to make a major decision, I will always ask the people I look up to. For instance, I had a long chat with my dad late last year about buying a house. Taking his advice, I didn't buy a house then. However, I revisited the issue a few months later when my situation had changed and ended up buying a house that I realize is an even better fit for me. I'm not saying I made absolutely the most perfect decision ever (man... my roof still needs repairs). I just like to think that I made the most sensible decision given the circumstances and stood firmly by it after weighing in the positive and negative consequences. The positive consequences being that I'll build equity that will help me later in life and the negative being that I won't have lot of free money lying around every month anymore.

If you've read this far then it's only natural that I thank you for paying attention and listening to what I had to say. Know in your heart that I love you more than anything in the world and that I will do anything possible when the need be. But if there is no crisis, then why not let me pursue my dreams and have some fun on the way? And for flying spaghetti monster's sake, stop worrying about me! I'm doing pretty damn well.

PS: Please send me money. I've been eating cat food for two weeks and have no money to feed myself or my cats now.

PPS: Just kidding about the cat food. I'm still a vegetarian :)

PPPS: Don't forget the money!

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Sun, 13th Nov '05, 12:05 pm::

Oh mannnnnnnnnn! Yesterday was another awesome Florida day. Woke up, went to the beach with Liz & their new roommate Josh. Went shopping in the evening and then around 7pm everyone came over to my house for backyard BBQ. Just six people (Liz & Dave, Josh, Jose & Nichole, and me) but man... it was awesome. I can't believe we finished my bottle of Finlandia and Goldschlager! I'm feeling VERY tipsy right now. I need more rest. Hehe. All in all, it was awesome especially because I had veggie kababs.

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Sat, 12th Nov '05, 4:00 pm::

I've had my babies for exactly one year today!!!!!!!! They've made me so happy no matter how bad my life was, especially the three months of constant sickness this summer. No matter who you are and where you live, life's not easy despite whatever amenities you have. And it gets tougher when you don't have any family or long-term friends nearby. Ever since I've found my kitties, things seem a lot lot easier and nicer. More often than not I wake up with a smile and I always go to bed with both the kids crawled up on me. Things are good :)

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Fri, 11th Nov '05, 8:30 am::

OH MY GOD!!!! I can't believe I have Google Maps on my Nokia 3220 cellphone! Next time I'm lost, I can actually use my cellphone to find my way out! If you want to see whether your cellphone supports Google Maps, go here.

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Tue, 8th Nov '05, 9:30 pm::

I got me a new phone: Nokia 3220 - totally love it so far. Has a lot of cool features like camera, hands-free, loud-speaker, web-access, and soon I'll be able to connect it to my computer for more stuff.

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Sun, 6th Nov '05, 7:35 pm::

Quote for the day: "You can make them laugh, but you can't make them happy" - Maurice LaMarche

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Sat, 5th Nov '05, 11:00 pm::

And for no reason whatsoever, here's a sexah picture of my knees.

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Sat, 5th Nov '05, 9:00 pm::

Airline Glossary: Finally I know what a deadhead is :)

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Sat, 5th Nov '05, 6:45 pm::

I am officially a Florida Beach Bum :) I've been to the beach every single day of this week! Today was awesome. Packed up some food and drinks and chilled all day at the beach with Liz. OMG the water was brrrrrr cold! I never thought sea-water could get colder than the water in my fridge. I'm so proud of all my beach gear - big sun umbrella, chairs, ice box, beach towels... all of which are always in my car so I can do this any day.

Now that I'm finally able to enjoy going out and doing stuff, the beach is my #1 favorite place to go to - it's gorgeous, fun, and absolutely free. We had dinner at this cool place on John's Pass called the Sculley's on the Boardwalk. Kinda pricy but oh-so delicious. Just got home, all tired and sleepy. I know it's kinda early but man, leisure is hard work *grin*

What still amazes me is how lucky I am to be in this place, so close to such a wonderful tourist-y spot. I mean people from all over the country save money all year so they can come down and spend a few days one mile from where I live all year. I always whine that I never get a real vacation, mainly because I end up visiting family and thus using my vacation days. But you know, if you already live next to a real vacation destination, it's just as good. I mean I don't have to sleep in a weird hotel room or rent a car or get lost in a new place. I already know where everything is and how to get there. And after a long day out, I can just come home and pass out in my own bed. Life's finally getting better after months of sickness :)

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Fri, 4th Nov '05, 6:55 pm::

Any form of National ID is hellishly scary. See it for yourself.

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