Smoke detector duck hunt

Last weekend, one of the smoke alarms started chirping every minute or so, indicating that battery was about to go. After careful listening and staring at them at various locations, I narrowed it down to the one in office. Found out that it takes the 9 volt batteries which of course we didn’t have. Went to Ralph’s and got it.

Confirmed by another round of staring and listening intently that it was the office one. Got up the step ladder and replaced it. After about a minute, it chirped again. Considered my options:

1. New battery was no good: least likely, but worth considering after exhausting all possibilities.

2. Wrong smoke detector, maybe it’s the one in the bedroom that’s chirping: Yet another round of staring and intent listening, enrolled Avi as well in the hunt. Checked downstairs to be double sure, the sound was definitely coming from upstairs. Checked different areas within upstairs, it was definitely coming from office area. Checked bedroom and office. It was most probably coming from office one.

3. It wasn’t chirping because of battery, something else was wrong: disconnected the smoke detector from the wires and left it on the desk. Still heard the chirp. Not sure if it was supposed to chirp even when disconnected. Weirded out at this point.

Was sitting in the bedroom, considering replacing the battery of that room’s smoke detector as well. Then suddenly, it flashed to me that there was a extra CO detector that we had bought at Costco and were using in old house. It was lying in one of the boxes in office. In an instant, rummaged through the boxes and found the culprit. It was that alarm that had been chirping the whole time. Replaced batteries and enjoyed the chirp-free existence after lamenting the stupidity and idiocy for a few brief seconds.

Book Bug

In Avi’s current class (and school-wide), a lot of importance is given to reading. Avi is required to read atleast 20 mins every day and write a log. He started on a series of books called “Bailey School Kids”. And he’s loving them. He has already finished all the books in that series available in the school library. His 1st trimester goal was to earn 20 AR points, and he finished at 59!

photo

We went to the Orange library a couple of weeks ago and he got about 10 books. That whole weekend, he spent most of his time reading.

This is amazing. I’m so proud and glad. I remember exactly which book gave me the reading bug. It was The Hardy Boys: Billion Dollar Ransom. I remember going to the local library and finishing up all the Hardy Boys’ books and then moving on to other mystery books, specially by Enid Blyton. I also remember being able to write school essays very creatively and getting recognition and great grades. I remember Mrs. Dutta (must’ve been around 8-9th grade) once singled out an essay I had written to the whole class and asked me that I must be reading outside the school books. I said yes and that I loved to read mystery books.

I truly believe that one of the reasons of being where I am is because of the love of reading. I believe that reading widens your imagination and gives you the ability to express yourself articulately. And that ability helps you learn better and grow better. And that’s why I couldn’t be happier to see Avi immerse himself so much in this. I’m going to keep fueling his desire to read, which means going to the local library every so often and buying as many books as possible.

Thoughts Well Done!

With my last few posts, I had a feeling that I would be able to return back to my normal writing habits, which averaged around once in 2 days. But it was not happening. I had a few thoughts that I wanted to post but I didn’t get to put them down. They would seem profound when I was in the process of churning them in my head but by the time I put some more into it, they seemed scattered enough not to be coherent or make any sense. Today, last time I gave my mind a 2-minute break, I thought about the reasons and here’s my desperate attempt to write it down before it too scatters away in fog.

Last few years, I’ve been multitasking. I’ve been multitasking at work and multitasking in my personal life. I’ve multitasked to such extent that I find myself incapable of not multitasking at any given point. If I have some free time, I can’t just read a book. I have to watch TV, think about a number of things AND read a book. If I have to cook, I have to turn the TV on so I can watch it in between, I have to put the newspaper on table so I can glance at it and I have to set all things appropriately so I can make best use of them in the most optimized way.

All that has probably wired my brain in such a way that no thought can come out without first going through the inescapable scrutiny of my mental process – of having to go though analysis, reanalysis, over-analysis, some churning, some mixing up with other thoughts, some reapplication with past events and some trying to fit into the big picture. So what eventually happens is that the original thought and its meaning is soon lost – it’s like a crowded room full of loud drunken philosophers, some contradicting and some offering their opinions to a stream of well intentioned thought that was trying to make its way out of the room inconspicuously. It soon finds itself either shredded to bits or bloated and meaningless.

Well…that’s all I wanted to write for now. I need to find a way to reverse this. Not multitasking, I can’t get away with that. Actually I like it, that’s what makes me what I am. But to nurture my thoughts with a clear, constructive application of evaluation and to free them to the world.

These times…

NY Times recently carried a section with user contributed pictures on how they are dealing with recession (link: http://tinyurl.com/czzbu8).

Some, like this one were heartbreaking. It showed how people are working harder to make ends meet. I’ve read numerous stories like these, where people are making compromises having to choose one thing over another, not caring about their health or personal satisfaction just to get by. Some others, like this one showed how during times of desperation, reason gives way to using whatever tactics one can to survive. This picture showed a car dealership urging people to support the country by only buying American cars. The banner implied that this country was not as great because people were buying foreign cars instead. I guess the fact that quality of the cars was the biggest factor in driving people away from buying their own country’s cars was easily forgotten by them. I wonder when they’ll learn that loyalty to one’s country is not precluded by choosing a better quality foreign made car over a domestic car whose engine breaks down in the middle of a highway, or for that matter in the garage within 1-2 years of having bought the car. Or maybe they realized that and as I said, were desperate enough to be able to ignore that fact conveniently. I hope they also realize that relying on these kind of tactics of using misguided propaganda to stoke people’s core values and not investing in improving the quality of their products is what got them into this mess in first place. One could probably consider buying their cars if it said, “Buy Cars from here and help me put food on table for my kids”. At least its honest and makes the customer feel good by having done a good deed rather than making them feel cheated.

The reality of these difficult times was driven even closer by the announcement made at my work yesterday. 2 of my team members were given layoff notices as their jobs were being transferred to an offshore location. I not only worked very closely with both of them, but one of them was also a very good friend of mine. I have known him personally and shared some good times together. I felt miserable for reasons I can’t explain. I dared not to think what would’ve happened if I were in his place. That reality also made me face the fact that this trend of replacing jobs with cheaper offshore alternatives will continue as long as the companies find it profitable. In these times of extreme competitiveness, either you aggressively survive or you sink. The workers in developed part of the world will have to continue to find ways to increase their productivity and justify the costlier rate of their services than the cheaper labor available elsewhere in the world.

I recently saw a truck for a food caterer asking people to enjoy life more by eating out. “Enjoy life, Eat out more often”, it said plainly. The lack of pretense in appealing to people’s desire for simple luxury for the sake of lining up their own pockets struck me as somewhat odd and distasteful. I remember being repulsed at that. The fact that the people at the top of the food chain got away with making some very disastrous decisions that totally altered the economic fundamentals and impact every single person – no matter how honest and truthful they have been is even more repulsive. I’ve always had the belief that if you stick to the core human values and be honest to yourself, you will always do well. The current times and things happening around me everyday now kind of shakes that belief a little. Maybe there’s a silver lining in that cloud…

—————————

Just came back from lunch and the silver lining seemed to get thinner. We wanted to go to the Sumo restaurant close to our work but when we reached there, we found that it had been closed and the place was available for lease. So we went to another one that is a few miles farther away. And that was closed as well.

Rat Race!

This Sunday’s (5/18/2009) LA Times carried a front-page article (link: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan-deaths17-2009may17,0,4108227.story) about the Afghan Villages that were hit by a US Air raid which resulted in a number of civilian casualties. The air raid was called in when local police and American troops failed to defeat the Taliban insurgents who seemed to outnumber them. As the article pointed out, the actual account of the incident differs between whoever is reporting it but the ground reality is stark in any case: A number of innocent families, including women and children were among the people who were killed and those who survived incurred major wounds, some fatal.

I was haunted by the image that was a part of the print article (link: ttp://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan-deaths-pictures,0,5189377.photogallery?index=2). The man was driven to desolation after the death of his wife and one son, so much that he was ready to give up his other son. I felt something inside my crumble away. I tried to imagine the desperation that can drive a man to give up his children, and I failed miserably. For the life of me, I couldn’t come even close to understanding what one could go through to be ready to intentionally give up their children, knowing that they may never see them again.

This morning when I came to work, I looked up the article and read it again. And I felt the same as I felt yesterday. I looked around me, I thought of what I had done since morning. 2 project meetings, reading through some emails and some documents. It seemed so disconnected with what was ringing in my head. I looked around at people’s faces and everything seemed so unreal. We fickle about having to pay 20 cents more per gallon for gas, we honk if somebody doesn’t move for 2 seconds when the traffic light turns green, we are daunted when faced with the decision whether to have one thing or other for lunch. Then there are people who are pushed to circumstances where they go through the mental process of having to give up their kids, and there are those who actually have to do it.

As I tried to find a slimmer of worth in what I was doing, I knew that what I was feeling will fade away, only to be brought back again sometime in future when something similar stirs up the emotions. I hoped that someday, for sometime in my life, however brief that may be, I will step out of the rat race and be a part of a group that helps people in situations where they can’t help themselves. I hoped that I will be strong enough to help my kids understand the vast disparateness this world is, how starkly different people’s lives are and to consider themselves fortunate to have that chance to be able understand all that – to understand human emotions, misery and corruption of minds and build a positive attitude to bring a difference to lives of other people.

The article ended with a grim note:

Meanwhile, under the scorching desert sun, traces of evidence fade away daily. The dead have been buried. And in all likelihood, the Taliban of Bala Baluk will be back.

music that has enough space for other people to hang their emotions on

While listening to ‘The Bone Collector – OST’ by Craig Armstrong, I
was mesmerized by the music and it got me thinking. How does somebody
feel when creating such music? I was trying to imagine the process
that this guy goes through when he composes a soundtrack. Kinda like
when we work on a new project through completion but very very
different. I imagined him sitting in a room filled with instruments
and consoles with his eyes closed and following a rhythm in his
mind…I imagined him sitting in front of his electric piano and
writing some notes as he played with his one hand. And then I imagined
him doing some intense editing on his Mac. Of course, I can’t discount
the countless number of people who must work very very hard in the
background to follow this guy’s lead and fill the space up.

And my reverence for this guy grew when I read that he worked with
Massive Attack on some of their albums and a solo artist with their
record label.

There were some places where I compared all that with my work. I guess
you have to be very good at what you do. So as I look at the first
spec documents to understand the project and try to focus all the
details into one single thought that guides me through the whole
lifecycle. As I hold that one thread and unravel the complete mystery
while my vision and thought process becomes clearer and clearer. And
as multiple challenges come up during the lifecycle, all I have to do
is hold on to that main thread and draw some more threads from these
challenges as they arise and then bind these together in a string…

*some of his recent works get pushed in my wish
list
*