Been lazy again. So this is just a quick post in a hope to “get back into the groove” again. I realize that most of my interests wax and wane. For the last few weeks, I was consciously aware that I was not actively blogging (even during those carnatic cryptic puzzle weeks) and also remember feeling “just not interested” to do so. But now today all of a sudden the interest spiked up – for no particular reason.  But dont have anything interesting to say. So what has been happening at my end the last few weeks?

  • A trip to Far-East: Went on a rare official trip to South Korea. I almost never travel officially, and so to go to South Korea of all places  is an extremely rare situation indeed. Went to Suwon near Seoul. I was impressed by the efficiency of the country, and the achievements its people have made. Managed by with some decent vegetarian food choices for the few days I was there. There were Indian restaurants near where I was, but then my colleague wasnt interested in them 🙂 !  The pizza I had there was actually pretty good (spicy). I tried “kimchi”. Well, I can see I tried kimchi.  I guess since I was used to some western vegetarian choices, I was able to get by better (pizza, pasta, and many cakes). Breakfast was awesome – but again a western breakfast which I always like.
  • A “Cookie” for my daughter: We have a new member in the family – albeit not boy or a girl. We have pet Cinnamon Green-Cheeked Conure (a member of the parrot family). More about “Cookie”  perhaps in a later post.  “He” is adorable (we dont know the sex, you cant tell until a DNA test, but we are presuming him) in a later post. He was “hand-raised” by a breeder, and so will step on your hand/finger when you ask him to.  He is even potty trained. He is my daughter’s and by now he thinks so too. When she is around, he is itching to get to her. We (my wife and I) never thought we were “pet people” – but we certainly have warmed up to it well.
  • Super Daddy: Managed the fort with my daughter for a couple of weeks on our own when Mom was out of town. We suffered a few casualities – all in the botanical area, both inside the house and outside. My question “Oh, so that was a real plant?” did not go well when Mom returned.  Someone joked “Hey, it was either water the plants, or water the kid. I think you made the right choice”. Anyway, I think in spite of that, I have like a million brownie points in my account. This may be connected to the “droolarama” point below.
  • Amateur Singer: Sang as part of a group at the local carnatic music festival. I call this festival my “Annual Embarrassment Conference”, but this time we actually did well. Like animals at the bottom of the food-chain, we amateurs do feel “strength in numbers” and I think that could have been the reason (besides our teacher training us well). I am glad that I got to learn many beautiful songs – many in my favorite ragas. With rItigauLa, bhairavi, husEni, nIlAmbari, sahAnA, Ahiri – who can complain?
  • Mergers and Acquistions: The company I work for got acquired. They say it wont affect anything. Ha, Ha :-)! Now, where have I heard that before?  But I think I should be ok.
  • Droolarama: Have been drooling over electronic gadgets again. This time, my credit card points were exchangeable for electronics gift cards. Planning to buy a real good camera (panasonic fz28) + something else that I am still deciding.  So little money (after the camera), and so much more to buy:
    • An LCD TV for upstairs (this is the only one that is atleast somewhat need based)
    • Apple TV
    • Mac OS Leopard (yes, I am still on Tiger)
    • A 1 TB hard drive that will work with Leopard’s Time Machine.  The Apple’s Time Capsule looks like it is a big rip-off.
    • I also bought the Creative’s Vado HD video player – outside of points at Amazon (since I drooled, and since Amazon gave $50 credit on top). But I will return it now, since its low-light (actually medium-low light itself) is bad, and the camera I will be able to get via points should have HD video recording as well.  Both are not going to be like a HD camcorder – but atleast my pocket will not become too light.
    • Of course, the mother of all drools – an MacPro Notebook. I see that the 13 inch one would be $1200 come September ….

Dolls on StairwayDolls and Stairway

I thought off a few names for the Navaratri/golu/kolu and settled on the above. Could have gone with Nine-day Sundal Fest, or Dolls, Trolls, and the Fall (i.e. Navaratri and Halloween in Fall).

If there was a contest for the weakest staircase framework for Golu, I will win it every time. It is just a bunch of empty (similar sized) cardboard boxes turned upside down. Next year, I think we will go for a proper one. But then we have been saying that for 10 years now.

This year, as usual, I waited till the last moment to get things going. It was the evening before the nine days began. I was dead tired, and so was my wife. We were tempted to postpone the setup to the next day morning. But we had a very insistent, energetic trooper in the house, who just refused to accept that. I told mu daughter – “Okay, we will just setup the staircase (paDi in Tamil), may be put a few dolls, and finish the rest tomorrow – ok?”. Uh-uh. No way. She just went into top gear – she wanted the whole thing – the staircase, the dolls and the park (which she and her mom do every year) all done that night.

I groaned “Ma….n! My bones are aching, my eyes are burning. It is getting late”. But somehow I ignored it, and willed myself to get started at least on the framework. I was thinking that by the time I am done with the framework, my daughter would be tired and she would be ok for completing the setup the next day morning. But what do you know! Once I got into it, I was somehow re-energized. We got the framework done, and started putting up the dolls. Seeing my daughter’s enthusiasm in bringing the dolls, and playing with them, and listening to her constant excited chattering about where they should go on the staircase, and insisting on putting them up herself – they were the greatest “picker-upper” in the world! Before we knew it, all the dolls were on display. We did have to postpone the park etc. for the next day, as it was a bit late by that time, and my daughter was satisfied that she got to see the dolls, play with them and put them up – something she was really looking forward to.

I am glad we got it done in time. I am glad that “I did the right thing”, glad and thankful that I found my energy from seeing my child’s energy. I love Golu for that. And for the sundal, snacks in all the houses I visited 🙂

Here are some photos:

Scene from Ramayana Story of Andal  
golu_1.jpg golu_2.jpg  
The Gingerbread house The Park The Snacks
The Gingerbreak House The Park The Snacks

Update: After I posted this, the trees around my house started changing colors the next day. It was not very cold, but it was chilly with a very brisk wind, and it was very cloudy. So I had to take a photo and do an update as it fits with the theme 🙂

Impending Doom

October is here. This year, it is still unseasonably warm in my neck of the woods – but “warm” here is relative. The October chills are here although sort of half-heartedly this year. Fall is coming – signs of impending doom for a body genetically engineered for the seering Chennai heat. There are things to enjoy in fall and even in winter. But let’s face it. Those joys can be fleeting for a South Indian, and are soon overwhelmed by the overall gloom and doom of the Midwestern winter.

The first time you notice the signs of this impending doom is in early October. The perfect (warm but not hot), beautiful weather in September is replaced by a fickle one in October with wide swings in temperature: between the perfect 70s-80s, down to cool and a bit chilly low 60s or high 50s. That is if Ol’ Man Winter does not have a good game plan for that year. Else it is down to nasty (for October) 40s and 30s. Of course that is his top game for fall. His top game for winter here can get down to -10 to -20 (yep – Fahrenheit that is).

You also notice that the days have gotten considerably shorter. This will soon be made worse by the daylight savings adjustment. We, in Chicago get a raw deal due to this as we are in the eastern end of our time-zone. This means lesser daylight as winter takes over. It also means way more daylight than you probably need in summer – but hey I am not complaining. I do want to have the cake and eat it! But yes in winter, here you get to see the Sun set at freaking 3:30 PM! Although I do understand its purpose, I hate daylight savings adjustment!

Once winter arrives, for a few weeks (till the winter solstice), when you leave for work it will be dark, and when you leave work in the evening, it will be dark. Most days it will be cloudy and seeing the Sun would become as rare as seeing an eclipse. What a thrill – eh? There was this winter in the 90’s where we went I believe 3 full weeks without seeing the Sun. There was another winter where we went the same period without the temperature crossing zero degrees (yep – Fahrenheit). Now, do you get my point about impending doom?

Many years, Octobers are fine and you think “hey this isn’t bad!”. But come Halloween, and whoala – it is freaking cold, freaking blustery – with even some lousy snow flakes! And you groan loudly as this is the day you cannot huddle at home in some warmth. This is the day that you must get out and walk the neighborhood as your kid’s escort as she goes out trick or treating. You huddle in your coat shivering. But you see kids in much flimsier clothes having so much fun getting candies and treats!

Can we go home – you ask.
No! Few more houses – says your kid.

Can we go home now? – you plead later.
No! Couple of more houses – says your kid

Can we please go home now? – you beg.
No! Not yet – how about that street? – your kid jumps excitedly.

You groan resignedly. Somewhere an some old dude with a frosty beard, crusted with ice, and a maniacal smile, giggles silly at this charade.

(Fortunately – this is not my kid. She does not like cold all that much. But still about 15 houses is a minimum, and I start shivering after 5 houses)

They say it is going to be a warm winter. They have been wrong before.

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