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On Sleep

Originally published at Maulik Shah. You can comment here or there.

I’ve always been more of a night person. Given my druthers, I’d fall asleep around 1am and wake up around 9, I think.

That’s all changed,of course. Twice a week I’m up at 5:45 for a 6am personal training session, one day a week I wake up before 5:30am to make it for my mens group meeting, and the other days Annika climbs into bed around 6:30 (if I’m lucky), otherwise Savita is up and making noise before then.  I still don’t tend to go to bed until 11pm or so. And I wonder why I’m struggling to stay awake in the afternoon.

My nephew’s 1st birthday was this weekend. Lots of fun, including having some family stay over our house for the weekend. Reminded how lucky I am in that way.

We need to figure out if we’re putting Annika in preschool 5 days a week next year or 3 days a week (mon-wed) . Looks like most of her friends are going to the 3 day program ,  although with Savita in school for a two day program (thursday and friday) as well it would be nice to get both of them out of the house for two days.  Sounds like I may be standing in line when registration opens next Monday regardless.  I hope it warms up a little before then.

Damn it’s cold. I wish I was handier than I am, because I know there are draft and other issues that make some of the rooms much colder than the others. I can caulk, of course, but the problems may be bigger.  The one side of the house that the garage is on is just COLD. Dont know if its solely because of the garage or if there are opportunities  to air seal along the foundation. Might have to spring for an audit, although last I checked they were a little pricey.




2010 recap

 2010 has been an utterly crazy and life-changing year. 

Of course, Annika was born right before 2010 started, so it started off fairly eventfully. Then in February I went to India for a week for my cousin's wedding, having to leave Annika and Jyotsna for 8 long days (made longer by the Snowpocalypse, luckily not being stuck in Paris.) The traveling didn't stop with just me, however - the three of us went to New Orleans in May, Florida in June, and California in September. Plus we made a few trips up north to my parents house and Jai and Sush's, to see family and to meet the twins, as well as for Dimple's wedding and Diwali.  More than a few, since I can't seem to count how many. 

On top of that, we found and bought a new house (after spending a month pursuing a short sale). We moved last month, then prepped our old house to rent, and then hosted our combined families (20+ people?) last weekend for Christmas as well as Annika's birthday. (Oh yes, we threw that too, primarily family).  And now we're in Florida for New years.

And on top of all that? We found out that Jyotsna is pregnant again and we're expecting our second child in May.

Yes, we're slightly crazy. But I wouldnt have it any other way, to be frank. We're both slightly off-kilter, so it's no surprise that our lives are full of craziness. But it's a good kind of crazy. Lots of loved ones, with not enough time to see and be with all the people that we want.  And Jyotsna and I really have found a stride and rhythm with our marriage (through teamwork and a common challenge!) , which makes me love her all the more.   It's been a mostly excellent year, but with plenty of challenges. We're damn lucky, we know that. Even the downtimes this year have been relatively minor in comparison with the highs. Not every year will be so fortuitous,  I know.  

We haven't had the chance to "enjoy" (Jyotsna might quibble with that word choice) this pregnancy nearly as much as we did the first time around. We frankly run out of time and energy - most days don't end until after dinner which is at 8 or 9, and then Jyotsna is going to sleep and I'm back to the office to try to catch up. Honestly, we both forget at times. Come May 2011, we won't have that particularly luxury. :-)

I'm hoping that 2011 will be slightly less insane, with a little more routine packed into it.  We've already pledged that our traveling will be curtailed somewhat - traveling with two is exponentially harder than doing so with one. Plus Jyotsna will have unpaid maternity leave, so we won't have the time off that we would have otherwise.  Professionally I had a decent year, especially considering the luxury that I have with flexible time to spend as much time as I do with Annika. It's a tough thing to tackle mentally, since at any one time I might have one or two months of work "booked" with my clients, but I've been doing it for almost 5 years. In fact, I got an email from my client in Louisiana talking about a big project that they want me to have some leadership on. It'll become more clear in the first quarter, but if it's as big as I think it could cover me for the entire year and then some. I wouldn't necessarily want that since I have other clients to cover and a few entrepreneurial opportunities that I want to devote some energy on. But you know what they say about that bird and the hand and the bush.

  So I'm going to miss you 2010. My only regret for this past year is not having the time to spend with those friends that matter most. I'm hoping that at least the first part of 2011 is calmer and more routine, although we have a little bomb coming in May that'll splatter any planning that we do. 

Nooks and Nannys

 I'm loving my Nook. I got my gift cards last  Monday and had to drag Annika over there in the afternoon to pick it up. I've already a number of things ( the first Percy Jackson series, the new Charlaine Harris book - all of them quick reads anyway, plus Deaver's latest Lincoln Rhyme novel) and I'm loving the screen and and the feel of reading with it.  Some minor quibbles - mostly about how there isn't a great way to organize books that you put on there via USB, but those probably will be fixed with upcoming software updates. I find that I'm even a quicker reader than I was before, since I dont have to flip the pages and lose the time it takes to readjust and reorient myself. I also do wish there were more font choices (there are three different fonts, with a number of different sizes), but again that's relatively minor. Surprisingly, I'm not feeling the need to hack it like other folks have done. 

Annika is sick (again), although she's mostly a chipper little tyke. She's not shy in letting you know how she feels, though. She's getting close to crawling (she's "scooting" a bit, with some use of her knees) and babbling up a storm. 

At the beginning of the month we decided we had enough with day care and gave our 30 day notice. While I don't necessarily expect the same level of attention that we would give her (sadly), it was clear to us that the caregivers were more interested in biding time and dealing with all the ones in their care rather than truly interacting with her. It was made worse when one of the caregivers we loved the most left, and there's been a parade of people through there. Consistency is our one big bugaboo, and we weren't getting it.  Plus, she's been getting sick a lot, and the day care facility has strict policies on sending children home at what are marginal signs of sickness. For example, if the kids snotty and coughy, that's not grounds for sending them home - but two "loose" stools sends them home. Considering the variability in infant stools (esp. breast fed babies), I've already had to take three days off to take her when she's been sent home.  Plus a few other minor things - once she got sent home with a backwards diaper, for example - and we finally hit our limit. 

So we quit with a view to find either a smaller at home day care, or  - in a much more unlikely to find scenario - a part time nanny share arrangement  in our immediate area. Our needs are a little unique, since we really don't need a full time day care - with each of us working 4 day weeks that are staggered, we only need child care three days a week.  I posted something on craigslist and started to send out feelers through our friends and acquaintances.But then I saw an ad on Craigslist from a family who had a nanny two days out of the week and needed to find somebody to take the other three days, otherwise their nanny would have to quit to find fuller employment. 

It seemed a little too good to be true, but we interviewed her and she seems perfect. Her references are luminous. So she starts August 2nd! Obviously going this route is going to be more expensive, but if you factor in that she's coming to our house, we don't have to deal with packing up linens and bottles, and she won't be exposed to random caregivers and other little Petri dishes, it seems to be worth it.

 I think I've finally decided to take a jump into the eReader market. I've always been a voracious reader, and the heft and tactile feel of a book is like coming home to me. But after looking at the e-Ink screens that are available, and realizing what a boon it might be to carry around a library with me at all times, I decided to do some research.

Although I love Amazon (we spend much of our dispensible income there), I can't really go with a Kindle. It's not the interface or anything, but the fact that the Kindle doesn't support the ePub format makes it a nogo for me. Being able to check a book out of the library is an important element of having an eReader, and the predominant format that libraries use is ePub.  It seems like an obvious omission to me, but I'm not Jeff Bezos. So no Kindle.

Out of the others in the market, the Nook is the one that seems to catch my eye the most. It's Android powered, which means that the potential for upgrading its capabilities is fairly real. I like the two part screen, although in testing it's a skosh slower than I would like. It's also $150 for the wifi only version, which makes it even more attractive. What sealed the deal for me is that I have sufficient "rewards" on my business card so I don't have to pay for it out of pocket. 

I briefly considered getting the 3G version, but on the Nook the 3G version ONLY lets you download books. It doesnt allow you to browse using it, unlike the Kindle.  (It only lets you browse when using Wifi). Since I have my Droid with me most places, if I really need to get on the net for something, I can just as easily do so there. So while it would be nice, it's not worth the extra money.

So I'm chomping at the bit to get it, but I have to wait for the gift cards to be sent from Bank of America. Meanwhile, Ive downloaded a ton of free ePubs. Has anybody else out there jumped on the eReader bandwagon? Any sites worth checking out for free or cheap books?


Lost finale, initial thoughts


What a frustrating ending. Unlike a lot of other people, I've kept an open mind on this last season, and I did have faith that some of the story elements that seemed haphazard and random would eventually make sense.  Sci-fi and fantasy always has to strike a balance between what's possible and what's not. You're always asked to provide a willing suspension of disbelief on certain elements, but as long as the universe is self-consistent, you can let go (heh) and enjoy the ride. It's when the universe that you're visiting violates it's own rules, or when the story jumps for the sake of the story rather than unfolding naturally that you get jarred out of your enjoyment.  In the interest of good story telling, I could have easily have dealt with some of the major questions not being answered, but they not only disappointed in that regard, the wrap-up disappointed on so many other levels.

The pity is that the raw material for something better was there to work with. An hour into the finale, we actually turned to each other and said that things were actually pretty cool. We were getting excited in the sideways timeline, as it seemed that the theme was "Better to have Loved and Lost", as each person remembered the Island and their lives when they touched their own true love. Both Claire and Kate having  the birth of Aaron as the touchstone seemed especially poignant, although the lack of Charlotte and Daniel's epiphany seemed odd. There was hope that the sideways story was going to have a reciprocal effect on the "main" story. Maybe the Losties in the sideways world would get together, and somehow repopulate the light on the Island that was snuffed out or was dying out. Or that the two worlds would merge, and that the better of each losties lives would prevail? Or some other dovetailing that was significant? That would have made the hours and hours we spent in the sideways world worth it. But having the sideways world serve as a vestibule to some other place before they move on? What? Really? REALLY??

The story in the "real" universe was just as unsatisfying. I like Jack's sacrifice - that made sense, given his character - but why was the Island necessary at all? Desmond uncorked the bottle, and Locke/Smokey died, but what did that really mean? And the cork went back on, and the Island survived ...so? We were led to believe that the sideways timeline was born out of the choice made to detonate the bomb back in 75. (Turns out that's not true at all, the sideways world has nothing to do with that.) So that whole bomb thing in Season 5 meant nothing? But even if the two timelines did diverge back then due to the power of choice over destiny, then the destruction of the island resulted in a universe that seemed to be just fine. Bah!! I am fine with them not really explaining the meaning of the light and the cork and all that, but C.J. (I mean Allison Janney) said something about the light being a little part of every person in humanity a couple of episodes back. It was a logical conclusion that the smoke monster was somehow then the little dark bits of people, a duality that seemed to play into one of the major thematic elements of the series. The black/white stones and the scale was imagery they played with the entire season, so you'd think that would play into the final drama somehow.

And take the dramatic airplane escape. Jack ended up saving the Island, but Desmond was still there. It was implied that Hurley and Ben would simply send him home. Fine, but that makes the drama of jumping into the water and getting over there and getting the plane ready all really moot at the end of the day. Time they could have used to tell a story that they could have really satisfied. 

Then there's nitpicky stuff about how they did choose to end it. In the church, why was Aaron a baby? If he was truly deposited there after dying in his "real" life, then he should have been older. What was the criteria for the inclusion of people in the church? Oceanic folk? (Nope, Juliet was there.) People that they cared about? (Really? Boone over Miles or Daniel or Charlotte or Rousseau?) We're supposed to believe Sayid's true love was Shannon?  Quibbles, to be sure, but stuff that still grates.

I will say this about the ending: the strength of the series has always been it's deep characterizations and relationships, and this episode capitalized on the feelings that we have for them over the years. It just seems a real shame that they didn't leverage that into something better.

One could say that whatever ending that was written would be unsatisfactory to some. That's true. I'm one of the odd ones that actually liked the murky ending of the Sopranos (after yelling at the TV, thinking that my cable cut out). To me, the series finale of "Six Feet Under" is the high bar that a series needs to meet to end something satisfactorily. The ending of that series is absolutely, friggin' perfect.

I still love the series. They played with powerful, primal archetypes and stories that was really compelling. The characters all were really interesting, all of them shades of grey to some degree or another. I just wish they took those thematic elements to a different place than where they did. Story (the capital S kind) is really what happens when the characters and the plot work together. The characters *always* worked in the series, the plot seemed to be cobbled together lazily.

Okay, to sleep.




May. 11th, 2010

 Since I've mostly been neglecting my more meaningful livejournal postings, I thought i'd post a meaningless one instead.

Although Annika obviously keeps us both busy, I've been able to sneak some entertainment other than playing with a baby in now and then.

Breaking Bad: I downloaded Seasons 1 and 2 a few months ago, and decided to try it when I had a free hour this weekend. I'm already hooked - Bryan Cranston is most deserved of his emmys, and the premise and the writing fascinating. This could have been an easily mishandled premise, but so far at least (five episodes in) it's riveting stuff. 

Stargate Universe: I'm really liking this show. It's really really different than SG-1 and Atlantis, but in a good way. I hope it stays on the air, and that it's on air long enough for a meaningful story-arc. 

Iron Man 2: Pleasant enough couple of hours, watched with my brother. Promptly forgot about it when I got home. 

I caught 10 minutes of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith on TV. Now that I'm doing a little more fiction writing, I'm looking at story, plot, and characters a bit more critically. My god that movie was bad. I mean epically bad. 

I've actually been doing a good bit of reading as well, on the days that I watch Annika and she naps. I've made it through all of the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris (save for the newest one released last week.) They're pleasant enough diversons, and sufficiently divergent from True Blood that I don't feel badly for reading the entire series. I've already been reading some of Michael Lewis' books, and am envious of his writing style. "Home Game" was a series of essays on Fatherhood, and I'm thinking about buying it for any new father I happen to know. 

That's about as unmeaningful as I can get. Annika is mewing intermittently in the next room. She's been waking up around this time this past week or so,  but she's not particularly hungry. Sigh.


Child Care reccommendations

Any of you local types with kids have any experience with either the Goddard School in Ashburn or Children of America in Sterling? Enquiring minds want to know.



I didn't realize how used to the Chrome browser I've gotten until i was forced to use Firefox because of a bug in Livejournal. (Can't seem to paste using the LJ post option.) When did Firefox bloat get comparable to IE bloat? Ugh.

Entertainment Roundup

 It's been a while since I've posted anything, so I'll start with something frivolous: movies that I've watched recently. In no particular order:

Watched "GI Joe"  on the plane over to India. It was actually somewhat better than I thought it was going to be, mostly on the strength of nostalgia. The cartoon was a staple of my childhood growing up (that and Transformers) so remembering some of the characters as I'm watching was fun. It wasn't a "good" movie by any means, but it was fun to watch. Once. On a 16 hour flight.

The best movie I've seen in a long time is "500 Days of Summer". I was completely and utterly bowled over by how much I loved this movie. Probably because I identify so strongly with the central character (I probably could have written some of those scenes as autobiography) , and the story is one not told too often. As it says, the movie is about love, but not  exactly a love story.  And the last moment , while probably predictable in hindsight, caught me off-guard and had me exclaim with surprise. An almost perfect movie, complete with a musical dance number by Joseph Gordon-Leavitt. Highly highly reccommended. Will be buying this one for sure.

"Away We Go" was also one of those small movies that we really enjoyed. Not nearly as much as "500 Days", though. I had quibbles with the ending, but the story of searching for where to raise their child struck an obvious chord. 

"Julie and Julia": Quite charming, and my slight crush on Amy Adams grows. (Even if she does play the same character in every movie, it seems.) And to watch Meryl Streep channeling Julia Child is a bit eerie. Wow.

On Netflix live (or whatever you call the watch instantly thing) I saw "Dear Zachary: A Letter to A Son about his Father". If you decide to watch this, do me a favor and don't read ANYTHING about this film before you do. It's a documentary, and the less you know about it going in the more shocked you are going to be about the events. It's really really well done (although a bit heavy handed with the editing in two or three spots, minor stuff) and a monumental effort of love on the part of the filmmaker. I challenge you to watch it and to have a dry eye at the end. Go on, I dare ya.

Jay Leno: Glad he's gone.

Conan O'Brien: Never watched him on any consistent basis.


Excited for tonight

So, as a clue as to how fun the Shah family is, Jiten and I are doing a little cooking competition tonight. We're all a fan of the Food TV competition shows like Chopped and the Next Iron Chef, so we're staging our own competition.

Tonight, we will meet at the Bloom in Sterling around 4pm. We will be simalteneously texted two sets of ingredients from our respective wives, chosen by them. Our challenge? To come up with an appetizer and entree (two different lists) that incorporate the stated ingredients. We have agreed we will have five minutes of planning on our respective smartphones, and 30 minutes to shop for supplemental ingredients for what we want to make. Then we will go back to his house, where we will both have the same amount of time (and counterspace, burners, and ovens) to make our creations. Our wives will be the judges. Neither of them are particularly inclined to favor their husbands in these matters, so there is little chance of favoritism.

Of course, there must be rules! Jay and I are in agreement with this, and so we talked yesterday roughly what the rules and timelines will be. We've come up with judging criteria for the wives (taste, presentation, creativity, 10 point score for each, highest cumulative score wins!) The winner gets bragging rights and the loser gets to do the dishes.

I am inordinately excited about this, I can't wait. There will be video. Jen apparently already has split the dining table in two with masking tape, and apparently has typed up the rules already. If you are in the northern virginia area and the lights start to dim, you'll realize the concentration of dorkiness here is warping the space-time continuum.