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A decade later

A decade ago, I was 25 and standing in the Trocadero in Paris, staring at the Eiffel Tower amidst a horde of people, lonely as I've ever been as I rang in the new decade and millenium.

Am I the same man I was 10 years ago? It's hard to fathom the changes, the many many life branches attempted and not-taken, the despair and the pain, the false starts and the offsides. But tonight I danced to "My Girl" with my daughter as she stared up at me cross-eyed and mouth agape, and I really don't wish for my life to be anything other than it is and has been.

I am who I am, gut and stink and accumulated deritus and all. I may have more of it, but I'm more comfortable in my skin than I can remember being. And in the past decade I've added uncle, brother-in-law, son-in-law and most importantly husband and father to my list of titles. A few treasured Friends, and a number of friends. What more can I ask for?


There was a song from "Sons of Anarchy" that's been in my brain off and on since I've heard it. I had a crumpled mental note to check it out sometime, although it somehow got put on the bottom of the pile. Just now I was listening to iTunes and checking out the Genius functionality, and up comes up "The Worst Day Since Yesterday" by Flogging Molly. Apparently I already have it somewhere in my collection.


Waiting Mode

We're in the final couple of weeks before J. is due. This is the toughest time, I think, because we don't know exactly when it's going to happen. And J. is miserable, the poor thing. She's still working full time, but these days are taking a toll on her. Her patience is wearing thin, and she's just about collapsing when she comes home at night. Hopefully her office can either schedule her less (she's still seeing 30 patients or so a day) or she just cuts down her hours. It's not worth it.

Oddly, our social schedule has exploded the last week or two. It's the normal holiday time where people want to get together anyway, plus people want to see us before the baby comes. I'm split on it - on one hand, I know that we're going to be out of social circulation for a while, so it's nice to stock up. On the other hand, a bit of calm at-home time pre-baby is also high on my list.

Thanksgiving was a lot of fun, even though there were some notable missing people at the dinner on Saturday. My dad went to India the weekend before unexpectedly, since my grandmother took a turn for the worse. She was doing well after she had broken her hip a couple of months ago, but she had a heart issue that landed her in the ICU. My dad went over and took care of her - luckily it was just an issue with the medication that landed her there, nothing serious. So he's there until the 21st now, so we're hoping the new Shah waits until at least then. We also missed Jai and Sush who had to work, and Jen and Jaanav didn't make it because of the long drive down from NY. But it was the calmest Thanksgiving I can remember cooking wise - I brined the turkey (my second turkey in my life) and it turned out great. We did a lot of the cooking on Friday, and Saturday wasn't particularly hectic. I put together personalized menu cards for each person because I'm a dork like that. The regular dressing and the cornbread pudding were big hits, as was mummy's eggplant parm.

Last weekend we got hit by snow. Normally I wouldn't mind a day inside snuggled up against the elements, but the girls had planned a baby shower that day. Shannon had scheduled it at her sister's house, but with the heavy snow and the inconsistent roads, she decided to cancel. She scrambled and did one at her apartment on Sunday, and those who could make it did. It was still a lot of fun.

So we're finishing up the finishing touches on the room (note to self: need to put up the curtain rod). Her bag is out, and still needs to be packed (but there is a packing list.) The car seat is installed, although I do want to go to the firehouse to get it checked out (appointment next Tuesday). I even have an ipod playlist for the labor all setup, because I'm a dork like that. I crack myself up, I have songs like "Push It" by Salt-N-Pepa and "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross, plus a number of other songs J. will like (a lot of show tunes.) Any suggestions? I'm sure at least one of them will either make her laugh or make her want to smack me, either option a useful distraction to labor pain.
Rain is nap inducing. Must. Fight. Sleep.

Our FIOS DVR box is acting funny - we're only getting every alternate channel. The other channels don't tune in. Every so often we can flip it so we get odd channels versus even channels, but it's strangely consistent. Chances are one of the dual tuners is out in some way, so hopefully the replacement box we're being sent should fix the problem. In the meantime, we missed the finale of The Next Iron Chef so we don't know if the bug-eyed rapscallion Chef Mehta won over Chef Garces. We are in suspense.

In other entertainment news, I'm highly reccommending "The Brothers Bloom." It's really an entertaining movie that made me laugh-out-loud and guessing until the final minute or two. I added it to our list a while ago and when it came in the mail it sat next to the TV for weeks until we said, "Eh, let's try it." Definitely worth it.

I finished the first season of "The Sons of Anarchy", and I'm hooked. Ron Perlman steals the show (is he really the same guy that did "The City of Lost Children"?) and Katy Segal is fascinating to watch. The references to Hamlet are unmistakable, but it's hardly a shot-by-shot remake by any means.

It's been a while since I've seen anything in the theater, and nothing that's on the horizon is exciting me either. I have half a mind to see Avatar when it comes out, but mostly out of curiousity than any real excitement. We were going to see "Rashomon" downtown a couple of weekends ago, but Jyotsna's flagging energy led us to stay closer to home. Ah well. I have the DVD.


My personal informational needs have been stored on devices sporting the Palm OS since the days of yore. I think I picked up my first PalmPilot in 1997, and I have been on almost every iteration of that device and the palm phone devices since. I've had my Treo 700p for almost four years, I think, and it looks like it. It's beat up and a sickly mess, partially due to the times I've thrown it across the room in disgust for locking up or having to reboot.

Jyotsna asked me the other day why, since I'm an early adopter in most other technologies, that I've stayed on my Palm for so long. The simple truth is that I have a method to my madness, and my incessant lists and own personal way of getting things done. I knew that if I switched devices, I'd have to switch the way I've been doing things, and despite my love of things new, at my core I like stability.

The other issue was that the cell network that I use is Verizon. After having experienced Sprint customer service, and having heard about AT&T's network, I plan on staying for Verizon. And until recently, Verizon didn't offer much in the way of decent smartphones except for some Blackberry models. I was tempted by the Storm, but having heard about the promise of Android, I've been waiting until now to jump off the rapidly sinking Palm onto the new Droid.

I'm mostly happy, thus far. I do realize I bought a new product the first week out, so I'm tempering my opinions based on that.

The phone itself is sleek and fun to play with. The screen is gorgeous and the keyboard usable. (Flatter than the Treo, so it takes getting used to, but its decent.) And having had to deal with the disaster called web browsing on the Treo, browsing on the Droid is a revelation. It's responsive, the voice quality is great, it has WiFi, and a ton of apps in a growing app catalog for most of what you'd need. I did have to get used to the fact that my information is stored in the Google "cloud". Yes, I use Outlook to store my information. It's imperfect, but it's a better solution than most. I found a relatively stable sync program that syncs my Outlook calendar and contacts with Google, and the Droid has a native sync with Google so that updates happen more or less seamlessly back and forth from my Outlook to my Droid, without much fuss. (It took me a few hours of futzing with duplicates and such to get there, but it's there.) The Droid has some nifty features in terms of contacts such as coalescing its information with Facebook, so it's actually a bonus. So I'm functional there. The OS is easy to figure out, but sometimes the settings are buried in a few levels of menus and not always intuitively obvious.

So far, the biggest (and it is *HUGE*) downside of the Droid is that for some insane reason, Google doesn't have an API to deal with tasks. And while there are third party app providers for tasks (such as Remember the Milk), curiously there is no meaningful way to sync your Outlook tasks with Google. I've found a kludgy way using TooDoodle to get the tasks onto my Droid, but there's no way to see my calendar and todos in one place, so it's less than useful to me. I'm betting on the come and that this glaring hole will be fixed soon, and that third party app vendors will be beating down the door to cater to the GTD and the corporate market, but it can't really happen until Google releases a task sync API. Given the behmoth that Google is, and the number of pies they have their hands in, I can't really fathom why this hasn't happened yet. Craziness.

There have been a couple of minor bugs that need to be fixed. There's an intermittent problem with MMS messages not being able to be sent. There's a bug that sometimes changes the speaker output to the handset output. Both are identified bugs, and hopefully will be fixed soon. The OS code issues are posted here, so given the open attitude I have to have faith that there will be diligent efforts to get the issues resolved quickly. If you're in the market, and use your phone as a PDA as well, I'd say wait to make the jump until the task sync issue is resolved.

I've been toying around with the idea of downloading the SDK and dust off my coding skills to see if I can't get an App to run. But then again, I have a sick idea of fun.

And, yes, codekitten , you'll have to deal with me talking about my phone for another 8 years, probably. :-)

My lord

I'm addicted to this rendition of "Take on Me". This woman's voice is amazing, I hope she comes out with a CD/downloadable music soon.

Pupdate miscellany

It feels good to be closer to 40 than I am 30 now, oddly enough. It still freaks me out when I meet people that were born after I graduated high school that's now entering college, though. Something about that doesn't exactly work in my brain.

Still, it's good. My birthday this year was really really good - just a few close friends for brunch, followed by time with Jyotsna and J&J and my niece and nephew. I really couldn't have asked for a day better than the one I got. I definitely feel as if my social needs are tightening somewhat, and that I'm much happier with a smaller set of people that I socialize with. I'm not sure if that's age or if that's due to some instinctive nesting instinct that's arising, but it's there nonetheless.

I'm so done with the VA political races. If I get one more flyer in the doorway, one more phone call, or one more person stopping by, I'll go ballistic.

I happen to catch the first season of True Blood the other week, so I had to download the second season and watched it in it's entirety. I'm not entirely convinced its a *great* series , but it is amusing and it does suck you in.  That, on top of the regularly scheduled kitchen competition series that we record (if it has multiple chefs competing for money or a prize, we Tivo it) I've been on a bit of TV overload.  I also devoured "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and the sequel. Not exactly "great" literature, but I was riveted and stayed up to finish them, so they served their purpose. 

We decided not to dress up for Halloween this year. We missed the big party last weekend, and she has to work on Saturday.  There's another party on Sat., but she wont be out of work in time. If we had an adult occasion to do it, though, we had a great costume in mind: She'd go as the Octomom and I'd be the anonymous sperm donor. (I was thinking a white tail, and a fake nose/glasses/moustache thing) Not exactly kid friendly, though, is it? 

The Office Wedding...

was really damn cute, I must say.
One of the downsides of not being blessed with a uterus is that I have no earthly idea what a baby inside of me feels like. So while Jyotsna is reminded every minute of the day by a baby doing its best Beyonce' impression on her bladder, I can forget for many hours at a time that a baby is coming. Even after doing the nursery and the registry, there's still a bit of theoreticalness to the imminent visitor. A nebulous, "It's kinda coming some time" feeling, not really coupled with a sense of reality.

I think that has changed that for me. This past weekend was Jyotsna's "Shah family baby shower" (as opposed to the Hebbar one in Florida, the work one and the "friend" one,  all of them upcoming) that was held up in Philly. In typical Shah fashion, it wasn't exactly a small affair - we had over a 100 people come, mostly family and family friends. Jyotsna's family from Florida came up, as well as my and Jen's family from New York - even Neil flew back from Pittsburgh to attend.

The first part of the event was the religious part. Jyotsna walked into the temple area walking on money (alas, only singles.) Then she and I sat down to do a puja, where the priest kindly tried to offer us his advice and blessings, although some of them probably caused some unintended giggles. (I especially liked the one where she told Jyotsna to consider me her god. Has a nice ring to it, don't you think? She of, course, is my goddess, but that's close enough to the truth that it's not exactly funny.) Then Jen and my mom did a little ceremony where they transferred rice (fertility, of course) a number of times between Jen's Sari and Jyotsna's, and afterward Jaanav got to sat in Jyotsna's lap - again, to bless us. (If our baby is half as good natured and cute as Jaanav, we would be blessed.) Then comes an odd little criminal tradition - Jiten, as my brother, gets to slap Jyotsna in the face with vermillion powder. Of course, it's a bit of a ceremonial slap than an actual one, but Jiten did his best. Neil followed suit, and suddenly there was an eager line that formed, waiting their turn. (They didn't get to, it should go without saying.)

Then came lunch. But before that, despite the fact that we were told there weren't going to be any games, we ended up playing them.  But Jay and Jen did a very creative job, including one where Jiten morphed my baby picture with Jyotsna and asked people to come up with nicknames. (Zoe Jr. won out, because anything to do with our dog wins). We did a guess-the-baby-food game, and then a price-is-right game - nothing too embarassing for us, thank god.  Having had to emcee and come up with the games for Jen's baby shower a few years ago, I know how tough it is to do games in a crowd like that.

Then came the food (which was delicious), but the real highlight was the amazing give away that Jen made to give to the guests. I was completely blown away by how creative she was: She made a sushi to-go-box, complete with a personalized set of chop sticks, and instead of sushi she made appropriate items. She did a small container of wasabi nuts, a container of ginger candy, two pieces of Indian sweets cut like a maki roll, and two nigiri pieces that were really rice crispy treats topped by swedish fish. Amazing!! She really needs to do her own party planning/event coordination biz, she is so good at it.

It was a very good time, but I was especially struck by the power and strength of the underlying emotion of the day for me. You see, my brother and I, (and Jyotsna and her brothers) grew up as second generation Indian-Americans, the first to be born here. Our parent's culture, for the most part, is reflected in how strongly they've bonded with their own community here. Growing up, all of these family friends were part of our lives. To give you an idea of the strength of these bonds, 80% of the people that were at my mother's first baby shower in 1974 (with me as the upcoming star) were there on Sunday. That sense of continuity and completeness was almost palpable to me, and the fact that our child will be welcomed into that same community makes me glad.

Of course, it won't be the same for us. Jyotsna and I (and our peers) have friends that go outside the Indian community. In fact, some of our best friends aren't of the community, and we are as comfortable humming Christmas carols as we are eating with only our right hand.

It's often remarked to me by certain friends that the Indian community seems to have an event for everything. That is true - and honestly, it can be tiring and annoying at times - but there is a good reason for it. Community celebration is one way that keeps a society, a culture together. I have a nonspecific sense of belonging - to SOMETHING, I don't know what exactly - when it comes to these events.

The traditions that our parents hold dear are dear to us only by proxy.  This is the way it has to be, for we were brought up here and therefore hold different things dear. And it will be less so for our children, for that is the way of the world as well. But having known these close ties, we are more apt to make sure they exist for our children - or at least, the core values that they represent will somehow be reflected in the way we raise them.

And that truly is a blessing for us.


Does anyone have any local recommendations of any local carpet cleaning and/or furnace/vent/dryer vent cleaning places?