Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Emptiness and epiphanies

As I was walking into my building premises at 1:45 am, I found a dog lying on its side, in an odd position. The parking light wasn't bright enough for me to see the details, but I immediately sensed that it had suffered some form of brain trauma and died. Since noone would respond at the time of the night, I made a mental note to call the municipal corporation's dead animal pickup service, and walked by. As I entered the house and locked up, I was struck by how matter-of-factly I took it. Where were my emotions? How did I not feel anything at the sight of a sentient dead animal, especially a dog, when my own four-legged boy had passed away in a very similar manner just 4 months ago?

I went through the motions of changing, doing my routine journaling, brushing, etc, and slept well enough. Went cycling early in the morning, and when it was closer to the time at which the municipal corporation starts answering calls, I dialed the number. Surprisingly, a well-mannered person responded in an efficient manner--asking for my name, number, and location, and letting me know that they will arrive sometime in the day--they could't predict the exact time, but they would call me an hour before they could reach the spot. By then, it looked like noone from the neighborhood had realized that a dead dog was lying in the compound. I made a hand-written note about having called the pickup service, mentioned their contact number for follow-up, and stuck it on the ground next to the body, just in case someone was curious enough to inquire.

Even though I had no tasks to do before bathing and leaving for work, I felt inclined to lie down and rest for a while. I went out to the balcony intermittently, so I could see whether anyone else had taken note of the event. About an hour later, I finally saw a woman kneeling next to the dog, so I went out to talk to her. She--let's call her PD--was crying profusely, because, it turns out, she had been looking after the dog since she was a puppy. PD told me they called her Kaali--easy to remember because of her coloring. Kaali was a sweet, gentle dog. I took down PD's number and asked her whether I could help in a any way besides making sure that Kaali was picked up. PD wanted to bury her in an empty plot at the back of the colony, instead. So I offered to load Kaali up in the car, and deliver her to the spot.

PD went away to get the tools needed for the burial and another animal-friendly person from the colony came by to assist a few minutes later. In the few minutes that I stood alone outside the car, looking at Kaali lying on the seat, I welled up. Not with emotion--okay, maybe a little,--but mostly with a sense of purpose. It felt right. Like, this is what I am supposed to do. The instinct to stay back home and to not rush to work even though I had a bunch of tasks awaiting me, served this purpose. I was meant to do this little bit of service. I would have even stayed back and helped them with the burial if it was a holiday. But even that little bit that I could do, of making sure that Kaali was moved away with a modicum of dignity, gave my life a meaning.

If the pickup service had not come through by evening, I had planned to take the dog to the cremation facility myself. That was an obvious action that I would take, to see this to completion. But the little help I could offer to the lady and the dog made me feel like--I was, for that slice of time at least--a piece of the puzzle that fit perfectly where it should. Like, feeling a strong emotion may not really be my thing, but acting on something where it makes a difference, or being effective in some way is what I am here for. And that gave me closure.

What a morbid, weirdly satisfying way to start my 40th year on this planet.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Three months ago

...this day, our remaining baby moved on.

This was an hour before he left...



We had force-fed him a little bit of the mush that we used to call food. I wanted with all my heart to let him be, not to torture him, and to let his body heal itself. I wasn't strong enough to act on my instincts. This will serve as a reminder--yet another one--to do what I know in my gut to be right for me and my loved ones.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

FW: Thanks for all your help!


After almost 42 years I have decided to retire!  [date], is my last day.

Now I didn’t “personally” know Charles Babbage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Babbage) but I have had some interesting times:

  • First computer language: FORTRAN66 (on punch cards).
  • Biggest advancement in computer language: FORTRAN 77 (Block IF statements, DO loops).  After that they have all looked the same to me.
  • Scariest moments:  Carrying a box of COBOL punch cards to the card reader (and yes, I dropped them once).
  • First real project: US Department of Energy data collection from burning coal underground (the data said it was still burning when the project was shut down… oops).
  • Program most likely not to succeed:  A cookbook application to test a user interface SDK on VAX/VMS computers.  Required a raised floor computer lab and $4,000,000 computer (but team did use it to exchange recipes).
  • Most costly bug found:  A hardware addressing error that caused lots of boards to be trashed ($$$$$) and delayed hardware production (our show stoppers are nothing compared to that).
  • Scariest meeting:  Had to tell Dave Cutler (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Cutler) that we needed a CDROM in the hardware instead of tape drive to do the installation of the new OS.  People were hiding outside his office to see if there was anything left of my body to return to my family (learned to have undisputable facts and duck when things are thrown… and not take it personally).
  • Most interesting customer:  Executive Branch (The White House).  I did get an insider’s tour of the Oval office (at least a foot in) and places the public never gets to see.
  • Most disappointing project: Cancellation of new hardware/OS combination at Digital Equipment.
  • “Things that make you say hmmm”:  3 years after cancellation of the above project while in a Windows NT class I get training on ACL data structures that I helped design at Digital Equipment.  “Hmmm, I guess it wasn’t only ‘people’ that move from Digital to Microsoft.”
  • Project with the most freedom: Rewrite of PEM (PEM2).
  • Most dangerous:  Development of office laser printers, we could only put 10 sheets of paper in at a time because it would burn… and a full ream of paper would set off the fire alarms if it caught fire.
  • Most aggravating moment:  A prototype office laser printer that had lots of problems.  It was solved by using “transparencies” instead of paper.  Service guy said it looked like something melted in it… we said “yea… probably the gear that was squeaking.”
  • Project with the most diverse interaction:  Secure Comm.  Customers, developers, executives.  Travelled 9 out of 18 weeks.
  • Project most wanted to be involved with but didn’t get to:  Landing the first man on the moon (not as old as you think!).
  • Most satisfying moments:  When someone I’m mentoring proves me wrong…  I know I’m done mentoring.
  • Most important piece of advice:  Keep your personal standards higher than what anyone else will ask of you.
  • Greatest achievement:  I have, with every project since 1979, developed friendships that I still have today.

If you’re in [location] areas let me know.  First cup of coffee is on me!

Mark Ditto
[email and phone]


~

This is an email I received at work today. The title of this post is the subject line of that email. I added the prefix as a nod to the corporate email culture. (Way to kill a pun, isn't it, when you end up explaining it?!) I didn't suppress the name, because the credit for everything here (including this post) still goes to the wonderful person who wrote it.

I haven't ever had the opportunity to work with this person, and I usually scoff at widely distributed farewell emails, but this one, quite literally, made me tear up with joy. Specifically the italicized bits. And the subject line. Such humility is a mark of true greatness. This post is simply my way of paying respects to this gem of a person. May he continue to inspire others.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Say hello to Denise

...who's the resident guinea pig at Raintree Veterinary Clinic where Mojo gets his acupuncture and other treatments every weekend.

 
 
That's me trying to get friendly with her by feeding her lettuce, but she scampers off and hides as soon as she gets a chance. She's so utterly cute, and nice, though! She's scared but she neither digs in her nails when we pick her up nor does she bite.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Days of mindless indulgence

...like the ones I had yesterday and today totally kill the momentum that I gain on the other days when I am mindful.

Yesterday, for example, between 1:15-8:15 pm, it felt like I was constantly munching on something or the other. Had a fusion box, a chocolate brownie, and an iced tea from Box8 for lunch. Each time I passed the pantry, I picked a few morsels of बटाट्याचा चिवडा. Went out with a couple of old teammates in the evening and had peanut butter toast, fries, and a cappuccino. The husband wanted to have पाणी पूरी for dinner since his birthday last week, but we did something else instead, so we took the opportunity today, because the cook was on leave. However, my frustration wasn't the effect of binging, it was the reason it.

Today too, although I've been at home and have had to attend to Mojo's pee-routine every few hours, I've walked less than 3000 steps, and neither cycled, nor practiced Yoga. It's as if my mind has been in a fog and refused to participate in the real world. Procrastinating everything has been the order of the day.

And now, I don't even want to make any plans to recover from this tomorrow. Luckily for me, I know that it will happen, automatically.

It's been like this, two steps further and one step back, week after week, for the past couple of years. I've sort of given up trying to keep the momentum up for too long.

I'm just happy I now have goals in life. It's something I've never known previously, at least never practiced consciously or with any sincere effort. I've been an impulsive, obsessive person all through my teens, and have wasted time and efforts on people and things that did me no good, really. It's time now to divert those energies towards things that matter to me.

I sometimes wish I could hire someone to keep me focussed. Like some fella who hired a girl off of Craigslist to slap him each time he got distracted from his goal. However, misanthrope that I am, it's not a realistic solution for me. Nor do I know anyone who's jobless enough to want to do this for me. Also, it won't be possible for me to let someone tail me along all day at work--it would be flagged as a security threat. :D

Anyhoo. I hope that unproductive "episodes" like these get fewer and fewer over the years. I know that that will happen. I've just got to be patient and practice being mindful as often as I remember. For now, I take comfort in these words that I read somewhere today:
"Remember how far you've come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be."

...and the comfort food (सांजा) that I cooked this morning for brunch:

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Books I started reading

...and am hoping to finish in the next few months or at least this year:
  1. Refuse to Choose - Barbara Sher
  2. How to Hypnotise Anyone - Confessions of Rogue Hypnotist
  3. Become Healthy or Extinct - Darryl D'Souza
  4. The 80/20 Principle - Richard Koch
  5. A New Science of Life - Rupert Sheldrake (first edition of Morphic Resonance)
  6. Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self Knowledge - Arthur Osborne
  7. Life with My Guardian Angel - Richard Bach (the first ever RB book that I didn't devour right away)
  8. Declutter Your Mind - S. J. Scott & Barrie Davenport (I found Headspace here and got distracted... talk about irony)
  9. 10-minute Digital Declutter - S. J. Scott & Barrie Davenport (irony again!)
  10. You Are Smarter Than You Think - Thomas Armstrong
  11. Level Up Your Day - - S. J. Scott &Rebecca Livermore
  12. 10-minute Declutter - S. J. Scott & Barrie Davenport (oh, the mother of ironies!)

And then there are these that I bought, but have barely even started reading:
  1. Autobiography of a Yogi - Paramhansa Yogananda
  2. Shivaji: The Grand Rebel - Dennis Kincaid
  3. Animal Farm - George Orwell
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  5. Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps - Tanya J. Peterson (rolling my eyes at this now)
  6. Thank Your Wicked Parents - Richard Bach (this isn't a linear read anyway, and almost none of it is applicable to my situation, thankfully!)
  7. S.M.A.R.T. Goals Made Simple - S. J. Scott
  8. How Google Works - Eric Schmidt
  9. Talk Like TED - Carmine Gallo
  10. Game of Life - Kanishka Sinha and Girish Manimaran
  11. The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students - Grammar Girl / Mignon Fogarty


Those are too many for me to finish in a year, or even two! Also, I used to believe I'm more of fiction reader. Clearly, my preferences have changed over the years. Or, maybe these are things I thought I should read, rather than what I am really motivated to read. Maybe that's why I have had trouble completing any of them.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Vegan omelette batter

...somehow looks better than that of an egg omelette. The latter may look better later and may even taste better, but there's something about this one that makes it look adorable to me.
For the record, I didn't eat this one, because I'm not too fond of tomatoes-onions-mint in my vegan omelette. I prefer mine with just plain coriander, probably because I loved the ones mom used to make. Dear old कोथिंबीर धिर्ड आणी लोणी--comfort food!

Side note: This used to be good old "veg omelette", but now that I am considering going vegan at some point, I'm so glad to realize that this will continue to be kosher. ;)