Sweating The Computer Stuff

I have not been in the state of mind to write a blog for a little while now. You can blame technology for this. I finally got a new computer. I ended up spending a lot of time getting the new machine up and running. I found myself in a frame of mind not conducive to writing anything.

My old laptop computer has had a few issues with it for a long time, but I tried to manage without a replacement for as long as I could. One of the buttons on the touchpad has been sticky for a while, which sometimes led to unexpected responses when it was pressed. The plastic casing of the computer had cracked and separated an even longer while back – at the location on the side where the power cord got plugged in, to the extent that the connector for the power cord inside the computer was not firmly connected to anything within the computer itself. When the lid of the computer was lifted to the certain level, the broken plastic on the bottom of the computer would separate, and the connector would become free to move. The only way to ensure that the connector was stable was to push the top and the bottom elements of the casing together and to try to keep them together using some force. The engineer in me had to try to come up with a solution to the problem. Super-strong adhesives would not work since the force pulling the broken pieces apart was too much. I was using a sticky tape instead as a temporary solution, and had been trying to limit the actions of opening and closing of the lid of the computer. That careful approach had its limits, and mitigated the issue for only so long. It was time for a new computer!

I got a new laptop computer with much more memory than I had before, with the hope that it would make it easier for me to support multitasking, and also speed up running of my photo editing app, a piece of software that is a complete memory hog. I also upgraded to a Solid State Drive (SSD) instead of the traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) in order to eliminate a moving part in the computer.

Laptop technology has advanced significantly since my last upgrade about 6 to 7 years ago. The newer units are far more compact (smaller in overall size for the same screen size), significantly thinner, and much lighter. This is in spite of the fact that the new machines are much more capable than the older ones. The core chipset technology has advanced significantly.

The effort involved in bringing up the new machine to a configuration of familiarity to me, so that I could do all the stuff that I used to do on the old machine, was what disrupted my past week completely. This process should not have taken a lot of time. But one of the key apps on the old machine that I use for image processing would not install on the new one. I spent a few days trying to get past this issue, even spending a significant amount of time with representatives of the company that made the app – on the phone and on my computer – trying to figure out what was going on. I even gave the company reps temporary access to my computer for hours on end. (I was very nervous for the duration of the remote sessions when they were running.) In the end, they were unsuccessful in figuring out what was going on. And, in the end, they also dropped the ball on solving the problem. They had promised a call back from their experts within 24 hours. A few days have passed since then…. But, fortunately, I had also been trying to troubleshoot the problem on my own, and finally found out the source of the issues I was having. It was due to the existence of a use case that they were not likely to see too often – one that they were not familiar with. But shame of them for not following up! If they had stayed on the case, the information that I have found could have been helpful to them in the future. Too bad that they gave up!

Changing gear……
Changing topics…..

We went out to pick fruits at a farm last weekend. It was my first such experience. It was a fun couple of hours. The fruits available on this farm for picking at this time of year were nectarines, peaches, and blackberries. It turned out to be a very pleasant day to be outside. It was good exercise to walk across the fields to the locations of the best pickings. I was quite surprised by how engaging the process of trying to find good fruit to pick actually turned out to be. One becomes adept at making out the level of ripeness of the hanging fruit. And, of course, you are sampling some of the fruit you have just picked as you go along. There we a lot of families out there having fun. In the end we ended up picking more fruit than we really needed.

The farm had other activities to keep the families engaged, including places to pet the animals, and a flower garden where people could cut flowers for themselves.

It was a good day!

We were also able to go to the canal for our Sunday walk last weekend. It was good to be out again after a short break. We went to a familiar section of the trail – between Sycamore Landing and Rileys Lock. The parking lot was unusually full because of the people who had come to see the garden of sunflowers next to the lot.There are very few flowers along the trail itself at this point in the season in this section of the towpath. There were the dying Wild Sweet William that I had seen in full bloom while biking a couple of weeks back. The underbrush is also very thick at this time, with the various tall grasses and shrubs pushing up against you from the sides in the sections of the trail that have not been cleared out yet. It is green everywhere.I did see some leftover Bee Balm, Coneflower and Touch-Me-Nots. There seemed to be fewer than usual birds around. We noticed the occasional cardinal. The woodpeckers were scarce.

There was the one Zebra Swallowtail that we saw feeding. It did not seem to notice us.

Fortunately, there were very few gnats, probably because it was a unusually cool and cloudy morning.

It is possible that the reader will get the impression that the experience of the towpath must have been diminished because of what I have written above. Banish the thought! That certainly was not the case. There is nothing like being out in the quiet of the woods to rebuild one’s spirits – in order to carry you through the rest of the week. Thus it was last weekend!

How Does Our Garden Grow

I tried to create a garden of flowering plants in our front yard when we first moved to Maryland many years ago. Shrubs, seeds, and bulbs, made their way to our home from the local store. Many of these plants actually survived for at least a little while. We had beautiful flowers of different colors in our yard that drew in the bees and the butterflies. It was actually pretty. It was a time when I actually tried to remember the names of the plants we had in our garden! The plants needed care, and some of them died because I was not very good at it. But, generally, things were going well. Then came the deer.

The deer in our neighborhood are absolutely fearless.  They walk around on our streets as if the whole place belongs to them.  They sometimes do not move even an inch when you try to shoo them away. They also eat everything up in the yard.  It is worse in winter when they get really hungry.  I had tried to find plants that they are not supposed to like, but that did not stop them.

I gave up trying to create a garden a long time ago.  I would not get much sympathy when I ranted on about the deer immediately after they ate up a bunch of stuff.  I was told that deer also needed to live.  Served me right for trying to live in a green and wooded place similar to the place I grew up in in India, where there were a lot of deer!

But, now, the attempt to create a garden has been revived once again! The motivating force for this effort came from elsewhere, but I had no objection to it. I knew enough to not set my expectations too high. We planted a bunch of supposedly deer-resistant plants.  I also made sure to spray this product on the plants every once in a while to try to deter the deer.

Unfortunately, it has not been working out that well. The deer have been munching regularly on some of the plants we bought. Deer-resistant, my foot! They also try out the other deer-resistant plants we bought, but stop before getting too far. A few of these plants seem to recover after being eaten, with new leaves reappearing, only for them to be chewed up once again. The “deer-resistant” ground cover that we had planted must have been particularly enjoyable since they actually seem to have dug deeper into the soil with the mouths to get access to any succulent leaves that they might have missed. (It would be amazing if that plant comes back to life.) I came back from a bike ride this morning and saw that the deer had made a meal of another plant that seemed to have been recovering.

The previous owner of the house had planted hostas on the side.  They used to come out beautifully every year – until the deer found them.  They love the leaves and the flowers.  They either jump over, or get around, the plastic fence I put in place. In spite of being eaten regularly, the plants come back every year in Spring – only to be eaten once again.  This year things were a little different for a while.  I had changed up the fence a little bit and that seemed to keep them out for a little bit longer than usual.  The hostas were growing really nicely, and I was looking forward to seeing the flowers.  And then the deer found a way in one night!

I am not as upset about this kind of stuff these days as I used to be!

One aspect of taking care of the garden, regardless of the losing battle with deer, is the process of pulling the weeds and the wild grass that appear with regularity among the plants that we are trying to grow. It takes the right set of circumstances for me to actually get down to the job of weeding, but once started, I can keep going on and on. There is actually something peaceful, meditative, and zen-like, about the experience of weeding. There is also the feeling of satisfaction when getting the weeds out by the roots (even though you know that your effort is ultimately futile, and that you are going to be repeating the operation some time in the future – again and again).

There is also something interesting about the way in which the weeds seem to get themselves entangled in the plants that we are actually trying to grow, to the extent that you have to pull up some of the “legitimate” plants along with the weeds in order to be successful in the weeding operation. Is this a natural process that is meant to increase the chances of survival for the weed? Order and organization, and separation, seem to be the enemy of the existence and survival of some weeds. Order and organization are not always the way in which natural processes work on Planet Earth. Maybe things are meant to be messy. Human beings messed with the overall equilibrium of the planet when we started creating our own ordered processes and our civilizations. Today, we are doing this to a greater extent than we ever did in our history – primarily looking out for ourselves, not paying enough attention to the rest of the planet. All that stuff is in the weeds! Can this be a good thing? How does our garden grow?

Alternate States of Reality (10/11/2008)

This blog is another email from times past – a trip back to a time long ago when I used to travel to Los Angeles very frequently on business. All of of this is now a distant memory, but a memory that will take a long time to completely fade away. Times have changed.
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The trips to Los Angeles are becoming second nature to me. I drive the streets of El Segundo as if I know them like the back of my hand. Then there are the regular drives that I make north of LA to Burbank, on the crowded expressways that dissect the concrete jungles of downtown LA. The expressways are really amazing, with metered entrances, several lanes in each direction, soaring flyovers, and even some elevated sections that let the people who are carpooling fly high over the regular lanes of backed up commuter traffic. Although I have never lived in California, names like Pasadena, Ventura Boulevard, Burbank, seem so familiar to me. (Maybe I listened to too much California music when I was growing up.) All over the world we find a way to live in our different states of reality, but at the end of the day it is all a human creation. My life as a commuter, traveling at least once a month to LA, has become my reality, and it would be hard to argue that it is not my own creation.

With my regular trips to different places these days comes the attempt to make some adjustments and allowances for my internal state of affairs. Actually, this could be more of a psychological issue than physical. I have no pain, perhaps a very slight physical ache once in a while (that could be more mental than real) that I can ignore for the most part. I do need to remember to carry around my innumerable medicines. I seem to have no problems with the endless walking that is involved in getting from place to place within the airports even though I am dragging my luggage around with me all the time. I have no troubles with the endless bus rides to and from parking lots and distant car rental places. I do not feel any particular weakness (although I still have not been able to get back to my more strenuous efforts on the trail during the weekends).

I have had to try to adjust my eating habits during these trips and that is still a work in progress. But I have also found certain places that I can visit again and again during my trips to LA. The Subway deli with its veggie patty sandwich is an old standby. The Japanese eat-out place looks promising, especially the Salmon on rice with teriyaki sauce, consumed with a green salad and cranberry juice. I have become a regular at “Thai Dishes”, a hole-in-the-wall joint on an inhospitable stretch of Aviation Boulevard next to an old military aircraft factory and a railroad line, not far from DIRECTV. The spicy chicken and vegetable combinations, washed down by some Singha beer is a delight after a long day at the office. I drink a lot of water. (I now have to sit in the aisle seat on a flight rather than the window seat.) During the last trip I ate just fruit for breakfast on my last day because fruits are supposed to be good for you. I am not convinced that everything that I am doing really makes sense. It is the conventional wisdom of the day that one follows, but it is quite possible that conventional wisdom changes with time and is not always correct. One lives according to today’s rules, whether they are right or wrong. Does anybody have any wisdom beyond that?

Yes, I am building up an alternate state of reality with my trips to Southern California, and perhaps I will be able to survive this reality long enough to enjoy a different and more fulfilling reality some time in the future, before time runs out. I have a feeling I am not the only one in this state of mind.

The “LAX from the Westin” Picture Gallery

This gallery is linked to the subject matter of my previous blog.

Some interesting observations came to mind when I was trying to pick pictures for this blog. One is that quite a few of the aircraft that I used to see in those days are no longer flying. This list includes the Boeing 747 (with the exception of the later B747-8), the Airbus 340, and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and McDonnell/Boeing MD-11. There is even a picture of a freighter DC-8 above! The Airbus 380 and Boeing 747-8 aircraft only arrived later, and soon they too will be no more.

Also of note is that a few of the airlines that were in existence at that time are no more, including Continental, Northwest, and US Airways.

The picture in the collage above of the small rolling suitcase taken in front of the door of my hotel room as I prepare to depart Los Angeles to come home is symbolic of the nature of my work-related travels in those days. The bag carried everything I needed for a short trip. It was small enough to fit into the overhead bins of the aircraft I flew on, so that I did not have to check-in any luggage. I could get through airports quickly without having to wait at luggage carousels or in check-in lines. I was constantly traveling – in and out of hotel rooms, arriving and departing at all possible hours of the day. The passageways, the concession stands, and even the restrooms, of the United and American Airlines terminals at LAX became very familiar to me.

A person can do it, especially at a younger age, but you may not really fully realize what the experience of constant long-distance travel is doing to your body and soul, especially as it is happening. Some of us simply had to do it.

Random Musings On The Flight From Los Angeles (1/29/2009)

I wrote this during one of the many trips that I used to take to Los Angeles when I was working. I have taken the liberty of making a few corrections/improvements, but not that many…..
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The American Airlines Boeing 757 lined up on Runway 25R at LAX airport, with its distinct and ugly snout pointed West towards the Pacific Ocean. Silverbird quickly accelerated down the runway, muscling its streamlined form with rapidly increasing speed hard against the wind. Barely halfway down its runway the aircraft rose up from the ground, nose pointed skyward, as if eager to break its connection with Mother Earth and get away from its clutches as quickly as possible. It quickly ascended at a steep angle and attacked the sky like an eager and angry fighter jet rising to meet the enemy, its engines screaming with a distinct shrill and high-pitched sound that sounded so unworldly, yet so sweet, gaining altitude by the second. Within moments the aircraft was over the Pacific Ocean and was banking sharply to the left, beginning its U-turn to head back east to the Washington, DC, area. The aircraft turned east in the area over the Port of Long Beach and quickly rose to its cruising altitude. The unusually swift prevailing winds that had originally delayed my arrival into LAX on Monday were now speeding me on my way back home for an unexpected early arrival.

The Westin Hotel near LAX is located due east of the airport. Century Boulevard, which runs in front of the hotel, takes you directly from the hotel to the airport terminals. The hotel is shaped somewhat (but not exactly) like a cross, with the base of the cross facing the airport. The aircraft flight paths leading into LAX happen to be on both sides of the hotel (and therefore on both sides of the airport terminals themselves). LAX’s four runways run in an east to west direction (or west to east, depending on your perspective), on either sides of Century Boulevard. The runways on the south side of the airport terminal begin not too far from the hotel itself. The runways on the north side begin further away from the hotel, closer to the airport terminal itself. Most of the time the planes come in to land from the east and takeoff to the west. There are very rare arrivals from the west, usually late in the night or in the early hours of the morning before the regular traffic has begun. Being a frequent traveler, I usually get a room on the highest floors of the hotel. My view from the hotel depends upon which section of the hotel my room is located on. If I am facing east, I can get a beautiful view of the sunrise over the hills, and of the aircraft, with their lights turned on, lining up to land on the runway that runs close to the hotel. If my room faces south, I can see the planes fly right by my window at a very low altitude. To the west, I can view aircraft taking off from the airport, and I can also enjoy the glorious colors of sunset (if I manage to get back from work at a decent time). The planes look very nice in the light of either the rising or setting sun. To the north, I can observe the planes approach the airport at a significant height (since the runways start further away from the hotel), framed by the hills to the north of LA and the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles in the distance. The rays of the rising sun hitting the skyscrapers of downtown LA can create a unique and beautiful sight that lasts for just a few moments. I am usually awake well before dawn because of the difference in time zones, and I spend time looking for things to photograph in the distance. I sometimes wander down the hallways of the hotel to try to get a good spot to take a picture – to find the particular angle that, at the right time, offers a unique perspective. I have to admit that my pictures do not come out well since I am dealing with non-ideal conditions for photography, and a camera with limited capability. But I keep trying. And the hotel staff have not yet stopped me from doing what I am doing.
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American Airlines Boeing 757
American Airlines Boeing 757 through a dirty window

It has been many years since I last visited Los Angeles. I still have a lot of memories of my trips. The Westin Airport LAX is still in operation.

Sample pictures taken from the Westin during that period of time are in the next blog.

Water Colors

The image of a paintbox flashed through my mind one morning last week. I am not sure what triggered a memory of something from my childhood. I suddenly had a vivid remembrance/recollection of my leaning over a piece of paper with a wet paintbrush in hand, bringing my brush to a particular color in the tray that lay in front of me, moving the brush back and forth on the cake of color to allow the material to dissolve and be absorbed on to the brush, and then applying the brush to paper. For some reason the name Camel is associated in my mind with the brand of the paintbox that I would have used. I do not know if this was only in my imagination working overtime, but I do note that there still is a brand of watercolor called Camlin from a company based in India.

I used to really like painting as a kid. I think I even graduated to using tubes of paint at some point, but never beyond painting with water colors. I even got to the point of using brushes in different sizes to help fill in different spaces of the picture being painted more efficiently, and to try to achieve some degree of finesse.

I remember that we had to take drawing classes while in middle school. There was a separate classroom dedicated just to drawing. The person in charge of drawing (called the drawing master) was really good at painting. He also used to play volleyball well. But he was also a terror to the kids. He had a habit of breaking the rulers that he hit the kids on the hands with. I somehow managed to escape his wrath, and went on to appreciate what I got to indulge in while in his class. It is impossible to judge whether I had talent or not, but I did enjoy the process.

It was in 1969, the year when man landed on the moon for the first time, that the school decided to have a painting competition in commemoration of the event. I remember painting an astronaut on the surface of the moon. I remember that all the colors I used were dark. It makes sense, does it not? The other occasion I remember was when I took part in a competition organized by the college students in one of the hostels on campus. I do not know what the theme of the competition was, but I decided that I was going to paint an image of the Virgin Mary in what I pictured stained glass to look like. You see, I imagined this stained glass to consist simply of pieces of glass of different colors, stuck together to form a pattern. It was a brilliant move on my part. All I had to do was create random blocks in different shapes to fill in the space, and simply paint each block with a single color. Finesse did not matter in this regard. What mattered was how close the final result could be taken to represent the person I was trying to paint. It could be considered some form of abstract art. Best of all, I could fake out the details when drawing the face. Faces were my biggest challenge when it came to painting, especially the eyes and nose. (I had even avoided having to draw a face for the picture of the astronaut on the earlier occasion!) In any case, they decided to give me a prize in the category and age group that I was participating in. I do not remember any more details.

It is now years later, far removed from my days of middle school. I have not used a paintbrush since then other than for perhaps helping to paint the walls of a house. More recently, I have considered going to the local arts store to buy a the basic stuff needed to try out watercolor painting once again. But something is also stopping me. Basically, I think that I have become a wimp. I am cautious of even the process of getting started. I am concerned about consequences even if there probably aren’t any. I do not even want to buy something that I may not use after a period of experimentation. It could turn out to be a wasteful endeavor. I am concerned that this is only a temporary and foolish fancy that will eventually go away. (I have much experience with such things.) I am concerned that there are too many other things that I do that will distract me from putting in the effort that I feel is needed. I am lazy enough to not want to take classes. Essentially, I can no longer think like the innocent and carefree 10 year old I once was.

A Christmas Story

I had been ambivalent about the whole project. When she had first brought up the idea of delivering food to my parents in Chennai from a restaurant in town that her sister and her husband had ownership in (a first-class restaurant, may I add!), I had told her it probably was not a good idea. There were the logistical issues to consider. First of all, the restaurant was quite far from where my parents lived. Secondly, I had experienced issues when dealing with deliveries to the home while in Chennai. The problems started with something as basic as specifying the address for delivery. (The online maps that the vendors used with their GPS systems did not use the postal address as their basis for locating the house. We had to figure out an addressing scheme that worked with GPS. (My first attempt at placing an order in Chennai with an Amazon ended up with a cancellation – because the delivery person never arrived. That was when I recognized the issue with the “address”. All subsequent orders for delivery that I made involved my standing at the gate of the house and keeping my eyes peeled for the delivery person, sometimes keeping track of his progress on my smartphone.)) I should add that Dad and mom have no idea how to use any of the technology involved in managing a delivery to the home. There was nobody else in town to depend upon to help with this. Any delivery of the food had to be coordinated remotely.

Anyway, she was determined. She decided, on her own, to have a delivery of food made to our home for Christmas. It being a special occasion, I did not object completely in spite of my concerns, and I tried to help. She was going to rope in her sister to help make it happen. The process was going to be managed remotely from Bangalore. I noted my concerns, not the least of which was that I did not want to do anything that would stress out my parents in this whole process. I was told not to worry. I provided as much information as I could so that the house could be identified. I consulted with my brother who had faced similar issues during his own trips to Chennai. I even provided a link to a picture I had taken of the shops in front of our house to help with locating the home. I thought I had covered all the bases. The order was placed. Delivery was going to happen around noontime on Christmas day. I was not involved in any of the organization. I must have continued to express my reservations. I was told not to worry.

The next step was for me to inform my parents that the food was going to be delivered at a particular time, and for them to expect phone calls related to the delivery at around that time, the last phone call being made by the delivery person at the gate to the house. Alas, this is where the plan in its original form began to go awry. I attempted to make a phone call to Chennai the day before Christmas. The phone at home was not working.

My siblings and I were independently in touch with somebody who was planning to visit my parents for Christmas. When I asked, Venkat informed me that he was going to be at our home in Chennai about an hour or so before the food delivery. I asked him to please inform my parents about what was going to happen just in case I could not call home before that. The stage was set.

I continued to try to call Chennai but could not get through.

When we woke up on Christmas day, we retieved a message that had arrived overnight from Bangalore. It said that the person delivering the food in Chennai had not been able to get in touch with my parents after his arrival at the house. Of course, the phone was not working. Nobody was responding to him when he called out from the compound gate(s?). Strangely, he reported that one of the gates was locked from the outside. Suman was on the phone with the delivery person when all of this was happening. She gave him instructions to leave the food at the gate. That was the last thing we heard about the delivery. We had no idea what might have happened to the food. Nobody could get in touch with my parents. My worst fears had been confirmed. This had been Mission Impossible! Again, I was told not to worry. We had tried.

Christmas day went by. I could not get my mind completely off what I was now convinced was a complete disaster. I should have done more to prevent this kind of a situation from happening. So many people had put in so much effort to make this happen, and it had fallen apart. Food had also been wasted.

But, the good thing was that we also had the distractions of Christmas to keep us occupied. We were getting the treat of a dinner cooked by Angela. She had suggested the menu for Christmas dinner, and had offered to cook everything. It was going to be an Indian meal. She had no previous experience with the dishes she was planning to cook. She was going to make them for the first time using recipes from books. She was going to be adventurous. Others assisted in her efforts as needed, but she was in charge. She organized things very precisely leaving very little to chance. She even transcribed the detailed instructions from the recipe books to a notebook that she kept in front of her while cooking in order to make sure that things were done right. The result was amazing!

We also spoke to my siblings and their families in the afternoon on Christmas day. The topic of the attempted food delivery in Chennai came up. We were joking among ourselves that the food had probably ended up feeding some stray dogs, or the rats that hung around the place. I did not want to talk about it any more!

Teresa and I realized much later that evening that we had not passed along one critical piece of information about where the food was supposed to have been delivered in Chennai. There was a second house, newly built and unoccupied, next to the the house where the food was supposed to have been delivered, and we had not even thought about making a mention of this house when giving directions. Perhaps the person had attempted to deliver the food there. Anyway, it was too late to do anything about it. The dogs must have had a good time.

When I woke up the next day, I found a texted message awaiting me from my brother. He had finally gotten through to our parents on the phone. He mentioned that the food package had actually not been lost! The message I had passed on to Venkat had gotten through to my parents. Mom had gone over to the new house to see if there was anything that had been left there. She had done this in spite of the fact that they had not talked to anybody on the phone. The plan had actually worked out somehow!

It was already too late to call and wish my parents a Merry Christmas, but at least they received the Christmas gift on time. All’s well that ends well.

PS. FYI, from our personal experience, the food from Kappa Chakka Kandhari is exceptional and highly recommended!

Thanksgiving in The Time of Thanksgiving and COVID-19

I had told myself that I did not want to do the long drive to Massachusetts once again, so soon after the previous trip. But we ended up heading north for Thanksgiving anyway. The drive turned out OK since I had help with the driving in both directions this time.

Of course, coronavirus was on the mind. Ventilation, masks, physical distancing, etc.. were on the mind. The infection rate has skyrocketed in our country in recent weeks. We had to be careful. Our family group was small enough, and every person had to take responsibility for their own actions.

Conversations, games, daytime naps, walks in the park, including Lucy, cooking,bird watching, etc.., were all part of the informal routine during this vacation, with people free to participate as they desired. No pressure!

We did gather at the table for the significant meals. What you are seeing in the picture below are mostly the remains of the Thanksgiving meal the day after. I neglected to take pictures of the Thanksgiving meal itself, which included an Irish Soda Bread that was demolished in a single sitting.Even Lucy seemed to feel free to do whatever she felt like.



There have been a couple of very specific occasions during the last few weeks when I have strongly felt the spirit of community and sharing in a way that felt somewhat different and unique, yet familiar. When sharing of effort is done with a complete sense of openness, without holding back, without a feeling of being imposed upon, without any expectation of any kind of reward other than the generation of a somewhat vaguely defined feeling of happiness and satisfaction that cannot be quantified, then you are mentally and spiritually in a special place. One could ask, what more does one need other than to experience such a feeling, a feeling that immediately warms the cockles of your heart. The goal of the sharing in some instances is not perfection, but the outcome feels that way.

The first time I felt that way was when I assisted with the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal. I provided only a couple of the many hands that helped in the efforts to prepare the roasted chicken, and to cook the beans.Different people participated in the effort in barely organized fashion. It felt like nobody was specifically in charge of worrying about the outcomes. The sense of responsibility was shared and we stepped into roles organically. But the outcomes were good nevertheless. Somehow things all came together.

I had the same feeling back in Maryland when working at the food bank the week after Thanksgiving. I had an intense sense of commonality of purpose. We, the volunteers, just stepped in to do what was needed to prepare closed boxes of food for distribution – including piling the boxes on pallets for shipping, moving stuff, including the loaded pallets, around, recycling cardboard packaging, cleaning up waste, etc.., instinctively stepping in to help each other as needed. In the end, there was great satisfaction in the outcome, and the sense of a successful team effort. We all felt happy about what had been accomplished. We actually lost count of the number of pallets that we had piled up with boxes. It sounds repetitive, but perfection was not necessarily the goal of our effort, although it felt like this was the result that had been achieved. I have been volunteering for years at this point, and I have felt this way in the past when I am working with the regulars (now my friends) who come in on Tuesday. Perhaps I have even articulated this same thought already in the past, but I was so surprised at how similar it felt to the Thanksgiving experience.

As I might have indicated in earlier blogs, my personality lends itself to trying to plan things in detail in advance, sometimes with a degree of obsessiveness, trying to make sure that all the angles are covered, so that one can anticipate anything that can go amiss. That approach can lend itself well to the professional engineering environment where 100% solutions might be important, where you want to do everything you can to ensure that very little can go wrong. This thought process may not be that relevant in many situations in real life. When you are working with others with a genuine sense of community and commonality of purpose, your approach and goals can tend to be different, and the results can be much more fulfilling, and relevant to the human condition.

How I became friends with jimmy john (4/18/2008)

Inroduction – I have ended up digging deep into my past while creating this blog. It was supposed to be a simple re-post of an email I sent many years ago. Much water has flowed under the bridge since 2008. Life was very different at that time. This blog even takes me back to the early days of my career, before the email you are about to read was written. Here goes.

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There are two separate topics in this e-mail, and the second topic is more of a reflection on longer-term happenings in my life.  It would be perfectly understandable if you skipped this second part.
 
So here I was walking through the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in the Convention Center in Las Vegas, when I heard a shout “Hello, Malayalee anoo”?  (Hello, are you a Malayalee?) I turned to see this guy walking up to me.  He started talking to me in Malayalam with a heavy accent.  I was totally taken aback at being accosted in this manner in the middle of a convention center in Las Vegas.  The gentleman mentioned that he had seen my badge and recognized that the name must belong to a person from Kerala.  Very quickly, before I could even recover, he asked me where I was from, whom I worked for, how long I was going to be in Las Vegas, etc..  I had no clue who this person was, and did not understand why he was talking to me with such familiarity and asking all these questions.  He must have noticed a bewildered look on my face because he paused for a moment.   “Am I asking too many questions?”, he enquired.  I did not know what to say.  He then noted that the way he was asking me questions was the manner in which people broke the ice and started conversations in Kerala.  He said that he was from Toronto, and in my confused state of mind I heard the word Trivandrum instead.  I looked at his badge and it said jimmy john (just the way I have written it!).  Anyway, jimmy soon realized that I was not too much of a Malayalee (even though my parents are from Kerala), but that did not deter him from continuing the conversation.  We continued to talk in English for a while about our backgrounds and I became more comfortable with the conversation.  I suppose he was a simble (inside Malayalee joke!) person, and perhaps we could continue talking because I am also simble (hmm, maybe not that humble).  Turns out that he produces a show in Toronto called Malayala Shabtham and his production company is called CKTV, Canadian Kerala TV Productions.  He seems to know people and politicians in Canada, and he sounds like an enterprising fellow.  For all I know, he is a well-known person in certain circles.  Perhaps one or more of you may have heard his name.  Anyway, we exchanged cards and then parted ways.
 
Now, changing topics:  Later the same evening I went out for a dinner organized by a gentleman from DIRECTV named Bob Plummer.  Bob had been at the David Sarnoff Research Center while I was there and had moved directly to DIRECTV after that. (He is one of the folks who encouraged me to move to DIRECTV.)  He is a very senior person, has a lot of friends in the industry, and will be retiring this year.  He apparently has been organizing this dinner during the NAB for several years for his friends in the industry.  This time he invited me to the dinner so that I could get to know some of the folks, and I also met an old friend from Sarnoff, Joel Zdepski, who has now gone on become a Senior VP in a company called OpenTV.  In any case, the food was very good (and very expensive) and there was plenty of wine to drink.  At a particular moment during this whole affair, Bob walked into a conversation that I was having with somebody else and turned to the person and said something along the lines of – Kuria is one of those people who can actually get things to work.  My goodness, what a complement!  It is quite possible that the number of drinks that had been consumed at that point inspired the comment.  But it got me thinking after I got back to my hotel room later in the night (and this is where the humble part goes out the window!).  In the early years of my career I had worked on some really unique and challenging problems that were cutting edge, without really realizing the magnitude of what I was doing.  At Sarnoff, we were trying to design the first digital high-definition broadcast TV system in the world, and were implementing certain concepts for the first time.  Without really thinking too much about it, I came up with a unique solution to a particular system problem that we had, and, although I did not have any hardware experience, I got into the thick of things and actually helped in implementing the concept and making the darned thing work.  I was working on something that I had minimum expertise in, and something far removed from the topic of my graduate studies.  I depended a lot on intuition. I was also quite naive and did not even realize the complex nature of the problem I was taking on and solving.  But others did notice and remember! And it is staggering to realize that the things that we worked on at Sarnoff have now become the foundation of a gigantic worldwide digital TV industry.  Wow!
 
I had a few other such “Eureka” moments during the early part of my career, some of them at Hughes Network Systems, but I think none matched the magnitude of the work at Sarnoff.  I think I had a real problem-solving mentality that is typical of an Engineer, and this ability compensated for a lot of my other personality issues.  But the years have gone by since then and the reality of life has caught up.  It is now more about shouldering responsibilities and trying to make sure that one does not screw things up.  I do not have to solve difficult technical problems.  I am more careful. Everything is more mundane.  And I have to find other less risky roads to follow to push myself and experience the excitement of learning new things and challenging myself.  And, although one accepts where one is in life without any regrets, one wonders once in a while about what might have been if other routes in life had been followed and if more time had been spent earlier in life on developing other talents. It is probably true that one can waste a lifetime simply asking questions and not doing anything else. But at least on that one magical evening in Las Vegas (under the influence of alcohol, of course) I felt like I had done something unique and special, something that not just anybody could have done.  Is it all about feeding the ego?
 
There used to be an advertising line having to do with the Las Vegas tourism scene that stated – Whatever happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.  You can see that this is certainly not true with what has happened to me in Las Vegas during my last two trips.

Such is life.
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Today’s postscript – While looking for pictures of people who I worked with while at Sarnoff, I came upon this website with details about the project I was involved in at that time. You can even find pictures of me from my youth (at least four of them in the section about the “AD-HDTV System Integration at Sarnoff Field Lab”). My signature is on a document that we signed at the end of the project. I directly contributed to the specification document for this project. I was responsible for something called the priority processor.

I do not know how long this website will stay up, but I might as well make use of it while it lasts. This is certainly taking me down a memory lane.
https://www.glennreitmeier.tv/advanced-digital-hdtv-prototype
https://www.glennreitmeier.tv/advanced-digital-hdtv-prototype?lightbox=dataItem-jkrigr9z2