Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chuttumbee #2 Turns 12

Today, Sidd the kid turned an enthusiastic 12.  What a terrific treat.

For him, life is an expanding universe. The question 'How was your day?' is consistently answered by "Oh it was great!" followed by a rambling recount of the day's events and why they were better than expected. He sees opportunity all around him… our place is littered with PostIt notes of lists, and these bring a quiet chuckle from him about how he is knocking off item after item.

US-2015-Redmond-Endof2015School-150612-0240-ToWeb Sporting His Summertime Haircut © 2015, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger image)

    So far, a sense of urgency guides his day. When visiting family, he will remind me, "Dad, let's only do things we cannot do at home… it's about experiences, right?" and he trots off to find and yammer with someone with whom we are visiting.

    …But, the urgency can hold him hostage too. The weakness in this mindset is evident when he feels progress is not occurring as expected - he can shift all too quickly into a sullen, frustrated state. Someday he will be more self-aware of the connection between the situation and his disposition, and proactively navigate thru the dip.

    P1010264-ToWeb Tickled in and by London © 2015, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger image)

      As good as "Today" was, "Tomorrow" is even more promising… "I can't wait to go to 6th grade, I think I will be in at least 3 clubs and I signed up for the speech and debate option, that will be a lot of fun."

      Fearlessness and fear co-exist, almost whimsically. Much larger, physically aggressive soccer players can’t bend his actions in a game (is it courage, or joy to the point of recklessness?) yet a meandering housefly or mosquito brings terror to his whole psyche. “Oh no, I think this kind stings people!”

      US-2015-Redmond-SpringSoccer-150416-0092-ToWeb Defending the Goal © 2015, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger image)

        Still a neophyte when it comes to being pranked. While he loves a good prank, he is STILL much more gullible at the receiving end of a prank. A few months ago, he phoned me. I answered,  "Kentucky Fried Chicken, can I help you?" I hadn’t even changed my voice, yet hook, line and sinker, he fell for it, to my amazement and glee. "Wait, I am trying to call my dad, how did I call you?"

        Dear Siddo the Kiddo,

        In the last year your personality has become more and more clear: you are truly generous in your ways to others, never hesitating to help out family and friends; you are more and more opinionated about the world around you - particularly the actions of our politicians; you are about taking action, using checklists, planning out your next move, urging others to prepare before an event. I love your ways of being an amazing brother, son, nephew and friend. It is an extreme blessing you are my son. Keep developing the 5 things you want to do when you grow up, this coming year is a big one - middle school!

        Love, Dad…

        P1020184-ToWeb Hanging Out With Appa © 2015, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger image)

        Thursday, August 20, 2015

        18 Travel Tips While They’re Fresh in My Head

        I am back from an amazing trip with the boys – truly thought provoking, relaxing, funny, lip smacking foods, awe inspiring. 

        Stonehenge Stonehenge Tour © 2015, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger image)

        1. Know your co-travelers well. Travel is a stylistically specific action. Preferences can matter - - a LOT - - like museums vs. parks, late nights vs. mornings, fancy restaurants vs. street food. Good to know up front.
        2. More important than packing, check NOW that passports are valid, and visas are secured. Few things will cause stress like discovering late in the game than a passport which needs to be renewed with little or no time left. I sure didn’t enjoy that one.
        3. Have a particular desired outcome & focus. Learn about a new place? Relax and do nothing? Learn while relaxing? Knowing what you have in mind will make the rest of the planning and the actual trip so much more enjoyable.
        4. Choose where you spend money mindfully. Breakfast at the flat, sandwiches for lunch, then a more decent dinner was a good habit. Go back to what you had in mind overall, pick a few non-trivial excursions or events, put your money there.P1000496-ToWeb  King’s Cross Station © 2015, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger image)            
        5. Find great discounts. Finding deals and discounts was very helpful, like free kids offers, round trip discounts, off-peak train rates. As example, for one day the tickets to Mama Mia had 1st child free and the 2nd one for 50% off. And the Capital One card enables you to apply points against ANY travel purchase, shaving a lot of your costs.
        6. Mix it up. In this visit one of my goals was to introduce my boys to a range of aspects of London & the UK, in a mere week. So, we found a balance between museums vs parks, city vs. countryside, meeting people vs. on our own.
        7. Be mindful of time durations. Getting from A to B will have a few different steps including ones we won't know till we are in the middle of it. So be observant of how long something may take, and how much interest among us, or significance it bears towards the underlying tenets.
        8. Come equipped for the whole day. Assume you will be out the whole day. Then think about food, extra shoes, outerwear, and tupperware to protect sandwiches. Bringing an extra set of shoes for Paul was a real win one day.
        9. Push on the 80/20 rule for camera equipment. I am shocked how good the current small cameras can be. Shocked. A 14 ounce Lumix LX100 swapped out about 10 pounds of gear.
        10. Have a bag count. I am always worried when we are on the move about leaving an item behind. Peace of mind came from clarifying who has what, then counting and re-counting - - somewhat obsessively - - as we board and disembark the planes, take taxis, subways trains, etc.
        11. Mornings matter. Every major museum, market or other icon is overwhelmed by 1 pm, but remarkably uncrowded in the mornings. Relaxed store keepers, greater selection, less obstructed views of the sights & items you came to see.P1000573-ToWeb Natural History Museum © 2015, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger image)
        12. Pace yourself. Routinely ask “How are we doing?” Stop, sit around. Get a bite.
        13. Be decisive about buying gifts. Before you know it, the trip will be over. So if there is a craft market, go there early in your trip. Think of folks back home, and don’t wait until the trip’s end, or risk picking up cheesy gift shop trinkets.
        14. Public transportation is way easier than initial perception. Even the bus was a snap after the first ride, and the first try is the important one. Plus, contrary to the US, the infrastructure is very extensive.
        15. Try a new eatery each night. Even when you come across an AMAZING place, don't go back as there is a whole sea of remarkable food options.
        16. Throw a duffle bag in your luggage. Just in case you pick up more items than your current luggage can hold, a duffle can come in very handy. Particularly to keep below max weight limits that can be more pricey than a 2nd bag fee.
        17. Choose a 787? Theory has it that higher air pressure and more humidity in an airplane cabin = less jet lag. Of course, this could be hooey from Boeing.  The carbon fiber body of their beleagured jet may have helped us transition.
        18. Equip each child with contact info. My worst case scenario? Getting separated from the children. And more so for them than for me. So load info and apps that can help on your kids’ smartphones
          • Whatsapp will work anywhere as long as you have wifi, and let kids call people around the world
          • Load contact info for people both locally and “back home”
          • Add calendar a invite with addresses of local friends, and your own flat
          • Don’t forget the phone number of local police – a great idea from my friend Gary Ballesteros

        P1010244-ToWeb Big Ben © 2015, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger image)

        Monday, August 10, 2015

        Bob Hall Pre-Empts Disaster

        Here's a story common to so many people: a personality in one's life actively provides useful advice bringing success, or at least steers one away from a career debacle…

        Part One: Trig Class

        "Have you heard from Illinois?" It was Bob Hall's raspy whisper during his own senior level trigonometry class.

        "I haven't applied yet."

        "Really???" His eyebrows ruffled as they always did when he sensed trouble. "Leave now, go see Arnott, I think the deadline is real soon."

        "Arnott" was Pete Arnott, the school guidance counselor, excluding “guidance” and “counselor.” Too many years with no real accountability had atrophied away whatever elements of "guidance" and "counselor" had ever existed. His windowless office was a numbing array of paper, skyscrapers of them actually. A cozy hideaway, sitting in neutral for years.

        "Why hi Abe, what brings you here?" He was a nice enough guy. I explained Hall's concern.

        "Hmmm, I don't know, let me see what that date is." He proceeded to scan his desk and other furniture - - a paper topography akin to the chaotic favelas of Rio, a completely discombobulated array of info.

        "Actually, I will call over to Carbondale, that may be faster." Read: let me lean on someone who actually knows.

        "Hi Trudy, this is Pete from over at Murphy High. Say when is the application deadline for U of I?.... Oh… OOOHHH… Okay, well we'll get right to it."

        Then, calmly looking up, he smiled, "She said its due tomorrow Abe, so that's good, we have a whole day."

        Welcome to college counseling, Pete Arnott style. "Oh look, here's one of the applications, so we won't have to drive over to Trudy's office." Pete was simply glowing.

        Part Two: What's My Major?

        That night, I completed the entire application, except for choosing my major - - a page with a dizzying array of checkboxes. Again, a topic I had not pondered and nor had anyone really broached with me. Just then my mom stuck her head into my room, "Santhosh, Dr. Menon is on the phone. Come and say hello." What luck. We only speak with my dad's good friend about once a year, and today was one of those instances. He had a PhD in Chemistry and was a walking encyclopedia.

        Dr. Menon peppered me with questions such as, "How is high school? Are you excited about being a senior" I shared my current quandary.

        "Don't worry, just check off Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or Computer Science. Computers are going to be a big thing.  You certainly won't go wrong."


        In a mere 6 hours, the path forward was crystalized. If Bob Hall and Dr. Menon had not interceded, and on that specific day, my destination would have been wildly different.

        P1010556-ToWeb-4 Chatting with Bob  © 2015, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger image)