Archive for the ‘work’ Category

This and that

Tax deadlines are here and after couple of years in a row of filing for extensions, I had resolved to get it in on time this year. Here we are on the 14th, and PK is still filling out some missing info into Turbo tax and double checking some figures and hopes to get it filed tomorrow. He did try to use my being away as an excuse to file for extension, so that I could verify all the paperwork after I go back and then we could file. I countered that if and when I verified and found any errors, we could file for amendment.  Argument closed.

Talking about being away, I’m in drippy Portland for a couple of days on business and then off to the bay area for more. It felt weird to have sooo much time on hand on the long flight to SFO. But not being able to use the cell phone or have internet access, that time was useless to me. One of my favorite pastimes is Sudoku, but I mostly play online. I was amazed at how disorienting it was when I tried to do the paper version in the airline magazine. In the online versions, all the numbers are of uniform size and every occurrence of the number looks the same, so may be it has a calming effect on me.

I had heard about the concept of “virtual assistant” a while ago, but hadn’t really looked into the details. So last weekend, we were looking to some of these sites and I was impressed. Admittedly, I’m not the busy executive types who seem to be their clients, but I can think of a few things I could use it for. Pediatrician’s office/doctor’s office calls, dealing with health insurance follow ups etc – these have to be done during normal business hours and is often painful to remember and find the time during the work day. I’ve reminders all over my calendar to do these little things, but I still fall behind many times. PK wasn’t so convinced (Yeah, he isn’t the one doing all this, right?). He thought about what he could use it for and his number one item was to somehow get some good value out of his frequent flier miles that have accumulated. He has decent air miles from his frequent trips, but whenever we try to redeem, it is pretty tough – either dates are not available or they don’t have the 3 or 4 seats that we need. To try and work with them on the phone, trying to find alternate dates that may work is very time consuming and involves huge hold times – so that was his dream – some one who, with enough information on preferred date ranges and destinations would be able to call every few days and some how get seats.

Time away from home, as hard as it is on all of us, I’ve to guiltily admit that I enjoy these occasional breaks – coming back to a clean room, no cooking, cleaning etc. But when I came back to my room this evening, I don’t know if I was tired from the two long days and time zone issues or if I had one too many drink at the happy hour, I found myself standing at the door, furiously clicking away the car key and wondering why the room door wasn’t opening!


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Silver lining?

It is March and annual performance review time at many companies. After few years of receiving paltry “raises” (I saw the term salary adjustments used somewhere in the blogosphere) which barely kept up with inflation, I was pleasantly surprised today to get an outstanding one, especially considering the turmoil in my own company, the current market for tech jobs, talk of recession etc. It is nice to feel valued for what you do.

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40 things

I was just vegging out in front of my laptop (I know I have a ton of other things to do!). I was surfing other wordpress blogs and found this interesting. A set of 40 questions to gauge how well rounded a person is. I’ll say upfront that some of this is probably unique to the U.S, so if you didn’t grow up here (I didn’t), it may be hard to do it. So here’s my attempt.

1. Been to a play: Yeah. But probably only one (excluding the ones in school).

2. Bungee jumped or something similar: Something similar yes – but not solo, tandem with my husband. I don’t know the name for it, but have seen it in many theme parks.

3. Been a mentor/big brother/big sister: Nope.

4. Read at least one of the classics (War and Peace, The Great Gatsby, The Red Badge of Courage, Beowulf, Crime and Punishment, etc): No, they are all too long for me. I enjoy light reading.

5. Stood up for someone publicly: Probably not.

6. Been on a major roller coaster: Been to the Superman, ride of Steel in Six Flags.

7. Been to a drive-in movie: Yes, in Bangalore, India. I don’t think it exists there anymore.

8. Done something at a drive-in movie other than watch the movie: Nope, have been only once – as a kid, with my family. So, there.

9. Done volunteer work: So this concept was new to me after I started working here in the U.S. Have done a bit, but nothing to write about, considering how long I have been here. The desire for this has increased since AK (my son) entered the public school this year and I’m trying.

10. Given a toast at a wedding, a eulogy at a funeral, or some similar, meaningful speech: Again, from where I come, the weddings, funerals etc are all very different from here, so there really is no toast or eulogy. I haven’t been to any funerals here and the weddings I’ve been to here, I can count on one hand and none were close enough to me that I was asked to toast.

11. Been to a major sports playoff game: No.

12. Thrown a costume or theme party: Nope. Not into this. Neither thrown one nor attended one.

13. Been on or near the set of a major motion picture: Nope.

14. Taken a compliment well: I don’t know if I can say yes yet, but I’m learning this and think I’m doing better the last few years than before.

15. Planted a tree: I’ve helped my husband, does that count?

16. Been stung by a jellyfish or something similar in/near the ocean: No, and chances are slim. I’m not a beach junkie and can’t swim – so no water sports/activities for me.

17. Quit a crappy job:  No. Where I grew up, we mostly only work after graduation (Yeah, parents fund education!). So have had only 3 or 4 real jobs. And the changes happened due to change in circumstances rather than quitting because of the job itself.

18. Been on a blind date: No.

19. Done something kind and unexpected for a stranger: Nothing that I remember.

20. Had a major surgery: Not sure what counts but I’m young and reasonably healthy. Only surgery I’ve had are dental (wisdom teeth extraction) and child birth related, none of which I consider major. Although, a friend was out of commission for 2 months after what I thought was routine dental surgery (similar to the procedure I had)! That was scary – she had major infection and couldn’t eat for weeks – only liquid diet.

21. Taken a car/truck road trip that covered at least 6 states: Yep, 2 that I can remember. Drove from Lubbock, TX to Florida with friends – TX, LA,  MS, AL, GA, FL and then PK and I went from New Jersey to the Outer banks, NC for our 2nd anniversary. (NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC)

22. Been in 4 or more countries: Easily, the travel hound that I’m. I counted 14 countries – not sure if I missed any – mostly many parts of Europe, Russia, Israel, Mexico, Canada, Singapore etc.

23. Spent New Year’s Eve somewhere special: Times Square, once, if you consider that special.

24. Visited an ancient landmark: Yeah, Church of nativity in Bethlehem and other places in Jerusalem.

25. Been face to face with a celebrity by chance: Yes – too tired to elaborate.

26. Given to charity in the past two years: Yes.

27. Helped a stray animal: No, at the risk of sounding heartless, I’m not an animal lover (I’m a vegetarian, does that make up for it?).

28. Dated someone you met online: No.

29. Won money on a long shot: Never won anything.

30. Won your office/family/friends NCAA tournament pool: Nope, my work place doesn’t allow these things and I’ve never been interested.

31. Won an award/medal (even if something “small”): Probably, several (My dad may even have some saved from school!).

32. Driven a foreign sports car: No. Probably never will. A car is just a commuting medium for me.

33. Been in the front row for a concert: Nope.

34. Attended a symphony orchestra performance: No.

35. Caught a criminal in the act and did something about it (reported it, smacked them in the head, etc): No, and I don’t want to be around any such action.

36. Sung solo on a stage: Probably, before 5th grade. The things I’ve done in elementary school. Sheesh!

37. Witnessed something supernatural: No, and I don’t want to either.

38. Covered for someone (who deserved it) at work: Yes, often. My boss, she’s wonderful. And another good buddy at work, when he went on sabbatical and he returned the favor.

39. Overcome a major fear: Stage fright/public speaking. Its been a bell curve for me. Until I was in 7th grade or so, I was very bold and never afraid to be up on the stage for anything. Then, I don’t know what happened, I turned very shy and retreated into my shell and always wanted to either behind the scenes or the sidelines. But the last 5 yrs, as a part of my job, I’m also expected to do some training – groups of 5 to 20 people. So, I’ve gotten better at this. Not to say that every time the opportunity comes, the jitters don’t come back. But it has also given me the chance to visit unexpected places where I probably wouldn’t have gone on my own.

40. Mailed a surprise care package to a loved one: No.

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Dark days …

Last few days haven’t been good. Lots of uncertainty at work, an inkling of which I got on Friday. So, there was an uneasy feeling in the back of my mind all weekend. Then yesterday, it was confirmed. ~15 people from our group have to relocate to the west coast by summer or leave. 6 more of us are left, and apparently we are ok (at least for now!). But I feel terrible for those affected. Many are strong contributors and a pleasure to work with. Lots of them have been in this area for > 20 yrs and can’t see themselves relocating. For those who want to, the housing market is terrible and they’ll probably take some losses if they have to sell there homes now. I’ve been so depressed since yesterday. Many other groups are being disbanded, there are open questions as to how long this site will be functional and other such unpleasantness, insecurity. I have not looked, but I don’t think the job market here is that great. Many companies are moving out of the state, the few that are around are rumored to be laying off too, so I don’t think there are any hiring sprees anywhere.

Then I was hoping to do something small at home in celebration of Sankranthi. It started off by me waking up only ~6.15 am because PK forgot to set the alarm. That is late even for a regular day, let alone to do something special! On top of that AK really exasperates us with his slow motion movements in the morning and not getting ready for school quickly. So there was yelling, crying etc. Then the bad atmosphere continued at work. Then that stress transfers home and even the smallest provocation by the kids lets my emotions loose and it spirals into a negative feedback loop.

One of our old friends is in town on a business trip and so I was making some special dinner, but amidst all this chaos, I royally screwed it up. That had me feeling very low too, but now that dinner is over, its behind me. The guys are sitting and talking, the kids are sleeping and some time for me to reflect on whats happening to me, around me etc. I just saw that our stock has tanked. Fitting end to a terrible day.

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Kart racing in Boston

Yesterday, we went on a team event from work. The chosen activity was Kart racing at F1 Boston. It was an indoor race track and my first time at such a place. The place was impressive – not just the track, but the lounge, restaurant etc. They started off by making us sign waivers. Next was a 1/2 hour briefing on the rules and safety tips. I found that whole thing too daunting (explaining each color coded flag, earnings, penalties, ejections etc). After that, we had to wear full body racing suits, neck braces and a helmet. I felt a bit claustrophobic in that attire. We were a 13 member group, so we were divided into 2 groups and allowed 2 races (10 laps each). And then 10 of them did a “final” race.

I’m not a big fan of driving or driving related thrills, so needless to say I was one of the last three to finish, in both races. It also didn’t help that the fastest driver was in my group and whenever he finished his 10 laps, it was all over. There was only one other woman and she was one of the last three too, in her group. But the guys had a lot of fun and couldn’t stop talking about it for hours afterwards. They also hand out some print outs of “race driver analysis” with statistics of average lap time, fastest lap time etc and they were discussing it so excitedly.

They have a bar/restaurant on site. They had a few vegetarian choices. Food was good, much better than what I would have expected in a place like that. But it took a long time for the food to arrive and it was a really late lunch. Overall it was a good team event and I enjoyed being Danica Patrick for 1/2 hr (Kidding!). 

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Random thoughts

Ask me any question on the Titanic and I can probably answer. This has been the subject of A’s obsession for the last month or so. He initially started asking about it after hearing about it from a friend at school. Then we briefly told him what we knew (which wasn’t much and that too all from the movie) and then got a kid’s book for him on the topic. We read it to him a couple of times and now sometimes in the afternoon, we see him sitting on his bed and reading it. We also showed him most of the movie at home. I’ve now refused to answer any more questions for him on this, since we have discussed it all to death.

Its been raining a lot here this last week. On Saturday, there was a “family day” at work. Since it was raining so much, this was a good indoor event to go to, mainly for the kids. There was face painting, stickers, lego tables, live animals and birds, balloons etc. They had snacks in the cafeteria and a band (all employees) was playing. S took front stage – dancing, clapping and generally enjoying herself.

We leave for Banff on Wednesday and as usual, we haven’t packed. The weather forecast for there has been depressing – rains everyday :(. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a total washout.

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My company does a lot of activities to help the communities/towns that we operate in. Areas of help include education (schools, private computer clubhouses), environment (clean up town parks and rivers, plant saplings, sponsor electronic recycling events) etc. It has been my intention for a few years now to volunteer for these events, but … Then in the last year or so, I got interested in the activities that they do in the public schools. Although my main intention is to help the schools/kids, I have a selfish motive too.  I don’t know much about the school system here and have always been curious as to how these schools are inside, how they operate etc. So participating in these would give me a glimpse of all the stuff I wanted to know. This also became more important for me since A is entering first grade this fall.

I got an opportunity to participate in one yesterday. The program is called Engineering is Elementary and is co-developed by the Museum of Science with several other entities. There is a general concern that not enough number of kids in the U.S are choosing careers in science and engineering. The goal of this event is to expose fifth grade students to engineering. It was an interesting project. During the prep work for this, I learnt two things. It seems kids decide what they want to be based on what they know about professions. So it is apparent to them what some professions, like teaching, professional sports etc involve, but it is not very apparent to them what engineers do on their jobs. The second is that while there may be a few kids who have specific and serious ambitions about what they want to be, most are more particular about what they don’t want to be rather than what they want to be. So, we were told that as long as they kept their options open towards engineering, we would have done our jobs!

Two of us spent about an hour in the class room talking to the kids, reading a story about a kid who designs and builds a bridge (actually the story is better than I make it sound here) and then doing a bridge building activity with them in groups of 4-5 kids. The goal was for them to build a bridge > 12 inches long and would hold about 3 toy cars and a bus using supplies we provided. They were indeed very imaginative and did a great job. No two bridges were alike and pretty much all of them held the load successfully. I was impressed. As a side note, at the end of it I also realized that A is a perfectly normal kid. You see, PK and I sometimes think he should be playing with big kids toys and games instead of hotwheel cars and buses, but those are what he truly enjoys. Whenever we ask him to go play, those are what he always reaches for sometimes it annoys us that he is not playing with age appropriate stuff. But these 11 year olds were so thrilled with the toy cars and especially the school bus. Between building the bridge, they used to all lay their hands on the toy cars and especially seemed to enjoy the school bus.  

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