SVL 1.9: Palo Alto and Cousins

13th October 2014
Hello everyone,
How are you? Hope you are doing well ๐Ÿ™‚
Here the weather is getting so cold (13C) in the evenings and mornings that we’ve started keeping the windows closed at night. Some trees are turning red or their leaves have a touch of orange, yellow or brown. Autumn is slowly coming in. But Summer is not letting go without a fight. It still reaches ~30C in the middle of the day. I’ve heard from people who’ve lived here for many years that it stays very warm well into autumn before temperatures suddenly drop. There is a term for this – something like Golden Autumn. If any of you know it, please tell me, I’ve been wondering about it for weeks.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the library one day and borrowed a lot of junior fantasy books (much more interesting than teen fiction) to get back into the habit of reading fiction. After all, how can you write fiction if all you read is non-fiction? (I’ve been listening to Jared Diamond’s Guns Germs and Steel as an audio book – fascinating history of human development and why certain conditions caused some parts of the world to develop technologies that others didn’t- leading to today’s scenario of inequality. I recommend the book to listen to – it may be more difficult to read.) I read many Harry Potters recently to understand what Rowling does right in her style and also Spiderwick chronicles and related work.
The very next day I went to Palo Alto – Stanford for a talk by Dean Ornish hosted by James Doty of CCARE. CCARE is a center for compassion and altruism research and education (the largest donation the Dalai Lama has given to a non-Tibetan cause is to this). Dean Ornish was a guest in this lecture series because of his work on reversing heart disease, diabetes and recently telomeres/aging etc using lifestyle changes and diet. They discussed his motivation, life stories and observations in his years of medical practice and research. It was a very stimulating evening. Here is the talk – recorded and uploaded by Stanford
โ€‹I was especially excited to be in a university environment and only realised what a special place this was when I saw in person, a building I had only seen on online lectures before.

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Two days after that I went to meet a member of TransForm – an organisation that works on improving public transport

http://www.transformca.org/landing-page/our-approach

because one of the events I had previously attended was hosted by them and I had taken a short survey saying I wouldn’t mind being contacted for more information/clarification of my ideas. So I was called to have a cup of coffee and discuss my ideas and now I will be working with a group of students on collecting residents’ opinions and initiating a business association of those who run shops on the main El Camino Real (road) so they can voice their needs in a more organised manner. There is talk about change in land use – if people use less cars, or don’t needโ€‹ to park their cars (using car share) parking space can instead be used for more dense and diverse land use. And most importantly, possibility of a dedicated bus lane (which is the focus for now), increased intersections, slower car speed limit to increase throughput of the road and brainstorming to make it more bike friendly too. Pretty exciting.

Last week Santosh was away from Sunday morning to Wednesday night at a customer conference in which the previous weeks of hectic hard work finally paid off in a flawless demo of the new technology they developed. He had fallen ill a few days before the conference and worked for home for a day and came home early the next day. He was trying to push because the demo was very important. Others on the team were also working like crazy. Luckily he recovered a day or two before he left. My strong inji melagu kashayam (crushed ginger and pepper in boiling water with jaggery for sweetness) and frequent steam inhalation helped.

While he was away, I spent Sunday with his cousin nearby – her nine year old daughter had asked me to come for a sleepover! I did her hair in a french braid and she painted my nails with her collection of nail polishes. It was sweet and girlish. We also read some fantasy books. She enjoys reading. Her three year old brother wanted to play and loved all the extra attention.

After the sleepover, on Monday morning I came back to pack and leave to my cousin’s place further north. Palo Alto was the last bus stop, from where I took the Caltrain. My cousin picked me up from the nearest station. They had just returned from visiting a new baby of the family in Indiana over the weekend. My nephew was very excited for the first day or so that I was there and was constantly trying to show off to me which I found very cute. I played with him and went with him and his mum to the library. He is very well behaved – he puts away his toys before he takes another one out to play something different. He is open to instruction and suggestion from his parents and communicates very well for a two year old. Theirs is the first family I’ve stayed with in which both parents work. I found this a very interesting dynamic to observe. On Tuesday when they were out at work and day care, I worked as I would have here at home. Tuesday was particularly productive as I got started on my second chapter. When they got back, I browsed their book collection and borrowed some. On Wednesday I started to feel ill myself. I worked less and watched Collapse – documentary based on a book by Jared Diamond on youtube. I also watched Pannaiyarum Padminiyum, a sweet newish tamil movie. I had some nice conversations with my cousin during the time there and great food. That night Santosh came from the airport to pick me up.

As he had been working so hard, he got Thursday and Friday off. Initially we had planned to use the time to visit some places, but because my cold got worse and we had a backlog of tasks to finish around the house, we spent time doing that instead. We relaxed yesterday, watched The Day After Tomorrow and Ferris Bueller’s Day off. Santosh took back the kitchen,

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  โ€‹restocked, talked to his family. We went to see the Glass Pumpkin show in Palo Alto and walked around after dinner at Oren&#8217;s Hummus on Friday
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and to Sunday Assembly (http://sundayassemblysiliconvalley.org/) yesterday which I had heard of from James Doty after the lecture at Stanford. I practiced driving after more than a month.

There was a mini fire in the kitchen when he was converting butter to ghee. While Santosh tried to beat it down with a towel, I soaked another towel and lay it on the flames. I’m pretty sure using water would’ve been a bad idea as oils and fats float on water and water would only cause the flames to spread in area. I remember this vaguely from fire drills in Sydney in my school. They did a good job preparing us for various circumstances – swimming classes were necessary for eg, because most Australian cities are coastal and beaches are popular places to visit. It would be dangerous being around that much water and not knowing how to swim or at least tread water, float and signal for help. They also gave us special classes in my 5th grade about the dangers of smoking, drugs and alcohol. Even the basics of human sexuality were covered so students could get proper information before they were misinformed by ignorant classmates. My parents taught us about what kind of touch is appropriate and inappropriate so we would be able to report to them or a teacher if something bad seemed like it was happening – teaching kids these basic things can prevent child abuse.

During my time in the Valley, I learnt how to behave around wild animals – avoid wild elephants – they are more dangerous than panthers – which if you encounter, make yourself large, loud and threatening and back away slowly from those type of predators. If there are bees around, move away slowly because jerky movements are perceived as threats by them – which will provoke them to sting you in self defense. To leave snakes alone and they will leave you alone. No animal is dangerous out of intent and most of them are more scared of us than we are of them. After all, we are the most dangerous species on the planet.

The reason I mentioned all this is because I think it is important for these things to be covered as part of education. I would include first aid (which I learnt the basics of only during my Masters) because simple information tailored towards action can often make a huge difference in the outcomes of some situations. Especially if at that time you don’t have the luxury of ‘looking things up’. Keeping a cool head is also vital and I think Santosh and I did a great job at that.

In other news, I got my bike (my niece has named it Stormy Greycloud), I’m still waiting for a helmet so I can start riding it. My youngest cousin was born on the same day as his brother 7 years ago and with two others in the close family being pregnant I started getting curious about birth types/methods. If we lived in joint families I would probably know a lot more about the whole process by watching others over time. Reading substitutes. My cold is mostly gone now. We expect rain in the next few days after which temperatures will drop to mid to early 20s. Santosh and I have decided it will take going to classes to create a yoga routine for both of us after all. We finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender together (my second time). And we have a Deepavali potluck party in our house the coming weekend.

Hope to hear something from you soon,

Janani


See also