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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, USA, And Many Happy Returns Of The Day!

Happy 4th of July to America and my American readers! Hope you are having fun with parades, picnics and fireworks!!

My city has an annual 4th of July parade that runs just one block from my home. My kids were big fans of the parade because of all the candy, stickers, flags and other stuff they could collect during the parade. So, I used to take them to the parade every year and watch all the fun stuff. The parade featured congresspersons, state representatives, cheerleading squads, gymnastic teams, motorcycle stuntriders, stilt-walkers, emergency vehicles of all shapes, sizes and colors, etc., etc.

A couple of years back, we actually got to participate in a 4th of July parade being held by a neighboring town. My daughters entered a singing competition arranged by that town. All participants in the competition were invited to walk in the parade. The organizer of the competition gave each participant a bag of candy and my kids had a lot of fun throwing the candy out at spectators along the parade route. They were disappointed when their bags ran out of candy and they realized too late that they had not kept any of the candy for themselves!

At the end of the parade, there was a picnic with lots of free food, and games and other fun activities. My younger daughter actually won second prize in the singing competition, so she sang during the picnic. I am surprised she found her voice to sing in front of such a large audience, especially with no musical accompaniment. But she did, and everyone complimented her, and us, for her performance. For winning the second prize, they also gave her a US treasury bond worth $25. Unfortunately, they really mangled up her name on the bond. Since we had to mail it back to get it reissued with the spelling corrections, I decided it wasn't worth the hassle. So, we still have a badly misspelled US treasury bond as proof of her win in the singing contest. And of course, photos and videos from our participation in the parade, and her singing in the park after the parade!

This year, with kids visiting their uncle, I did not go down to see the parade. I slept in late and heard the parade rather than watched it! The parade seemed to be shorter than I remembered in years past. It got started at 9:00 and all was quiet by about 10:00. Usually, it goes on till about 11:00, I thought. I will probably walk over to the nearby park after dark and join the crowds to watch the July 4th fireworks.

Until yesterday night, I was debating whether to join my wife and kids at my wife's brother's. I talked to my wife about my options and told her that I would have no problems doing it. Ultimately, my wife decided that it would be too much hassle for my brother-in-law to shuttle back and forth between home and the airport to pick me up and then drop me off again. So, I decided to stay back at home.

My father was supposed to have had surgery on Friday, but he did not. At the last minute, the surgeons discovered what may be some fluid in his lungs, so they decided they would wait till Monday before the surgery. He also has a slight cough, and that is a big no-no for open heart surgery because coughing puts too much pressure on the ribcage, and therefore the sutures across the sternum. Hopefully, all this will be cleared on Monday and he can have the surgery then. I still plan to leave in the middle of next week to go help out, so if the surgery does not take place on Monday, my entire travel plans may have to be redrawn.

My wife plans to come back home the day after I leave. I am hoping the airline does not screw up her return as badly as they screwed up her outbound. My wife got really freaked out after all the delays and running around on the outbound, as she spent several hours in the airport, living on sandwiches and pizza, with two kids in tow. It is a good thing my kids were as well-behaved during all of this as they were, otherwise my wife might have had a nervous breakdown. But it would certainly be very bad if something remotely like this happened during her return trip also, especially since I will be half-way around the world, not readily available to help as I was during the earlier debacle. Hope springs eternal!

With my wife being gone for almost a week now, my food habits have reverted to what they were in an early stage of my young adult life. I came to this country for my graduate studies when I was 22. I did not really know any cooking, but it was alright with me because I ate to live, not lived to eat. I managed quite fine on simple cooking, or sometimes no cooking at all. I used to eat cereal for any meal, I would eat dinner leftovers for breakfast or vice versa, I considered frozen food the best thing since sliced bread (literally), and if push came to shove, I would make an entire meal out of raw fruits like bananas, melons, grapes, oranges, and apples. For the past two days, I have been reminded of this simpler life as I put together meals of boiled eggs, boiled beans, fruit salads, cereals, etc.

I have also had some free time to get some things done that I had just kept postponing because I was too caught up in family life. One of the most important things I did in the past couple of days was to get my computer backup system back in working order. I have an external hard disk to which I back up all my data and important files on a nightly basis using backup software mentioned in this post on free software suggestions. This external disc started giving me some errors that prevented the backups from succeeding for the past week or so. I tried all the software and hardware diagnostics I knew on the disk, but nothing resolved the problem.

So, I had to completely reformat the disk and restart my backups from scratch. The reformatting would not have taken too long except for the fact that the entire disk is encrypted with TrueCrypt, another of my software suggestions. I had to reformat and also recreate the encryption so that my backups would continue to be safe from unauthorized access. Since TrueCrypt has come out with several new versions (the latest version is 6.2a) since I last encrypted this hard drive, I thought it was worth the trouble to go ahead and go through the process again so that I don't have to worry about my version of TrueCrypt being too out-of-date. My first backup after all this repair work was last night, and it went through without any issues, so whatever the problem was, it seems to have been resolved by the fresh start I gave the hard disk.

At last Wednesday's karate class, I told my sensei that I would be missing the next three weeks of classes because of my extended visit back home. He wished me the best of luck and hoped to see me again after everything was taken care of successfully. He is itching to teach me the last kata I need to know before I can take the black belt test. He is almost done teaching me a weapon kata using Sai's, and I think he was hoping to start on Seyunchin (my black belt kata) in the next week or so. That will have to wait till I come back towards the end of the month. In the meantime, I hope I will have enough time back home to exercise, practice and keep fit so that I don't struggle in my karate classes after I return.

I watched the movie Evan Almighty yesterday night. It was the standard kind of comedy movie that results when God appears out of nowhere to just one person and persuades him/her to do seemingly crazy things. In this case, the protagonist ends up building a huge ark in the middle of his suburban subdivision. I guess it is OK to watch once, but I was not greatly impressed. But it had its funny moments, which is more than can be said about some other so-called comedy movies.

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