It’s different this time around

This week I’ve been awash with emotions that I haven’t experienced in a long, long time. The last time I was anticipating a grade (or a number or a “marks”) on an exam was in my final year of college (2003). You can perhaps include the CAT percentile anticipation the next couple of years. Still that makes it almost a decade since I’ve had to wait to hear back on how I performed in a class.

I had enrolled for the first 2 classes in my MBA program this fall. The final grades for both the classes came this week. It was different this time around. I wasn’t having sleepless nights wondering if I might “fail” or not get acceptable grades. The fear, the apprehension, of waiting to hear my fate of my undergrad days were gone. Also was gone the almost physical tension that caused digestive issues.  I know that I had put in good work and would get a grade commensurate with the effort. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I would tell this though: just the sight of a “good” grade made me realize how much I was looking forward for the official affirmation.

How things change in a decade. And how still they remain the same.

Categories: Life | 1 Comment

First real ride of 2014

Yesterday was my first real ride of this season. A group of people from work have a standing ride scheduled on the 3rd or 4th Wednesday of the month. This was my first time riding with this group. Nine people, including me. Except for me, everyone was over 40, with 1500+ cc of mostly Harleys. The ride was a little over 100 miles (160 km), after we got off from work around 4 pm. Really refreshing.

Here is the full route:

2014-07-23 USB group ride_main map

 

The highlight of the ride was a little stretch of 8 and half miles on County Rd O, from the Gas Lite pub in Trimbelle, WI to the Great River Road. Full of twisties and turns and curves; of full throttle and hard braking!

2014-07-23_close up of Gas Lite to Great River Road, on Count Rd O

 

 

Categories: Loves, Motorcycle | Leave a comment

Moving

[I started writing this 4 days after our actual move, and now it is over 3 months and I’m losing track of some of the initial emotions]

Moving (commonly known as “shifting” to Indians) homes is hard.

The last time we moved was in August/September of 2008. After the move I had taken a akhyandya pratigya (solemn oath) that we won’t be moving for a decade. It was that traumatic. Not only had we closed on the home 2 days after we got married, but that move involved moving stuff out from Vivian’s and my apartment at that time. And I was the last of 3 room-mates to be moving out. I had junk left behind by 3 people.

Fast forward to Mar 2014. We have moved. I have cut short my vow by 4 and half years. Waiting for lightning to strike me any moment. (After 3 months, and numerous thunderstorms, I think the universe has forgotten about our pact)

This time around we had plenty of time to plan the move. Vivian, the great packer she is, did most of the planning for the move. And the packing. And the unpacking. I seriously don’t know what I would do without her! She is truly the cornerstone of our family. Not that I didn’t do anything. I was mainly the delivery guy. Drive boxes to new place; unload. Repeat. We also hired professional movers to get the big stuff out. Even with all this time we had to plan, to execute, and the help we had, the move has left me exhausted. Not as much physically as mentally and emotionally.

I think people under-estimate the moving process. Even though the move is just 30 miles away, essentially in the same metro area. Or maybe it was just me who under estimated it. The change in the daily routine, the change in the location of where daily used items remain, the change in the layout of the home, the change in the commute, the change in the landscape ….there is a lot of change! Simple things like where the sugar is on the counter. Finding the bathroom in the middle of night. The angle the sun hits you in the morning. Disconcerting changes. But the thing with habit is that you can grow one if you continually follow it for 21 days. Safe to say that after 3 months, we would now have trouble going back to the old house!

And spare a thought for poor Brinda. Not only is she experiencing all these changes but she can’t articulate her feelings. But she has been a real trooper. After about the initial 2 weeks, during which she also had a bad cough, she has adjusted beyond my expectations. She now sleeps in her real crib, in her own room, throughout the night. Blessed we are!

Categories: Home | 1 Comment

Water Softener

Even before we moved to our new place, we knew that we needed to get a water softener system installed fairly quickly. The hardness in the Savage city water is around 19 grains, and anything over 10 grains is considered to be hard. (On a sidenote: The 19 grains is certainly not the hardest of water available for human consumption in the US. Places that use well water can have over 100 grains of hardness). We got quotes from Capones, Culligan, Kinetico, Lowe’s (Whirlpool tank-in-tank), and Home Depot (GE tank-in-tank).

Culligan and Kinetico are considered to be the “best” water softener systems that are available for residential use. I put the quotes around best because on further research, which I’m going to elaborate on below, these systems do have a better quality than the big box store brands, but their prices are nothing but absolutely ludicrous. You can build your own (superior) system for less than half the cost for a Culligan or Kinetico.

Before we dive into the various products available in the market, let’s take some time to understand what all factors we need to consider to build a water softener system.

First is, of course, the hardness of the water that we are trying to soften. You can get a test done to determine the hardness or use the data available from the city.

You need to consider a system which not only addresses your current needs, but also have the capacity to handle additional requirements, if you have a plans for a bigger family in the future or have frequent visitors who spend more than a day at your place. My suggestion is take the number of people in your current household and add 1 to it. The number of bathrooms you have in your house plays a role, but I’m a little circumspect of its importance. Let’s assume you have 3 person household and 3 bathrooms in your home. How likely is it that all 3 bathrooms will have someone taking a shower at the same time? Pretty rare, huh? More likely that 2 bathrooms might be occupied. My suggestion is to subtract 1 from the number of bathrooms in your home.

You’ll need to know the peak flow rate of the water in your home. Pretty easy to find that: take an empty 5 gallon bucket and place under your tub faucet, crank open both the hot and cold water, measure how long it takes the bucket to fill up. If it takes 30 seconds, your peak flow rate is 10 gpm (gallons per minute). If it takes 1 min, your peak flow rate is 5 gallons per minute. In most cities the average household peak flow rate will be between 7 and 11 gpm.

You can use this online calculator to input your numbers from the preceding  3 paragraphs.

Now we come to the components of the water softener system. Assuming we are going for salt based system, the primary component is (not the salt!) the resin. The resin is what removes the hardness (the Calcium and Magnesium bicarbonates) from your water. The salt (the 40 or 80 lbs. bags that you buy) is used to regenerate the resin when it has neared its low efficiency. The resin resides in the tall, cylindrical, metal tube. Since the resin is the most important part of the softening process, the size of the cylinder, and the volume of the resin required, are of utmost importance.

You will want to make sure that the maximum grains of hardness required to be softened by your system fits your needs.

The other very important component of the water softener system is the valve, or the control that will program and actually make the whole thing work. This control system sits atop the resin cylinder. Fleck is almost universally acknowledged to be the grand daddy of all valves available in the market. You can order a Fleck valve (and the whole system – resin, resin tank, brine tank, and connection)  at very reasonable prices at Ohio Pure Water.

Now we have looked at the factors that affect the water softening system and the main components that go towards making the system. How do we align these two? Let’s take an example.

We are a family of 3. Add 1, to get to 4. We have 3 bathroom; subtracting 1, we get to 2. We have a hardness of 19 grains and Iron level of 0.01 ppm. Using the online sizing calculator (and manipulating the “shower head flow rate” to arrive at a “peak flow rate” of 10 gpm), the tool tells us that we will need between 46,550-37,240 grains per week, depending on whether we are using a low or a high salt dosage. Since regenerating per week is a good idea, we can go for a system which will easily handle over 46,000 grains.

Let’s try this from a slightly different (but inherently same) approach.

19 grains of hardness, 4 people, 70 gallons per day per person water consumption on average.

So, that equals 19*4*70= 5,320 grains per day

We want to regenerate every 7 days, so the system needs to handle 5320*7= 37,240. Viola! We are at the same number, when regenerating with a high dosage of salt.

Take a look at the table below, or visit here.

With this, we can say that a 1054 system, with 1.3 cu. ft. of resin will do the job for us using medium salt dosage. (There is a trade-off with min and max salt dosage use. With min salt dosage use you’d use the most water, and with max salt dosage use you’d use the least water. Also with high dosage of salt, sodium in your water increases. So it is good to find a balance at the middle.)

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We have built the ideal system, so where to buy one now? Let’s go back to the 4 systems we got quotes from.

The Whirpool WHES44 at Lowe’s and the GE GXSH40V at Home Depot are almost the same price ($497/$488),  have very similar specs, and the valve for both is made by manufacturer Ecodyne, a company based out of Woodbury, MN. Lowe’s installation service is $199 and Home Depot’s $299. The city of Savage charges a one-time water softener permit fee of $49.50, which will be added on. You are looking at at around $750 to $850 for the whole thing. Additionally, the longevity of these tank-in-tank units is around 10 years, if you are lucky. A name brand (Culligan, Kinetico) or Fleck systems can easily last for 2 decades.

Culligan quoted us a 1040 (resin tank of 10″ diameter by 40″ height, with no mention of the actual resin volume) Medallist Plus for $1,998.50, including the unit, installation and permit fee.

Kinetico quoted us a 940 (resin tank of 9″ diameter by 40″ height ) Essential Platinum for $1,889, including the unit, installation and permit fee. The resin tanks actually holds a measly 0.6 cu. ft of resin!

I went to the Ohio Pure Water site and configured a Fleck 5600 SXT Electronic Meter with 48,000 grain capacity for $585. This would include 1.5 cu. ft. of resin, the 1054 resin tank, brine tank, 1″ stainless bypass valve, and delivery. I would only need to install it and pay the permit fee. Since I’m not a DIYer (I can follow “orders” from someone who actually know what they doing! I know enough to get myself into trouble, but not enough to get out of it!) I researched for a local reputable installer. On the recommendation of a neighbour I looked up Bob Sable. You can find him here and reviews here. Few of the reviews say that he even listens to your problem and gives out free, but pertinent and valuable, advice over the phone. I called him and we talked for around 10 mins. I asked him if I could meet him face to face and we fixed on a time later that evening. I went over to his place and we talked for almost an hour and half! I kid you not! In the end we came up with the same Fleck model, but from a local supplier. With installation, $798. And he didn’t even charge me anything for the consultation!

footnote: I also had Bob install a whole house filter. Total charge, including all units (water softener and filter), all connections, installation and permit came to $1,148.

water softener and filtration system

 

Categories: Analysis, Demystify, Home | Leave a comment

No change in DJIA for the day!

DJIA_Apr 24, 2014

I’m not sure how many days like today has there been, but this seems pretty incredible to me!

Categories: Economics, News, WTF | Leave a comment

Cold weather wear

A blogger friend of mine had recently moved to the Midwest and, even after being in the US for a few years, was not totally prepared to face the wicked winter. That got me thinking. Maybe I should publish a cold weather clothing checklist that could be used by people to prepare themselves before they arrive in the cold.

Keep in mind that the cold I’m talking about here is sub zero Celsius (32 deg F and lower).

If you are planning to spend more than 5 mins in the cold, the following items will make it easier (note: you will not really be comfortable in your first winter!).

Let’s start from the very bottom …

- You’ll need a good pair of sturdy boots, preferably snow boots. Maybe this is a no-brainer, but I was culpable of not having one initially. (I still don’t have an actual pair of snow boots…)

- Woolen socks to go with the boots.  When you buy the boots, try it on with the woolen socks on – this will prevent you from buying your “regular” sized boot and not account for the thickness of the socks.

Moving up …the lower torso – waist down

- Start with your, you guessed it, underwear. Now if you are a woman, that’s the only piece of underwear you’ll need. If you’re a man, put on another pair of underwear. Why you may ask? Short answer, your balls will thank you. There is a biological reason men have scrotum outside their body. Basically the testicles are kept at a lower temperature than the body. Now, when you’re in a really cold temperature guess what happens? The testicles want to maintain their temperature and will get as close to your body as possible.

- Put on inner thermal pants.

- Your outer pants – preferably jeans or thick cords.

- Last one, I wouldn’t say this is necessary, but if you’re really cold, ski pants or  snow pants are the way to go. Now don’t buy them from India or California! Come to the cold place and see if you can survive without them. Ski pants are eponymous. They are worn by people who are skiing or snow boarding.  Snow pants are typically worn by people who work outside for a living, in the snow. I have a pair of ski pants that I put on when I’m out shoveling or going to a football (soccer) game or dropping Brinda off at daycare in the morning.

Moving further up ….upper torso

- Again, start with your underwear/undershirt.

- Put on a long sleeve t-shirt or thermal t-shirt.

- A warm woolen sweater or a cozy hoodie.

- Top it up with a down jacket. Make sure this is of a name brand such as North Face, Columbia, Timberland or such I’ve seen a  lot of Indians coming to the Midwest armed with a leather jacket as if the leather jacket is the only solution for cold. I’ve never had a leather jacket (for regular wear; I do have a leather motorcycle jacket). Leather jackets are expensive, bulky, sometimes smelly and do not offer as great of a protection than the down jackets.

- Warm gloves. Like the toes, these extremities feel the brunt of the cold and is very important to keep them protected. Now these might cost a pretty penny, but get one which has thinsulate/wool/fleece on the inside and leather (or some sort of substance other than wool) on the outside.

Ohkay! Upward north …

- A scarf (also known as a “muffler” to many Indians) will help prevent the wind from going into the layer of clothing you’ll be wearing.

- You need a good winter hat. A skiing hat or a trapper hat is a must. A warm head goes a long way in keeping in your body warm.

- Sun glasses, or ski glasses, will offer protection to your eyes.

- A balaclava ski mask (kind of like the Indian “monkey cap”) if you need nose protection.

And you are set!

In most cases, you won’t need to wear all the stuff mentioned above. Things starts to get dicey when the temperature falls to single digits, and then sub-zero (-12 deg C and lower). The good news is, it does get better in subsequent winters! The last time I wore thermals was 2 years ago when I attended an outdoor show for 3 hours in single digit temperatures.

Categories: Demystify, It only happens in Minnesota, Tip | 1 Comment

3:30 pm

Ever felt that certain positions of the hands of the clock would leave indelible marks on your psyche, long  after their once-special relevance in your life?

My brother and I used to come back home from school around 2:30 pm. I used to heat up the food and then we both had lunch. Maa, who is a teacher, came home around 3:30 pm. I think she still does! We – at least I did, not sure about my brother – used to look forward to 3:30 pm, waiting for the doorbell to ring or the door to open from the outside. Maa used to open it with her key sometimes, to surprise us I think. So that’s the back story.

This year, starting in November I’ve been taking Fridays off, to burn through my yearly use-it-or-lose-it vacation days. On almost every day that I’ve been home alone (Brinda still goes to daycare as I get caught up on some work and chores), at around the 3:30 pm mark, I have caught myself looking at the clock, kind of wishing, almost half expecting, that my wife walked in with our daughter.

Eerily Pavlovian, isn’t it?

Categories: Home, Life | 2 Comments

World Cup focus: Belgium

With the World Cup in the summer of 2014, and the teams that will compete in the WC becoming clearer, I’ll try to publish profiles of some exciting teams. This week – Belgium. Belgium qualified for the World Cup on Oct 11, 2013 by virtue of their win over Croatia, which landed them top spot in Group A of the European qualifiers.

Now, Belgium is not a team that is repeated in the same sentence as “World Cup contenders”  (in fact, at the time of drafting this post, they aren’t even guaranteed a spot in the World Cup. Currently they sit atop Group A in the European qualifiers, with 2 games to go. If they can get one point from their remaining 2 games, they will finish top of the group and automatically qualify. If they finish second, they’ll be drawn into a 2-legged playoff and can potentially miss out), but this current team is full of promise and talent. Take a look at this formation of the Belgium national team.

belgium team formation

Let’s start the back. In Simon Mignolet, the Liverpool stopper, they have a towering presence in goal. Mignolet is probably the best keeper in the Premier League right now, and has already made some superb saves for his new club. As a replacement, Thibaut Courtois is having a pretty good run with Atheletico Madrid.

In defence, Vincent Kompany – the Manchester City captain – leads this exuberant team. Kompany is easily the most experienced player in the team. Thomas Vermaelen, the now-fit-now-not-fit Arsenal captain, partners Kompany in central defence. If Vermaelen stays fit, this pair can be the bedrock on which the attack will be built on. Jan Vertonghen, of Tottenham Hotspurs, fills in at left full-back, and Toby Alderweireld from Atheletico Madrid at right full back. On the bench would be the veteran Daniel Van Buyten of Bayern Munich.

The midfield is a 3-man zone, with Moussa Dembélé (Tottenham) and Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) providing the cover for the defence and Kevin De Bruyne (Chelsea) playing the role of the link up between the forwards. Backup in midfield would be Steven Defour (Porto) and Axel Witsel (Zenit). The midfield is probably Belgium’s weakest link. De Bruyne, though full of promise, haven’t had too much playing time under Mourinho. Both Hazard and Mirallas (mentioned below) could be brought in to strengthen the midfield.

It is in the attacking third that Belgium has an embarrassment of riches. The starting eleven would feature Eden Hazard (Chelsea) in a wide left position and Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) in the center/right forward. Romelu Lukaku (Everton) would be the focal point of the attack. All three have been in the prolific form in the last and current season. Ready to take the field as substitutes would be Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Nacer Chadli (Spurs), Dries Mertens (Napoli), the latest sensation Zakaria Bakkali (PSV Eindhoven).

Note: The latest latest sensation Adnan Januzaj (ManU) hasn’t yet agreed to play for Belgium.

What would your Belgium team look like?

Categories: Demystify, Sports | 2 Comments

Un-real

Picture this:

You are watching a drama, on television. You think this is different from other shows since this is “reality” TV. The characters will be unpredictable; the outcome is unknown.

Except, that it is not. The characters are molded into what the viewers would like them to be, and the outcome is very, very scripted.

Take an original show on TV. One that is conceptualized, thought out, characters developed, direction provided, has a story or a narration, production value given ample thought, cast assembled with real actors. Now, take that same show and strip it off the last 3 aspects, mentioned in the last sentence. The 3 most important factors in a show: a story-line, good production, and starring people who can really act.

What you’re left with, is reality TV.

No story line. No production value. No one knows how to act. And if you thought the only saving grace would be the spontaneous nature of the reality TV, welcome to reality. All reality shows ARE scripted.

One of life’s big mysteries: why would anyone want to watch a reality show?

Categories: Rant | 1 Comment

A looong ride

Last Sunday, August 18th, I went out on a motorcycle ride with a group of dedicated bikers. This group of people have been riding together for many years, and enjoy long distance riding.  This was, by far, the most I’ve ridden on my motorcycle, in a single day - 340 miles or 544 kilometers. To put into perspective, it is almost the same distance as a one way trip from Minneapolis to Milwaukee. Or a little more than one way from Kolkata to Puri!

Here is the route we traveled. I started from our home in Brooklyn Park and went down to Rosemount, where all the us were meeting up. From there we took US-52 south to Spring Valley, through Rochester. Turned east on MN-16 to Preston. Continued on MN-16 and turned north on MN-43 to Winona. Took US-61 north up to Wabasha. Turned east on MN-60 to Zumbrota, which merged on to US-52 north, and then back home.

When I reached home, my ears were ringing so bad that I could barely hear Vivian speak. The palms and fingers on my hands felt like …like they had been holding on to the handle bars of a bike which has traveled 340 miles!

But it was fun! The route from after Rochester to Zumbrota was so beautiful,  and the ride so sweet, that it made up for the small inconveniences of the last paragraph.

riding route

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Here is a close up on the map on the real fun part of the ride, the southern loop.

close-up of southern loop

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The 6 bikes (yeah, mine was the only cruiser)

IMAG3312

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Close up of my bike, Suzuki Boulevard M50. The “M” stands for “muscle” (as opposed to the standard “C” for cruiser; this one is a cruiser too, but looks a bit sportier), and the “50” stands for the engine displacement in cubic inches, which equals 805 cc or cubic centimeters.

20130818_121737

20130818_121710

Categories: Loves, Motorcycle | 4 Comments

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