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Oh, sunny days

A recap of my week.


I accidentally broke the saucer for my favourite Hasami Porcelain coffee mug. After enjoying a simple breakfast of toast and coffee while watching the Formula 1 Spanish Grado Prix qualifying race, I made a silly error attempting to carry some things to the kitchen with the mug and saucer balanced between my thumb and pinky finger. The saucer fell to the sofa, the mug followed, and the two collided. I was upset, but in the moment while I collected all the pieces to put into the trash can, I remembered reading about Kintsugi, the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold glue. I am excited about trying kintsugi and creating an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.

Monday 10 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 10.0 sec at f/4.5 | ISO 100


Tuesday 11 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1250 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 400

Tonight's PMUG meeting with guest Dave Hamilton was one of the best I have attended, virtual or in person. Dave's presentation was about Plex, a media server I have not used for a very long time. The last time I used Plex was circa 2011. After Dave's presentation, the conversation circled media quality and audio streaming quality. My friend Chris shared a link to experiments by a member of the xiph team. I was embarrassed to learn that my snobbish ideas about 24bit streaming digital services were unfounded. I was embarrassed because I studied digital sampling at Georgia Tech and have degrees in electrical engineering. How much have I forgotten?

I guess I won't be in much of a rush to replace the Apple Music streaming service with the 24 bit Qobuz streaming until I do my own A/B testing as to whether I can hear a difference.

Tuesday 11 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1125 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 800


Saturday 8 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1125 sec at f/4.0 | ISO 4000

I have rolls of undeveloped Svema Foto 200, Agfa SCALA-160 and Rollei RPX 100 that has sat on my desk since February. My desire for photography has reached another lull. I feel like I have forgotten there is a world outside. I live mostly in my head now. A year ago, I would do some location scouting, plan a trip and then execute. I mostly now sit at home in front of the TV or reading photoblogs. Other photographers create a post lockdown life, and I sit at home with an extra 8.6kg around my waist.

Wednesday 12 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1210 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 100


Bhavana and I went for a hike in the Pryde’s Point-Alexauken Creek trail. We've walked this trail before starting at the trailhead on Rocktown Lambertville Road in Lambertville. Today we approached the other trail head-on Gulick Road in Ringoes. Part of the trail is on a road leading up to a residential area before cutting through a grassy meadow along a tree line.

I enjoyed this trial. I was excited to find large colonies of native species, including flowering May apple, wild geranium, and trillium. Weather permitting, I want to try this trail every few days over the next few weeks. I would be ecstatic to find flowering Trillium.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) | Thursday 13 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 15400 sec at f/4.0 | ISO 400
May apple (Podophyllum peltatum)
May apple (Podophyllum peltatum) | Thursday 13 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1280 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 800
White baneberry flower (Actaea pachypoda)
White baneberry flower (Actaea pachypoda) | Thursday 13 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1210 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 800


For the Lens-Artists Challenge #147: Gardens, I had hoped to visit Ken Gardens in Far Hills. But I'm busy with work, and by Saturday, I had forgotten all about the challenge.

My garden is in a state of flux. I was born in the West Indies and was quite knowledgeable about the plants that grow there. However, until several years ago, I was unfamiliar with the native plants and flowers of North America. I had planted tulips, and bells, and lilies, etc., thinking they were native to this part of New Jersey. After a few workshops and field trips with local conservation groups, I learned about the ecosystem damage from invasive species brought over from Europe and Asia. Americans want green lawns, and pretty gardens and Home Depot and Lowes are happy to oblige with cheap offerings that require more water and chemical pest control. It's saddening and maddening.

I took it upon myself to uproot and replace every non-native plant with native plants. Native plants are more expensive, and very few places cultivate them. I bought and planted when I could. The homeowners association gave me special flags to indicate to the landscapers that my garden bed was not to be touched and was my sole responsibility. But over the years, there have been times they either forgot or were not instructed properly, and the landscape uprooted my native shoots and plants. I guess they thought they were weeds.

The blooming season is mostly over in New Jersey, and my garden is all green leaves, right. Some of my native plants survived the landscapers, and some did not. The only thing flowering is the Eastern Columbine is a shade-loving, wildlife-friendly perennial with attractive foliage and uniquely shaped flowers. I planted these several years ago in a large wooden container on my deck. It has been only in the last three years that the plant has really taken off, and it now fills the container. Columbine propagates for years and, although perennial, increases rapidly by self-seeding. I had many new plants last year, and I transplanted them to another planter in the front of the home and put one in the soil. They seem to like planters.

I am so excited that I was finally successful in growing a small Trillium colony 1. I'm not sure which type of Trillium I planted, but only four are native to New Jersey. Based on the leaf shape alone, I think I most likely planted red trillium, Trillium erectum. However, although native to New Jersey, sighting of white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) are rare. The cause is attributed to farming practices and urban development. Trilliums grow slowly in full shade or semi-shade, and flowering may take 10 years. For this reason, propagated mature plants generally cost US$25-30. Deer also browse on trillium flowers and bracts and naturally forage on the tallest plants first. I've been spraying "Deer Out". All of the plants survived the deer, but none have flowered.

One bloodroot survived the frost, but its flower was short-lived. I could see signs of other shoots popping up, but then the landscaper dumped black mulch on everything. I complained that they ignored the flags again, and they unexpectedly returned and removed the mulch. In the process, they destroyed the young shoots. ARGH!!!!

Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) | Sunday 16 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1100 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 200

I'm looking forward to more sunny days.

Oh, sunny days
Lift me when I'm down
Oh, sunny days
Breaking through the clouds
Oh, sunny days

  1. Based upon recent genetic research, trillium species have been removed from the family Trilliaceae and placed back in the Liliaceae family. Until I know otherwise, I'll keep referring use the previous classification. 

Anemone americana

I observed some early spring treasure, Hepatica Nobilis flowers, growing in a small patch along the Aunt Molly trail section of the St. Michael's Farm Preserve and then got back to thinking about life, the universe and everything.

Bhavna and went out for a late afternoon walk. While I knew that this would trigger my spring allergies, she could sense my anxiety. A recruiter had left a message earlier in the day that his client was ready to make an offer. I have been interviewing for this role since December of 2020. The role was originally a contract/consulting role. Still, the hiring manager at this New York City-based financial services firm thinks I would make a good addition to his team and offered, if I accepted, to make me a full-time employee. Bhavna could sense I was not excited. We walked and talked about why.

I observed some early spring treasure, American americana flowers, growing in a small patch along the Aunt Molly trail section of the St. Michael's Farm Preserve and then got back to thinking about life, the universe and everything.

UPDATE: I have learned that the classification of Hepatica has been in dispute. Previously, authorities identified these plants as a single species with two varieties, Hepatica nobilis var. acuta and Hepatica nobilis var obtusa. But according to the US Wildflowers database, these two plants are now species in the Anemone genus. Hepatica nobilis var. acuta is now Anemone acutiloba, and Hepatica nobilis var obtusa is now Anemone americana.

Hepatica nobilis flowers
Anemone americana. | Monday 5 April, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 116000 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 3200

As more people are vaccinated, conversations have shifted from worrying about infection rates and mask-wearing to excitement about returning to “normal”. But what does that mean?

Does it mean a "normal" 2-4 hour daily commute inside metal boxes (cars, buses, trains)? Does it mean going back to leaving the house before sunrise and getting back home after sunset? Do I really want to give up the 4 extra hours I learned to enjoy under lockdown to non-productive “travelling”? Why do we want to return to this 1950s era idea of “normal”?

I have not read the book, but my youngest shared the following quote from "The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World's Happiest People" by Meik Wiking.

I propose a new mandatory course for all university students. Every student in the class is squeezed into the smallest closet possible, and they have to stand there for forty-five minutes without making eye contact with anyone. If you make eye contact, you fail. Then they are asked to move into an even smaller closet—in which they won’t all fit. If you don’t make it into the second wardrobe, you fail the course. I call it “Commuting 101.” "The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World's Happiest People (The Happiness Institute Series)"

That shouldn’t be the goal. I want to work remotely as much as possible, avoid the daily stress of a long commute, and use my precious time for other more important things.

I want a workday that allows me time to enjoy the peacefulness of the early morning. I want to sit outside1 with a hot cup of coffee and listen to a bird song. I want a workday that allows me to take a break to have lunch with my friends2 at a local restaurant. I want a workday that allows me to end my day to have time for dinner with my family or perhaps have a pint or two with my friends at the nearby tavern.

Hepatica nobilis flowers
American americana. | Monday 5 April, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1/1250 sec at f/4.0 | ISO 3200

During the lockdown, while the weather permitted, Bhavna and I enjoyed a hike in the woods or a walk around our neighbourhood almost every other day. I saw my neighbours and could chat with them (from a distance). The old normal kept us all away from each other. I relish keeping the remote work and having an end of day backyard BBQs with my neighbours. Why wait for a weekend?

During the lockdown, I got up before work every day and had a proper relaxing breakfast while looking out the kitchen window and feeling the sun rising in the backyard. For the first time in 21 years, I noticed how the sunlight casts shadows in my kitchen; how the autumn light cast a golden glow on the maple trees—the old normal morning rush to get to work never allowed for that. Heck, to catch the express train, I had to wait to buy breakfast at work and eat at my desk.

The only time I used my car in 2020 was to pick up lunch at the food truck. If we had one car, we could reduce our expenses due to auto-repair and insurance. I would be able to chauffeur Bhavna to work every day. We could reduce our carbon footprint as well. Anyone of the newer hatchback EVs like the Tesla Model Y or Kia EV6 would be cheaper to run and has enough range to get us to Boston, Washington D.C., or Seneca Lake Ithaca, New York on a single charge.

During the lockdown, the workday ended between 5 and 6 PM. I could help make dinner. The old normal rush to get home at the end of a long workday meant I was either eating from the freezer or reheating dinner. And eating it by myself.

Hepatica nobilis flowers
Anemone americana. | Monday 5 April, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1/2000 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 3200

My mom shared a video recorded by a doctor from Ghana arriving in New York City and his surprise and first impressions. That got me wondering about Bequia, and soon, I was down a rabbit hole of videos showcasing the natural beauty and simpler life that I left behind over three decades ago. When I watch videos like this, I ask myself, 'Why the heck did I ever leave? How is this American life better than that one? Why am I still here?"

As I pondered a return to the “old normal” with those videos in my head, I had an epiphany. Perhaps my anguish is not just with working from home but with the entirety of my current life.

What if I could work remotely 100% of the time? Would I still live in New Jersey? What if I rented out my home in New Jersey and moved somewhere else? What if I had a home on Bequia with high-speed broadband? What if I could work remotely from Bequia and earn enough to cover living expenses and enough leftovers for savings? What if I could design a new life for me and Bhavna, one without the stress of the “hustle”?

Hepatica flower
Anemone americana. | Monday 5 April, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1220 sec at f/11 | ISO 3200

Ultimately, this job offers is the only one I have received since my contract ended in December. We are rapidly burning through all the extra money we save by doing nothing in 2020. Part of me is panicked that we could be dipping into retirement savings if I pass on this opportunity. Then what? And if I take the job, then I'll be back to slogging two hours to New York City.

I was not too fond of the old normal, and I don’t want to return to it. I asked for three days to consider the offer. I need to give them an answer today.

spicebush flowers
Northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin) | Monday 5 April, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF27mmF2.8 | 16400 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 3200

  1. We have a small backyard deck, but I want a small paver-stone patio to put some chairs and tables. 
  2. Co-workers can be friends too, but it takes me a while before I feel I can be vulnerable around them. 


Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

This afternoon Bhavna and I went for a walk on a section of the 7.89 kilometres (4.9-mile) paved loop trail around Thompson Park in Holmdel starting at the parking lot at Cross Farm Park. I wanted to try something different new and had scouted the area near Colts Neck where I pick up craft beer from Source Farmhouse Brewing. Part of the trail follows the rim of Marlu Lake. We walked about 6.26 km. When we started on the trail, I noticed that Cross Farm Park is mostly open meadow filled with New Jersey wildflowers; based on my limited knowledge, Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), Sugarcane Plumegrass (Saccharum giganteum), Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and others.

We walked and talked, and Bhavna noticed that I seemed a bit distracted. She asked, "what's going on". I told her I was not feeling motivated at work and life in general, that I was feeling anxious and disconnected. I was burnt out, and that on some days, I just wanted to sit and stare into the distance.

I talked some more about my anxiety over the end of my contract in December, the need to train to maintain my certifications and skills. Where once I was passionate and energised and engaged with work and life, I had a lot of mental clutter and spent most of my free time reading blogs or watching crappy sitcom TV.

CQueen Anne's lace (Daucus carota) | Sunday 20 September, 2020 | Day 182 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR f/5.6 | ISO 800 |

Uncertainty about the future, challenges with physical health, continually existing in the same unchanging environment, and having to stay distant from my friends and colleagues are just some of the things affecting my ability to focus. I told her I was feeling isolated.

While we walked, I photographed whatever caught my eye. It wasn't until we were home that I realised that our talk might have inspired my photography that evening. I had subconsciously opened the aperture of my lens and used the narrow depth of field to isolate my subjects from an otherwise crowded scene. Is this how inspiration finds us? Is it a random thing that just happens?

Cross Farm Park | Sunday 20 September, 2020 | Day 182 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR f/2.8 | ISO 400 |

Bhavna and I continued walking and talking. My belief in my abilities, my self-esteem, and my optimism are low. We talked about ways I could find to push past this low point, but we both struggled with things to do to change my mental state. I have very few options during this global pandemic.

At the end of the walk, I realised that even though I dislike online training, it’s my only option right now. No in-person courses are being taught. My main concern is how I will be affected by learning while sitting for hours at the same desk and computer where I sit for hours to work?

We drove home in silence. I ate dinner, then cleaned away and organised the mess on my desk, which had become a reflection of my mental disarray. Removing the physical clutter may clear the mental clutter, and I’ll find the inspiration to find a way forward.

Tomorrow, I’ll plan Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely training goals to accomplish before the end of the year.

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, Dune by Frank Herber

Submitted for the 100DaysToOffload project and Lens-Artists Challenge #115 – Inspiration.