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Anya Viola Nayar

Narayan, Nara, and Ray are pleased to announce the birth of Anya Viola Nayar. She was born (very quickly!) on May 23rd at 13:29, weighed in at 7lbs 9oz and measured 19.5”.

After Anya and Nara settled into a nap, I went to pick up some Ray and some dinner. My first conversation with Ray after his sister was born unfolded as follows:

Me: Hey buddy, we’re going to get some pizza and some ice cream for your mom…and your sister!

Ray: gasp … Did the baby come out?

Me: Yes, she did!

Ray: Is she a robot that shoots fire from her tentacles?


Ray: Because that would be cool. And dangerous.


Ray: Can I eat my ice cream next to the baby? What if the baby puts fire on my ice cream?

Me: I don’t think the baby will do that.

Ray: That’s great news! So can I have sprinkles on my ice cream?

And so it begins…

Addendum: Anya Viola’s Flickr Set grows almost as fast as she does. If you’re on the main page, some of my favorites to date are after the break.

The girls:




On To Two O One O

December 31, 2009 — 5 Comments

Most of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances found 2009 a harder year than years past. The global economic downturn and its residual effects of course weighed heavily on all of us—some more directly than others. For me, 2009 really wasn’t bad, and I’m going into 2010 with some good momentum.

The Could’ve-Been-Better

2009 was a bad year for the Nayar dogs. Both Sadie and Lakshmi passed away, and their absence is palpable. I can say without hesitation that Lakshmi’s death was the low point of the year for me.


Other than at work and in regards to PS3 game trophies, I was spectacularly unproductive this year. In woodworking, I tried a lot of new things (like turning) and have honed some essential skills over the last year, but in service of nothing productive (sans more shop furniture). I’ll endeavor for more tangible results in 2010 and already have a list of pieces I hope to build in the first half of the year (and yes, dear, your side tables are on it smile). I’m also empty-handed when it comes to etherfarm developments–I had grand plans for this site this year, but at the end of a day staring at screens and talking with people who stare at screens, after Ray goes to bed I find I’d much rather be at my lathe or at my bench in the woodshop than in front of HTML, CSS and PHP.


Sadly, though, I more often ended up with a videogame controller or mouse in my hands rather than a tool. This I lament, even though there were some amazing games in 2009, some of which I even found inspiring.

The Good

My work travel was less than 50% of my 2008 corporate globetrotting. That didn’t necessarily translate to more time at home; I spent almost all of my vacation days in Illinois. Which, for a variety of reasons, is a splendid place to be.


I might be one of the few people I know who likes their job. I took on a new role at work this year, and it’s full of new and interesting challenges. For the first time in a long, long time, I feel that when I’m engaged with what I’m doing, I can end just about every day having learned or done something new or having found new ways to apply the one or two things I actually do know.

I spent a lot of time with friends this year–old and new, near and far. Last year, my tolerance for West Coast Flakiness achieved a critical mass and I more or less went into seclusion. This year, a few of my friendships in the Bay Area seemed to take root and it somehow worked out that I had more quality time with friends in other locales. It perhaps goes without saying that I ate a lot of good food with some of these good people in 2009.

And to counter all that good food, I managed to swim at least 3 times a week all year this year (with just a few exceptions due to travel). This wasn’t really a goal (it’s an unintended accomplishment) but I’m ending 2009 feeling much more healthy than I have in years past. Which is nice, because despite my relatively low number of years on this planet, I’ve felt physically old and decrepit since my back surgery in 2003.

We transformed the front and back yards from worthless patches of horrible, clumpy grass to wonderful outdoor rooms. I admire them every time I leave and arrive home and probably will until we leave this place.

Before: Front Yard
From Garage Door
Back Porch

And of course, there’s Ray. I go on and on about him, and I’ve found that those who meet him tend to go on and on about him as well. It’ll suffice to say that in the last 365 days, he’s gone from toddler to little boy, and I find joy and poetry in almost everything he says and does.

Obviously, in balance, I really can’t complain about 2009—to do so would be absurd. It has left me exhausted in a good way, like being “just full enough” after a great meal. And I’m optimistic about 2010 for a variety of reasons, but Nara has the biggest one in development:

If all goes well, Ray’s little sister will arrive in early June. And if that’s not a reason to look forward to 2010, I don’t know what is.

Less Is More

October 21, 2009 — 2 Comments

This year I’ve traveled only a quarter of what I traveled last year. Though I have friends in most places I visit, it has been nice not having to go overseas so much. The real difference, though, is not measured in miles traveled or time abroad. The difference is that this year Ray really notices when I’m away. You have my word that etherfarm won’t become a repository for quoted conversations with my son, but if you ever hear the following, it’s time to unpack the suitcase for a while (or be sure to pack him in it next time you leave).

Narayan: How are you today, Ray?

Ray: I’m fine. But I got run over while you were in Philly-delphia.

Narayan: You got run over?!

Ray: Yes. I got run over.

Narayan: What ran you over?

Ray: A lawnmower.

Narayan: A lawnmower?! Did it hurt?

Ray: Yes. But I also got run over by a jackhammer.

Narayan: Really?

Ray: Yes. It was a steel rod jackhammer.

Narayan: Oh, those are the worst kind.

Ray: And I got a boo boo.

Narayan: Where?

Ray: On the inside.

Narayan: You got a boo boo on the inside?

Ray: When you go away I miss you and I get run over on the inside.


Five Years

June 26, 2009 — 1 Comment
Five Years Ago Today

Five years ago today on a farm in northwest Illinois, my wife and I drove to our wedding on a tractor. She was wearing a dress she made herself and I was wearing a traditional ceremonial Indian outfit (complete with curly, pointy shoes!) brought to the U.S. by relatives. The tractor, a six-wheeled John Deere Gator, was a fitting chariot for an excursion through an apple orchard, a mud puddle, across a land bridge, and up a small hill to a throng of people wondering exactly which cultish ritual they had signed up to attend.

Our dogs and 80 or so humans were in attendance while a judge who, in a ceremony about as long as a trip through the Portillo’s drive-thru during non-peak hours, read vows we had written ourselves. We then stuffed our faces first with Indian food then a three-layer cake (carrot, chocolate, and Indian rice pudding flavors) which Nara and her mom made the day prior.

Veiled Attempt

It was by far the best wedding I’ve ever attended and easily one of the best days of my life so far. Even though the whole endeavor was completely improvised from start to finish, it still managed to convey that the eclectic, creative, crafty, irreverent and beautiful aspects of her personality could blend successfully with the best I have to offer: emotionally distant anal-retentiveness (and a freakish absence of body odor). And I couldn’t be more thrilled to say that five years later, that nothing about that has changed. We’re still improvising, and we’re still blending successfully. And I still smell good.

Our wedding invitation, a postcard, aptly paraphrases the last 1800+ days:

Wedding Invite

Love you, honey.

Lakshmi, 1995-2009

June 11, 2009 — 18 Comments

Today I had to say goodbye to my dog, Lakshmi. I’m not one for sentimental monologues–in fact I’m patently bad at them. I’m obligated, however, to at least a few words, as so many people absolutely adored Lakshmi. I was reminded of this just recently when I was in Portland, Maine, for the Food Bender. I lived in Portland for three years and anyone who knew me while I was there also knew Lakshmi–we went absolutely everywhere together. As I was walking down the street a few weeks ago, I thought I recognized someone walking toward me, and as she slowed down with a puzzled look on her face, it was clear she thought she recognized me as well. She said, tenatively, “Lakshmi’s dad, right?”

Lakshmi’s dad indeed. And this happened three times over the five days I was in Maine last month, a full nine years after I left Portland.

Granted, this phenomenon is common among dog owners. But some of these people would also just stop by sometimes–not to see me–but to walk my dog. And this has happened everywhere I’ve lived (except now in the burbs). There were a handful of people who actually couldn’t wait for me to travel somewhere by plane because if I couldn’t drive there, Lakshmi didn’t come with me and would need someone to care for her at home. People who hate dogs have professed love for Lakshmi, and she did her fair share of recruiting dog owners-to-be.

Into the wilderness

We really did go everywhere together. She crossed the continent with me at least 4 times and went on every single one of my epic two-lane highway roadtrips. I gather that over her fourteen-year lifespan she probably logged 150,000 miles. She slept in the car and in tents with me most of those trips and for a couple of months, we even lived out of my car, graduate student office, and a few Santa Cruz laundromats and cafes due to a pathetic housing situation. We traveled to glaciers and through deserts, to the center of North America, and the Center of the Earth (she’s got an official, signed certificate of her own for the that last one). She rode the subway in NYC as I had to get her uptown somehow and I had to pretend like I was blind to get her past the ticket booth. She backpacked with me all over the U.S. and Canada and has gone swimming in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. She’s growled at moose, beavers, raccoons, bears, buffalo, bison, whales, fish, and hippies. And she ran. Boy, did she run.

Air Lakshmi

Last September she had a buildup of fluid around her heart which almost killed her. When she made a completely unexpected recovery (she had lost about 1/3rd of her weight and there was a very high likelihood of the fluid buildup returning), the vet christened her “Miracle Dog”. Though she was as sweet as she had always been since that incident, she was noticeably older and more tired. Today I noticed that her back leg had swollen and brought her into the vet thinking she had sprained it or something. Unfortunately, an ultrasound revealed that the fluid was back in her chest and the swollen leg was probably related somehow to the root condition. And I really didn’t want to put her once again through the medical treatment which a few months earlier saved her life but seemed to take her spirit.

I’ll admit, regrettably, that in the last few years, the business of life with Ray has made us interact with the dogs more as furniture than as pets and as such, Lakshmi didn’t get the kind of opportunities she’s had in the past to run back and forth at light speed on a beach. But she seemed to understand her new role. When Ray was a baby, she’d sometimes lick his face while he was crying. And she was so patient with him as he grew from a helpless larvae in a bouncy chair to a kid who liked to make loud noises, pull tails and stroke her head with more vigor than he should have.

Bumbo Ray and Lakshmi


As she went to sleep for the last time today, I probably also stroked her head with more vigor than I should have as memories of all the crazy adventures we had together came to mind. It was a lot harder than I had thought it was going to be. But she had a great run of fourteen years and played such a significant role in making my last fourteen years as memorable as they have been. So yeah, I’m extremely sad. But also extremely grateful.

Here’s a photographic tribute to Lakshmi.

If I can, I plan on taking her ashes to the family farm in Illinois and burying them there in a box I’ll make myself, by hand, with as much love, compassion, and devotion that she showed me all those years. If you knew Lakshmi and have a few words to say in tribute, do leave a comment below. I’ll print out this entry and put it in the box with her ashes.

Maker Faire

June 8, 2009 — 2 Comments

My family has been attending the SF Bay Maker Faire every year since its inception. It’s relatively easy to describe what The Maker Faire is—unsurprisingly, it’s a gathering for people who make things—but it’s very difficult to articulate its scope in a way that can be understood for those who don’t or can’t attend.

The horizon of creativity witnessed at the Maker Faire is mindboggling. In attending the faire one imbibes equal parts art, science, craft, hobby, delusion, and obsession, witnessing everything from master yo-yo performances to roving squadrons of cupcakemobiles to battle robot arenas to pipe cleaner art. I think of the faire as a local Burning Man but one which, in ways I find refreshing, substitutes the pleasure and delight of “just making stuff” for the increasingly annoying pretense of “being cool”.

Only at the Maker Faire

One of the things I love about the Maker faire is that it’s so incredibly kid-friendly. This is really the first year that Ray is substantially cognizant in his exploration of anything, so even days later he’s still raving about the giant hydraulic hand (he’s fascinated by hydraulics–go figure) and the lego trains and the underwater robots.

It’s fair to say that despite the flashing lights of walking robots and the spectacle of flamethrowers, the highlight of the 2007 faire for us was this gentleman, Zach Houston, who ran a “Poem Store” in the expo hall.

Poem Store 2007

For whatever you think a poem is worth and on whatever topic you fancy, Zach will bang out a short poem on his tiny typewriter. In 2007, when Ray was just 1, we spoke for him, and the topic we chose was of course, Ray. Zach tapped out the following:

We looked for Zach in 2008 but unfortunately could not find him. We were thrilled this year, however, when we found him sitting under a tree, and we immediately queued for a sequel. When asked what topic Ray wanted for his poem, he thought for a few moments before saying, “ticket” (?!). Zach went to work:

Thanks, Zach. We’ll see you next year.

Here’s a bunch of photos from this and previous years compiled into a Maker Faire Flickr photoset.

434 days and 20 hours

November 19, 2008 — 7 Comments

There’s a very simple explanation for my year-plus absence from etherfarm. This simple explanation has fifty-seven parts, the first three of which are described briefly below:

  • Work: In either of the last two years I’ve traveled more by air than the combined miles from my life prior. I work on a project which spans four countries and I manage a team with designers in three of them: California, Israel, and India. That’s a lot of time on the road (the wife likes to remind me it’s a little over 2 months of the year), so when I’m home, I really prefer spending time doing things other than being on the computer.
  • Ray: I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoy being a dad, and no small part of that is due to Ray himself. He’s at a pretty amazing age right now: his language synapses are on auto-fire and he has a curiosity about the world which I so wish I could bottle and consume as an anti-curmudgeon elixir. The kid has excess charm and can extract a smile from just about anything, including inanimate objects (e.g. myself after a work week from hell). Or semi-animate objects, such as this Dalek:
  • Everything Else: I gravitate towards people who immerse themselves in the rigor of being good at something which requires practice. In a “plug and play” world, the whole notion of practice seems quaint, outdated, and irrelevant. But not to me. I obsess. I strive for manual competence, a term whose origins and meaning I will describe in a future post.


    My current obsessions are photography and woodworking. In both, particularly in the last 2-3 years, I’ve eschewed automation wherever possible, instead developing hand skills and material knowledge which make me feel like I’m still relevant to the process. I’m not—or at least feel like I’m not—just holding up a photo-taking machine or shoving a board through a power tool. The results aren’t always spectacular, but with practice they improve. And with that improvement I very much feel a deeper, less mediated connection to the endeavor as a whole. But maybe I’ve just been in California too long.

There are other things, of course, which have resulted in a farm less tended. No shortage of people or obligations which claim time. No shortage of emergencies and non-emergencies at work and at home. No shortage of distractions and time-wasters. And of course there’s the perennial contemplation of whether or not whatever noise I contribute to this whole web thing has ever been worth it anyway.

For whatever reason, the last month or so has brought a small wave of “you haven’t updated your site in a long time…are you OK?” emails. So all this to say; don’t worry, I’m fine. In many respects, I’ve never been better, actually, and there’d be some sound logic in believing that fact and my absence from this site are not unrelated. That said, a certain etherfarm v5, baked from scratch, should be making an appearance in January.

Until then, catch up with me on the following packaged sites:

  • Flickr: Still find the UI incredibly frustrating, but I haven’t found a better or easier way to share and socialize photos.
  • <a href="”Facebook: Recent experiment. Liking it so far. Need to tweak the signal-to-noise ratio though.
  • LinkedIn: You know, the uber-pimp site.

Ray Bueno Nayar, born 02 March 2006

At 18:32 today, the Wife and I had our first child, Ray Bueno Nayar. He weighs in at 6 pounds, 13 ounces (3.1 kilos), and 19.5 inches (49.53 cm). Ray is fittingly named after my maternal grandfather, who was and is one of my favorite people on this planet.

For those of you who have been following the drama, Ray’s about two weeks early due to some minor complications with the pregnancy. We’ve been in the hospital since Tuesday, but Ray and his mother are presently fine and totally healthy. As for his father… well… I’m so completely overwhelmed that I too feel like I have just been born.

A heartfelt thanks to everyone who sent well-wishes and who checked in with us in the last few weeks.



November 1, 2005 — 15 Comments

Whenever the time between posts to this site exceeds a month, I start receiving “Is everything alright?” emails. Things are alright–quite alright actually–and thanks to everyone who asked. Really, I’ve just been enjoying something which resembles a life–a concept which rather tragically became foreign to me for too long a while. I always wonder if bloggers overwhelmingly more prolific than myself spend any time whatsoever off the computer.

So let me break this long hiatus with an exciting announcement: sometime next March the wife and I will be having a son.  I won’t wax philosophical (publicly, anyway) about the kinds of existential realizations which surface when thinking about having children, so let’s just say that it’s obvious that some aspects of my life have to change, not the least of which is my woodworking equipment. Knowing that I’ll be having a son has made me realize that I’ve spent too much time cleaning up messy cuts on a poorly calibrated and underpowered tablesaw, and that my router fence is not only inadequate but unsafe. When my wife showed me the pregnancy test, the first thing that came to mind was that I’ve totally outgrown my Black & Decker Workmate™ Workbench and that I need a proper bench with a proper vise and a massive benchtop so I can pound things “real hard”. It’s now clear to me that the answer to the daycare situation for parents who both work is twofold. One, a centralized dust collection system with a 1-micron filter bag, a metal canister, and a beefy impeller. Two, nothing beats a good set of sharp chisels. Nothing. Lastly, as I watch my wife undergo the magical transformation from, say, kayak to houseboat, I can’t help but think that the garage really needs a 100 amp subpanel.

In case you’re wondering, I’m planning on making all the baby furniture. The kind of stuff which gets handed down from generation to generation. Yes, I’ve found the Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines for things like cribs.

I should mention that after my wife’s first ultrasound, I did have one realization entirely unrelated to woodworking. We haven’t seen any major advancements in pre-natal science since 1986, where ultrasound technology was used in James Cameron’s Aliens. Observe:


Finding aliens


Alien in profile

Gone Corporate

May 8, 2005 — 7 Comments

I have a confession to make. I have gone corporate. At the end of January I took a contract job with a large software company. I love the job, really enjoy the people I work with, and was made a good offer, so I’m staying on as a full-time employee. I don’t yet know how this will mix with the dissertation, but I hope that once things settle down on my current project at work, I can work on the dissertation in parallel. In any case, it was no secret that my nihilism regarding the academic humanities was reaching critical mass, so after some serious deliberation, I ‘spun’ a unique job opportunity into a hiatus from expending mental and emotional energy to live under the poverty line as the equivalent of an intellectual serf.

This isn’t the kind of job I blog about, but I will mention a couple of things:

  • I work right across the road from a little experimental laboratory called Xerox PARC. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.
  • The perks such as free lunches and espresso drinks haven’t gone to my head nearly as much as the whiteboard cleaner.
  • Every once in a while I get to wander on leisurely paths between buildings on campus, wondering the whole while whether I’ll be eaten by the mountain lions which are occasionally seen in parking lots.

In my head, I also spun the new job as impetus to purchase a new car. I’ve never had a new car; I’ve had new (very) used cars. My last car I gave up at 227,000 miles (365,321km). Whereas my previous new (very) used cars smelled like people or pets I had never met, this car smells like new car. Between the new car smell and the huge (and frequently clean) whiteboard in my office, it’s no wonder I’m a pretty happy fellow these days.

Why a new car? Well, a 27-mile mountain highway previously known as Blood Alley constitutes the majority of my commute. When it’s dry, many Californians choose to take this road at ridiculously fast speeds. The image below is a rough approximation of what it looks like driving Highway 17 at night.


Notice the lack of taillights

If you’re driving too slow, Californians like to velcro their front bumper to your rear bumper–always a good thing to do on a windy mountain highway which occasionally features slow-moving semis. 

When it’s wet out, Californians also like to drive this highway at breakneck speeds. I decided to get a new car one day when heading back home after a very light drizzle. I passed eight accidents. If you pay attention during the day, you’ll see all sorts of shrapnel on the sides of the road–tail light lens fragments, a bumper or three, a steering wheel, a charred passenger seat. I’ve personally witnessed six accidents on this highway, and a friend of mine a few weeks ago said he looked in his rear view mirror and saw a car in the air.

So I got a Volvo.


Anyway, things will settle down a bit on my project in the very near future. I have a bunch of photos to post and just haven’t had the time.