Showing posts with label life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life. Show all posts

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Uninstalled redundant Apps

 

I just figured out I had a lot of redundant apps on my phone, and I could take them all off, and still carry on. There are a lot of apps there competing and providing the SAME features, and they just stay on the phone and take up space.

Like IMO. I uninstalled it today. IMO provides video calling services, and they actually offered this way before Facebook and Whatsapp. I still feel IMO’s video quality is better that Whatsapps, specially on restricted bandwidth networks, but very few people know about it and use it. Now that Whatsapp provides full video chat, there is no point in keeping IMO around. Uninstalled.

Second one to go, facebook messenger. Seriously, its a lame app. The video quality is worse on slow networks, and takes up so much time to start and run. Mutlitasking sucks. Uninstalled.

And the last to go today….Dropbox sync. Dropbox’s sync works great on desktop systems. But on mobile, they take up a lot of time to run and sync. If you are not on Wifi, it just drinks up all the network and battery juice. Now that whatsapp provides desktop interface, I use that to share all documents I need. Awesome sync. Dropbox…Uninstalled.

 

So that leave me with a leaner, faster phone. More space for my movies !

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Carl Sagan’s greatest contribution

 

 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In the long term, automation will kill more jobs

 

All the Indian IT companies are now focussing on automation, too much actually. More and more companies are quietly reducing their workforce - especially the lower rung - as many of the processes are getting automated.

For companies, the move is welcome as it saves them cost, while boosting efficiency at the same time. The automation of course has hit entry-level workforce the hardest, but it is not as if senior and middle rung employees are spared either. This is where senior employees take the hit. Many employees post 40 find themselves unemployable and have to be extremely good or equipped with a specific skill set to get a job. Otherwise, companies find it easier to hire three freshers for one tenth of the senior’s salary and willing to work 16 hours a day.

And the worst way countries have found to this problem is basic income. The cybernation revolution has been brought about by the combination of the computer and the automated self-regulating machine. This results in a system of almost unlimited productive capacity which requires progressively less human labor.

Alreay, 80% of engineers passing out of Indian colleges are unemployable. And IT has always been  the largest absobers of all those graduates.  Future engineers , and eveyone by extension, are going to hav to fight robots to keep their jobs. For once I feel mankind took a wrong turn on the ‘disruptive’ road, and future generations are going to pay the price.

 

 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

10 years. Felt like 100

 

Today I reached another milestone. 10 years ago to this day, I had started (technically restarted) my career in the IT industry. But it felt like a hundred years.

And all these years later, exhausted, and after paying tens of lakhs in taxes, was it worth it ?

To some extend. But not completely.

I made some bad career choices over the years. Some bad financial choices too.

I could have done better. And better late than never.

So I am now going to start another chapter in my career and life soon.

Here’s to the next 10 years.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Fedal Throwback

 

How fast time flies. Today I was watching the Federer-Nadal final match at the Australian open, and I got instantly transported a decade back, when these two grand masters were at the top of their game.  I am not a sport fan, and definitely do not follow tennis, but the Fedal rivalry was legendary. Nadal came to crash the party when everyone was convinced that Federer cannot be beaten, and that he is not from this planet. Other players have come since then, but their friendly rivalry was special. It was a throwback to better , simpler times.

Today our world is much more divided, much more apart. For one thing, the global financial crisis peaked, forcing people out of jobs and homes. And yet, recent political events around the world that have created divisions between groups of people, fanning fear and hostility, have made nostalgia for the past perhaps inevitable. Federer and Nadal’s rivalry harkens back to a time when we were all younger and the mood around the world was less sombre.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Bad day

 

I had a bad day today. I was wondering where I could write about it, and decided the best place is here. Cause nobody else would read it. Maybe.

But today was a bad day for a lot of people. First, it has been 8 years since 26/11, the most devastating terrorist attack on this country in this century.

Then, the trending news of today is the death of Fidel Castro.

But I had a big fight today. And it was mostly my fault. I was trying to achieve multiple things at the same time, and prioritized in the wrong order.

But the package on route. Should be delivered to Kalahandi this week.

I hope I will get another chance.

Sorry, M. i apologize. I am truly sorry.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Watching America vote was eye opening

 

I was watching Beme’s Exit Poll Live today, and it was awesome. Eye opening.

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I was expecting something like this for this year’s election. But surprise, surprise. The app came from the most unlikely place. Casey Neistat’s Beme is the brainchild behind this one-day-only app.

 

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Every user had a different perspective, the one reason why they based the decision on whom to vote for. It was amazing to see how this election has really skewed American’s thoughts this year.

A surprising number of people voted for neither of the two party candidates. Many voted for Garry Johnson and Jill Stein.

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A whole lot of people voted for Trump because “he is not a politician”. Again a lot of small business owners voted for Trump, expecting relaxed taxation.

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Most women and parents voted for Clinton. A lot of younger ones too where going with her.  And eveyone else just voted for her because they wanted the lesser of two evils.

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This black guy voted for Trump !

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Auzzie Holiday

 

G’day to you ! Finally we did it. We took our first international holiday ! And it is to Australia. Yep, that large left-to-itself country near the south pole. After spending two whole weeks on this island-country, the thought of returning now breaks our hearts. For a change, it was a pleasure living in a properly planned city again. Melbourne, mostly. But we also visited the Gold Coast. Bangalore looks like a jungle and river of debris compared to this. A few years back if somebody had asked me, I would have said India can become a superpower in the future. But now I am convinced that dream is long lost. The level of development and ease of life in Melbourne astonished us. And the people are the freindliest people I have ever met in my life. So cheery, always ready to help.

Australia is truly a world apart. They seem to live in a parallel universe with no border disputes amond neihgbouring countries, no cross border violence, and no visible refugee crisis.  They don’t care about the US elections, or Brexit, or the geo-political turmoil of any other country. Here is a nation still focussed on developing itself and taking care of its people, and wildlife. Yep, we met the famous kangaroos and koalas in rea life. We also got a glimpse of its sunny weather and relaxed lifestyle.

Random Thoughts:

  1. The range of weather is as large as the country itself. While it is still chilly and raining in Melbourne, being in Gold Coast felt like Miami. It is much more sunny and warmer there, but without the humidity. And I have been told there are places here that still get snow !
  2. There are more chinese than auzzies in Australia. Specially in Melbourne. At first I thought they too were tourists like us. But then I saw them working and running their own shops. There were moments when we felt we were walking through Beijing instead of Melbourne. China is slowly taking over the country. But I am sure they comprise people from Korea, Japan and other Asian countries as well. And of course, Indians , Lankans and Banglas are also here, but not in that much numbers.
  3. Auzzies are always apoligizing. Most of the time, for no reason. If you run into them in a queue or step on their feet in a crowded tram, it is your fault. But always, they apoligize. “Sorry”, they say. I think this is too courteous. You don’t have to apologize if it is not your fault.  However, I like this culture. A few days of living among them has made me more courteous !
  4. Its raining Asian cousine all over the country. Seriously, I found more Asian themed restuarants than bars on the streets. Whatever be your preferred : Indian, Chinese, Korean, or just spicy Nando’s, you can find one in a two block radius from where you are standing in the city. And there are vegetarian and vegan options available too.
  5. This is the first time we are staying with AirBnb network.  We had some reservations about this in the beginning, but now we wonder why this idea did not take off earlier. It a fantastic way for budget consious travellers to stay and travel around new countries, while still being able to use the kitchen and make their own food. And did I mention it is much more cheaper ? But we did spoil ourselves a little by staying at a grander hotel for 3 days while in Gold Coast. We are thankful our hosts were very cool and trusted us completely, and we in turn tried not to mess up during our stay . Three cheers for AirBnB !
  6. There is free WiFi all over the city, beginning with the airport. Various establishments in the city have put up free to use Wifi which anyone can use to call, chat or check maps. I found it at muliple supermarkets, near restuarants, tram stations and even on the skybus. It was amazing how we were always able to get  an IP and the speed was fast too.
  7. Google has made travelling soooo much more easier ! Gone are the days of paying a travel agent to arrange and manage an itinerary for you. All the information you need to plan a trip is available on the internet. And the best way to get around in a city is via google maps. No more carrying a large foldeable mutlilayered paper map in the rain and sun. With google maps, you can navigate around the city via trams and buses, and it even points out restuarants in the area. We also found that google would read our e-mail and alert us about upcoming flights we are booked on, and our AirBnb bookings too ! Now ain’t that useful ? There wont’t be any travel agents in a decade from now.
  8. We Indians are addicted to selifes. But it looks like the selfie culture is yet to bite Auzzies. We looked everywhere we went in the city and gold coast, there were auzzies taking pictures of their friends and families, but no one was selfie hooked. In fact, while were trying to get a selfie ourselves, we go multiple offers of help from auzzies, offering to take our picture for us on our phone ! Again, respect. And courteous. We can learn something from them.

 

Thank you , Australia. We will be back soon.

Very soon.

 

 

 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Living in India is getting more expensive

 

Well, prices of things are always going up, but now the Indian citizen is getting crushed under a new set of taxes. After introducing the 0.5% Swachh Bharat Cess in November, the Union Finance Minister announced in this year’s Budget that the government would levy a Krishi Kalyan Cess to finance activities related to agriculture and build a fund for the welfare of the farmers. Indirect taxes and charges such as these are an important part of the government’s income from taxation. Of the Rs14.4 lakh crore ($213 billion) of taxes collected by the Indian government in the last financial year, 44.4% came from indirect taxes.

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Meanwhile, prices of petrol and diesel were hiked on June 1. Petrol will become costly by Rs2.58 per litre and diesel by Rs2.26 a litre. This means transport costs will rise, affecting the prices of vegetables, fruits, milk and other food products, among others. To add to household woes, the cost of an LPG cylinder—used for cooking across the country—was also increased by Rs21.

Travelling in airconditioned buses will be costlier from today with the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) increasing its fare by 6%, thanks to union finance minister Arun Jaitley, who has imposed service tax on state-carriage AC buses. Not just tickets, daily and monthly passes will also cost more. Monthly passes of AC buses which operate within the city are likely to cost `135 more, and passes of AC buses to and from Kempegowda International Airport will cost `201.

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What a fantastic time to be living in India. And the reality of all this is that after all these taxes and charges, nothing  is going to change in the country.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Throwback: Magazine CD Days

 

I was back in my home town some time back, and was going through some old ‘garbage’. You know, the stuff you are sure are useless, but you keep around anyway. And I ran into some old magazine CDs I had purchased more than 10 years ago.IMG_20160221_125806755

They are from a computer magazine called CHIP, which they later renamed to DIGIT. The came out in monthly issues, and each issue had two CDs, one with business/work software, and the other had fun/games/videos stuff like that. During the mid nineties these magazines where very popular and sought after by computer enthusiasts. Because the internet had just hit India, but the usage rates were awefully high. Downloading a CD worth of content from the internet would take hours ,and it cost about 60 rupees per hour. So getting two CDs of downloaded stuff for 100 rupees was like a good deal, all the content was nicely documented and arranged in a searachable menu. And the CDs still work till this day !

 

 

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The 2nd fun CD usually came with trial/shareware versions of computer games, and most of us got to play US titles in this way, without having to download them ourselves. I als digged the computer/programmer softwares they used to ship. The CDs I have are dated July 2001, and November 2002.

 

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Digit still gives out discs, though now they consist of DVDs.Today of course the internet has become a lot more affordable, so one can stay online all day without having to empty one’s pockets for all those downloads. But its fun to think how far we have gone since then.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

February night sky, 2016. Planets galore.

 

If you watch the night sky in this month of February this year, you will get to see a rare sight. Early morning, around 5:30 am, you can catch five of the sun’s planets almost in a straight line. Like so.

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It is an awe inspiring sight. I took some pictures, but none of them capture the beauty of this spectacle accurately. You will be able to see Mercury, Venus , Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Jupiter rises in the east around 10pm itself. You will be able to see a very bright dot in the east which does not blink at all.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 in movies: fantastic year for sequels ; and to 90s movies

 

I don't watch movies very often, but confession: I watched more movies this year than ever before ! This year moviegoers got to watch the sequels to the movies of the 90s, a new generation of movie makers taking over the mantle.  From Mad Max to Star Wars, and Ethan Hunt to James Bond, it was a whole truckload of movies across genres and timelines.

The first such sequel which attempts to restart a 90s era franchise was Mad Max: Fury Road. Yes, I still can't believe this movie came out this year, it seems such a long time ago.

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The next feast to the eyes was the (probably) most awaited movie of the year,  Jurassic World.

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The third biggest sequel this year was of course Star Wars: Force Awakens. I know the original did not come out in the 90s, but this is one of the earliest trilogies which came out, and millenium falcon was not scene for decades.

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Many other franchises also released sequels this year.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation came out half-way through the year.

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The 24th James Bond movie came out this year, named Spectre.

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But the sequels, well they just kept on coming.

Fans of Fast & Furious got the 7th instalment of the franchise, Furious 7. The re-used plot lines to this genre was mocked in a parody film: Superfast.

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The Marvel universe had multiple offerings this year, the biggest impact was via Avengers: Age of Ultron. They also had Ant-Man. But then they released the horrible horrible Fantastic 4 reboot, which was the biggest dud, and which some critics called a spectacular failure on so many different levels.

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And hopefully the last of the Hungergames movies too came out this year.

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And space junkies were gifted with another space movie, this time set on Mars.

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I love animation movies, and this year turned out to be a feast for the child in me. (and you.) It is just me, or has it become easier to make animation movies now ? Multiple studios released long awaited movies using everything from stop motion animation to cutting edge computer animation.

Everyone's favourite animation studio, Pixar had a double offering this year. Two so very different movies set in two vastly different settings. First was Inside Out, set in the mind of a teenage girl.

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But then, they released the Good Dinosaur for thanksgiving (thanks , Pixar !), where the story is set in an alternate history where dinosaurs are not extinct.

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But this did not stop other studios from testing the waters either. The first animation movie to come out this year was stop motion from Aardman, Shaun the Sheep.

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The Minions movie came out half way in July, telling the prequel to the Despicable Me movies.

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Then there was the Peanuts movie.

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And then…the monster movie Hotel Transylvania 2. Phew !!

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But then , the year had duds too , proving that even time tested stories sometimes will fail if not properly done.The biggest dud of the year was the 100th (something like that) Steve Jobs movie. The clue here was it was loved by the critics :-)

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And the spectacular failures of Fantastic Four reboot, and the Gem movie.

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Climate change is Real

 

Chennai is recovering now. For two weeks, the city had been hit by the heaviest rainfall it had seen in a hundred years. And this was enough to bring it down. Not only was the city flooded, but it was also totally cut off from the rest of the nation. And while the state government itself failed miserably to handle the crisis, it was the common people, the citizens, who handled the crisis and saw the city through. The deluge was proof enough that climate is changing.

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India is witnessing multiple migrations that are unprecedented in its history. Millions are moving into literacy, similarly staggering numbers are migrating out of poverty and malnourishment, thousands are migrating to the IT world, and several millions are moving to urban centres.Blaming excessive rain or unauthorised construction for the latest misery is a very lazy analysis, ignoring the significant contribution of government institutions and political masters to the mismanagement of Chennai, and other cities. The adverse role played by them in creating havoc has grave security implications for the country at various levels.

Further North, another city, the capital New Delhi is putting together a plan to control its own ridiculous pollution levels.  From 2016, Delhi  will  implement a new rule to make sure private cars with odd and even number registration numbers get to drive in the city on alternate days. On one hand this decision is now being ridiculed on social media , logic dictates that right now any plan is a good plan. The time to think up and come up with a grand plan is long gone, and even the courts are getting in line to support the government move, dismissing PILs against the new law.

I chanced upon this website which tracks air pollution levels in cities around the world: plumelabs. They measure air pollution from agencies of countries and collate them all.

Check out Chennai's pollution levels in real time.

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Delhi:

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And my own city of Bangalore is far better than Delhi.

 

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But what surprised me was that most cities in developed countries were much better off than us. Check out New York.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Worst Interview Experience

 

Over on LifeHacker, they are sharing their worst interview experiences online. I never thought I would have something to share under this topic. Ironically, it happened just this last weekend.

I received an e-mail that I have been invited to attend a walk-in interview at the Indian Outsourcing company TechMahindra's Bangalore office. I was applying for a senior position, of an SME or Architect, and was told to appear anytime betwen 10 and 11AM. That word "anytime" should have alerted me, because it looked like this company really sells the "anything goes" culture.

I showed up at 10:30 AM. It was a Saturday, but the traffic was horrible. As I took the lift to the 3rd floor, I was trying to form a prepared answer as to my possible delay to show up. I go in, and was told to wait in the lobby. After 15 minutes, a spectacled guy asked us to walk in and sit in the employee's chairs on the floor. And..he announced nervously, the interview panel has not yet arrived !

Great, its now 11 AM, and the interviewers themselves have not shown up. So much for punctuality.

I wait.

 

And wait.

12:00

 

I now decide to walk up to the floor co-ordinator and enquire. I think his name is either Prithviraj or Chakravarti Srinivas Darukmalli.

Him: "I apologize sir. We have just started. It will take another 1 hour max for your turn."

Ok…I walk back.

1:00 PM…still no sign of being processed. I am now hungry.

Again , I continue waiting. There are others in front of me who are now getting restless. And worse, there are people behind me as well.

1:30 PM

I ask him how much more. The asshole assures me another 20 mins.

I walk OUT.

I go down the lift, pick my things and head home.

30 mins, I am home .Have a nice lunch with fish pollichathu which I picked up on the way.

Afternoon siesta.

 

About 3:30 pm, I get a call from an unknown number. Presumably, it is from the interivew venue. I didn't pick up, as I had left the phone on silent.

 

A company which does not practise punctuality is for me, the most un-professional. How can they expect us to deliver their software on time, if they can't even show up on time for their OWN requirement ?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Aluva Shiva Rathri

 

After more than a year of being pestered and reminded, I went to Aluva during the annual Shivarathri festivals. Although the actual Shivarathri is traditionally only one night, here the festivities go of for almost a month. The hottest selling item there this year is :…the dust mask. Due to the ever growing crowd and the fact that the main area is actuall the river bed, there is tremendous amount of dust kicked into the air. The place near the temple is completely occupied by vendors and hawkers who have set up their temporary stalls.

 

The usual toys, sweets to plants and household items were for sale. And at the very end, they have the rides. There is a walkway constructed across the river from the bank to the temple shore. And the night time sights from the top was indeed beautiful.

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But the place itself is terribly commercialized. The items are priced high. Are of low quality.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

On Frugality

 

Ti's a new year, and one of the things I am hoping is to become more responsible in my financial life. Growing up in a town in Kerala, frugality is a point my parents used to enforce on my every day. Be it the way I decide what to buy, to what kind of people I hang out with and even the way I spend my little pocket money, we were asked to rethink it financially. The collective result of this endeavour is that today I think about 50 times before making any purchase. I may not be earning in huge amounts or have the luxury of a plush home and big car, but I am able to meet my needs, and save the bulk of my income. And thankfully, my wife also comes from similar upbringing, so she shares my point of view.

But things are not the same for people around me. Every day in office, I see my colleagues spending every dime on repeated online shopping purchases. Already in this first week of the new year, many of them have ordered new laptops, smartphones, jackets and shoes. On an average, our office gets about 2 shipment deliveries a week, it's double that during festivities. Last year, two of them bought new cars, brand new from the showroom. And all the while, I hear them talking of rising credit card bills and upcoming EMIs for loan payments. I would be the only one on the floor who has not EMIs at the moment. My monthly credit card bills for the only card I have never cross 1500/- Rs, I use it only for petrol bills and once I recharge my pre-paid cellphone for 300 /-, I am good for 2 months. I can never imagine getting a bill with more than 4 figures on it, yet everyone around me live with such numbers.One of my colleagues recently invested 3.4 lakhs in 'Interior Design' - she bought 2 beds (cots) , 1 cupboard, and kitchen shelves ! Obviously they did not do their homework because they could have got everything under 50,000/- if they had just got on the road to check price instead of online shopping.

Its Not how much you earn, its how much you save. These words of wizdom were given to be by my Father. He was born into poverty, the fifth of eight children. When everyone else looked up to the government and others for help, he decided the only one whom he could depend upon was he himself. He worked  his way out of poverty, and was able to provide enough for us, his children. He doesn't have any magical trick, or special education which helped him. And he didn't do anything illegal either. He just lived by his golden rule, work hard, and save whatever you can. If it was not for him, I would not be here typing these in today. But he was also careful that we kids do not get carried away with this new found success. We too had to earn it.

When I grew up , and started working, it was in a big city: Chennai. Expenses were high, and life was shiny, so I got carried away a little. But not too much. I always managed to prevent impulsive shopping, and managed to send half of my earnings home, a practice my then roommates would call impossible. I was not smart enough to make money off the stock market, and I surely didnot have any spare time for any side business. I just stuck to what I knew, and found it worked good enough for me. But I needed help, and some direction. There was no dearth of information on the internet, but lets be frank, the web is overloaded with crap, people reposting multiple times and often sharing things illegal. But I found two sites which stood out, they covered different areas of financial freedom, yet was enough for anyone willing to improve financially.

JagoInvestor sounds like one of those government slogans against corruption, but its actually a private blog and services run by some very inspiring individuals, and specialy made of Indians. I think their original aim was to inspire people to invest in various products in the market, but they soon switched to help their readers to save, and make sound financial decisions, covering a wide range of topics from stock markets, to tax calculations and spread awareness of shrewd marketing ploys of banks and investment companies, and about reliable products with strong performances. Many many Indians have managed to turn their financial lives around because of this team. I too came to know about Indian Government's Public Provident Fund, just because I found you could easily transfer money online to it. I also shutdown an Insurance Policy I had which I had taken not thinking through properly. I discontinued it and took a cheaper term plan. I also parked some money in some Mutual Funds and have found it has paid off better. If you are in India, and want to know how you can save some more, then please visit Jagoinvestor soon.

The other site I stumbled across purely by chance, their article on the true cost of commuting was picked up by Lifehacker, and soon linked to by the whole internet that side of the Atlantic sea. This was because Mr Money Moustache resides in the US of A , and retired at the early age of 30 (my current age) and now lives a more fun , active and free life than your average American. Living expenses in US are in the highest in the world, and most Americans work their whole lives and are still not able to make enough to retire. But he defies all odds and does the impossible, and asks and inspires others too to do the same. The magic formula he uses: frugality. Now since his advice is on life in the US, they cannot be applied completely in India, but a few of his tips are timeless and valid wherever you live. Like his advice to ditch the car, get a bike, and living closer to place of work, even if it is a tiny bit expensive. Others about Aquaponics, brewing your own beer, getting a cheaper pre-paid phone, and living an healthier life without spending at the gym is not for everyone. He explains the difference between cheapness and frugality clearly, and makes it clear that it is not for everyone ! As a result, I took a job closer to my home in Bangalore, cancelled my cable TV connection, and switched to a cheaper pre-paid connection. The savings in fuel alone have opened my eyes to how much I could have saved if I had thought of this earlier.

Another site I tumbled across is the Art Of Manliness. Its not a site about finances and frugality, but rather on how to be a better human, specifically a man. You can call it an online men's magazine , but it does not contain the sleaziness and materialistic nature you see generally. The site has a vintage feel, and uses pictures and classical drawings which invoke nostalgia. Everything from managing your expenses, dressing up better, cooking healthier meals, and overcoming your fears is covered , along with many tips and tricks.

We are turning into an increasingly consumerist society, people just think of consuming more, thinking of new ways to spend their hard earned money, hoping it will improve their social/professional life, a better status and all that.. The bigger issue is that they confuse frugality to being cheap, and don't bother to save all those nickels and dimes they lose daily. While I find solace and pride in my way of life, I hope others too wake up to reality. Soon.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Cold and Wet New Year

 

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Wish you a Happy and Brand New 2015 ! That's one good thing about getting a new year, you get to start again. On a clean slate. From Square one. Again.

Here in Bangalore , its cold and rainy down here, just the way I like it. Since January 1 is a holiday for most companies here, the roads were empty ,so it was a nice drive down a wet empty roads for me.

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I was just going through today morning's news on the web, from India. This was what I got.

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This New Year has already started with death and destruction. Kind of ruins hope for me.

I sincerely hope this ill fate does not stay the whole year.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

There's something about Christmas

 

Aaah…the cool breeze, falling temperatures, steady coffee, and in my case, a running nose and sore throat: all signs that the current month is December. I like the weather cool, but its not the same the other way round. And December is probably my favourite month of the year. I used to go to a Christian missionary school, so we used to celebrate each and every Christian holiday on the calendar, specially Christmas. Initially I used to hate the festivities , being a Hindu myself, I could not relate to many traditions Christians followed. But I gradually realized that Christmas is not just about the Prayers and Churches and the fasting, the endless Bible reading. The spirit of Christmas was about caring , and sharing, and some enjoying a few comforts of life with near and dear ones. Nowhere can this spirit be better seen , than in Charles Dickens' legacy novel: A Christmas Carol.

Funny, this play has a special place in all of my Christmas holidays, I have read, watched or at least thought of this little story every Christmas. Every annual day, a portion of this story, or its entirety would be chosen for a play. The most popular section is without a doubt the part were the second ghost, the Ghost of Christmas present, shows Uncle Scrooge the Christmas dinner at the Cratchit house. Bob Cratchit, his employee, is very poor, draws an even poorer salary from Scrooge, but has a large family to feed. The Cratchit family comprises of him, his wife, three daughters, three sons, the youngest of which , Tiny Tim, is crippled. The Cratchits live a measerly life, and Christmas is probably the only time of the year they indulge, and this is the time the Ghost and Scrooge decides to visit them.

Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course — and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah! -

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witness — to take the pudding up and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose — and supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered — flushed by smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

‘A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!’ Which all the family re-echoed.

‘God bless us every one!’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

The scene described is so vivid ! You can actually the whole family sitting down together for dinner together, helping each other, passing around small utensils, and slurping up every last morsel, with a cosy fire going in the fireplace nearby. The whole family shares what little they can afford, and makes sure everyone is properly fed and cared for. What more does one want ?

 

 

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