Friday, May 18, 2012

Scared to death with Greece

Here we go again. The continuing (and agonizing ) saga of what would and would not happen if and when Greece leaves the euro zone and plunge into once again to its beloved Drachma currency is anybody's guess. But I believe that it would happen soon because the whole world has started to get fed up with all the suspense of Greece leaving or not leaving and there is certainly a fatigue creeping up on the donor countries to let it be and then deal with the consequences later, since there can only be finite amount of money that the European Union can provide to Greece until it realizes that it would not cure the chronic problem of Greece's economy, namely its cost structure and rigid labor policies. The Greek people would have to realize that they will have to become super competitive European nation in order for them to compete in the world economy. Tourism may generate some money but if they want to remain in Euro and also improve their lives, they will have to become very cost competitive and also brutally loose with their labor laws so that they can compete with the India and other low costs center. If they do that then the European would rather go to Greece for their outsourcing rather than India or other outsourcing destinations. Other thing is they will have to revive their manufacturing so that the European could get their goods not from Asia but from Greece. Unless the costs of labor comes down, they would not be able to pay back either the Europeans or their own workers and they may be involuntarily leave the Euro Zone and take more of the others down with them.

On the lighter side Movies-Johnny English Reborn-Rowan Atkinson

Rowan Atkinson comes back again as the inept Johnny English spy from Britain now after a guy who can is out to assassinate the Chinese premier on his trip to U.K. Plenty of funny laughs and fun to watch. Recommended for having a good time. Nice time waster.

On the lighter side-Movies-Haywire (2011)-Gina Carano, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum

Forgettable movie regarding a agent (Played by Gina Carano-The mixed martial arts champion) who is betrayed by a secret agency (once again) and goes after her betrayers in martial arts fashion. Not enough action or martial arts to satisfy the fans and the pacing is pretty slow and leisurely. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Super 8

Exciting movie about a bunch of kids making a movie near a train station in the fifties and comes across a horrible accident which leads to an alien being who wants to return home and is not allowed to by the military. New comers make up this movie which has very decent acting. A Steven Spielberg movie. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-The Guard-Don Cheadle

In this light hearted (and barely understandable) comedy an FBI cop teams with a small Irish village cop to thwart a group of drug smugglers. The English or Irish of the main character is very hard to understand and the movie does not excite you enough. Very few laughs or action. Not Recommended.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Low Mortgage rates for whom?

There was news a few days ago that 30 year Mortgages rates are the lowest in history now and now is the time to buy house with low Mortgage rates or refinance them. But in the other news there was this article which was stating that the lenders are so overwhelmed with foreclosure, short sales and mortgage applications that refinancing is taking more than 60 days for even them consider. So I don’t really understand, the advertisement of these kinds of rates is for whom? The requirements for mortgages have become so stringent and more and more people are so much underwater that very few if any would qualify for such low rates. Even if the rates go down below 3 percent, would it make a difference when somebody wants to buy a house, he would have to pay at least 20 percent down and then have that magic credit score about 760 and then all the other requirements that people would abandon the process early. Mortgage rates are like shopping for a cheaper price on the internet. You have to shop around with your own particular financial circumstances in order to get the best rates. It is no use relying on the rates published almost every day since it is the average of many lenders and may or may not apply to you. So taking these rates to a mortgage company and then trying to negotiate from that point is useless since you are only one client and as I said before the rates are based on averages. So the low rates may entice you to refinance or apply for a mortgage but you won't be able to score the lowest average rate.

What's wrong with some employees?

The other day my wife went to a small business discount store. She has been going to the same place for a while and I did too. She had to exchange something and the person on the counter acted like it is going out of his pocket that he had a hard time exchanging. He kept on making one excuse after another and being sarcastic about her every answer. She later did complain to their offices in New York. Now my question is why some of the employees especially in small retail stores are be so unprofessional and uncooperative. If they have something going on in their lives, they should not come that day to their jobs and not share their miseries with the rest of the world. First, in this economy jobs are scarce and once you get one you try to act like a miserable lot then you don’t have any right to work with people. Small business cries about how they are being squeezed in this economy and then they hire these kinds of people who have no manners of how to deal with customers. I guess that the small businesses in these cases don’t care about their reputation and if one thing sells they pray that the customer does not come back again. That is why you see in many small businesses a policy stating NO Exchanges, No Refunds, All Sales Final, Store Credit only. And then we wonder why these small businesses are suffering. Just because they can't compete on price, at least some of the business should have the courtesy of good customer interaction so that their sales can grow and they can retain customers rather than seeing them once in their lifetime.

Lying on your resume

Everybody says from the recruiters to the expert advisers on job interviewing that it is a big "NO" to lie on your resume and still people do it now and then. Recently a case of a big company top honcho was caught stretching (so to speak instead of lying) his credentials to include some in which he did not majoring in. Now the person in question is apologizing about it and the company is saying that he has a lot of experience and mistake on the resume should not be taken. So now the question is that if that is the case, why do all the companies want to know what education level you have achieved because once a person has enough experience all the education would not help him/her in the real world. And why it is that the top honcho is can escape unpunished in this whole scandal and not the ordinary person who tries to be a little creative in his resume. Why is one standard for a top person and another for all other ordinary folk who are trying to get a job by being truthful on their resumes. If the companies want experience then education should become irrelevant and if the education is necessary then experience should be minimized and a little due diligence on the part of the companies to make absolutely sure that the person they are hiring has a truthful resume would go a long way to avoiding Public Relations disasters.

The Elections in Europe

Although seems like an earthquake and shock to outside observers, it was to be expected that the election results in France and Greece were not so surprising after all. All this austerity and sacrifices were being called upon people who were not use to it and so it was no surprise that a backlash happened in the election not only in France but in Greece. It was as much as a rage against the current Euro supporters’ government as it was against Germany's call for austerity to fix the debt crisis. People in Greece and France are really fed up with all the cuts and austerity without seeing any improvements in their lives or in the fortunes of their country. The people in Greece saw their government keep on meeting the demands of the rich Europeans to cut budgets and rein in expenses in order to qualify for more aid and the Greek people were completely fed up and they voted with their feet to give a clear message to Europe regarding where they stand in this situation. The French had the same problem although they were not that desperate but they did not like what their President was doing in terms of budget cuts and too much favoring the European Union and not the French public. And the Former President in a desperate move to court votes went to solicit votes from the Far right and it was no use. Anyway now that the elections are finished what next for Europe? Even if they stop austerity measures, would they want to rack up more debt by borrowing more at even higher interest costs? Is the model of social welfare long a hall mark of Europe be scaled back to accommodate manageable debt? Many questions have arisen in the wake of the European elections, now we will see how it plays out further.

The new status symbol-debt free

I don’t know about you but I believe that in this economy the new status symbol is Debt Free. If you don’t have any debt-credit card, student loans, car loans, mortgages, home equity line of credit, co-signees etc you are in the elite club of people who don’t owe anybody any thing and that is to be truly free. If you have really reached this goal ( I have not yet and so do millions of fellow Americans and others), the high you will get is beyond your wildest imagination. No collection calls, no bills to pay, no worrying about budgeting every month, no worrying about repossession of your car or foreclosure of your house or worrying about getting hit on your credit score. Although on the down side, many lenders would hound you to take loans from them. I believe very few have achieved this status, even movie stars and athletes since it pays to be in debt in the U.S. since you can deduct mortgage and other expenses from your taxes. But I believe that who would not want to in this class of people where you are on the other side of the debt and people owe you money instead. Too exciting to comprehend I believe. But the one thing that this economic situation should teach us is to have as less debt on you as possible and don’t chase things which you don’t want it even if every else is running after it because that is also one secret of remaining debt free is to avoid frivolous spending and don’t follow the herd.

The proud and the arrogant

You can be proud of your kid’s education and the achievements but then you should not be arrogant about it. You can brag about it but don’t take it to the point of arrogance. There is a very fine line between feeling proud of something and then being take it to the next level of arrogance. I have seen many people who are more arrogant and proud about what they have or what they have achieved or what they are. The trick is to remain humble and still be proud for being arrogant will not get you too far. Most but not all of the arrogance comes from people who are at the top of their careers and have done pretty damn well themselves as compared to the majority of the general public. But as they say money comes and goes and also everybody has to one die and go into the same ground as ordinary people. Maybe they can afford a nice funeral and burial but you know what the angel of death will not come with brand names and luxury items to take away your soul. When the soul is gone the rest remains is the body which decomposes very fast. And one more thing you can be arrogant and people will respect you out of envy or jealousy but the minute you are removed from your high horse or no longer in this world you are remembered by the way you acted and behaved and that is where the arrogant people are the biggest losers. So be proud up to a point and just keep it that way and don’t cross the border to arrogance because nobody likes one.

The elected and the not elected

The people who are elected take practical steps to make sure that they don’t screw up their mandate and try to help people truthfully since they know the ground realities but the people who are not elected try to promise things which they know that would not be fulfilled once they enter once. They have the luxury to be as reckless and speak in terms of fantasies that only gullible people will vote for them. But sometimes people are so fed up with their current representative that even the worse opponent is looked upon as savior or good alternative to the current one. Just to get votes to get elected makes some potential candidates make outrageous promises which they themselves believe to be unable to fulfill or they just make them because they know that they would not be elected by make unrealistic claims. The reality is that once a candidate gets elected he or she face a stark reality because they have access to reports which they may never have before and then they have to deal with different unions and interest groups and every one of them have to deal with a different strategy in order to survive in office. In this case people are also na├»ve in not asking where is the blueprint of how they are going to fulfill their promises within the current revenue that they town, city, county, state and Federal government generate. The jobs creation slogan taking out arbitrary out of some magic hat has so many unpredictability that no human being can promise for sure that life will be wonderful and we will be back to the era of the 1950s when the U.S. was the only player in town. Now we have China, India, Brazil and other countries vying for the increasing share of a pie that is being taken away from the industrialized countries. Until we ask the potential candidates some hard hitting questions regarding how they are going to implement their promises, the votes would keep on going to go to waste and the candidates would continue to make outrageous promises which will never get fulfilled.

Hazards of Complacency

Complacency in everything is not good. It makes people comfortable in their environment and they become lazy enough not to do anything to improve upon things or just become content with what they have. There is no urge to seek better opportunities or seek other ways to better their future. Since the paycheck is coming every other week and the household expenses are being taken care of that is the extent that some people go and this begets complacency. In the same way that individuals become complacent about their situation, some corporations do the same thing and then when they are left behind, they panic and seek alternate route to their salvation but by that time, the customers have already voted them out with their wallets and they are relegated to history. Right now the technology companies are not complacent and constantly trying to bring out better things to stay one step ahead of the competition and to keep on grabbing customer's attention. That is how they are surviving. Retailers are also trying to bring out better things but their one disadvantage is that they have a huge overhead in the form of real estate which the technology companies don’t have. These tech companies can be in one place and build data storage capacity in a few states and reach the whole U.S. instead of individually opening stores in most of the states. Complacency is never good and once you become complacent, you are just a regular kid on the block and you will be left behind in this fast moving world.

A hope and Student loans

A lot has been written about Students loans and a lot will be written about them, since the rates of the new Students loan are about to double in a month or so if Congress does not act by then. I have already written about how the student loans have an impact on student lives. But in this article I am thinking that why the students (and their parents) spend so much money just to get your hands on their degree. It is what I call "HOPE". The hope that once you graduate, you would be able to find a job and pay off your loans easily. But now it is becoming harder and harder to do that since the jobs are scarce or don’t pay as much as you were led to believe while you were in College or lured into one. It is this hope that makes the students and their parents pay ever increasing sum of tuition money every year going into enormous amount of debt so they make have a decent shot of getting a job which not only pays their living expenses but also retire their student debt at the same time. But this hope is fading for many people since the jobs that they were led to believe are either not there or pay enough to pay for their living expenses but not retire their debt and in the process these debtors are postponing marriages, starting families and buying houses just because they are so much in debt that they either do not qualify or are afraid to take on more debt. And this vicious cycle keeps on going every year and I don’t see any end in sight for the plight of students and their parents.

The dream of overnight riches

Recently there was a frenzy regarding the lottery which hit more than half a billion dollars. Everybody was in line to buy a lottery ticket so that they may instantly become millionaires. This mad rush to overnight riches has destroyed the spirit of hard work that made this country great. I know that lottery helps in state budgets the money which they don’t have and which would not be there had it not been for the lottery, but dreaming of overnight riches drives people to buy not one or two but sometimes hundreds of dollars worth of tickets in the hopes of improving their odds of winning the money which they can use to spend on their necessities. It is seen that it is only the middle class and below play the lottery as frequently as possible. The odds of winning one is as much for a person play with a dollar than the one playing with hundreds of dollars. It is a game of chance. And the stories that you may have read regarding the previous winners is not a happy story with a happy ending. Moreover the more you play the more you get addicted to it in the hopes of winning big like in the casino you keep on play one more so that you may by chance hit bit. But what is the use of spending such big amounts every day or every week when you very well know that you don’t or cannot win. I guess it is the thrill and excitement of having the enormous amount of easy money in one go rather than toiling yourself till you die to earn a decent living that makes a person keep on buying lottery. (By the way I have not played lotto ever since I know that I will not win)

What about the middle class woes?

Since this economic crisis the world over and especially in the U.S. the class which has been squeezed the most has been the middle class. Their wages have either been cut or reduced or they have suffered the most in terms of job losses. Everybody talks about how the middle class is being effected and how they can help them but in reality, there is very little help that can be done since the jobs which were a pathway to middle class are vanishing in alarming numbers either outsourcing or being replaced by jobs which either pay very less or are highly technical to begin with. The construction industry which use to employ a lot of people have been devastated by this economic downturn and it has hit the middle class really hard. For once there is a fear that this generation of middle class people will be worse off than the parents who enjoyed the great manufacturing boom after World War II. The changing economic landscape is not only effecting the present generation of middle class but also their offspring since they are unable to help their offspring's achieve their dream of going into top notch colleges or graduate debt free or get help in buying a new house. There is no answer to these problems just plain empty rhetoric which does not help in anyway the plight the middle class is in.

The temptations that human beings face

There are so many temptations human beings face every day of their lives that it becomes really hard to save yourselves from them or succumb to their lure. Take for example all the fancy goods that you see in stores, you may not have the money but you can still things of ways to get your hands on that kind of money or that products to make you feel happy. Another big one is gambling, people even times of recession (especially) flock to casinos or the state sponsored lottery tickets or anywhere they can wage legally to dream of winning big (even when they lose money all the while in the process). People on diet have a hard time resisting the temptation to eat fatty foods once in a while even while trying to stay away from them. Then there are children who come to a toy store and get so much excited that they don’t care about their temptations and just want to get hold of whatever they chose to like it. Then the lure of sex drives most of the temptations and you can in this case become a saint and completely oblivious to your surroundings or succumb to it in a big way or cheat a little by thinking you will not get caught. All of these my friends are traps and trials of the human beings to see if they have the will power to overcome all that is out there to lure you and the person who avoids them day in and day out is the bigger person in this game.

Taken for granted

Nowadays everything is taken for granted and if not then we become very fuzzy and impatient. It was not always that way, but with the advent of technology and our behavior of instant gratification, we have lost sight of that and want everything right away or take it for granted that it will be that way. Electricity and water running 24/7, business running round the clock and other things have made us lazy and it is taken by surprise if it is not that way. It maybe because we live in an advanced country and does not have the experience or patience to deal with trivial items. We take our relationships and things for granted but try for once to appreciate the things when we don’t have them. Are we really that spoiled? It seems that way to many people who live outside advanced countries. We can never fathom how the people in developing countries live where nothing is taken for granted and even a small gesture of goodwill is appreciated far more than it is necessary. Water and Electricity are a scare resource and even what we called junk food is actually called food in those poor countries where people live on two dollars a day, where running water is a luxury along with electricity, and kids scour garbage dumps to collect food for their families. We must not lose sight of all things which we have that can be taken away in a instant and thus everything should be appreciated while you have it instead of taking them for granted all the time.

The View Premium

The real estate market has a problem according to me. We pay so much for the views even above what it is worth that it does not make sense to me. For example, looking for an apartment in any city in the country and the higher you go up the higher you have to pay since it is all about the surrounding "views" that commands a premium. Even when you have a beach house, you pay more for ocean views than not. Every person is different and most of the people like to see the views from their house. Views can be nice but to pay extra money for the views I am not ready to do that since I would rather have a land under my feet than to see something which is not mine. Even in this economy, some people are paying absurd amount of money just to have views of the city from their apartments. I scratch my head some times to see these numbers and then read that you can see the whole of the city from your penthouse or apartment and you pay what like upwards of millions of dollars and still you don’t have the land under you yours and the sky above not yours (according to what the real estate terms says), even you have to share your walls and elevator with other people and wait for it to come up to your apartment. When you have a beach house at least the land is yours although you still pay a lot if your house overlooks the ocean which is understandable but still to pay for that is beyond my mind. Maybe it is just me.

On the lighter side-Movies-Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides-Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz

Fantastic sequel to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) doing best in acting along with Penelope Cruz who forces him to go on a quest to find the fountain of Youth. Great Swashbuckling adventure, action and acting makes this a fantastic delight to watch. Highly Recommended, a must see.

On the lighter side-Movies-Iron Man 2- Robert Downey jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke

Very good sequel to Iron Man as Robert Downey Jr. ego's come in the way of greater good and his over the top acting comes in handy while fighting his new nemesis. This movie also introduced him to the organization SHIELD with Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury and also Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow. Great Action sequences. Highly Recommended

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On the lighter side-Movies-Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol-Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon peg

Great action movie with Tom Cruise returning as Agent Ethane Hawke who goes solo along with the team to prevent world War when the Mission Impossible is accused of bombing the Kremlin. Excellent movie. Highly Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Robin Hood-Russell Crowe, Cate blanchette

Prequel starring Russell Crowe as the returning crusaders who becomes Robin Hood when the King of England declared him an outlaw. Good action sequences and story make this a winner. Long Movie but a good time waster. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-FastFive (2011) Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson (the rock)

Very good action packed sequel to Fast and Furious 4 with the duo of Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Brazil going head to head with the biggest criminal lord there and Dwayne Johnson as the U.S. agent tasked with bringing them in. Fantastic car chases and action makes this a winner. Highly Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-X-Men: First Class (2011)

Pretty good prequel to the X-Men movies where they show how the X-Men were created and the breakup of the mutants into two groups, one fighting for and one against the Human. Good special effects and acting. Good Fun. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Terminator Salvation-Christian Bale, Sam Worthington

Worthy follow up to the terminator movies with a bit role by the original one. This time, the humans are pitted against the machines and hybrids and trying to destroy the mother ship. Plenty of action and good. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Colombiana-Zoe Saldana

Story about a girl (played by Zoe Saldana of Avatar Fame) who witnesses the murder of her parents and grew up to be an assassin with a sole purpose of avenging her parents murders. Plenty of action and nothing much. Recommended with reservations.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On the lighter side-Movies-Limitless (2011)- Bradley Cooper

Stars as a struggling guy, whose brother in law gives him a strange pill which in turn makes him remember everything and much more. But the side effects start to dawn on him and he has to control the intake to less than one each other day or he will die. Interesting premise and good acting makes this a good watch. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Shark Night 3D (2011)

Says what it says it is. A bunch of college kids (who else?) go to a secluded place on the beach and can't get out of there due to deliberately infested shark waters. Although in 3D it would have been the same lousy TV movie of the week as in any other format. Not Recommended at all.

On the lighter side-Movies-Killer Elite-Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert de Nero

Action packed Jason Statham movie about a team of killers who go after the retired people of the British Special Forces when one of them is held hostage by the Arabs. Clive Owen is the retired British Special forces guy assigned to track Jason down and Robert de Nero is the captive killer held by the Arab who is demanding the killing of his son's killer. Action packed and nothing much. Recommended with reservations.

On the lighter side-Movies-Hanna-Saoirse Una Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett

Sometimes slow and sentimental action movie regarding a genetically engineered girl who goes after the people who have made her. Sometimes violent but not much to say about it. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-The Mechanic (2011)-Jason Statham, Ben Foster

A different kind of Jason Statham movie based on the Charles Bronson 1972 movie of the same name. Jason stars as a hired hit man who is assigned the task to kill his best friend and then takes his son under his wings for training not knowing that his son wants to kill him. Good acting by Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland as the father. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-True Grit (2010)-Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon

Remake of the classic western of the same name, this one stars Jeff Bridges going after the killers of a stubborn young girl’s father and Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger who assist them in their endeavor. Enjoyable especially the acting of Jeff Bridges is excellent. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Real Steel-Hugh Jackman

In the year 2020 boxing is being done by robots controlled by humans. Jackman is a down on his luck robot fighter who is inspired by this estranged son to fight with an old weakling robot against the world champion. Very interesting premise and fun to watch. Highly Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Source Code-Jake Glyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan

Interesting Premise regarding a soldier (played by Jake Glyllenhaal) who is actually dead but his brain is working who is assigned to find the bomber on a train to Chicago and prevent even a bigger massacre of people. Good movie and good acting but overly ambitious. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Takers (2010) - Chris Brown, Matt Dillon and Paul Walker

Highly Entertaining and enjoyable movie regarding a band of sophisticated thieves whose last job is complicated by a determined and Russian Mafia. Very Enjoyable and Highly Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Rise of the planet of the apes (2011)-James Franco and Frieda Pinto

James Franco stars as a scientist who experiments on apes and creates a new intelligent breed who becomes develops a mind of its own in this wonderful prequel to the Planet of the Apes movie. Very good acting and special effects and story. Highly Recommended