Friday, December 31, 2010

Conservatives vs. liberals

I always hear about this person or famous person is conservative and this is liberal. Like in Hollywood, most of the actors presumably are liberals but on the other side the Fox News channel is conservative or the Republican Party is made up of mostly conservatives. I just believe that these labels are just made up and nobody is entirely conservative or entirely liberal. There are so many choices and issues in life that nobody can take a completely conservative or a completely liberal position on all of these positions. You can still be a conservative and take a liberal position on one issue and vice versa. For example I don’t believe that the conservative or liberals for that matter would allow guns to be near children.

Other thing is that your position on a certain issue can change overtime or even with change of status in your life. It is mostly assumed that parents are conservative in terms of how they want to raise their kids. Both the conservatives and liberals would agree that the kids should not consume alcohol, or drink and drive or stay out of the house late at night. Also I will assume that certain movies and Shows are not watched at all by both of them when the kids are awake. In terms of finances, whatever the conservatives say about the federal budget, I don’t believe they would agree to eliminate Medicaid, Medicare, and social security and on the other hand the liberals may not want to reduce the defense budget to bare bones or cut of funding to the military in time of war. So although it is easy to put labels on people but the labels is not that clear cut.

Flying on a plane-2

You are checked once again with your boarding pass to see that you are the same person as mentioned and then you go into the plane greeting by a flight attendant and then you have to search for your seats. Now the fun begins, once you are in your seat and your carry on secured in your overhead cabinet, you start to hear about the seat belts and safety procedures and then the flight takes off. Again if you are alone, you can just go to sleep or read a newspaper but if you have kids then these two activities are out of the question (unless you can make them go to sleep). If you have a short flight then you can manage your kids but if it is long one then you have to find activities for them.

In a long flight even with all the activities, the kids will get bored sooner of later (pray that it is later) and then you are really in trouble. Other thing is that since the seats are crammed, there is not much space to play, and if they have to go to the restroom then it is an additional burdensome chore added to your list of others. For eating, you can get some snacks and sodas provided by the airlines or you can buy your own (necessary) before boarding so that you have plenty of it for you and your kids. The best part is that when the pilot announces that you are about the land and that is when your joy (or agony) of flying comes to an end.

Flying on a plane

I believe that most of the people have flown in a plane, but if you have don’t, it has become more of a pain now than it was say ten to fifteen years ago. This is because of the continued terrorism fears that have evolved into ever-growing array of security measures that are being put into place every time there is a hint of terrorism here in the United States or abroad. Anyway most of the flying starts when the plane departs from the runway but to reach inside the plane are a series of painful steps you have to take. Like checking in with your ticket and weighing your baggage which you don’t want to carry with you making sure they don’t go above a certain weight otherwise you will get charged for the extra weight.

Now you have to get yourself security cleared and that is what is most bothersome (but necessary). Now there are full body scans and body searches individually by the security agent. After you get done with this, then you have to wait in the waiting area to board your plane. If you are alone you can just reading the newspaper or eat something but with a family and kids you have to monitor and be busy all the time so that the kids don’t get bored and start asking the same question again and again, when are we going to go into the plane?

The English Language-2

Since the Internet started here in the United States, we had the advantage that the initial websites and domain names were based in English, so that is why we see most of the content of the web in English, although that has started to change, but it will take a while that English as the predominant language of the Internet will be challenged. You do find most of the stuff in English and even if you can’t some of the popular websites in other languages have translation software to translate the foreign languages into English.

Moreover English although not being a native language of the majority of the people of the world is the most widely spoken due to the fact that China and India, the most populous countries of the world, communicate in English language or have it as a second language. A recent article had described that the English language will decline since the native population is not growing but guess what the article was written on an English website. In order to understand each other, most of the world communicates in English and I don’t see any major challenge to its supremacy any time soon.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The English Language

I have to acknowledge one thing despite all the havoc the English people did around the world (witness the conflict Between India and Pakistan, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, etc) the English were great enough to give the world a unified language called English. Due to them, English is understood and more widely spoken than any other language in the world. The research and development that other nations do have to be translated into English in order for it to have wide acceptance. Most of the college Professor no matter what their language is, knows a little bit of English and even though some people refuse to speak or answer in English have a rudimentary knowledge of the Language.

In addition to the Scientific and the Research part of the Language, we have to cultural part. The French keeps on complaining that the U.S. English language programs are destroying the French language. The English music is popular in the world and so are the newspaper and magazines that are published even in countries where the English is not the primary language. If you go to a foreign country where English is not the first language, you will still sees in the Airport and other tourist destinations where the local language gets translated sometimes only in the English language. It is way easier to converse in English even in broken words than other language since it will be understood by the general public as compared to other languages.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Tourists

Every body once in their lives may have become tourists. Even if you go to another city, you become a tourist since you don’t know your way (unless you go there often). But usually we call tourists who come from another state or another country. Tourists are helpful to the local economy since they spend generous amount of money on things every thing local and thus support the economy there. In some countries, the revenue from tourism is number one or two in terms of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That is why most of the cities and states and countries that depend on tourism for the majority of their revenues go all out of their way to promote their localities. They advertise, offer special discounts and generally hire people in places where most of the people travel more often. In this case they are chasing the money to come to their areas.

Usually tourists are a give away and you can easily spot them with their cameras and city tour books in their hands, looking at buildings, sometimes talking in a foreign language, standing in one place for longer than necessary etc. I have been a tourist too and so have all you people. It is exciting to see new things but if don’t know your way you have to spend big amounts of money since every thing is expensive when you don’t know how to find the cheaper alternative. And then there is the fear that you are not in the wrong part of town and not become victim to a crime that instead of enjoying your tour, you feel bitter about the whole experience and even the whole place. Overall the tourism experience has to be felt in order to know how it is feels to be a tourist.

The Dress Code

Wearing a dress for different occasion has always been an obsession for men and women alike. Different occasions demand different dress etiquettes. But here I am talking about the office dress code. It was always been the situation that men had to wear suites and tie (which is business attire) and women were supposed to wear skirts and also pants to work. But the changing business environment has changed much of it. In the late nineties the growth of the internet gave way to young internet entrepreneurs to start wearing casual clothing like jeans and t-shirts or what ever dress that suited them. In this wave the usual private enterprise also got swept away and allowed their employees to be at least business casual (like dress pants and shirts without ties) during the weekdays and on Fridays jeans and other casual dressing.

But after the bust of the internet boom and with the rebirth of the new of the internet business that is no longer the case and businesses are increasing clamping down on casual dress and allowing employees’ only business casual all week long. But still if you want to meet your clients or somebody important or want to attend a meeting, the business dress is still the norm with suites and ties necessary or even mandatory. In some industries it is just that wearing a casual dress would make you the odd man out and then you will feel embarrassed. And as the say dress for success and in interviews it will always be business dress in most of the businesses and industries as that is not a time to make a statement about yourself if you want to land a job.

The path to being rich

It was time not to long ago that you could only see people with gray hair or older being very rich and that was the case for a long period of time. It was expected that they more years you work, the richer you get. It is still the norm but it is being challenged by a very young generation who has tasted riches while in their twenties and thirties. Now with the advent of the internet, you need not wait for a certain number of years before you taste the success of having more people than the average person. Now if you have the right idea, with hard work and dedication you can achieve your goal of being rich in a couple or maybe within five years and the retirement age factor does not come into play since you can retire as early as forty.

Although in established companies it is still the norm to see people with decades of experience still on the top of the ladder, but increasingly they are being joined by the twenties and thirties who are getting richer with less than a decade of experience in the newest technology. You don’t have to look far for this as the explosion of social media networks and other technological tools and internet websites have made very young people rich and influential. This trend although in the minority would continue to grow as this young generation does not have the patience to toil their time away for a goal to reach to the top which can be elusive to vast majority of people

On the lighter Side- Movies – The Fourth Kind- Milla Jovovich

This is the supposedly true events that took place in Nome, Alaska with documentary and real live events taking place regarding alleged abductions by aliens. Milla Jovovich stars as a Psychologist whose own daughter is alleged abducted by aliens. Don’t believe this crap of a movie since it is fake from the start, although some disappearances did occur but they were unsolved and so the movie builds on that premise to say that aliens abducted them. It moves along with the interview of Ms. Milla and then tries to tie in with other people who think they have been abduction. Don’t waste your time in this movie and avoid it if you can. Not recommended. Maybe too scary for little children.

Snow work

This weekend we were subject to a blizzard and heavy snow where I live. Although I was looking at Europe and thinking how much snow they are getting, and we were having sunny days but my wish came true and we had almost 30 inches of snow in our area. The first day was a no go for work since I don’t have a snow blower and had to shovel myself manually, we don’t have side walks in our town but the driveways are long enough to park four to six cars and that is what we need to shovel if we were to ever go out in our cars. Cleaning the driveways is not enough, since the cars would have to be cleaned of snow. My strategy to clean snow is to clean first the entrance of the house and then the cars and after that the drive ways.

Cleaning the cars are easier since I just start the car and make them run and become warm and that helps in cleaning the snow better. But the worst part is the back of the car since that is where we have to back up and if it is not cleaned then we are stuck. If the weather becomes warm after the snow, it is really a blessing since it melts the snow very fast, otherwise the snow stay hardened and you have to clean with lots of salt. Other thing is that the streets and roads are cleaned by the towns but all the snow gets dumped in front of residences and that makes it harder to remove the additional snow. All in all you are better off with having an electrical snow blower and if you have the money and know how to take care of the gas one, get it.

The new Census

Every ten years, we have a new census which details how many people live in the United States so that the Government can fund programs in each state according to the population. Also the redistricting of the Congress House of Representatives gets done with the states gaining population get more seats in the House and the ones which are losing population gets their seats reduced. This time around there was no surprise as the census have said that more people are moving to the South and the West and the Northern States are losing their population to those states.

This is the case with New York and New Jersey, two very expensive states to live in are about to lose two and one seat in the House. In the case of New York, there was a promise that the upstate areas would get developed but nothing happened. I have been to upstate NY and it is so empty with lots of cheap land. We can really develop huge number of industries and reduce our deficit, but nobody thinks on this side. The population is also aging very fast with fewer people to replace them. We will see in the next census how the shape of the population would be, but the trend will still be that people would continue to move to sunnier climate and abandon the snowy states leaving them in more misery and less clout and influence in the Congress.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Do you believe in stars?

If you are many millions and even billions of people, you may have checked your astrological stars once in a while. Although if you have read it, it is completely incomprehensible (at least to me) but some people really follow it very religiously even reading it in the morning before going to do work or chores. Sometimes when you are reading, you feel like it is exactly like you. There are books out there that give a more detailed and overly generalized overview of the stars and sometimes it does make you think and that are exactly what I am. Or if you see it the opposite way, do you feel that what you are exactly fits in one of the stars categories.

But even the more widely used stars like Capricorn, Virgo and cancer to name a few have their counterparts in other cultures where they try to make sense of the world in terms of what and when the stars are aligned at that time. Overall whatever believes you have but there are people out there who take the study of stars too seriously to dismiss this field of study. And anyway almost every newspaper, magazine and even on the internet carries your daily horoscope so that you know what you should do during the day. I am not into this but just an opinion on this popular segment that is available almost everywhere.

The Comfort Zone

This question begs a different answer depending on different people. What is really a comfort zone? It just means at what level of something you would be comfortable with or happy to be content with. I mean when it comes to salary what is the comfort zone in you area. Some people will feel that say 70k to 80k, they will be happy and comfortable to live with and for some the salary can go into the six figures. And even after that some feel like a seven figure salary is their comfort zone. Same thing happens in case of buying cars and houses and other household stuff. Some feel comfortable with a small inexpensive car but some want a very expensive car although both take you to the same destinations.

For some people even if they are in their comfort zone, they feel that they can achieve something substantially more by working towards some other goal they want to achieve ( I am one of them). But overall I have seen that most of the people are just fine with where they are and even if they are not, they are not doing much to improve their positions or pushing themselves to their limit. I believe that with 24 hours in a day you can still achieve more even if they have kids since you just have a small window of time before the age factor drags you down.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Unemployment benefits and employment

As I am now full time employment basis, it may not be relevant to my situation. But when I was one of the unemployed, I kept reading different views regarding whether extending unemployment benefits actually help the unemployed or just make them a little bit choosier in finding employment. It depends on different people; some people do indeed become choosier and reject employment which pays less than what they were getting before. But for most of the unemployed, these benefits are a lifeline and help them pay their bills while at the same time frees up time to search for employment and not have to worry about the day to day expenses to that much extent.

But other thing I want to point out is that, for some it is not worth to look for a job when you are getting more from unemployment benefits than the job is offering. Although it is great that somebody does find a job, but do you believe it is not human nature that if you are going to get more by just sitting at home and waiting for a better opportunity than to go to a job that pays less and then to scramble to make up for the little short fall by working two jobs (if you find them) and then regretting that you should have exhausted your full benefits before accepting anything less than the benefits. This is just based on individual situations but the debate is still going on that does benefits keep the unemployment rate unnecessarily high. Stay tuned because there are no clear answers.

The continuing Euro Zone crisis-Permanent bailout fund-2

But then the United States is a true union and almost every state has constitutional obligations to balance the budget unlike the European Union countries. Further more the residents of other states will not grumble that the failing state has only itself to blame and they will oppose the bailout of that state (again unlike Europe where the rich and strong countries citizens have started to grumble about the costs of the bailouts). Further more since American is already a much diversified nation, you don’t see much difference from one state to another so nationalistic tendencies are much less obvious than the Europeans. It can now be said that since the creation of the fund whatever there is going to restriction on the access to it, the desperate countries trying to access it would not be refused just because they did act badly financially.

It just creates a so called “Moral Hazard” that since the fund is there, the weak countries would not have that kind of incentive to fix their structural problems and that any reform to their economies and labor market would be slower had their not been such a fund. Only time will tell what kind of help this fund would be to the struggling countries and how far it will succeed to keep the European Union monetary union and the currency intact.

The continuing Euro Zone crisis-Permanent bailout fund

First of all the Euro continues to get roiled due to the weak and the inefficient economies lumped together with the not so weak and relatively healthy economies. It started with Greece, then Ireland and the next targets are Portugal and Spain and who knows maybe Italy too. Anyway after all the commotion still going on, the Europeans have decided that some economies are too weak to work on their own and they don’t want those economies to drag down the Euro currency and so they have set up a permanent bailout fund. Since with all indications suggesting that any country leaving or getting kicked out of the European currency will have serious consequences, with this fund, they will continue to keep hostage the whole European union, since they will know that even if they perform badly, they will have access to the funds due to the fear and desire of the stronger economies to continue to have this Currency intact.

Does it really make sense in the case of the European Union where each country is different and the European Union has no control of how the budget of different countries gets passed? Some would suggest that since the United States is in the same situation, that the Federal government would not let any state fail, so they will help that state with whatever means necessary to stop the domino effect.

Creation of a subject

Whenever you open up anything like reading books, newspapers, watching TV, internet or anything that has to do with reading something, the first thing you see is what is the subject. I believe that the Sports writers are the most creative in attracting people to their stories with new words created out of common everyday words and that is how sometimes I am amazed at how they do it. But once again, the subject of the topic is the one that gets people attention. Like all people the subject has to be creative and intriguing enough to compel me to read further or to research further into it.

In the schools and colleges whenever you are assigned to write an essay or a research paper, the teacher wants to know what kind of topic you are going to choose and once you have done it then you have to put a subject heading to it. Even after that the sub-headings in the body of the text is what makes the reader to continue reading. Where I blog, I have to put a subject into my topic interesting enough so that people can click on it and read it further and sometimes it becomes a difficult chore since how many subjects can be created by one person each and every day of the year but I keep on going and so do millions of people who are constantly writing on various topics to attract readers to their stories.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Present vs. Previous times

I have read a lot of history but never did I think I would put my words out to the world. I believe that the time we are living now is more exciting and free than before. I am not talking about ten or fifteen years ago but hundreds of years ago. I am saying this because when you come upon the history of the world, it was a much violent and authoritarian regime than it is now. I can give you countless examples where the word of the King was the final authority and anybody challenging him would be put to death. Although we are still in war in many countries but most of it is based purely on territorial conquest, before it was mostly religious wars.

You may remember about the crusades and the Spanish inquisition and the Salem witch trials and other wars against non believers. Also the word of the ruler was the law of the land without getting any dissenting vote (unless you want to get your head chopped off). But now with democracy and the advent of the internet and free flow of information, no body is going to take an order lying down unless they have a say or at least their representative have a say in that matter. Also people say that the times were cheap and lives were simple. Although this is true but also the people were not that rich either and people lived in fear of the government forces. I am not sure if I would want to live in that bygone era where the thoughts and minds were controlled and you did not have much choice in your lives.

Small government and Republicans

So much for the small government cries from Republicans. They have done it again with the passage of the New Stimulus package putting almost a trillion dollars of our future generations in debt. Is this what they call small government when they keep on increasing the debt while having no program to slash even the principal let alone the interest. Although it was due to the so called “War of Terror” that increased the budget deficit and debt, but it should also be remembered that it came under the Republican Administration. So you can see the picture here that it would be a surprise that you would see a small government in the next two years or even the next administration.

I just believe that it is just a slogan to get the politicians elected, since when they come into power, the realize that it is too hard change dug in habits and also where are they going to make the government small. I have some suggestions but they are all sacred cows like cutting the Medicare and Medicaid and slash the Social Security and reduce the Armed forces and fires tens of thousands of government workers. But since it will not happen unless you are in dire straits (like the British where there is an ongoing hue and cry on the budget cuts), this small government slogan would be just a dream and not a reality.

Stimulus by any other name

The new tax extension and jobless benefits measure that was passed recently and signed into law should be called Stimulus although politicians are calling it really a save the tax payers day. Although the federal deficit and debt will grow by almost a trillion dollars due to the extension of Bush Era tax cuts and jobless extension benefits but the Republicans are happy that they are doing something for the American public by returning the money what is theirs rightfully anyway. Although the economists wanted to extend did but not for all tax payers due to the ongoing economic problems, but the problem of debt is not going to go away since the battle has been postponed once again for two more years.

For all the rhetoric about the how we cannot afford this or that, the Republican leadership has once again added to the deficit by postponing the inevitable for two more years (till the next Presidential election). Do what you may call it, it is just another name for a back door stimulus and it won’t solve the unemployment problems although it will show that the politicians are doing something for the American people (like throwing more money at the problem and not solving the underlying causes of it).

Friday, December 17, 2010

The FBI sting operations

There was another FBI sting operation resulting in the capture (some would say entrapment) of a Muslim Immigrant on terror related charges. Although I don’t know the whole detail of the this news but the scant facts are that he was repeatedly warned that the fake bomb would kill lots of men, women and children but he still wanted to plant that fake bomb and do this part for the global jihad (or the terrorists) network. As with all the sting operations, the Muslims organizations came out and started to criticize these sting operations as it entraps the “innocent” people and it is unconstitutional. But here I really get mad that if you are so innocent why to even go and start participating in some plot to kill people, even after repeatedly been warned that it would do massive harm.

I just believe that this guy was not randomly picked out of nowhere and into the surveillance of FBI and he may have genuinely been ready to die and create mayhem. These sting operations are getting to take a bite out of the terrorists’ network and as I have said countless times before, we are in a war where you have to take preventive measures. And it is useless to criticize to law enforcement people for their tactics when you do have genuinely black sheep in your midst and they should be exposed by the Muslim Community, if they want to have the cloud of suspicious hanging over them lifted.

Simple ideas behind huge successes

I was just talking to one of my friends the other day discussing how the big companies on the internet and others have very simple and humble beginnings and it really stuck me that it is so true right now. And you just start to wonder why I did not think of that before other people. It is so simple and not terrible unique (if you see it closely). Take for example the growing phenomenon of social network sites. What so unique about it. It is just to connect with your friends and family who are not in your city or your country about their lives, picture and status updates. Other one is about the uploading of self made videos (not so great idea, either). But somebody exploited these ideas and made it into huge success.

Now we come to the real world. Most of the companies just started small, like a corner store or just making something in your house and selling to your neighborhood. They are not even unique, just that there was a need to help out busy people and started a business. It is just that all of these entrepreneurial are taking a risk and not use too much money. All of these were opened on shoe-string budgets and were one or two person operations and now they make millions and billions of dollars per years. The different thing now is that with virtual (or online) business, you can start a business and make millions in less than five years (if you have the right idea). And the ideas may be just as simple as maybe your own frustration with something that you need and then you think that if you are experiencing that frustration, then other people would be having the same anxiety and a business is born.

The Daily commute to work

If you are one of the millions of Americans who commute to work, you would know how much it is like a fight against time, traffic and other elements of nature and human beings to make sure you get to work on time. My routine is to listen to the traffic to find out if the way to my work is stuck with some accident or some other kind of unexpected calamity. But since I drive and then take the Subway to New York City, it becomes a dual concern for me. Even if I reach the station on time, there could be weather or technical delays that you just put all of your plans of reaching to work into a tailspin.

The part where I have to drive to work is the most stressful for me. Although I make sure not to stress out too much, but sometimes it really gets you that leave early from home and then because of some individuals driving like they are on a deserted highway gets into an accident and then you are stuck for no fault of your own. Even if you are speeding sometimes, you cannot go beyond a certain speed without being caught by the cops. And then if you are on a train, you have to make sure that you get on the earliest one possible and then if your station is number two or three on the ride, you have to stand there doing nothing (or reading books or news papers or playing on your smart phone). But if the train is crowded, this option is also not there and you just pray that you reach your destination as fast as possible. And if there is some signal problem or your train gets stopped in the middle of the some station then this is another aggravation. So although you may love your work, the hassle of going there can take a toll on your mood all day long.

The November Jobless Numbers

As most of the economists have feared throughout the year (though not for the November ones), the unemployment inched up to 9.8 percent and here the whole notion of the stimulus passed after the new President came in went down the drain. The President and his team were telling that if the stimulus passes, the unemployment will not rise beyond 8 percent. But since economics is an inexact science, it did not went their way and in order to reduce unemployment, the interest rates are almost next to zero and printing money is on the overdrive and still the unemployment numbers have not gone down below 9 percent for quite a few months now.

I don’t know what kind of economists’ government has but there is something wrong with the way, the policies of our government is not having the desired effect as wished. Nobody has an idea how to move the economy along and reduce the unemployment. Although different suggestions are stated from time to time in the newspapers, internet and on the television, but even if all the suggestions are taken into account, it takes time to implement them and it is at best a trial and error process. And with millions of people out of work and also losing (or have lost) unemployment benefits, the only thing that we don’t have right now is time and we don’t want to experiment now with different policies lest they fail and we are back to the drawing board again. So keep on seeing elevated levels of unemployment (and my posts on this situation).

Deficit reduction slogans and reality

The Federal government deficit has become an obsession with both the political parties but especially the Republicans. They are looking at even minor spending with skeptical eyes and they are saying that we are going to reduce the deficit very fast. But the reality is that these are just slogans and far from reducing the deficit, it is increasing at an alarming rate. Their favorite method of reducing spending and taxes while holding their line on increasing taxes is a hollow slogan. The deficit will never get reduced until you touch the biggest of the spending measures (that is Medicare, Medicaid, social security and defense) and also have to increase taxes no matter what.

You can see this “deficit reduction” slogan shred into pieces with the passage of the legislation of the almost 900 billion of more spending (more of that in another post). But to be fair it was now the Democrats who although losing the midterm election are still in majority till the next congress convenes. So you can see what both the parties issue headline grabbing slogans and what is the reality. Unless the people start forcefully confronting the realities and push their congressman to really start addressing the deficit (no matter what the economic situation), we will be not be able to sustain this deficit for must longer.

Can we borrow forever?

This question keeps on popping in my head every time I hear the Fed or the government (one and the same) printing money or borrowing money to keep the government running. The latest one is the Fed printing (or buying whatever you want to call it) more than 600 billion to keep the long term interest rates low and keep the flow of easy money going. The same is happening in Europe where the fund of more than 1 trillion is established on top of other debt to bail out heavily indebted countries in that region. But back to the U.S. and the same question again. Can you keep on borrowing money and piling on debt upon debt without even making a dent in our principal amount?

If you were an individual household (or person) you would be very nervous adding more debt than your current income and anyway lenders would demand some form of higher interest or collateral to give you some loan to delay your eventual demise (or bankruptcy). We have not reached that point yet but slowly and surely the more we print (or borrow) money to resolve this recession, the more we would in debt in later years and the interest rates will definitely go higher ( no matter what top economists say otherwise). Both our political parties show concern for the public consumption but they seem incapable of solving this debt crises and try to keep their head in the sand for the next generation of politicians to take care of it (which is just a way of ducking the inevitable in the way of higher interest rates).

Blaming Credit Card companies for our own spending

I always hear on the radio and on television that how the credit card companies have been bailed out by the Government and how they should be blamed for our current economic mess. They charge high interest rates and they should be penalized for that. Most of these ads are from the debt relief companies, who promise to negotiate with the companies to lower your payment or even slash it to half and have a low monthly payment. I am not sure how they do that but I take this information with a grain of salt. I mean if you have put something on your credit card and you have enjoyed or are enjoying that product or service, how you can escape that debt.

The credit card companies can be blamed for excessive interest, but here also the blame is feeble at best, since the card companies are in the business of making money and nobody has forced you to take on excessive debt in the first place. And every thing is spelled out in black and white; it is one’s individual responsibility to manage one’s debt. The interest that the credit card companies charge is mostly based on the individual’s credit score and their debt. If it is excessive, you can always pay it down and shred your card and live on cash only. If you are getting a card, it was you who signed on the application and nobody was there to force you to do otherwise. Blaming the big credit card companies is easier than taking responsibility for acts that you did by your own free will.

Being Ambitious

What it likes to be ambitious. According to me, it means that what you are doing right now is not enough for you and you want to achieve more and better things for yourself. But not everybody is ambitious, maybe when they are young, they become gung-ho about doing something really great but when they settle down in life, their ambitious goes down the drain or just plain vanishes and they work like a routine and normal person day in and day out. And then there are some people who have set their minds on doing something great or exciting during their early years and even after having set backs, they achieve their goals. I can say that they are risk takers and will do anything to achieve their goals. But most of the humans being even when acknowledging that they want to take risk are actually risk averse.

Look at how many people are enrolled in retirement plans without taking an active part in their investments. And how many people have a plan B when something happens to their job. It is easy to say that you are ambitious but it is the actual plan that you put into place to achieve your ambitiousness. You really have to accept your losses in order to achieve your goal but most of the people just shy away from that. It is the fear of failing that stops many people of achieving their goals and hence they become ambitious less for their entire lives.

The New Wiki leaks

The website Wiki leaks have been in the news lately with releasing sensitive and secret documents about the communications of American diplomats around the world to the State department. Before this it was the Iraqi documents that were leaked and now this. Although all the communications should have been private and the release really shows a serious breach of security. But it does show the true faces of people who confided into these diplomats and the realistic communications that were sent to the State Department. For example what do you make of this fact that of all the talk about the so called Muslim Unity that the Muslims so tirelessly say, one of the most important Muslim countries want the United States to bomb their other Muslim country. It is really a height of hypocrisy.

It is really a fun way to see the true faces of people when they confide to American diplomats and then are getting exposed to the world. Although with this new leaks it would be more difficult for the diplomats to get the true picture of what is going on in the world and also even if they get the true picture, it won’t be sent via cables but will be told face to face so that no leaks whatsoever will come out. It will be more secretive than ever and that is now the sad part of these new wiki leaks, the opposite of what the founder of the website I guess intended.

Excuses for a Terrorist would be

I am so tired of hearing excuses regarding the home grown terrorists. We always hear that they were not integrated into the society that they succumb to the extremist ideology. We keep on catching these failed terrorists and then we try to find some excuse for their behavior. Is it not the fault of the parents foremost to make sure that their kids does not fall into the wrong crowd or monitor their behavior? There is no excuse in any book of the world, divine or otherwise that says that you have to kill people just because your own mind is screwed up with hatred. If you hate this country so much then why are you availing the opportunities it is offering you.

This is not an Islamic country that the Muslim people want to apply their own laws and rules. You live under the laws of the land whatever they are and if you want to live under Islamic laws, Muslims should go to a country where there are those rules (and by the way there are none where you can live by Islamic or sharia laws no matter what those countries say otherwise). Be thankful that you can live in this country which has freedom of religion without being harassed by the state or other religions otherwise check out the so called Islamic countries where you come from and then you will wake up to thank your new adopted country.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The world of Cubicles

If you are in the corporate world (or were in one) you would have noticed that you were sitting in a cubicle minding your own business and doing your own work. You may not have realized but you spend most of your waking hours in that small area (unless you are an executive with a room then that becomes your world). So in order to make that cubicle homely and less boring, many people try to personalize it with their stuff. Most of us put their families picture frames prominently on their desks so that they can be reminded that they have a family. Some put different souvenirs and some eatables to make it sort of a junk food area sharing with their colleagues.

Since that is your work area, you also put some post-it and reminders and other important papers either nailed or pasted on the walls of the cubicles to remind you of what to do. Some of the people really go overboard and their cubicles look like a hoarder’s area with all sort of stuff and that makes you wonder how they find their important stuff. But to tell you, every cubicle is different depending on the person’s taste and style and it is really a fascinating world that has not be explored to the fullest.

Marketing On everything

If you look around yourself, you will see that everything and every body is about marketing. Even us human beings, we want to look good and presentable while interviewing for a job and even when we have a job we try to look good so that we may be marketable and presentable to the other people and our bosses so that they may keep us in mind for our presentation. Every thing in this universe is about marketing. If there is no marketing, then you would not know what things to buy, even to sell. If you go into a store and see the same thing at the same place you can become bored or when you see a website for a long time, you may not want to visit it quite often if there is no change. So even in stores and on websites you see different ways to attract people and keep their attention. This is all forms of marketing.

Even things that are not pleasant to one’s eye can become pleasant after they are marketed in a certain way or even played and displayed over and over again. Your status symbol also is one form of marketing to tell people that you have enough money and you want to flaunt it the way you like. You want to be liked and hence you try to make everything you have to be presentable to other peoples. So anytime you want the world to know that you have something or you even exist, you have to market

Openings on Thanksgiving

A new controversy has started to brew this thanksgiving. It is that of store opening. There are two groups on the opposite side of this debate. One says that is it not right to open stores and the other says that it is okay to open it. The group opposing it says that since the workers in the stores open don’t get the chance to celebrate thanksgiving with their families, it is unfair to them. But the group supporting the opening of the stores says that it is okay to say thanksgiving and then go out shopping. If you ask the people working in these opened stores they will agree with the opening of the stores as the economy has really made it hard for people to get jobs and in this way at least they will be earning some money for their loved ones.

I believe that in this day and age when the internet is on 24/7 all year long, the opening of stores is just a matter of survival for these stores. And any employee who does not want to work can still take that day off but will lose the chance to make money. With internet always on and some stores opening, it is now okay to open the stores and it should really be the choice of people whether they want to work or shop or just stay home. But always remember that the economic situation of different people will dictate their willingness to act or not to act in a particular way.

Black Friday mania

It seemed to me that this previous Black Friday (the day after thanksgiving) was not that much hyped. Although I received lots of flyers in my mail, but I did not particularly saw much fanfare regarding it. It may seem that most of the items were already online and people have started to already buy stuff on the web, but also it seems that people are waiting more deals to come after this day. The economy is slowly recovering but people behavior has not judging by the number of people spending money (even if they had to go into debt).

Another thing that I noted is that the discounts and deals were not that great as compared to last time. Maybe it was because the economy was in the dumps last year and retailers were struggling to get their sales up with great deals, but this year they were smart enough to not discount that much. And still people came to buy stuff; it is just that whatever happens to the economy, people minds have been programmed to get the deals even if they don’t have the money. Personally I have never stood in line to buy stuff for hours even if I am very passionate about it. I just got my computer online which was a better deal than even the black Friday deals on various website. So if you are attentive and passionate you can still get that deal without standing in the line for hours and fighting the crowds. Overall I did not find that much passion in this year’s Black Friday than last years.

What not to cut in recession

This recession as brutal as it is to everybody has become a chainsaw in terms of what gets cut in terms of jobs. The chainsaw is being swing here and there without finding out what the impact will on the communities. I know that due the hay days, promises were made which cannot be fulfilled right now due to lower revenues coming into the coffers of municipalities and states. But who decides what to cut and what is not politically feasible not to cut. The current trend is to the law enforcement personnel. The most obvious one was the Newark cut of almost thirteen percent but other municipalities in New Jersey are cutting police personnel blaming everything on the economy without looking into creative ways to cut the budget.

I believe that the first order of business for a government is to protect its citizens. Who is going to invest in an environment where there is a deterioration of law and order due to less police personnel? According to me, the police personnel should not be let go in any circumstances especially in places where there is already a spike in crime like Newark, Camden, Jersey City, and Irvington etc. Money can always be found to keep these police personnel on the force. It is not a matter of budgetary constraints but the safety of the citizens and people feel more secure when they see more police presence not less.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The new airport security screening process

I remember the time, when there was such a big fuss about the new airport screening process and how it will make us naked in front of strangers, and how much radiation it is emitting and also the pat downs were so intrusive. But after much hue and cry, I don’t hear much about it anymore. There was also going to be a boycott of these rules, but nothing came out of it and now everybody is somewhat resigned to this fact that we are living in different times. I know that I will feel the same way as any other if somebody touches me or see myself naked on the X-ray machines, but do you have any other idea how to make passengers secure and are you going to not ever travel by air due to this procedure.

At least the new process is not racial profiling and every body is going through it, which is a good thing. But life is going on and I have not heard many people say that they will not fly altogether. It is sad that it has come to this but in order for us to be secure we will have to sacrifice our precious civil liberties and cooperate with the law enforcement personnel so that every body feels safe.

The North Korean Dilemma

What to do with North Korea. That is a million dollar question. They have been belligerent for so many years and with sanctions in place and international pressure on, they don’t really care about it and are an unrecognized nuclear power and threatening our allies in Asia. The United States along with Japan and South Korea have been trying very hard to contain this menace and bring North Korea to the table to dismantle their nuclear program but as long as the Russians and especially the Chinese support them, they would not budge.

The Chinese have a legitimate reason not to do it and we are not looking into that. They don’t want a collapsed regime there with millions of hungry Koreans knocking on the door of china. And furthermore, the Chinese want some thing in return to pressurize the Koreans is that the Americans stay out of their backyard. Another thing is that the Chinese really don’t know in earnest what to do with the North Koreans themselves. The Chinese have helped the North Koreans so much that they have come to rely on them (the Chinese) to bail them out every time things become a little hotter on the international scenery. Maybe they want some attention, every time the Koreans start to fade away from the international scene. There are no easy choices in this case, so this thing keeps on dragging along.

For-Profit Colleges

Although for profit colleges are proliferating, I don’t believe they are as good as the non profit ones. And I was correct in the sense that a report came out stating that the graduation ratio is lower and student debt is heavier than non profit. The biggest comes have advertisement all over the internet and some are exclusively online, but they have not shown that the real world is ready to accept their degrees as well as the non profit ones. Even with the internet and having a lower over head costs than traditional colleges, they charge an outrageous amount of fees. I thought that since you are on the internet, you have lower over head costs and thus you pass down those lower costs to your students but I guess I was wrong.

I did once studied at a for profit college and I can assure you that you are better off in a community college cost wise. I would not recommend a for profit college if you can get admission into a traditional college. Some people will still go on to these colleges and be in debt for the rest of their lives for a degree that is not accepted as much as traditional colleges, but it is up to the individual to make comparison and look at their own finances and talk to people before they take a plunge into them.

The increasing vulnerability of the internet to hackers

In addition to the internet being a great tool in helping people accomplishes a lot of things, there is this dark side of unscrupulous people hacking into the systems and illegally taking away personal information and identity and then play with peoples’ lives in ways that was not imagined before. If you are a computer expert, it is much easier to hack into someone’s account and steal their information. But you don’t have to be so vulnerable, unless your information was stolen by some hackers who steal information from the data servers of big corporation, you can really protect yourselves by taken simple and reasonable steps which can really help you in the long run.

Just making your passwords strong and longer and also not to give information if you feel it is suspicious, just pick up the phone and call the company that you have received such and such email and if it is legitimate. Keep all your information to yourself and not share with other people. And also monitor your credit report to make sure everything is correct with it. I know the internet is made by humans and it is not fully secure and there will always be people who will infiltrate it for their own evil plans but you can still make yourself secure by following the aforementioned steps.

The California and Britain tuition hike

Recently there was an eight percent tuition hike in California, which was on top of the thirty two percent already approved this year before. Protests started but ultimately it was approved. The same thing has happened in the U.K. where the tuition has been raised to three times the present amount. The protest that happened there became violent and after much debate, it was also approved. I really don’t understand that why did the students think that the education will always be low cost. The years of squandering away the money and promising money that we did not have to government employees and borrowing money to pay for all this when the credit was easy was not going to last long.

It is unfortunate that the students have to suffer for the extravagant of the government, but it was bound to happen and every time there is a recession, education gets the axe. It is easier to raise tuition fees for the students since no matter what there will always be customers for them but also for long, the government had been subsidizing it with and the students were getting used to it so the new increases have come as a shock to them. It is a new reality that the governments around the world have finite resources and out of that they have to allocate it among so many programs that this was bound to happen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rethinking our priorities based on new economic realities

Are we ready for taking a fresh look at the economic realities, apparently not (look at the new budget stimulus that is being discussed right now-more on that later). We are still acting like we have the money to pay for every thing from pension, social security, Medicare and Medicaid, defense and printing money (that we don’t have). I think that when people started to realize that they will have to give painful sacrifices, then they becomes subdued and not demand that much. Although the TEA party came on the platform of reduced government and reduced taxes, but even they know that it will not be easy or possible without making sacrifices that maybe unacceptable to their voters.

The new economic realities are that we have to cut defense and all the other entitlements and raise taxes on everybody and they should be able to pay the fair share of their incomes. If you want to keep the entitlements then all the deductions, exemptions and exclusions should be eliminated and defense should be cut down to the necessities and we should not see every problem in the world as a threat to national security. Reassessing our priorities based on our new realities should be the first consideration and that is not what is being told to the American public. Until we start doing that, we should expect this recession to be a fading memory again in a few years.

Next on the domino list-Ireland

So finally after refusing to accept any aid and saying that everything was fine and dandy with their finances (like the Greeks did), Ireland has finally accepted aid from the European community and will slash budget by billions of dollars in the coming years. I guess that the good times had to come to an end, but like any other person and country, denial was the name of the game but for how long they were going to deny that they had a problem. The market were letting them know that they are in trouble but they did not wanted to see the ugly side of their finances and now that they have, it does not look pretty any way you see it.

Ireland is a small country with even less people but their debts that were guaranteed by their governments to their banks were more than what they could have repaid it by themselves. So it was a matter of not if but when they would have asked for help. Now that the help of billions of dollars have been approved, the markets next sight has been set on Portugal, the next weak link in the chain of heavily indebted Euro-Zone countries. We will see how longer they can resist and convince the market that they are not Ireland

Anxiety and fear over china-3

The latest news that people are anxious about it is the high speed rail that they have developed, along with the fastest supercomputer in the world and to the lesser known, the Drone missiles technology and also how the students in shanghai are on top of the world in the studies. Instead of having panic attacks and feeling down on our luck, why don’t we do something about it. We have plenty of talent and land is also plentiful and funding is also there, all we need is that the leaders should have the courage to say that they are going to do it without fighting along party lines.

Now because of the federal debt anxiety, people will be hesitant to go large scale on some of the projects but we can still do it if we can put the right amount of money in the right places and not to spend on frivolous items that we don’t have to spend on. As the old people remember that during the late fifties, there was high anxiety when the Russians send their first person in space and then we went ballistic and send our first man to moon in fewer years and established our supremacy. We can do the same thing and still reduce the debt but we have to take bold measures in order to do that and if are unable to do it than we should not lose our sleep over other countries gaining on us because we may have surrendered our supremacy on a platter.

Anxiety and fear over china-2

But then when the politicians wake up from their long nap, they realize that the world has changed and now they are unable to dictate how other nations set their policies when you at home are deep in debt and fighting two wars and you are in a deep recession (yes, it has not ended whatever economists say). Just go into any store and you will see that most of stuff is made in China. If they really care about the American people, then there should be less regulation and more manufacturing and also giving incentives to people to invest here in America. But there are pretty much many things which cannot be effectively and cheaply manufactured here (unless you have the cheapest labor and unregulated environment).

On the military side, the Chinese are rapidly upgrading their military capabilities in commensurate with the rise of their economic power. Does not these things happen, it happened to Britain, Spain, and the United States, so why the alarm. The Chinese are not fighting any wars nor do they have militaries in different parts of the world. And our own budget dwarfs the defense budgets of all the other countries of the world almost combined. And we issue securities and IOUs to finance out budget (which includes the defense budget) so we should not be in a position to raise alarm without much cause, since right now we have enough on our tables to deal with our problems.

Anxiety and fear over china

There is not a single day that you hear news from China, before the Soviet Union Collapsed, America was obsessed with that country but only for military reasons, there was no question about who is strong economically and it was just a matter of time that the weight of the military expense will do that nation in. But long after the Soviet Union Collapse, another two obsessions have been haunting the U.S. lately namely, the Islamic terrorists (I will name them what they are for) and on the economic side the spectacular rise of China. Due to our two wars in the Asia and hobbled by the great recession and the war on Terror, we have not been paying much attention to the Chinese rise early on. But now that genie is out of the bottle and you can’t put it back again.

We have become the most heavily indebted country in the world from the biggest creditor in the world and we still can’t get our acts together due to our constantly bickering political parties. But still when the politicians have time on their hands, they turn their attention to China and not in a positive way. They are constantly talking about currency manipulation and military expenditures and about how the Chinese are not playing fair in international trade, and then they constantly come up with different threats of tariff levies, cutting off technologies exports, labeling them currency manipulator and what not.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Outrageous Medical bills and Insurance

My daughter had a little accident at the school and she broke her elbow and it has been two months since it happened but even with insurance I am still paying little by little because of the deductible and co pays to the doctors and hospitals. When I see the explanation of the amounts billed by the providers and how much the insurance company decided to pay (based on their own formula and negotiated deals with the providers) it is really outrageous. For example, the recovery stage after the operation was a little over an hour, but the hospital billed the insurance company almost eleven hundred dollars. I shudder to think how much people without insurance pay to get them treated.

I guess with all the Medicaid cuts and the lack of insurance and how much they get paid ultimately, the providers have no choice but to bill at three times the rate they will get reimbursed. And I don’t see any reason to believe that the insurance premiums and health costs are going to come down anytime soon, even the massive health care bill. There is no way that the insurance companies will lose money by insuring more people. Since the cost of the uninsured when they are treated is ultimately borne or spread over the insured people. Expect to pay much more out of pocket in the coming years as the number of people getting governmental insurance increases and the insured get soaked into paying more.

Fascination with the Royals

Ever since the news came that the British Royals Prince William is going to get married in April of next year, there has been a frenzy of excitement on both sides of the Atlantic. I never got the point of why we (the Americans) are so excited about the royals (especially the British). Do we need a royalty in the United States, the nearest that the media dubbed the royalties were the Kennedys but they also were elected by the people. We as a people got rid of the British mainly due to the royal dictates of the British monarchy and as such never wanted to have one on our side, that is why our people are elected.

I don’t believe it is nostalgia since most of the people were not even born when the United States was under the British Empire; it is just that we need to see some super special couple who happen to be royals. Every time we hear about the royals, it is given prominent news all over the United States. I don’t believe that we would ever have a royalty in this country where you live on the work of other people and become subject to some authority which is from among you and bow to them and believe that they have the divine authority to decide your faith (although British monarchy is just a relic of the past era and it is merely a ceremonial head)

In your face news

I know there are people who try to avoid news deliberately or just don’t have the time, but the news is always out there and even if you don’t want to know about, you hear about it all the time. Even if you shield yourself from the news, your neighbors or maybe your store owner of even some random person standing at the train or bus station may start talking about the most important news of the day and then you can’t help overhearing them and then become curious about it and then want to read it yourself. Take for example, my spouse don’t want to hear anything relating to violence or any other thing that happens to a child (you know what I mean) and I try not to mention it either, but whatever I do she either hears it from her colleague at the office or while flipping channels overhears it on the news and then she gets upset.

How do you believe that we should escape this news onslaught? You can’t unless you are living in a cave and even then you would become curious and want to find out what is happening while you are away. Nowadays the news has become in your face, you can’t escape it even if you want to that is why you see most of the people holding their smart phones logging onto news website or any news which interest them while waiting for their commute or even walking towards their commute. So it is us who want this news always and there is no escaping it.

Does college education teach us about entrepreneurship?

Apparently not, unless you are enrolled specifically in that class or you have a major in that. The majority of the business schools just teaches theoretical work and not put much emphasis on how to run the business. They just prepare students on how to get a job and not how to manage a business. Since the politicians keep on emphasizing that most of the jobs are created by small businesses and entrepreneurial spirit should be emphasized, why not teach students how to start businesses by themselves, how to handle employee relationships and government regulations, how to stay competitive and how to cut costs and expenditure and fuel growth in their business, how to generate sales and how to balance their budgets and how to cope with a downturn. Business schools mean business, it does not mean jobs schools.

I know that ultimately some of the students would not want to have a business but to have the necessary skills to help the entrepreneurs run their business. But would it not be nice to include courses that emphasize the creation of business, not on the paper only but encourage them to put their thoughts in action so that they may become business owners and really put their education to use rather than specialize in only one field of their education.

The frustration of unanswerable resumes

I have been as much frustrated with no response when I have sent my resume and so have countless other people. So I have read countless tales where people have said they have sent out hundreds upon hundreds of resumes and there has not been any response. If I were the human resources person, I would have the answer, but since I am not, I can join in your frustration. Some of the human resources who have come out in the open to explain this have said that in this economy, they have been overwhelmed by resumes and other times the resumes do not fit the specific “match”. For these people, we can see a set pattern of excuses, but for the people who have sent out their resumes, a simple automated reply would be at the least a nice gesture.

I know that the Human Resources guys are overwhelmed, but let’s assume they receive one hundred resumes each day. If there is some automated system, they could at least acknowledge that they have received the resume and if I fit into that criteria they will call me (but they never do actually). You can still personalize that reply by your name or title and since every body is working more hours, it does not take hours just to scan the resume and see that if it matches the description of the job and then all it takes for them is to reply. Maybe I am wrong in this case but since I am on the other side of the table ( I WAS), I will definitely want to have a reply. So you never know even the human resources people can be downsized and then they will have to join the numerous frustrated people who are not getting any responses to your sent resumes.

Changing strategies for Job search

Since now I have a job, I would like to give how the job market has changed and how you have to change your strategies in your job search. From my experience it is just not enough to hit the send button on the internet to every job you think you are qualified for. I am not also in favor of going to the career and job fairs (you can see my articles on that in my previous posts). I think that going to a job fair is a waste of time (unless you want to show that you are really looking for a job). I have been to at least four of them, and none was useful. In fact I had to wait in line for an hour to go inside and then the jobs which really matter are the sales jobs. The real ones are you have to look on the company’s website.

You should at least have a presence of your resume on the internet, that way somebody may see it and call you (that is what happened to me as most of my phone calls came from people who viewed it). The best one of all is networking and knowing the right people in companies where the job opportunities are not advertised. If you have had temporary jobs before, try to keep in touch with those people as they are the ones who really know how you worked for them. Other is to market yourself any which way you can which includes going to your career center in your alma mater and doing something which may expose yourself to more people outside your circle. You just never know when somebody will call you from places where you would least expect it.

Comparison shopping on the internet

Due to the internet, it has become easier to conduct a comparison shopping on it before you go out and purchase something or even you order a service. Before this, we use to call different people from the Yellow phone book and see what their prices are or we use to go to the different stores to check out the prices before we made the purchase. So in essence we had to do all this stuff during the regular work hours or days, but with the internet we can do it at any time and any where and instantly get quotes without leaving the house.

This thing becomes really handy when during the holiday time, you can check the prices quickly go out or order online right away. Even big purchases like buying an automobile, you can compare what each dealer is selling at what price and what kind of add on the car have before you commit yourself to buying. This thing happened to me this holiday season, when I was planning to buy a lap top, and it literally took me less than an hour to find out which site was selling it with the lowest price. Even if you don’t want to visit each retailers site, you can still comparison shop by going to sites specifically for comparison shopping where you can get comparison of prices from highest to lowest and what the people who have bought from them think about the product. All in all, internet has really made our lives easier in this case and you can also do this while you are on the go via your smart phones.

Stop promising what you can’t deliver

Every day I read on the web about how the states and local municipalities are in the hole for hundreds of billions of dollars for the promises that they made to their employees when the times were good and now when it is payback time, they are unable to meet their payments. I don’t understand this situation, promises are meant to be kept and if you can deliver on your promise then why do that in the first place. Did the government know that the good times will keep on going on? Did they not read the history of the economy with its recession and recovery periods? I would not for a second promise somebody these kinds of pension increases when I know that the tax payments will be lower in the future. I mean there are projections out there to find out how much you can get in tax revenues.

But now that they have promised it, they hide it from their real budget and put them off books for some other politician to take care of. Some of the states have not been putting their own share in the pension plans and have been putting it off every year since it is easier to show that you have balanced your budget for the current year. If only we can be realistic about our economic situation and stop promising raises in salaries if we can’t deliver it (which we cannot honestly).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Halloween trick or treating

This Halloween I went out trick or treating with my daughter and wife. Since I was unemployed then, so I had plenty of time. It was surprising to find children coming out before noon to trick or treat and it was pretty chilly for October. Every kid had a different costume and the goodie bags for kids were full. I wanted to put the basket out but my daughter wanted to hand it out by herself and she did a good job answering every door bell when the kids came to trick or treat. She also had a bag full of candies with her and it was her ultimately that decided that she was done walking around the neighborhood.

I remember the time after the 9/11 attacks that very few kids came out during the first few years, but this time around, it was such a festive mood and so many kids were out there for trick or treating that we kept on giving candies till the fall of dark. It was a good and clean fun for kids before the winter cold comes and everybody has to be inside for a few months.

What Recession?

The other day I was at the mall trying to get stuff for myself (you know the jacket and warm stuff) and I was amazed to find that there was no parking in the parking lot. It was as if everybody has won a lottery and were there to spend it right away (they may have been thinking the same thing about it). Anyway there were so many people in the mall and everybody was carrying some bags. Even at the food court, tables were hard to come by and then they say we have a recession. I am guessing these were the other 90 percent or so employed people who were there to splurge their money.

You know recession or not, when the holiday times comes (starting from Thanksgiving to the Christmas time and beyond), people spend money even if they do not have it. There are kids to be spoiled and your relatives have to be brought something for the holidays. Everybody expect that even if they know you may be out of work. Every little gift really brings cheers and joy. But the number of people and the full parking lot surprised me a little bit. I am now guessing that there is a backlash against all this doom and gloom talk and people just want to spend some money after building their cash reserves over the last two years.

Face book firing

Recently there was news all over that one of the persons ranted against the boss of the company and the company fired that person. Many people weighed in on it, some for and some against it. But the matter of fact is that the person should not have done it in the first place. Some companies say that if you are their employee in the workforce and outside of it too, but others have different policies in the workplace and outside it. Anyway I want to emphasize my point here is that particular person should not have put in word or on the internet. In this economy, where the jobs are scarce, this highly publicized case will surely deter other employers to not to hire that person.

Even if you have grievances against your bosses, you can safely say it in a place where you could not be recorded or quoted, but once you put in words especially social network media, you would be damn sure that it will remain there for quite sometime and somebody would report negative comments. Even with all the information about how not to put something negative about any body on the internet, some people make it a habit to do just that and get in trouble for that. So my advice is to stay clear of things which should be harmful or hurtful to somebody unless you are asking for trouble.

Spending money that we don’t have

It is really obvious what I am talking about. We don’t have the money to spend on two wars and finance our domestic obligations. The only thing we are doing right now is printing money in the form of IOUS to anyone willing to finance our extravagant lifestyle. People are not realizing now deep we are in this debt mess, since no politician of importance has tried to highlight the importance and dangers of being over leveraged. We often complain about how China and other countries are export more than what we are exporting them. But have we realized that they are not forcing us to import their stuff. If there is a demand in the U.S. of goods that are made cheaply elsewhere, the importers here will definitely import them. If you go into any store, you will hardly find goods that are exclusively made in America. If it is not China, then it is some other developing country.

The labels may be familiar to the American public but the products are made in developing countries where they are lucky to have jobs-any jobs for that matter. So we import goods from foreign countries and pay them by issuing securities (I call it IOUs) to countries with interest. So we are financing our lifestyle with debt, just as we did before this recession. How long it will last, that is the question for the future to decide.

The economy on my mind

If you have seen my posts on my blog, you would have noticed that I write mostly about the financial world and how the economy is affecting us all. It is because first I have masters in Finance and second I have always been fascinated by the economic and money matters. And also this recession has made us all aware that how the financial markets and economy affect us all even if we are not interested in it remotely. Now since I have tasted how unemployed feels like I feel a sort of affinity with them and hence I eagerly await the monthly unemployment report like all the economists and markets here and all around the world anxiously wait for.

Other things like the trade and budget deficit, tax matters and incentives given by the Federal Government to spur growth and the recent stimulus packages are also keenly looked by me to find out what the future will hold. Another thing is that I don’t only concentrate on the United States economy but also what is happening in Europe and also the fast developing Asian economies keep on attention. Apart from this I read most of the major newspaper (on website of course) to keep myself updated. So all in all the economy is a vast and fantastic world where anytime something interesting is happening that really affects our lives today and also in the future.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blaming us (mostly) for the mess we are in.

We have not been very sincere with ourselves. It is time to fess up to us that we are the ones to mostly blame for what has happened to the economy. Nobody was forcing us to spend money that we did not have. Nobody forced us to max our credit cards to buy needless stuff (although I will acknowledge here that some of the maxed out cards maybe due to the hardship people have endured due to the loss of their jobs). Nobody forced us to take out home equity loans and buy cars and go on vacation. Nobody forced us to take out mortgages that we could not afford to buy houses which were big enough for a small village.

Although there may be some scrupulous people who may have misled some people into buying or getting loans but you don’t have to be genius to figure out that you cannot afford on your salary. And now when the dust has started to settle, blame game has started and we are the ones who are blaming others and not looking at what we did and how we did, a sane and prudent person would not do in any circumstances. So next time, when we are spending other peoples money (that is what it is getting loans) we should use our minds and not our hearts (unless we have the capacity to reconcile both of them).

High Risk, High Return

You have heard about the subject that high risk will lead to higher return. This you have become familiar with in the course of buying stock which is a highly risky venture, but the returns are also very high. If you have ever invested in 401K, you may have had a combination of stock and bonds, if you want a high return you go with stocks and if you want low return, you stick with bonds and savings account. Same goes with gambling, you are playing a game of chance, the risk is that you will keep on losing money, but on the upside you may hit a jackpot while spending little of your money. It is just that you have to take risk. Most people are risk averse and they want to take as low a risk as possible even if they lose out on high return.

You don’t have to go very far to witness this. Take for example, your job. You show up every day and work and leave at the end of the day knowing that you would get your paycheck at the end of every two weeks( or whatever your pay period is), there is no risk or minimal risk involved in working like this but the return are very low. On the other hand, entrepreneurs take big risk by starting a company, not knowing if they are going to succeed or fail. If they fail, they lose everything but if they succeed, I don’t have to tell you what kind of jackpot or return they get. So the two types of people- risk averse and risk takers take different paths to achieving success. Risk averse stay in their cocoon and the risk takers, the rest of the risk averse people work for.

Success is nobody’s domain

If you see all around you, you will find success stories that spans across all races and nationalities, this just shows you that no particular race or nationality has a choke hold on success. As long as you are working hard and have the right idea, you can see success in any venture. You have heard stories like how the poor immigrant has come to this country and have made a fortune. The only ingredient is the right environment for achieving that kind of success. Although some people say that luck also counts and it is true but factoring only luck or giving it more weight than hard work is absurd. You work hard and then if you are lucky then success will come to you. It is not the other way around.

America is a land of opportunity and throughout its history has given ample opportunity to its citizens to succeed. That is why it is still a magnet for would be entrepreneurs and other dreams trying to make those dreams into reality since they know that they will not be judged by which race or nationality they belong as long as they are working hard and playing by the rules, success will come to them. It is now very useless to blame the system or other factors for your failure, since it was long time ago that it used to be that way but it has changed and if don’t believe that then you just have to see all around you and see the successful transition people are making in their lives by working hard.

Lunch Time crunch

Every body takes lunch, that is for sure and some take it more religiously than others do. In America there is no one time you can take lunch. Just see it when you are working and it seems like afternoon, you would sees so many people outside lining up outside restaurants and lunch carts that it looks like they have been hungry for days. I have gone out for lunch at 11:30 (not of my choosing) and also after that and I constantly see a horde of people buying their lunch. Eating lunch outside every day is an expensive proposition but making your own food and bringing it to the office maybe the cheapest way to have lunch but after a while you feel like having some outside food to change your taste.

Anyway you see a lot of hustle and bustle going on during lunch time and when you go to your favorite store and stand in line it is another of part of ordering your lunch. You are hungry but you cannot get fast enough to order your food. These restaurants really make a lot of money during these hours and even roadside vendors make a lot of money. You can call lunch time a fun time since it gives a reprieve from your daily work grind.

Window shopping

Have you ever done Window shopping? I know most of us do and it feels good for a while but then you have to move on. Since most of this shopping you do when either you don’t have much money or are just killing time or even looking for the latest trends. Any way I believe that every body in every class status, indeed do window shopping. Window shopping is not only for the front of the store but you can go inside and check stuff and then realize you don’t have time or the money and then give a sigh of sadness and start imaging that if ever they have extra money they will definitely buy that stuff but mostly it does not happen and then it still remains a dream.

There is also a difference between how the genders do window shopping. Women look at the latest trend in clothes and accessories and children stuff, while men try to look for sports and their own clothes and the miscellaneous stuff they do together is for the home furnishings and home items. And whatever the economy, recession or roaring recovery, there is not a single time that people will stop window shopping, this you can be assured off.

The Last Taboo in Corporate America

Now here is the thing. Can you guess what is the last great Taboo in Corporate America is. It is easy to guess if you have been around the working people. It is how much they make. Nobody either not asks that question or just keep quiet about it. The human resources departments of every corporation do not mention it and also state clearly in their contract with you when you are hired not to discuss your salary with your colleagues. Even you don’t the salary of your closest friends, you can just make a guess how much they make with the title they have and the corporation they work in and how many years of experience they have. You can not make an exact amount of how much they are making.

Maybe the company does not want you to discuss salaries due to some resentment when people of equal qualifications and experience get different salaries. Although some websites have now started to divulge the salaries of common jobs but that is still a range of amount and you don’t know how much your colleague sitting beside is making. Unless you are prying open a Pandora box and telling them your salary can you get them to open up to. I don’t know how much time it will be when we would be able to compare our salaries with other companies with similar responsibilities but don’t hold your breath since it will be quiet a while before that happens if it happens.

Tax laws are not easy

I have been studying Federal Income Taxation (as part of my undergraduate accounting degree) and I can tell you this it is not an easy course. Sure you can memorize the tax codes and the deductions and exclusions to you gross income, but if you have many investments and itemize your deductions, then the real craziness begins. As my professor has said, every time Congress says that they are simplifying the tax code to make more people understand, they make it more complicated.

The tax software that is available in the market is only for those people who have a simple filing like the W-2 that you get from your employer regarding your income and tax payments. Otherwise if you have more than just your job and include investments, interest income, charitable contributions, child support, alimony payments, education tax credit, you have to go to a Certified Public Accountant.

The other thing is that you want to make sure that you don’t miss any itemized deductions that you are entitled to nor you don’t want not to exclude any income which is taxable and you are hiding or have failed to mention to your accountant. I can go on and on regarding the tax structure and how you can maximize your deductions and minimize your taxable income but then you would have to go through of what I am going through now with the Tax course. The only thing I can say is that the Tax laws are not easy by any means.

The Great American consumer readjustment

There has been a great revolution (if you can call it so) going on in America and that is the consumers are readjusting their priorities and trying to stay within their means. Although it is not true for every body, and it is not willingly been done but it is happening because they are so stressed out with money issues? People literally don’t have money to splurge on things which they don’t need. This is due to homes being underwater, very restricted access to home equity lines of credit, maxed out credit cards, losses in 401K and retirement funds and also in stock markets investments.

People are also worried about their jobs, and their future and they are in no mood to spend mostly because they are not sure what will happen the next day or how will they pay back their debts. Although look at another way, this is not good that when people don’t spend money, the economy would not grow, but on the other hand for an uncertain future where even pensions and social security and high health costs will eat into whatever you are saving now, saving more now to be debt free or less debt during your retirement years is a good thing to come out of this recession. I do hope that this trend of consumer readjustment of their spending priorities continues for the sake of themselves and for the economy as a whole because the less we consume, the less we will have debt for your own household and for the country (which is now drowning in debt).

Children are blessing, not expense

I keep on hearing that children are expensive to bring up in the U.S. and that is why some couples don’t want one or are just satisfied with one (grudgingly). But from my standpoint, children are blessing and they should not be viewed with the prism of some balance sheet. It is true that it is expensive, but the joy when you see their faces out weighs any expense that you may incur while raising them. And this is not from my experience, but also the numerous fertility treatments that are in the U.S. helping childless couples have that dream of holding that baby in their arms. It is the best feeling in the world.

Also people who can’t have kids even with fertility treatments go to extra lengths to have surrogate parents have their kids, adopt even if they can outside the U.S. and even go to sperm banks to have that baby. I came from a four sibling family, so it is natural to love kids and that is why I really hate people when they say the kids are expensive or the baby was not planned or they came by accident. Just count your blessing that you were able to conceive, and if you can’t do that just look around you and see how many couples are going to extreme lengths to have that one bundle of joy in their lives.

Living paycheck to paycheck

Due to this economy, people are living paycheck to paycheck (and it includes me too). Although many people were living like that before, but this time the devastating recession has forced people to tap into their savings and other investments and just keep themselves afloat. And due to this most of us working class people are living paycheck to paycheck and we don’t have sufficient savings in case we loose our jobs. Is this good or bad. The answer is obvious, it neither and it is worse than the worst. Everybody is scared about their jobs, but they don’t have solutions to how to secure their future or how to save enough for a rainy day which can come anytime.

How to mitigate this solution would ultimately depend on different people, but start with spending less or cutting down on unnecessary expenditures, being patient with what you want to have unless you really have to and again having a second extra income on side on the weekends would at least help in reducing the stress of your work and worrying about what would happen if that dreaded day of a pink slip comes so that you can be prepared in advance.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On the lighter side-Travel- Hague, New York-3

The next morning we decided that we should take a hike on the mountain adjacent to where we were staying and it was a steep hike, after a while my wife decided that it was not worth it to go all the way to the top and we came back and took some picture of the scenery around us. It was the day when the daylight savings time kicked in, so the night was going to fall one hour early. Thus we decided that it is better to have a jump start in our commute during the day time.

The major highway was about 20 miles from where we were staying and the roads were desolate and windy so it was very good that we decided to leave early. We took some pictures on our back of the surrounding Adirondack Mountains and it was really very beautiful. And that was the end of our 2 day trip to Lake George. But it was a lovely trip but my main point here is that everything of land was on sale and it was cheap the further inward you travel from the lake. Although I can understand that there are no jobs or big corporations out there to support development. But the land is so cheap that we don’t even have to go outside the United States to outsource our work, we can build factories to create job right here in our own back yard but then it is the question of all that regulations that impede this kind of growth and the high labor costs that is killing our job machine. But if you have a chance, do visit the Lake George Area for vacation.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

On the lighter side-Travel- Hague, New York-2

The second day we took some pictures of the lake and went to the local grocery store. Since we are from New Jersey where the local stores open 24 hours, we were surprised to find that the store closes at 5.30 P.M on weekdays and 3.00 P.M. on Sundays. Anyway since it was cold enough not to take a boat ride on the lake, we decided that we should at least drive to get the gas in the car. It was a scenic drive with very few people in between and after getting gas, we decided to explore our little (with people) town and it was really fun. The houses were too far apart to do trick or treat or any other neighborly activity and then we drove on the tracks on the local mountain and oh boy what a drive it was.

There were houses on these mountains where people like us would never think about making a house but to each his (or her) own. Anyway after that the trails were like a never ending road so we decided to come back down lest we find ourselves with no dirt road to drive on. After that we just stayed inside the cabin and watched TV and keep on put logs of wood in the fire place to keep the cabin a little bit warmer (we already had the heating on anyway). After that night time came and then we ate lunch and went to sleep.

Friday, December 3, 2010

On the lighter side-Travel- Hague, New York

This past month I took my family to visit the Lake George area of Upstate New York. Although it was a cold 42 degrees, but we had already planned this vacation in advance since we did not got the chance to have a vacation in the summer months. It was almost four and half hours drive, but when we were going there, in between it was really dead like nobody was there to begin with. The town that we stayed in have a year round population of about 700 people on an area of about 80 square miles (about four times the size of Manhattan) so you can imagine how sparsely populated the area would be.

To begin with we had some stuff with us to eat and where we stayed it was a log cabin area with heat and hot water included but besides that there were logs to put in the fireplace so that was the fun part. The scenery of the lake and the mountains was right in front of us meaning we could have watched the sun rise and go down right through our window. It was a damp day and since we had driven such a long way, there was not much time to see anything except stay inside and light the fire and enjoy the log cabin.

Back to the deficits- some ridiculous suggestions I heard

I was watching television one day and there it was on it on how to reduce the deficit, some of the most ridiculous ideas that I heard was sell the public parks and monuments yielding us nearly 4 trillion dollars. As they said, it will help to balance the budget in the future, but nobody discussed that it is a one time deal and the deficit is going to remain with us for quite sometime. Any way it was one ridiculous idea that is too far fetched and ridiculous to start with. And this I heard from so called experts.

I mean why even think about even selling your national treasures and parks which are priceless to start with. There are so many other ways to reduce the deficit and they had to talk about this one shot deal. Have we really ran out of ideas of how to fix the budget deficit that we are just swinging our arms in the dark trying to catch on any idea that comes to our mind as the ONE which will solve our debt and deficit problem once and for all. These suggestions should be in some comedy show and a serious discussion like this should not be left to some news magazine on so called television news shows.

The election results

Now that the elections are over, we have a new landscape of Republicans majority and the Democrats the minority. Like the Republicans in the Clinton era, when they took over the Congress, the Democrats did not learn their lesson and they got high when they won the White House and the Congress and went on a spending spree and then have paid the price. This was not suppose to happen since the American public was tired of the Republicans eight year reign but the Democrats made such a mess that they did not have a choice and throws them out.

It is true that when the Democrats took over, the economy was in a mess but they did not make things better by spending their first year on the so called health care bill and then the humongous stimulus package that was suppose to cure the ills of this recession. It did avert the disaster, but the jobless rate never came down much and the government’s inaction and anti business policies made it much worse. It is also true that if people are happy and content with their lives and jobs, they will want the status quo, but I guess it is never learnt in Washington and the incumbent politicians mess it up and are the target of people’s wrath no matter what their affiliation is. Now here the lesson learnt is the biggest issue facing the American public right now is the economy and if it is not fixed, the next two years of the Democratic presidency does not look good.

Are boys really slow?

I keep on hearing that boys are slower than girls and I am in fact getting tired of hearing it all the time. What makes them slow that they are in fact on all the top corporations of the world? It is true that the girls mature early, but that does not prove that the boys take their own sweet time to grow, some boys grow mentally faster and they have more opportunities to explore as compared to girls. Maybe it can be also be true that they are still immature after marriage or there are so many shows on television depicting men as really dumber than girls. Even in horror movies, the last person standing is usually a girl, but it is a stereotype that is being created by the media and even some parents.

Once you take into account that boys indeed get matured later on, but it does not mean they are slower or more mentally backward. It is just nature and to suggest that boys can have a pass since they are the slower ones and they learn more slowly is to create an environment that reinforces this kind of stereotype and it is not healthy to the male species and it may ultimately harm their growth . As I still refuse to believe that boys are slower than girls.

Loyalty-Then and Now

By loyalty I mean to a company or a workplace. Long time ago people use to work for a single company and retired from there (they now too but not that much). At that time the upheavals of the economy has not caught on like they are now. Another factor was that by staying with one company, they would accumulate pension and if they leave, they would have lost it. But now the meaning of loyalty has become murkier and somewhat irrelevant. This is due to one of the lasting effects of private pension funds like the 401K plans where you accumulate money and when you resign, it would not affect your 401K and you can take it to another company.

This mobility of the retirement benefits is one of the main reasons of the erosion of loyalty to a single company. Another thing that I have noticed is that the employment has become kind of “at will”, meaning you can give the company two weeks or less of a notice and the company can do the same without shedding tears on either side. Is this good or bad, you be the judge, but since the corporations see their own bottom line, people have started to see theirs and where they can find better jobs, they will move on without even thinking about what they are leaving behind. The only loyalty is towards your own and nobody else.