Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tradition is the king in Job Hunt

As the summer season approaches and school’s is out, many of the young people will try to look for a job. I read that in order to land one of these coveted positions, the look that the youngsters show during the school will go out of the window when it comes down to interviewing. As everybody who is or has been in the job market knows that when it comes time to apply for a job, it is not appropriate to make a fashion or political or any other kind of statement when you are at the interview. This even goes for high school people who should be acting like a professional.

In order to land one of the positions, this is not the time to show your piercings and tattoos to the prospective employers since most of the interviewers are conservative to start with or have been through that phase and knows that if you act out of the ordinary, your chances of getting an internship or a summer job are next to none. They want a person who is a team player and can fit into the organizational culture and structure. So for a few hours each day you can be somebody else if you want to show that you are one of them because in the future their reference will be crucial in order to land a better job with a better company. So trying to one of them is the way to go.

Seriously, no diversification

Since the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan a few weeks ago, shortage of parts mainly for automobiles but other electronics have started to crop up. And this I really don’t get it, if a country like Japan has an out sizing effect on the shortages of critical parts, what could happen if for example China or India is hit by a major disaster. This also points to the fact that with all the knowledge and know how the business people have and study a simple item like the need to diversify has not crossed their mind. In the business school, they teach the students to diversify their portfolio, don’t put all the eggs in one basket, and always have a backup plan and then this Earthquake happens and we are facing a shortage of parts from Japan.

This just shows that despite the knowledge of doing business, we are still not yet prepared to diversify and branch out different parts from different areas of the world and just rely on one country to provide us with parts to complete our products. This is highly ridiculous and carelessness on the part of the corporations. With all the talk about having a broad vision about where your company should go, this myopic view of having a centralized and highly vulnerable place to have critical parts produced and shipped is not understandable by me at least.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nationalities die hard-3

Now when the war starts under whose flag the European would be fighting. Would the Italians object to a French General or French to a Spanish General? These things are just on the Military side, what about the Politics? It is trickier than thought with each country jealously guarding their sovereignty and their parliaments. I don’t think that there could ever be a European wide election for a unified President since each nationality is somewhat jealous of another. Europe is so different that if there are common borders, once you cross one you have to speak another language, not to speak of different cultures, the only thing gluing together is the currency.

I can say the same thing about the Arab people, although they speak the same language and religion but once you cross into another country you have to deal with a new currency even different ways of doing the same thing, same language with different accents and the animosity and egos that are built into them can’t be overcome. You cannot go to another country without a visa or start a business just because you happen to know the language. So as the above two examples suggests, it is very hard that nationalities can die just because you have a common currency, language or religion.

Nationalities die hard-2

If other European unions are clamoring to join the Euro, it is just because of the monetary union and the perceived benefits it can benefit their economies. If a political union is called for like a European parliament which supersedes all the European unions and a unified head of States, everybody would run for cover. Because everybody knows that Germany, being the strongest economy in the Union would want to have their own head of Unified Europe but what about the French. They have a stronger military and are a nuclear power and the British used to have an Empire do they not want to have their own head of State.

It will not even come to that, for example by a fluke it is decided that one of the Germans or the French or the British becomes the head of State of Unified Europe, does that person have to learn two or three languages in order to get their message across. Will the Germans order the French or the British militaries to respond to a crisis? Where will the Unified European Military Headquarter would be? Would the European military purpose clash with the NATO and would that also include asking to leave the U.S. Military to leave their continent. Can you imagine a European Military where there are four or five languages spoken? In the time of war, would every communication be translated into several languages?

Nationalities die hard

European union was supposed to be just that a union among equals with shared culture, religion and boundaries but whatever the official thinking comes out of it, it does not show any when it comes to foreign policy or national interests. Although it is Europe, but with different cultures, languages, history, foreign policy etc, the myth of a super United States of Europe is nowhere in sight. We see this all over the place, first with the French giving recognition to the Libyan rebels without consulting the greater Europe, and then there are the Italians trying to shore up the national industries by putting barriers to foreigners (read other Europeans) and putting their national industries out of the reach of foreigners. Now the Germans came back swinging and have refused to take part in any military action against Libya.

No matter how hard the Europeans try, they would always be different states with different languages and policies, cultures and animosities. Integrating a currency and some other monetary stuff is not going to make them a union. There will always be different prime ministers and presidents and kings and not one President (like the United States). Can you imagine New York State recognizing the Libyans but New Jersey refusing to do so? California trying to stop GM in order to protect its own industry. Arizona refusing to send its troops to Libya while the Texans happily does that. And these are just a few things to ponder.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


If you have watched TV shows regarding renovating houses, you may have come across many shows where the renovator budgets some amount and the renovation never stays in the budget. And that is the crux of the problem, no matter how much expert you are in budgeting stuff; you never know what happens when you renovate your house. And other thing is that there is no time line on when you can finish your renovation because you may first of all have to have permit in order to start your renovation and when you are doing one then you have to pass the inspection regarding buildings, otherwise you would do something which is against the law and you fail the inspection and you are back to square one.

That is why you need a really good contractor who knows what he is doing and what the law is about. Even licensed contractors sometimes goof off and do some sloppy job and then fail the inspection. You don’t want to change contractors in the middle of your work. It is nice if you can get references regarding a good contractor who can do the job according to your specifications and satisfaction. Renovation requires so much work and money and you have to deal with uncertainties that you have to be realistic about everything like time, money, expectations when you decide to do one.


In deciding whether to renovate or not, many factors are involved, mostly it is about money or whether you want to stay in one area or if your family is expanding. But mostly it is about money. You have to set aside a certain budget and then try to work within it to make your renovation and it is an ongoing process. If you are short of money, then you can renovate one part of the house and then do the rest when you have money. Some people use the home equity line of credit to do renovation (I would suggest against it), while some use their savings to do the necessary work. Either way you are reducing the amount of money available to you in times of emergencies.

If you have a major renovation then it is better to stay out of the house for a few months but where to go, if you have relatives you can move in with them and thus same some money (but cause inconvenience to your family and theirs in the meanwhile). Or one suggestion is to stay in your home and do your renovation room by room so that you don’t have to move out of the house. But any way you do it, it will be inconvenience to have contractors and repair people coming in and out of the house every day for weeks on end.


Now we come to the part which is the most expensive (depending upon what you want to do) besides buying the actual house and it is called renovation. It can be many types, the most expensive one is to level the house and build it to your own specifications (if you have the land for it). But short of rebuilding the whole house, you can make some renovations which can be expensive any way you view it. I have seen renovated houses where they spend the same amount of money as their initial house and that to me at least a waste of money. If you really want to spend the same amount of money on renovation as the house you bought then it is better to buy another investment property and earn some money out of it (unless you have so much money that you can afford to do both but I will still advise against it).

The most basic one is to build additional space in the house or expand the house but you can also redo your whole kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, basements and even build a pool (although I would rather buy a house with a built in pool then install one myself). There have been many shows before that show renovations in progress and also now with the economy down, instead of buying new houses, people are trying to renovate their houses more and more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Libyan war begins

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about going to war in Libya and that is exactly what happened, with the French launching the first strike and then the U.S. joining in. I don’t really understand where all the money is coming from to fight this war. We are trying to reduce the deficit and cut spending but on the other hand we are attacking countries which have nothing to do with our defense. But unless we use ground troops, the rebels in Libya won’t be able to defeat the government forces alone. Although this time around (as compared to Iraq), the other Arab countries are on the side of the U.S. and its allies but that does not diminish the fact that the western world is fighting somebody else’s war.

If we could have used more of the war effort and money concentrating on our own problems it would have been much better. Let for once leave the Middle East alone so that they can solve their own problems like they did in Tunisia and Egypt without resorting to No-Fly zones and aerial bombardment. If the people of Tunisia and Egypt could solve their problems without the active intervention of the international community, I am sure the Libyans can do it too, maybe not as peaceful as both the other countries but they surely would have figured a way out.

Prohibitive cost of manufacturing

Due to the prohibitive cost of manufacturing in the U.S. the manufacturers are either outsourcing their products to other less expensive countries or avoiding the U.S. altogether. It also does not help that now most of the manufacturer’s profits are being made overseas, so it would be foolish for them to make expensive products here and ship it overseas where they would not be able to recoup their product costs. It is costs like high labor and other regulatory costs that have led to the reduction of manufacturing in the U.S. we always talk about the revival of manufacturing here but we don’t make cost benefits analysis to see how can we make a product so much competitive that we can sell it here with the same price as we are selling overseas.

Although some of the manufacturing done here is for the local market and they do recoup their costs but for the bigger companies, the cost of labor and the assorted laws and regulations to comply with is very expensive. With automation we can reduce our cost but then who is going to buy the products when the people are rendered jobless due to this automation. If and only if we can reduce the regulatory burden on our businesses would we be able to compete successfully overseas and reduce our cost of production per product.

Decorating your house-4

Now we come to the bathroom, here also you spend as much as possible within your budget like two sinks, shower stalls and tub at the same time or you can install a Jacuzzi in it. Again it all depends upon your taste, budget and how long you would live in that house. Basement also are an expense which can you either make it partially finished, finished or just leave it unfinished. If you live in a flood prone area or with a high water table, you will have to first water proof the basement before you start to decorate it. You can either make it a gym, game room or just additional kids area or just relaxing family room.

All in all there is no limit to how much you can spend in order to decorate your house. You can either spend millions or you can spend thousands to make your life and your house as comfortable to live in. For me if I will be living in one place for extended period of time (like between 5 to 10 years), I would definitely think about investing thousands but not more than maybe between 30 to 50 thousand. Anything above that will be a waste of money (in these times when the value of the house is barely increasing) since the next owner would have their own tastes regarding decoration.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Decorating your house-3

Now the biggest part of decoration is the bedrooms. Every individual has different taste, when you are a kid you want the room to a certain kind of way and when you grow up, you make it what you want it to be. In the meanwhile, the parents can have their bedrooms decorated with their own photos and their kid’s photos and also the bed should be king, Queen, double sized. Different bed sizes would command different prices. Also you may need a dressing table and side tables with night lamps on it. As for the carpets their color could be synchronized with the color of the bedroom or maybe not, it all depends on your taste.

Kid’s room can be decorated according to their wishes with most of the input coming from you (in terms of money). Their toys or play area can be at one side of the room and their other stuff on different sides of the bedroom. If you have no kids or just living together as partners then you can decorate the other room as you wish. Some people make it like a gym or make a storage area. It all depends upon how you want to utilize the other rooms and in turn the decoration costs will vary. Putting pictures or art work on walls of bedrooms and other rooms is also one of the favorite things that can make the house beautiful and appealing.

Decorating your house-2

Now the carpet thing is also either inexpensive or really expensive, it just depends on your taste. Then once you have your carpet then there is the need of putting rugs on the carpet or on your empty space. Now simple and cheap machine made rugs can be had fewer than thousand or maybe a little more but if it is handmade then you have to shell out thousands and maybe tens of thousands of dollars. Then sometimes you want to change the color of the entire house or some room and this costs money too. Sofas and recliners are another expense in decorating. Leather sofas are more durable ( I have one) then the clothes one but they are both expensive, then you have to buy coffee table and side tables to go along with the sofas.

The above things are only for the living room and dining room is not included which can include table and chairs and depending on your preference and space it can be a four chair table or above that number. The table can be wood or glass but here again you may have to put some decorative piece like a vase or glassware so that the table does not look empty or just simple. This area I believe is the least expensive of all the places or rooms in the house to decorate.

Decorating your house

In one of my previous post I wrote about up keeping your house, like trying to maintain what is already there and not let things fall apart due to water damage and other natural calamities. Now I turn my attention to decorating your house. Once you have taken care of the up keeping, it is time now to make it according to your liking and making it more presentable and habitable. This part is more expensive, since there is no limit to what you can buy for the house to decorate it. You can either buy inexpensive stuff or buy the more expensive stuff to decorate. One of the things is the use of curtains.

One of my sisters changes her curtains every few years since she get bored with the same design and color for a period of time. Although it is expensive to do so every few years but she gets kind of satisfaction to see new designs, patterns and colors. We had blinds in the house, but my wife decided that in addition to blinds she needs curtains to make the rooms and the house prettier and to her liking. Then there is the carpet to be put on the floor. Some like the wall to wall carpet and some like to have most of the area of the house carpeted and leave the rest to expose the wood floor or empty space to walk on with your dirty shoes if you happen to come inside in snow or rain or any other dirt that sticks to your shoes in order not to ruin your carpet.

The economic toll of a changing economy-4

Now we come to the businesses, who have been ruthlessly trying to cut costs by laying off people, off shoring whatever they can and in the process leaving our precarious middle class struggling for their American dream. Then they bring back the cheaper products that they have outsourced to the United States to be sold to the struggling middle class. Our manufacturing base has been slowing eroding for the past 30 years due to outsourcing and we have now become a bunch of low wages nation selling food stuff and working in stores selling cheap overseas stuff. It is this pressure of the businesses on the private sector that creates the incentive to cut more union jobs or reduce their benefits because the jobless people cannot support the well paid union jobs.

The jobs which have not be cut or outsourced to other countries are being cut here by in sourcing with small private contractors or the increasing use of automation. Right now the basic idea is to preserve jobs and if the businesses can be convinced to keep the jobs here then the unions would have to keep out of the equation since any creation of jobs is better than no jobs. The businesses should also be made to realize that in order for their goods to be sold here must also be made here with cheaper non union labor (which has been done in the south).

The economic toll of a changing economy-3

Now we come to the businesses, who have been ruthlessly trying to cut costs by laying off people, off shoring whatever they can and in the process leaving our precarious middle class struggling for their American dream. Then they bring back the cheaper products that they have outsourced to the United States to be sold to the struggling middle class. Our manufacturing base has been slowing eroding for the past 30 years due to outsourcing and we have now become a bunch of low wages nation selling food stuff and working in stores selling cheap overseas stuff. It is this pressure of the businesses on the private sector that creates the incentive to cut more union jobs or reduce their benefits because the jobless people cannot support the well paid union jobs.

The jobs which have not be cut or outsourced to other countries are being cut here by in sourcing with small private contractors or the increasing use of automation. Right now the basic idea is to preserve jobs and if the businesses can be convinced to keep the jobs here then the unions would have to keep out of the equation since any creation of jobs is better than no jobs. The businesses should also be made to realize that in order for their goods to be sold here must also be made here with cheaper non union labor (which has been done in the south).

The economic toll of a changing economy.-2

Not only the unions and the businesses are at fault but the state governments are also complicit in this denial of the changing economy. First the unions are still thinking that they can get their way with high wages and benefits like they used to do while the economy and the times around them have changed. These high wages and benefits were due to people who use to work for the private sector and high property taxes paid for their salaries, but as the jobs have shrunk and outsourced and wages have come down, the people who use to vote for the property taxes blindly are now in complete revolt and they want the salaries of the union members come down to earth (reality) and start sharing the pain everybody is feeling.

Union’s powers were good for a time when there was no internet and the world was run by us with wages sky high. But the world has now awakened and it is no longer necessary to pay workers that much when you can do the same job more efficiently and faster than before. If the unions want to maintain their membership (and even increase it), they will have to come to realistic expectations about the wages and benefits and act more like private employees than public ones. More realistic demands will make the public more sympathetic to their cause than anything else.

The economic toll of a changing economy.

A few days ago I was reading in the newspaper regarding how the union is fighting the government to preserve its status and in that article it described a town in Ohio where the only path to middle class is a unionized government job. It was just heart wrecking how people are trying to survive their middle class status since the private sector jobs like steel mills and other heavy industry has been decimated due to global competition and outsourcing and the only jobs available are working at a diner and other retailers getting minimum wage or a bit more but not even coming near to what the people were making before in the manufacturing sector.

Now these people don’t have money to put food on their table, how are they going to retrain for a new and changing economy where there is a minimum need for a college education and some advanced skills? It is sad to see the devastation that this middle class is experiencing due to the global competition and how once sure fire unionized jobs are being either outsourced or eliminated thus ending the dreams of millions of less educated folks who once thought that they would be able to enter the middle class spectrum. Although the unions are fighter to preserve their domain but it is a losing battle since the business can simply pack up and leave for a low cost labor market anywhere in the world. Here I would blame the unions and the businesses equally who trying to preserve their influence and profits respectively have created a new underclass in society who stuck in the lower levels of middle class thus ending their families’ dreams of advancing in life further.

Societal expectations of gender roles-2

These stereotypical gender roles are not only confined to kindergarten but are reinforced through out your lives. Males are steered towards their male toys and the girls their girl toys. But even if there are studies out there that suggest that the societal pressures make for gender roles, I don’t believe it is only society that can put so much pressure on you. Societies are made up of people and parents, your cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents are all product of these societies. Even if you look at other societies these expectations continue to exert pressure on human beings to conform to certain roles for males and females.

If this was a new phenomenon we would have dismissed it as a product of modern society but this has been going on centuries and millennia. In the beginning of time, men were the hunters and the women use to cook and take care of the kids. Even now when we have entered the 21st century, both genders have made so many strides in life (especially females) but when it comes to expectation by society, gender roles are hard to shed and we resort to the same old stereotypes. Different colors for different genders and same with the toys and clothes and the way they are raised has not changed and I guess would not change however we try harder to go against the societal expectations of gender roles.

Societal expectations of gender roles

The gender roles that each male and female assumes is based on what a society defines their role should be. But no matter where you are from and what culture and religion you are from, there is a standard expectation that every male and female right from the time they are born. Parents which are part of society also make sure that their kids conform to a certain type of gender rules and play with stuff and wear clothes which appropriately reflect their gender. For example, you would rarely see boys playing with dolls and girls with fire engines and violent toys (although it is changing a bit). But you would not see boys wearing girls’ cloths and girls wearing boys’ clothes.

Even when you go into a toy store or kids clothing store you would not see gender neutral clothes. It is also done in the case of babies, where parents make sure that their boys and girls wear gender specific clothes and colors. Even when sometimes kids want to act the opposite sex, they are strictly or ridiculously admonished not to act like one. Same thing happens with games, when the girls team don’t want to invite their little brothers or the boys team does not want their little sisters to come and play with them. Then your relatives and even strangers define what is appropriate for your gender and it keeps on reinforcing when you join day care or kindergarten.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Upkeep on the house

As I stated in my previous posts that buying a house just not only entails getting the key to the house and paying the mortgage but it is also about the up keeping and taking care of the house. Like you take care of your kids, pets, yourself, car and other things, house is also one of the items that if not taken care of properly will reduce in value, decay and sometimes become inhabitable. This up keeping is besides what you do to improve and renovate your house in order to accommodate your wishes and family needs. And to up keep a house is not easy or cheap. You need to have substantial amounts of money saved just to have such an up keeping done regularly plus have some money for emergency repairs if needs arises (and I really mean they do).

The most money you need is to keep your house safe from water damage as water damages not only the outside of house but it can seep into places inside the house during rain or just a leak from your several faucets in the house. Then you have to maintain your yard and it requires that either you do it yourself or hire some professional (which will mean more money out of your pocket). Then you have to make sure that paint outside of your house has not eroded due to rain, snow and sun. Inside the house you may need some paint from time to time and little repair here and there due to accidental breakup or kids destroying your property while playing. All in all, a house is an investment as well as a money pit and if you don’t have that in mind while trying to get buy your house then you should decide against being a property owner.

Walking away from your mortgage

There is this new trend going on that if your mortgage is worth more than the house value (meaning underwater) you should just walk away. This has been fueled by some books and experts to encourage people to walk away and their credit score would not be damaged much. I don’t get this phenomenon. I mean people bought houses of their own free will and nobody forced them to pay outrageous prices. They signed contracts that they will honor their obligations. Now when the day of reckoning comes, they just walk out of that contract thinking everything will be fine and dandy. If everybody does that then the housing market will be in the dumps and it will never recover.

I believe that if you are able to keep up with your mortgage payments you should not walk away from it. For example, do you walk away from your car loan payments just because your car is worth less than what you paid for initially? If you come to think of it, everything you buy on installment does decline in value, so are you going to return everything just because it happens to lose its value? And what about your credit score and your ability to get things later in life. I can understand that if you lost your job or you have some medical or family emergency that makes it financially difficult to continue mortgage payments but what about the people who can afford it but find it convenient to walk away from their obligations. I really don’t agree with this idea and unless you are in deep financial trouble, there is no reason not to fulfill your obligations.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Email lives on

Despite the onslaught of Twitter and Face book and other social media sites, the Phenomenon called email lives on. I love the email a lot, since it is fast, instantaneous, delivered in a few seconds and get your results the fast as compared to the snail mail. Although you still use the Postal service and the overnight courier for important documents and hard copies, but for the sheer volume of mails to be sent out, nothing beats Email. You can get your newspaper subscription even before the actual copies of the newspaper. You can reach out to persons via email and send out your resumes faster than the regular mail and also get instant replies which saves time and money.

Email is free and you can create many accounts with one email service and still it will come to you instead of having a physical address. All the wheeling and dealings can be done via the email which saves time and the actual transaction can take place in less time since everybody is prepared and less time is lost in reviewing the documents and other items. You can get quote of items that you want to buy in bulk via email and don’t have to wait for the postal service to arrive to deliver you the hard copy. And also the best part is this that the email does not have a designated time in which it operates and does not take weekly holidays. In fact it is the 24 hours feature that gives email the best advantage over any other mail service. Now more than ever it has become essential that everybody has an email account and some have several to sort their important emails from the junk ones.

Eating Outside

Eating Outside does not necessarily only mean eating in a restaurant, but anything you eat outside the house, be it your daily breakfast in the office, your snacks between meals, your eating while roaming in the mall, stopping at a rest stop to eat, just munching on junk food etc. This thing came to my head when I was out in a mall, and people were buying pretzels, lemonade, cinnamon buns, pizza, ice cream to take a break from shopping and anything else they seem to be doing. Even a so called recession cannot stop people from having their favorite foods and snacks since they have to eat to live and sometimes live to eat.

You know maybe eating in a fancy or not so fancy restaurant maybe considered a luxury nowadays but eating in regular restaurants or just eating while taking a trip to the mall or some recreation stop is not considered a luxury and it is not expensive either. This I have noticed that even this economy, people still line up to buy pizzas and other food stuff since it is part of an inexpensive entertainment and families can get together without getting hammered by high prices and also you can call it eating outside without breaking your budget.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Misadventure with the Postal Service

Usually the Postal Service does an excellent job in delivering the letters and other assorted stuff to their destination efficiently and I had never had any complaints with them and I use their service more than any other. But once in a while they goof up big time and only when you need it the most, your item gets delayed for trivial reasons. I had recently had the chance to send some copies via Express mail to Pennsylvania from Manhattan. I thought that as per their guidelines, it would be delivered in an average of 2-3 days (possibly two since it was going to PA from NY) but I regret to say that it did not happen as planned.

I regret now that I should have sent it via certified mail since it would have reached the place in two days, rather than the 7 days it took to reach PA. You know that instead of going straight to PA, it first went to Los Angeles for two days and then it came back to PA for two more days traveling time. I don’t know why it had to go to the west coast first and then come back to east coast. And then it got to PA in four days, it was sent to the wrong zip code sorting Facility. Again went through two days of bungling to finally reach its destination in 7 days. In the meanwhile since it was important documents, I had already emailed it to the recipient. I know that Postal service is losing money, but when you advertise that you can deliver in two to three days and get charged for it too, we should expect it to follow through with their commitment. Other thing is that you can’t get hold of any person since all the lines are now automated on the phones and if you want to know where is your item; you get an automated reply or refer to their website. No live person is available to answer your queries. I know it is expensive but for some inquiries, you really need to talk to some person not a machine. All I can say is that a lesson has been learned not to leave anything to chance and use the fastest and efficient way to send your documents earlier even if you have to spend a little more than what the postal service is asking for.

Earthquake in Japan

The massive earthquake that rocked Japan and the Tsunami that was created afterwards in its wake has certainly shocked Japan and the whole world and aid offerings has started to pour in from around the world. As everybody knows that Japan is a highly advanced and rich country, but still they could not predict or prevent when this Earthquake would happen despite investing billions of dollars spent preparing for the big one. Also due to the Earthquake, Nuclear reactors have been affected and radiation leak have been detected. Pictures have been pouring in and new videos are being released to show the devastation that has been caused by this massive Earthquake.

As with any disaster, countless lives are lost and it takes years of construction to bring some sense of normalcy to the area hit by it. But for now, all the rescue efforts are being focused on finding survivors and providing relief to them. Although Japan being rich does not need too much help from outside world but as fellow human beings we should all help since even Japan cannot cope alone with the devastation, since the initial shock of this massive disaster can overwhelm any nation rich or not.

The floods of 2011 in New Jersey

As usual, nothing was new of the heavy rains that lashed most heavily in parts of Northeast New Jersey causing floods to towns and areas near Passaic River and the flood is still there. Last year the same thing happened and people had to be evacuated and put in shelter. I don’t know about the people who live near the river, but I just need one flood to make my exit out of the place. First of all I would never buy anything near a river which constantly overflows each year and second even if people want to leave the area, they can’t since they will have to sell their houses first. But who is going to buy their houses when all this news of flood is being flashed all over the news.

It is only the government who will be able to buy their houses. But will the people be able to sell their houses at a profit, I don’t believe so, so they will have to sell it at a loss and go somewhere. But by the accounts of some people, they have been there for a long time and are accustomed to it, so it is their choice. Anyway, the floods have affected many areas along the several rivers that dot New Jersey and it will take some time for the people to return to their homes and start their cleanup process and assess their damages.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Multiple sources of income-3

Since franchises are almost out of the question for people who already have a job, the next best thing is to do something which you can do after your job is finished. I know lots of people are tired by the time they leave their office and reach home, but in order to make some extra money, this extra work has to be done. Also during the weekend with the household chores like grocery, shopping and laundry and entertaining the kids, you have precious little time to indulge in more work, but now in order to make something extra, you have to make the time to work on it. Here there can be multiple ways to go about it like if it is your hobby you can turn it into a money making venture.

You can also sell your stuff on the numerous websites sprung up to facilitate just this sort of demographics who want to sell household and used stuff. You can also have a garage sale or sell in the flea markets your unwanted stuff or you can buy new stuff on the cheap and then sell them in your local flea markets. If you are handy with something which is in demand, you can advertise yourself in your local newspapers and on websites so you can also make some extra money there. My point in all of this is that if you have lost your job or trouble finding one or just barely getting by on your current job, it is not the end of the world and there are numerous ways to make money on the side if you have the will and determination.

Multiple sources of income-2

For an additional source of income (besides your day job) is Franchise. Franchise is like you license somebody else’s product or name and open up an additional store under the Franchise’s name. According to what I have researched, Franchise is one of the most expensive forms of business if you want to open one. There are some strict requirements you have to follow in order to qualify for the licensing of the Franchise. In additional, there are some hefty upfront fees, in addition to ongoing licensing fees, quality control and other stipulations spelled out in the Legal contract that you have to sign. Then you have to be present initially full time at your franchise business in order to have full control over your business.

Due to the above factors, I would not recommend that you go out and have a franchise, since it is not a part time job to start with initially. Besides the requirements of heavy capital requirements, it is also not feasible that only one person handles this since it entails negotiations and capital requirements which can exhaust any newbie. It can be used as a partnership business, but you need to put down heavy amounts and be very heavily involved which can take a tool on your regular job. If you have all the capital requirements and other things in place even then you would have to present in the place for quite some time.

Multiple sources of income

In this economy where most people’s home equity is now negative, the retirement funds have been decimated, companies are outsourcing in increasing numbers, the states are cash strapped enough to start cutting the benefits and pensions of public employees, where living paycheck to paycheck have become the norm of majority of people and there is uncertainty regarding the job you have right now, would it not be nice that everybody had multiple sources of income coming in. although for most of the people it can be fantasy since they believe that you need a lot of money (which they already don’t have) to start a business, but for the truly adventurous and challenging person, it can be done.

Indeed it is true that sometimes you do need a lot of money upfront (like for a franchise or some manufacturing business) but you can still start small with less money and work your way up. Nobody has ever said that you should start your business in a grandiose way. Starting small means that you need less money and even if you lose that, you have gained some experience. Nowadays every little bit of help counts and if you can earn even few hundreds each week doing something besides your job, it can help in a long way in solving some of your financial problems, besides making you do something in your free time and at the same time making money in the process. In the next few posts, I will try to give a hint of what you can do to make some extra cash.

Teacher’s time for sacrifice

I have trying to follow all the upheaval the some governors are creating in order to balance their budget by cutting spending in education and also making the teachers sacrifice regarding their benefits and their performance evaluation. I don’t really understand why the teachers unions are so against their members being evaluated on the basis of their performance in the classroom. If the teacher is good at teaching and if the students love the teacher, then there should not be problem. Does the opposition of the unions mean that they don’t want bad teachers to get fired? Like all the rest of the private sector, when you don’t do a good job at work, you either get bad evaluation in which case you don’t get your bonus or raise or both or you get fired. Why is this criterion not followed in the education sector?

Regarding benefits, once again since many people are suffering in this economy, teachers should also sacrifice. The towns and states simply don’t have the money to pay for all the benefits. Even the logic of raising property taxes to pay for them is getting pretty worn out with tax payers opposing it and saying enough is enough with more taxes. I am all for the teachers (as I was a teacher myself before), but with a good system in place, the good teachers should be separated from the mediocre in order for our kids to get good education.

Music CD sales

Today I was listening to music on a CD and I realized that it has been more than a year that I have even purchased one of it. Nowadays you have so much choice that buying a CD and listen to the entire album becomes a chore. But my point here is that music companies are always crying about the decline in CD sales and increase in piracy, but have they ever thought about it may be due to the price of CD. I can understand that when a new album hits the market, the companies have to recoup their investment and hence the CDs are priced way too high. But for the CDs which are older than a year or even two or more years, the price is still sometimes outrageously high.

There are some music CDs which are older than five years or like last century, but they still cost nine dollars or more. The music industry then cries that people are not buying CD, because they are too damn expensive. If you want to buy an old CD, you can easily get it for less than three dollars or even less, but if you want to buy an old CD, you are still paying money which can be well spent buy individual songs on ITunes. And this takes me to another subject that is not all the songs on the CDs are great, so why pay so much money. The piracy will keep on going as long as the CD prices does not reflect the age of the songs and I mean old CDs (like two years and above) should be priced less five dollars in order to boost sales. If I can get a DVD two years and older for less than five dollars, why not the same for music?

The case against tapping Oil Reserves

There has been increasing calls on the U.S. government to tap into the Oil reserves since the price of Oil is going up faster and the recovery from the recession not that great and may get even stalled due to high prices. But is this not tinkering into the mechanics of the free market system. Although it is the fear of the unrest in the Middle East that is driving up the prices, but not one person is manipulating the prices and even then the prices are not that high enough to justify tapping into Oil reserves. The reserves were started during the Arab Oil embargo and should and must be used for emergencies only like a shortage in case of the suspension of flow from the Middle East.

But to tap the reserves in order to reduce the price of oil is not an emergency. Furthermore the reserves are not that great to begin with (some 700 million or so barrels of oil) that is a fraction of what we alone in the U.S. consume every year. Although it can be temporary psychological boost that will no doubt reduce the price of the oil but only for a few days. We are also not facing a world where oil is about to run short and due to environmental restrictions we have not tapped our oil which is beneath the U.S. Also we have Canada to the North and other countries which can duly take the place of the disruption in the flow of Oil. So the U.S. should resist the temptation to manipulate the price of oil by tapping the reserves.

The struggle of Minorities

There is no single group in America or in any other country for that matter where the struggle to assimilate and fit into a different society has not been done without any sacrifice. In America, for example, one group or the other like the Italians, Jews, Irish, Catholics, African Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Native Americans, Hispanics have not faced discrimination from the majority population. Although to be fair, most of the discrimination and prejudice is due to fear of typical stereotypes about a certain group or just that the scarcity of jobs have prompted fights for jobs. But if you pick up the history of the U.S, nothing was given on a silver platter to any group and they had to fight for their rights.

Same is now true for Muslims of all Nationalities who are being stigmatized for an action of the few since the events of 9/11. But it is also the fault of the Muslims that they have been aloof from the political landscape of their adopted country. Even the countries where they have immigrated from have discrimination far more worse than in the U.S. and that is why they immigrated for better jobs and maybe also prosecution from discrimination of all types. The Muslims, in order for their voices to be heard, have to take part in the political structure of their adopted countries wherever they are so that the majority population should hear their voices with open minds. Every minority has to be constantly struggle to get their rights and that is true for the Muslims too. Just putting your head in the sand and think that people will accept you as is will not do and that goes for also in their birth countries too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The kids keep you up-to-date

Even if you feel old, you don’t have to sacrifice your idea and thoughts just by thinking old. If you have kids, they can really keep you up to date with whats is hip and cool nowadays. I mean if you have both boy and a girl, you can get both perspectives if you want to look constant and updated about things. For example, when you have kids, you have to watch their shows and their channels, so that you don’t have to look blank faced when confronted with what sort of clothing or music or shows are new and current.

Same thing happens when the kids get older, you can keep yourself current about the happenings in the younger generation just by watching TV and music and following trends in fashion, clothing and what is hip in the younger world. Although it is not appropriate to be on the social networks and be friends with your kid’s friends, which may be like intruding in the domain of your kids but you can still keep yourself involved in your kids life and in turn, they will keep you young and current and cool in all things youngsters are doing nowadays.

The Fight over Wal-Mart-2

I am seen the store where there are other shops and I don’t believe that they have closed. The specialty shops can be opened near the store and thrive. Not all the shops would survive but the ones which do would indeed thrive and in this day and age where everybody is struggling with finances, it is essential that we should welcome big box retailers to locations where people can buy affordable stuff on the cheap, and if they don’t like the stuff, they can go somewhere else. It is all about the choice.

Secondly why should the unions be against something that can generate some extra jobs? Although they do pay lower pay but that is how they are able to give lower prices. Nobody is forcing anyone to work there if they don’t want to but if there are jobs, right now any jobs to support your family should be appreciated. In the short run, when the inefficient neighborhood shops close due to this competition, there will be unemployment but it will be outweighed by the number of jobs created by the store. Unless the unions are trying to protect high paying jobs, the fight over the store is a non issue and it should be allowed to put up the store anywhere in the city. This is what we call capitalism and free competition.

The Fight over Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart (herein after to be called “Store’), the biggest retailer behemoth in the world has been trying unsuccessfully to open a store in New York for the last so many years. But every time they even show any hint of doing that, they run against a wall of protest from labor unions to local shop owners with divergent views but with one purpose to oppose the store to open a store in New York City. Although they have one in long island not far from New York City but opening one in New York proper would be the biggest prize of them all. Why it is that labor unions and store owners are oppose to it. Although I am sure these two groups do buy their stuff from the store whenever they happen to be in the neighborhood where they are located.

The labor unions have problems with the store practices of non union membership and low pay and the shop owners would have a problem with low prices and being shut out of their store due to the enormous buying power of the store. Although I can understand the shop owners that indeed to due to enormous purchasing power, the store would be able to command lower prices and offer the same to the customers, but is it not what is called “economies of scale”. The more you buy, the less you have to pay per unit. Although some shop owners may close their doors but still some will thrive with innovative means to attractive customers.

Rush Hour Back Home-2

Most of the train rides are uneventful since most of the passengers just to keep quiet and tired and just want to read home, but in their haste to go home, and since the trains are crowded, somebody gets mad and then a fight can ensue. But the fight does not last long. Once I reach my destination, I have to take my car and drive to my house and here is where the actual nightmare starts, because you always pray that the traffic is smooth and no accident is reported on any roads which you travel. But even if there is no accident, sometimes you have accident on the other side of the road and the traffic stills slows on your side, because people want to see what is going on.

Still no accident does not mean that you can drive at the speed limit, since most of the people are driving back to their houses, and all these cars can make a massive jam. Even worse if the road is under construction or just obstacle are in place to start the construction can slow down the traffic considerably. During those slow times when you are in the car, you can either listen to the music, news or just sit there bored enough to make slow moves now and then. There are some people who just want to drive intentionally or unintentionally slow in the fast lane that even annoys you more.All in all this is how my daily routine back homes come out to and I guess most of the people who drive home have more or less the same experience.It is one of those necessary evils that you have to suffer.

Rush Hour Back Home

When you finished your day job (if you have one), the rush is to reach home as fast as possible, but that is easy said than done. If you leave right at 5.00 in the evening and happen to work at high rise buildings, you have to wait for the elevator and in other times it would seem okay but when you have to go home, it seems like eternity. Once it arrives, you find many people standing there waiting anxiously to get down to earth. Once you enter the elevator then you pray that the elevator goes express (meaning does not stop at any floor and straight down to the entrance) otherwise even a limited local is annoying especially when you are cramped inside the elevator, watching the floor numbers go by. That is about the only thing you can do is to watch the number going back to one or Lobby sign.

Once you are down you want to leave as fast as possible from the elevator but as always there is only limited space which can squeeze in two people at a time. Once you are out of the building, you rush towards your transportation (in my case the Train) or towards the subway or your car or cab. In my case, I take the train to my destination (not my home) and it seems eternity that the train reaches your destination. The train is very crowded when you want to take at about 5 o’clock. No way to sit on the train, since the earlier you get in, the more stuck you become when your destination is on the way to the final one. You are stuck among people who rarely want to move to give way to departing passengers or incoming passengers despite the constant reminders of the conductor.

On the lighter side-Movies-Race to Witch mountain (2010)

Dwayne Johnson (AKA the Rock) stars in this rather violent update of the same name in which two alien kids crash lands in the U.S. and are chased by government agents and an Alien soldier. Some action and dumb jokes which wastes the considerable muscular talent of The Rock. Nothing worth mentioning except that you should skip this movie and watch some other good old classic movie instead. Utter waste of time. Not recommended.

On the lighter side-Movies-Milk

Based on the life history (starting from the gay movement in New York City in the 60s) of the openly gay politician (Harvey Milk) of San Francisco. It is an engrossing movie but not for all tastes. It is engrossing in the sense that how the gay community struggled to get accepted in the mainstream political structure and not for all tastes that it is scenes which may be inappropriate for some audiences. But overall it is a good movie to be watched to see how movements are created. With James Franco as Milk’s Boyfriend and Josh Brolin as the person who shot Milk. Recommended with reservations.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Libyan Connection

The situation in Libyan is becoming more like a civil war with Pro and Anti- Qaddafi (however it is written as) dueling it out in the cities of Libya. Add to that the thousands of migrant workers trying to desperately get out of Libya and you have a classic case of refugee situation. Europe is also being affected as many of people are desperately trying to go there. Now despite the denial of the U.S. administration, there is a growing pressure to intervene militarily. Although the U.S. is trying to outsource this intervention to regional countries like France and Germany, but it also realizes that only the U.S. has the means to intervene militarily and therein lies the danger again.

We are already stretched too thin with Iraq and Afghanistan and North Korea problems and now we want to start another intervention in Africa. A no fly zone can be a good idea if other military powers take the bulk of the responsibility on their shoulders. Even if the U.N. authorizes the use of force, we should stay away from that place since we are and should not be the World’s Policeman. We should categorically state that we would not use military means to make the situation right in Libya. Let the regional powers (including the Arab League) take the lead and make them face the situation. It is better for us to fund their situation from far away then to send planes and boots to fight their battles.

Does Foreign Aid help?-2

Now the second example is of Pakistan. Billions upon Billions of dollars have been poured into that country and still the people are getting poorer and poorer and the image of the U.S. is nowhere improving and in fact it is decreasing day by day. Even the so called educated classes there who have been educated in the West have a very negative view of the United States, since they don’t see the aid as improving their lives and see it as a suspicious agenda to gain control of their nukes. And I believe that no matter how many more billions of dollars we sent to them, the situation will not improve. The recent case of an American citizen is just one of the examples of how that country’s citizens view the United States.

And there are countless examples, where the well intentioned American Aid has been seen as a conspiracy to keep the U.S. influence intact. I would suggest that in places like Pakistan and Egypt, there is no use spending billions of dollars where we have not achieved any concrete support in our policies and just send them selective aid and those also through international agencies so that at least there is some checks and accountability to what it is being spent upon. It is no use wasting our hard earned if we are getting more and more hatred, the earlier we stop giving aid to these countries the better it will be for those people to blame their own leaders and take responsibility for their own actions and maybe stand on their own feet.

Does Foreign Aid help?

I have always wondered if the Foreign Aid that the United States and other rich countries dole out each year have any effect on the lives of the people in those countries which is getting the aid and the result can be mostly in the negative. This thought came to my mind as the budget battle in the United States is going on now and on the chopping block is the reduction in foreign aid, which the Secretary of the State has said will jeopardize our interests abroad if aid is reduced. But if we see some of the example of U.S. aid to different countries, I don’t see any improvement in the lives of the people or the positive image that the United States wants to project through aid.

Take the example of Egypt, throughout the peace treaty with Israel, Egypt has been getting more than a billion dollars a year from the United States, but mostly the effect of it is not accounted for and the lives of the people in Egypt have not improved much. The recent events lay bare to this fact that despite all this aid sent to that country, the people still got fed up with their rulers and through them out. If foreign aid was utilized effectively this would not have been the case, but all this aid does not reach the common folks who struggle in their daily lives.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Middle East protest continues-2

The Middle East continues to have its share of protests since the Tunisian suicide by the young person. Since then two governments have fallen and we are witnessing a brutal fight to the finish in Libya, while protests have started to crop up in Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It seems that when one Arab Country’s government falls, another one tries to follow in its footsteps. This rage is not only due to the frustration of the youth as it is the non representation of them in the affairs of their government. The lack of jobs and opportunities that the poor Arab population face every day had to boil over some day and their day has come now.

In addition to the lack of jobs and opportunities, it is their entrenched rulers that have made those youth enraged. I really don’t understand how long is long enough for one ruler to rule. There are no elections and it seems that most of the rulers come with a God given mandate to rule till they leave this world. America and the rest of the democracy loving world should lend its support to these people instead of clamoring for stability because once these disenfranchised and disgruntled youth feel that they have been abandoned, they will make sure that their policies reflect anti western and more importantly anti American from the start.

A visit to a Flea Market-2

Cash is king at the flea markets and there are very few vendors who would take credit cards, so it is better that while shopping you should have at least hundred dollars in your wallet to buy what you want to buy. Believe although flea market has its share of bad news like fake and low quality stuff, if you are savvy enough, you can buy quality stuff from some vendors without getting your hands burned. And if you buy more than one of the same stuff you can even bargain down the money. Although haggling over the posted prices is normal in flea markets, if you are buying used stuff you can get away with haggling but for the new stuff, you may have to pay the posted amount which is already the lowest money the vendor can take in order to make some profit.

Although to be fair, I don’t have much experience in flea markets but if you countless of the Americans still out of work or working minimum wages or making it hard to make ends meet, flea market is an excellent idea to make some extra cash and the best part is that you can do it on the weekends and with your family. One more thing, most of the flea markets do require some kind of sales ID from the state where you plan to sell so make sure that you have one before embarking on your new small business.

A visit to a Flea Market

A few weeks ago, I decided to visit one of the biggest flea markets in New Jersey. It was a nice drive on Saturday with not that much traffic that I reached there on time. Parking the car near the gates of the Flea Market was not a problem since not many people had come yet and it was cold.Most of the vendors had either put up the shop or were in the process of doing it and a small trickle of buyers were browsing around and some even buying. I just wanted to get a feel of how that market was working. Although I walked the entire length of the market, it was too cold to stay in on much longer.

You could find anything and everything you can think off in that market. Although I did not buy anything, but you can still be able to buy brand new stuff at reasonable prices. This is not the first time I have been to a flea market, so I know not to perishable or food or medicine from there since they can be of questionable quality or expired. Also unless it is a reputable vendor or who you can expect to be there every week, I would also try to avoid buying electronic stuff. These flea markets tend to going on all year round, usually on the weekends and it is not only outdoors but also indoors where you can buy electronics if you know the vendor will be there every week. I am read that the outdoor vendors don’t charge sales tax but the indoors more permanent ones do charge it.

The Illusion of Wealth

There is a growing illusion that we are a wealthy country. No doubt on the basis of the GDP we are the richest country in the world but based on debt we are also the most heavily indebted country in the world and that is where people lose sight of it. During the boom years, people were under the illusion that there house values will go up forever and they started to rake up debt based on paper profits going on vacation, buying cars and just maxing out there credit cards under the illusion that the rising home values will offset the debt they have. But when everything especially the house prices came crashing down this illusion shattered.

Now this illusion is being carried over in states where the unions are fighting for the right to preserve their pay and promised pension and health care benefits when everybody has now come to know that the states are almost bankrupt or on the verge of it were it not for the deferment of pension payments that they are supposed to do. We are still under the grand illusion that we can tax and grow ourselves out of this recession and that the common citizens would keep on accepting higher property taxes and higher spending when they are really hurting due to high unemployment rate. To adjust to reality is really painful, and despite all the talk about the deficits and debt, the public still clamors for the same level of benefits while taxing the rich (which everybody knows have a limit to taxation). We will see how long this illusion of wealth will last before it sinks into common folks that we are all in deep debt and not rich.

On the lighter side-Movies- 2012

Now here is a movie that should be definitely watched on the big screen. Although based on the Mayan Calendar that the world will supposedly come to an end on December 21, 2012, this movie is pure fun entertainment with fantastic special effects showing the destruction of the world vividly and also showing that the only the Chinese are fast enough to make Arks in record time. John Cusack stars as a failed author whose is estranged from his family but comes together to save the day. With Woody Harellson as the weird guy who predicts the end of the world correctly. Highly recommended.

On the lighter side-Movies- Year One

Lightweight comedy starring Jack Black as the guy in a primitive village who is not good at anything and thus gets kicked out of the village from where he journeys beyond his village to visit other hereto unknown places. Michael Cera is his buddy who comes along with him. A near hit or miss comedy movie with some of the usual Jack Black slapstick but overall a flat comedy. Avoid it if you are not a fan of Jack Black, otherwise your choice. Recommended with reservations.