Friday, June 24, 2011

The troops are coming home

Finally after a span of ten years, some 33 thousand troops will come home from Afghanistan by the end of the next summer. Although we would still have about 65 thousand troops left there but it is a start and a realization that we cannot keep our troops there indefinitely and ultimately it would be the responsibility of the Afghan people to decide the fate of their country like the Iraqis before them. It also shows that the U.S. after eliminating OBL has mostly accomplished its goal of reducing Al-Qaeda to a small outfit. But the war is still not over and maybe not forever as long as the ideology associated with Al-Qaeda is destroyed and the links of various outfits completely destroyed.

There is also a realization now that the main focus of the war is now shifted to the lawless areas of Pakistan. Unless we destroy or reduce the ability of the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda affiliated groups there to plan and launch attacks on neighboring countries in particular and western countries in general, this war will keep on going one. Although Pakistan is trying its best to control its border and destroy Taliban, it has been doing it selectively (no matter what they say otherwise). We will need Pakistan to keep on doing its part but we must not stop using drones which are being used effectively in the tribal areas of Pakistan (which does not violate the sovereignty of that country since the laws of Pakistan are not applicable there). Drones are effective and until Pakistan shows its sincerity in going after all terrorist group regardless of their sympathies, drones should be kept on using.

Separating truth from lies

It is now harder than ever to separate truth from lies, especially on the internet. Anybody can spread rumors about it and then you have to scramble to make sure the damage is controlled. Sometimes people spread false information about somebody and then your reputation is ruined. Also putting up false information is much easier since you can plant that persons picture through photo editing software and insert somebody’s picture on it. Similarly fake news is implanted to damage the opponents’ reputation. Some times the person implanting the story is sued by some people for damages to their reputation. Sometimes what seems like unbelievable news initially turns out to be the truth which was supposed to come out at an appropriate time.

My point is that unless you do your due diligence regarding some news, you may find it harder to separate what is the truth and what is simple old lie. Some lies are so carefully planted that despite the best efforts of the people putting it out is not discovered until that lie is exposed by some obscure source or the person implanting the news comes out to say that it is not true. Case in point is the supposed female gay blogger in Syria who fooled everybody by posting his blogs on the daily events in Syria while he (she) was in the U.K. and nobody suspected it until he (she) came out by himself to say that it was a fabrication of what was supposedly happening in Syria. There are many stories like this out there and you have to be duly carefully whom to believe and what to believe before you gave your own conclusive judgment and opinion on the subject matter.

The intimate tapes we make

This is one thing I don’t get it. Why do people make intimate tapes of themselves when they know that it may sometimes explode in their faces and come out in the public? I have been seeing increasing number of people being exposed due to what they did in their bedrooms coming out in the public through videotapes. Sometimes these same tapes have made them famous but initially they were very upset about the tapes coming out in the first place. I have no idea behind the psychology of making such tapes. Maybe they want to watch it next time in the privacy of their homes or just want to have some secret fetish, but mostly I suspect that the people filming themselves like this know perfectly well that they will be discovered and there is some adventure to it being discovered and being naughty and getting caught.

Whatever the reason behind it, the general public seems to clamor more of it since it involves some famous public figures and the people can be voyeuristic in this sense. And now with more and more tapes come out like this, the stigma attached with it has been reduced somewhat and it has started to get accepted by the general public. But still I believe ( I may be wrong on this), most of the general public don’t want others to watch what they are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms lest it is discovered and cast a negative light on them and their children.

The GPS- Advantages and Disadvantages

The GPS- Global Positioning System has certainly made my life easier in that I don’t have to print copies from the internet in order to go somewhere. I just have to input the address of the place where I am going to and the rest GPS takes care of it. But sometimes it works perfectly and sometimes it does not. Sometimes when I want to take a turn and it is still thinking about if I should then that turn is not taking, the turn is lost and I have to go back again to get the right turn. Sometimes when it has already given me the right directions, it stops in between to have the roads mapped again and it gives directions (momentarily) that do not make sense but then it comes back again to the right path.

Since it is based on satellite tracking systems, sometimes it misses the road or gives us the wrong direction. It also goes out of order when going under the tunnel since it loses its satellite signal during that time. But despite all its shortcomings, it is very indispensable to be since it does give you accurate description to the place where you are supposed to go. Depending upon which company GPS you have, it can give you street names or just plain right and left turn, mileage you have until your next exit and others points of interest (like shopping, dining, travel, shopping, gas stations, hospitals etc) , favorites (which is like the storing where you want to go most of the time ) and other destinations. I guess I would be lost without it if I have to go to an unknown place.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Do you favor a cut?-2

And what happened to my freedom of religion if I choose to follow that path. Why do people become so involved in other people lives? If you don’t like it than don’t do it, why impose your ideas and opinions on other people. It may just make people leave that place if it interferes with their believes and values. What next will come out of San Francisco is anybody’s guess but this referendum is just one of the wasteful efforts on part of some people who cannot do anything else to make a world a better place then to go after circumcision. There is huge scientific evidence in favor of circumcision and this has been going on since thousands of years without people being bothered by it. I have not heard anybody saying that he regrets being circumcised since it violates his human rights.

By this measure you can say that imposing limits on toddlers and curfews on teenagers regarding some things also infringe on the basic rights of those individuals. And it can go on and on and how are they suppose to implement this law. Are they going to send cops to hospitals and homes where male babies are born to make sure that they are not circumcised? How long will they be monitoring these people, all 17 years of their lives to make sure they are not circumcised? And will they stop people from leaving the city if a baby is born there to get it circumcised elsewhere and will the city check the circumcision of the babies when they coming in the city to make sure the babies born there are not circumcised elsewhere. There are many issues with this law which should have been discussed and cooler heads should have prevailed in order to drop this useless law.

Do you favor a cut?

I really like San Francisco, I have been there once like maybe 15 years ago and I went to the great Stanford University and also went to Palo Alto where it was located and also Sausalito a small picturesque town near San Francisco. I did not travel on their world famous trams but I saw them going up and down the hill. It has nice weather and major things happen there before it starts to happen in the rest of America or just stay there due to its more liberal and tolerable attitude. I saw the movie Milk starring Sean Penn and this gay right movement also happened in San Francisco. Then there was a plastic bag ban which did not catch up to the rest of America and now we have an anti circumcision vote coming up which will outlaw circumcision to anyone under the age of 18 regardless of any exception or exemption.

I really don’t understand why some minority wants to intrude on somebody else’s right to do what they want with their babies’ foreskin. The proponents’ point is that it is barbaric and it hurts the individual’s right to choose. If I am trying to do that am I harming somebody else besides my own baby? Sometimes the parents knows best about what is good for their baby and if somebody wants to do circumcision, the parent can go to another city and do it, I don’t need anybody’s especially the government’s permission to see how I am going to raise my baby. If it is religious obligation then it is infringing on my freedom of exercising my religion.

Do we all make deliberate mistakes?

So this is the main question, there can be mistakes and then there are blunders which are bigger mistakes but what about knowing the consequences of a thing way in advance and still do it despite the risk inherent in being caught or suffer some physical or financial loss. I am talking about one of our representative sending suggestive text messages about him and then claiming innocence knowing well in advance that it is no use hiding behind lies. I believe that it was a deliberate mistake and consequences were known in advance and still it was done. Now we cannot say it that it is a medical problem that every time this happens, people rush to go to rehab. How about self control in the first place.

I don’t believe for a minute that a human being is so helpless that knowing the adverse consequences of an action will still prompt that person to behave in such a way that is detriment to his family , career or to his life and keep on blaming it on some vague “other” entity. It does not hurt only him, but his family, friends’ even unknown people who have come to know through newspapers. It is a shame that such a talent is wasted on such a few minutes or even a few hours of pleasure. And to keep on doing it with multiple people and then feel remorse when caught is hardly a human error. It is deliberate and intentional and there is no excuse whatsoever for it. We all make mistakes and get forgotten but deliberate mistakes can be just intentional in the first place and are not mistakes.

Don’t touch my 401K

As you all know or maybe so of you know that this distressed economy has made many people dip into the 401K funds to get loans or cash out of it (at the risk of penalty and interest lost) to pay for their day to day expenditure. Now some senators want to make sure that we don’t touch our 401K and make strict conditions if we do so. Although I can understand their good intentions but they are not on the same boat as ordinary folks are right now. I believe that nobody touches their 401K until it is absolutely necessary. They don’t take loans or cash out to go on vacations or buy cars or some other fun stuff. They do that because they don’t have anywhere to turn to right now because credit has dried up, most of the houses are under water and friends and families are also in the same boat.

I can’t understand that if I have put my hard earned money into a perfectly legitimate fund established by the government, why I can’t take loans or cash out of it in times of need. The senators are not addressing this key issue of financial distress that the citizens are going through and right now the 401K is the only perfectly legitimate saving account that you have funded and the access to it should be free of any conditions as it is right now. Fine if they will penalize us with taxes or interest fees but it is still better than not having anything at all. The government has no right to change rules that is perfectly working all right with regards to 401K.

Connecting to the past

Whenever I want to listen to music, I try to go to the internet and get my favorite yesteryears music on it. Be it rock, heavy metal or any other songs that I remembered I used to listen on television or radio long time ago, I just go to the internet and listen it. It is so cool to connect this way to your past. Also that is this part of nostalgia that people keep in themselves and try to see what it was like to be when they were young or little. That is why the popularity or pictures or videos that we see even after so many years.

When I see some pictures of myself or of my family it just reminds of that time when we were all together in one place and life was easy. My Father also use to reminiscent about old times, especially the time when he was young in school and my grandfather was alive and there were no worries. Now I do the same thing since my father is not alive, I see his pictures and sometimes I cry that it was so much to be around him and just his presence was so reassuring to me. Every little thing you have in your house has a connection to the past that you have gone through and that is why it is hard for some folks to get rid of the items since it reminds them of their loved ones or a moment in their life which they had captured in order to preserve it for future generations.To me connecting to your past is very important since it gives you sense of what you have enjoyed or what you may have missed otherwise if you had not done that thing.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

On the lighter side-Travel- Canada-4

After parking our car, we started walking towards the main event, the boat ride called Maid of the mist which takes people almost near to the fall. After getting our ticket and proceeding downstairs, we were given blue plastic cover ups to shield us from the water that will fell on us as we near the fall. It started to get cold as we approached the fall and water started sprinkling on us and then we turned around towards the beginning of the journey. We took some pictures and then headed towards eating pizza and then do some souvenir shopping in one of the stores and then started to move towards our car to go back to the U.S.

We crossed the bridge called Bridge to the U.S.A. and there was a pretty moderate line of cars trying to cross into the U.S. After the rudimentary questions concerning our stay in Canada and what do we do in the U.S, the border patrol agent let us through and then we were off to New Jersey. At one of the stops, we had to fill up our gas tank and then I drove straight without stopping anywhere and reached home by 12.00 P.M, culminating a wonderful trip.

On the lighter side-Travel- Canada-3

Another thing that I noticed is that it is relatively expensive as compared to U.S. There is HST- Harmonized sales tax- which combines the combined Federal and State taxes into one. The whole tax rate in Ontario is 13 percent, which is pretty steep to me. But people still like to live there since all the taxes are spent on them. We in the U.S. are dead set against giving any more taxes let alone a Federal Sales Tax. Anyway I guess once you start getting use to live in one place, you adjust your lifestyle to that place. Since we were attending a conference and Canada looks the pretty much same to me as a typical North American city, we did not venture out except to eat lunch or dinner.

Once we were done with the conference, we decided to leave Canada and start driving towards the U.S. border in the morning, since we wanted to see the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. Our first stop was the Whirlpool, where a trolley takes you across the Niagara Falls up in the air. It was high up and we did not have the time to stay there all there, so we decided to go to the actual site of the Niagara Falls. Since the weather was really good, on the way to the Falls, we saw a lot of people strolling and enjoying the scenery. Since we were told that the Canadian side is far better than the U.S. side, we decided to venture out on the Canadian side.

On the lighter side-Travel- Canada-2

At the border crossing, there was a little bit of waiting time since our turn came and after getting rudimentary information for approximately 4-5 minutes, we were allowed to enter Canada. It would be another one hour or so before we reached our hotel. We had almost hit the rush hour time and there was indeed a lot of traffic but apart from some change from the United States like from miles to Kilometers and from Fahrenheit to centigrade, there was not that much difference that I noticed in Canada. After reaching our hotel, we took out luggage and proceeded to the check in desk and after receiving our keys, we went straight to our room. It was a suite with one room with King Size bed and one living room with a sofa cum bed.

Since we were attending a conference, we proceeded to hear what the participants had to say about the topics to be discussed. We then went to out to eat at Popeye’s and then the next day we went early in the morning to McDonalds to get our breakfast. At Popeye’s, they converted our US dollars into Canadians but at McDonalds, they took our US Dollars as is. It was cold in Canada as compared to when we left in New Jersey, so the jackets which we took came in quite handy. I saw lot of empty spaces with signs to sale and buildings coming up. Gas prices are expensive in Canada and they are quoted in Liters as compared to the gallons that we are used to here in the U.S.

On the lighter side-Travel- Canada

This past Memorial Day we decided to take a trip to our neighbor to the north, Canada. Although we had the trip made in advance to attend a convention/conference, we were still trying to decide to start at night or in the morning. But later on the weather changed our minds and we decided it is best to take a rest and then go out in the morning at around six. Since I live in New Jersey, the trip was going to take almost 8 and half hours (not including the stopover in rest stops and the border crossing and traffic time). We had decided that I will drive half the time and then my wife will do the same but it did not end that way and out of 495 miles, she drove 129 miles and the rest I was driving (which by the way I love to drive).

As usual the packing was this time easier as we just had to pack one bag and put it in the back of our SUV and some snacks and water and other carry over bags and then we were off. Since we had not taken our breakfast, we had to stop at a donut shop in Pennsylvania to get our coffee and donuts and croissants. Driving to Canada was not bad at all, although my wife felt considerable discomfort sitting in one position for the whole time. We went through Pennsylvania and then to New York and came to the international border crossing between Canada and the United States.

All hope is lost-3

The Pakistani nation continues to live in denial and that suits them just fine, since it is easier to blame others for your ills then the fix them yourself. I have lost all hope that the mindset of the Paki people will ever change since I have been following them for a long time. They are obsessed with xenophobia and paranoid thoughts about their nukes which have not given them any security or edge against India. Only they think that the world is out to destroy them, like the world has nothing else to do then to deal with four Pakistan. The world wants to keep one Pakistan so that they can deal with it more easily then fragmented pieces. It is only in the Paki mind that have made them destroy their own country or going towards that path.

In its 63 years of independence (or you can say from 1971 after the original Pakistan broken into two), the Pakis have been obsessed with security and more paranoid than any other country and that has stopped all development in that country. There is not a single world class brand that has been developed there. Even their so called friends worry about their behavior and want to contain the spread of it. Every time a major terrorist event happens anywhere in the world, it has been tracked to Pakistan. Why can’t the Pakis see it in black and white and do something about it. But as long as we keep on giving them aid, they will keep on blaming us for their problems. Now is the time to not engage with Pakistan but contain the effects of its ills from spreading to other countries. It is not time for Containment.

All hope is lost-2

The near pathological obsession with India has made Pakistan standstill in time while the world moves on. People around the world are very sick and tired of hearing about how much sacrifices Pakistan is making in the war against terror and how many terrorists they have captured or killed. But the question begs why all these terrorists in Pakistan are in the first place and does not Pakistan have control over its borders. Nobody asks these people visas, how they are coming there, who is getting trained within their country. Instead of bettering the lot of their people with, they blame everything on foreign hand. They don’t really see the poverty, the inadequate water, energy, education and health facilities. All they see is that it is India and the U.S. which is holding them back to their path to universal glory.

Even the recent attack on a naval base is being attributed to India/Israel/America, while the Taliban have already claimed responsibility and promising more such attacks. It can really be a height of incompetency that even after the Taliban accepts the responsibility; the people keep on insisting on blaming the American/Indian/Israeli Collision to take control of their nukes. If the blamed is really on outside the country forces then instead of making their security better, their security is the worst of any nuclear powered nation. Their intelligence has become the joke of the world since they were unable to see the OBL was living right under a military academy.

All hope is lost

Is it really? I am talking about the nightmare scenario in Pakistan with the Islamic radicals getting hold of nuclear weapons. Since I keep on tracking what is going in the alternate universe called Pakistan, I get disgusted everyday to read the news about how they keep on blaming all their problems on the Indian/Israeli/American operatives trying to destroy Pakistan. On one talk show host, I heard a long bearded guy telling the host that after the Devil, the Paki People hates America and the Taliban are their number one Friend now turned into enemy due to their alliance with the United States. I just felt like throwing up hearing that. After all the killings that they endure each day trying to reach the elusive heaven, they can’t get to accept that they are the ones who are their own worst enemy.

It is like the autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your body. The Taliban have become like that but even when there is a plethora of evidence suggesting that the Taliban have sworn to avenge the death of their comrades, all the Pakis can do is to put their head in the sand like an ostrich and blame others. Lets us for a moment create a hypothetical situation. If the U.S. is to be blamed for their economic, political ills, how come their army works with the U.S. If we are the most hated nation there, why do they gladly accept all the aid and visas they can get their hands on.

Can promises be rescinded?

I am talking not about individual promises made to each other but the ones which have been made from the state to the public. The States have made so many promises and IOUs to the public that it will be hardly surprising if they will ever keep it. So why give promises in the first place. Obviously to get votes what else and roll the hard decisions to the next generation of politicians who will come and blame the previous generation for the unrealistic promises made in terms of social security, pension and health care. Right now with every politician finding it hard to either raise taxes or reduce spending, these promises will just remain promises since they are unfunded.

Unfunded means that the promises have not been replenished with real money. Right now only the Social Security is being funded fully but in about 25 years that will just be a dream unless we reduce our promises, raise taxes or reduce drastically our expenditure. But who will be the one to take on this. It has to be a collective effort. But by the looks of the polls and surveys taken recently, the people are not as ready to have more taxes or reduce expenditure. There are too many entrenched interests to let this happen until it comes to a brick wall or a fiscal emergency. So again to my question can promises be rescinded and the answer is unfortunately it will have to be because there is no way the promises can be fulfilled with the current states of financial affairs.

Employment vs. Business-2

The biggest downside of the having your own business is the uncertainty of the income. For employment, if you are doing an okay job, you will get paid month in and month out and you are mentally satisfied. You bills are getting paid and so is your health insurance, but when you have job, you have to be constantly worried about from where your next bill is going to get paid. If you lose time or waste time, you lose money. There are obviously more risk in running your own business but rewards are greater if you succeed. You are your own boss with your own working hours and the more you work, the more money you can make. There are no excuses to be given to your bosses since you are the boss, but there are no sick days or vacation or personnel days to be availed off.

You have to pay twice the amount of social security (your side and the business side) and the health insurance is also up to you to pay in full. That is why unless you are wealthy or rich; you should not plunge whole heartedly in a business when you don’t know if and when it will succeed. You should rather keep your day job and work on the weekends or on the side and maybe finance your side business with your day job income. Until your side business earns enough so that you can run the business and also pay yourself enough salary to replace the current one on the day job, you should keep your regular job to pay for your bills and other family expenses.

Employment vs. Business

Which one is more fulfilling is a matter of taste and on individual preferences. In employment, you just have to show up, do your work and go home. All the stuff is provided to you in order for you to work. You don’t have to worry about running out of stationery or software or computer breaking down, since there will always be a spare one or will be provided to you within a short period of time so that it does not affect your work. There are set hours of work and also of lunch time that you can take and wind down. Plus you may be bosses but the number may be limited to one or two or maybe three. You work is checked by your immediate boss and if something is wrong, you have ample amount of time to fix that problem.

Lets us now compare this with having a business. The reverse is true for having your own business plus more. You have to have ample stationery on hand to deal with emergencies or a surge of orders for your business. You are constantly thinking about your business and ways of improving your bottom line. You may be the only one checking your own work and lunch time is also the time you eat and work. There is no down time until you say it is. Plus every customer is your boss and you are constantly trying to make your boss happy and satisfied and also looking for more bosses. There is more uncertainty regarding your bottom line and if you take off one day, you loose that day’s business.