Thursday, February 23, 2012

Every nation has interests-2

To answer the perennial question of why Pakistan insists on having a say in the affairs of Pakistan, we have to look at the way Pakistan is situated. Afghanistan has never accepted the borders with Pakistan (made by a British official by the name of Durand hence called Durand Line), Pakistan is afraid that if the Afghans become stronger Pakistan's own restive North western Province where the majority of the ethnic Pashtuns live will want to join the Afghans thus threatening the very survival of Pakistan. Also Pakistan's perceived Number one Enemy India is trying to gain more influence in Afghanistan to the fear of the Pakistan Military that they may be trapped by two hostile Neighbors Afghanistan and India with Iran. Well long story short, Pakistan wants to keep a friendly government in Afghanistan so that it can have only one perceived enemy and not two.

Another small nation interests playing out is with Iran and Saudi Arabia both with opposite branches of Islam. Although both believe in the same faith (with slight variations) but both want to contain each other influences and thus draw in big powers like what is happening in Afghanistan. The Russians although the former Soviet Union has disintegrated still wants to retain influence in the former Soviet colonies. Egypt wants to have influence in the Arab Countries but is hampered by lack of cash to make that work and so we can go to Turkey, Greece, France and list goes on and on and we don’t even know some countries whose interest maybe more subtle than others. So in this crazy world, interests are constantly being defined and modified according to the circumstances and situations.

Every nation has interests

We are always talking about national security interests like we have interests in Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America and Australia and everywhere I guess, but ever wonder if other nations not as powerful as ours have interests too. I guess that we are so much immersed in the big power games that we tend to forget that smaller nations have interest too which may or may not collide with big powers interests. The small countries may not see it that way but their interests becomes part of a larger game and may inadvertently draw big powers with unintended consequences most of the time for the worse. No country can work in isolation and even the poorest one will want to influence the weaker and poorer neighbor and try to develop interests even if one has not existed before.

I can give you many examples where some nation even when they don’t have the money to feed their population have interests in some other weaker nation and that draws in other powers whether they like it or not. Let us start with the case with Pakistan, a country which is swinging from one disaster to another but keeps on bouncing back to have interest in Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world. You see Pakistan like the United States (in South America) see Afghanistan as their backyard and don’t want the Indians (specially), Iranians, Americans, Russians or any other country to influence events there. Even if the majority of the Pakistanis don’t have clean water, health facilities or educational opportunities, they have got to have interests over in Afghanistan. But you see we cannot see Pakistan's interests in isolation but have to see a bigger picture to see why they have developed this fixation/obsession of having a say in the affairs of Afghanistan.

Do we always have to be a perpetual state of war?-2

Then when the cold war ended in 1988 we went into the First Iraq war and then started to enforce the no fly zone on Iraq. We were still not done with as the events of 9/11 forced us to fight back and attack Afghanistan to get rid of the Al-Qaeda threat and then we wanted to teach Saddam a lesson so we invaded Iraq and are still not done with Afghanistan that we helped the Libyan rebels fight of Qadhafi forces and take over the country. In the meanwhile we are still trying to sort out the heads and tails of the Syrian crisis whether to arm the rebels or just sit this one out ( I doubt we can do that) and then there is the bigger noise over Iranian nuclear crisis.

Do we or do the Israelis stop the Iranian threat. Why do we keep on being in a perpetual state of war when the world has gotten more dangerous than ever? In the past like fifteen twenty years we could have afforded the wars without getting into too much debt but now it is really absurd even to think about one. We simply don’t have the money and as you can see by all the headlines our budget deficit has already hit a trillion dollars for the last four years in addition to the more than 15 trillion dollars in national debt not counting the unfunded liabilities like pensions, social security, Medicare and Medicaid. Can't we just stop being the policeman of the world and take care of our own problems before venturing out to solve other people. We will really have to get rid of the martial mentality if we want to remain an economic superpower and not only military one.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Do we always have to be a perpetual state of war?

The saber rattling over Iran and how and when it will be struck by Israeli/American jets to destroy its allegedly Nuclear program keeps on growing with various times given for this year. Although tough sanctions are starting to bit the Iranian economy but still it seems that it is not enough to deter them to stop their nuclear program. Everybody who matters is pleading with the Israelis to postpone their attack and let the sanctions work. But my question is why is the U.S. always is in a state of war or want to in one. If you pick up the U.S. history, since 1941 we have been in constant state of war. If you don’t believe let’s start analyzing if we are what I am saying. Starting from the Pearl Harbor attack of December 1941, we entered World War II wholeheartedly.

After the war ended in 1945, we entered into a Cold war with the then Soviet Union which led us into physical wars in Korea from 1950 and then we went into Vietnam, during the interim time, we were still fighting a cold war with clandestine funds and proxies almost everywhere. We almost went to war with the Soviets in the Cuban Missile crisis in early 1960s. From Vietnam still being in the Cold war , we invaded Panama, Grenada, went to fund the Jihadists in the Afghan war of the early 1980s, started another war called the drug war, helped the Nicaraguans with the Iran-Contra affairs weapons.

The money Greece does not have-2

Although the Greece ultimately got the funds but there has started to emerge a bailout fatigue among the other European nations. They are started to think that the Greece will still need more money and the Greece economy is in intensive care right now and maybe for a few years. Although poll after poll keep on suggesting that the Greeks want to stay in the Euro currency but the heavy price they are paying and will be paying in the future for all the austerity has started to wear on them. That is why you have started to see riots all over Greece lashing out at the Greek Government and other European nations. The loss of sovereignty that the Greeks got with this latest bailout fund have already humiliated the once proud Greece, the cradle of democracy.

As I have been saying in my blog previously but want to reiterate again here is that the Greeks should go back to the drachmas at least with their own currency they will be more able to handle their own economy rather than hand over their state's budget to some far off bureaucracy who may or may not understand the symptoms that ails the Greek Economy. I like the Greek people and again I will say they are one of the nicest people I have ever met but before their economy contracts further with much austerity it is time to leave the Euro currency because it is too heavy a price to pay to stay in one.

The money Greece does not have

Now that the Greeks have got the rescue bailout from the European Union and others, everybody is congratulating each other on a job well done but is it really? The deals are harsh for a start and humiliating like the EU monitors will be Greece to make sure that the Greeks keep their end of the bargain, a separate account will be setup whereby the bailout funds will be used to pay off creditors first before Greeks get their hands on it, reduce the debt to the so called manageable levels of 120 percent of GDP by year 2020 (who knows the future the Europeans??!!!) and there is a big if that if the elections coming in April does not yield a favorable government to Europe than all hell can break lose. Also there is that some of the creditors may not agree to more than 50 percent of the lose of their money.

We know that the Greeks have sacrificed a lot during this recession but to play devil's advocate, they have also enjoyed a lot before this crisis revealed the deception of their former government who fudged/lied/manipulated/deceived their way to the European Union. Technically when you have a mortgage and the investors under pressure agree to reduce their interest in that mortgage it will be considered a default and your credit rating gets a hit and although the Greeks credit rating is in the dumps they still got a pass this time around and got the bailout funds to pay their previous creditors

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Ground realities of manufacturing jobs-2

Even if the Manufacturing jobs come back out of magic, it won't pay as much as the younger generation wants in order to enjoy the same standard of living as their parents had. The unions which used to demand X amount of money and usually got it does not have the same power of persuasion in the face of global competition. Most of the stuff that we see in a dollar store would hardly be made in the U.S. and even if they do it will cost enough money to be priced out of the dollar store category. Now anybody who has good education wants to a doctor or engineer or has an MBA and very few people want to toil in the manufacturing field which is labor intensive in some ways and is not in some other ways. Now in order to survive in a globally competitive economy, automation has taken hold of manufacturing jobs and a job which needs three or more people can be done or supervised by one person more efficiently.

Instead of showing reality to potential voters, the politicians are try to sugar coat the manufacturing jobs to say that it will give people jobs without the necessary education needed. Even manufacturing jobs have become too complex to learn very fast and you need a certain amount of experience and education to operate equipment. The best way to a middle class job now is to have a good education and at least a bachelor's degree in a useful and needful industry instead of ranting about the illusionary high paying manufacturing jobs without the necessary tools like higher education

The Ground realities of manufacturing jobs

Lately there has been a lot of noise from the President and the Republican candidates regarding how we should encourage manufacturing jobs in the U.S. This new found enthusiasm comes as we are hearing about the increasing costs of labor in China and also the profitability of the car manufacturers. As I read in a newspaper today that it is the nostalgia of the bygone era when the manufacturing jobs were a path to middle income jobs. But it is not a case anymore, at the end of the World War II, America was the undisputed king of manufacturing and Europe was devastated by the War. We were supplying everything to our foes and allies alike and you don’t need any college education at that time. That time folks will not return since the world is not the same anymore.

We have competition in almost every sphere of manufacturing and we are not doing that much good there. Although we still have world class manufacturing and educational institutions but our high labor costs are too high and we have competition from India, China, Brazil and the rest of the world and on top of that we are burdened with a huge military budget which is more the anyone spends in the world. Even for mundane jobs, an employer requires at least some college education and in most cases a four year bachelor's degree. And since the college education has become more expensive and the student’s debt load has become unbearable in some cases, more and more students are going in fields where they want to earn more money so that they can pay down their student loans faster.

On the lighter side-Movies-Bad Teacher (2011 unrated)

Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake stars in this sexy and raunchy comedy regarding Cameron Diaz being the title character in a highly regarded school in her most outrageous and uninhabited role that I have seen. Very candid acting by Cameron Diaz, seen to be believed. Watch the unrated version if you can. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Night of the Demons (2010)

Bloody and gory remake of the same name movie regarding a bunch of kids trapped inside a mansion on Halloween night where they have went for a party and fight for their lives from the demons trapped there. Sexy at times but typical of your other teens in distress movie. Not Recommended.

On the lighter side-Movies-Green Lantern (2011)

Loud and Noisy movie based on a comic book regarding a pilot (played by Ryan Reynolds) who gets a ring with super powers and tries to save the world with it. As comic book hero goes, this one did not make much money at the box office but very expensively made. I liked it despite all the special effects fatigue that I got from it. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Green Lantern (2011)

Loud and Noisy movie based on a comic book regarding a pilot (played by Ryan Reynolds) who gets a ring with super powers and tries to save the world with it. As comic book hero goes, this one did not make much money at the box office but very expensively made. I liked it despite all the special effects fatigue that I got from it. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-The Collector (2009)

Graphic and bloody horror movie regarding a guy who tries to rob his employer to pay for the debts of his ex wife and ends up playing cat and mouse with a sadistic killer who has booby trapped the house with various entrapments. Pretty graphic and gritty but very much enjoyable to watch a lot similar to SAW movie series. Recommended for those who love their horror movies bloody and gory.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The day that is Valentine

The Valentine which was confined to western countries have now spread to so called Muslim countries where the love birds shower each other with flowers and confectionaries. Even in Islamic insurgent hit Pakistan, where Taliban are an ever growing presence, flower shops do a flourishing business and run out of flowers on that day. Although the Islamic Clerics have tried to ban or derail this holiday as being ''Un-Islamic'', the young people mesmerized by the advertising for the Valentine's day festivities just go ahead and celebrate it anyway. Thus in the Western World like the rest of the world have embraced this Holiday and made it really commercialized in terms of the flowers and candies and other gifts being showered on their usually spouses, partners, girl/boy friends etc.

The same thing happens in a flower shop, a dozen roses in normal days will cost you maybe 16 dollars but come Valentine day (and also Mother's day), the rate jumps to triple or four times that amount if you are able to find roses in a decent flower shop. And the flowers have to be bought at the same day or the flowers would not be fresh. You can order it ahead of the day but the flowers have to come on the same day, not a day late or a day before otherwise you know that you will get hell for the rest of the year from your loved one. My point here is that with the rise of the internet, many western holidays are also being celebrated around the world despite threats of violence and intimidation and the commercialization of these holidays go with it.

The scramble to pay for college-2

The students loans outstanding is now reached One Trillion dollars and growing and parents and students both are struggling to get hold of dwindling shares of money for which they are qualified. So it is imperative that funding for college should be started when your child is a baby (unless you expect to inherit or definitely know that you can get hold of four years of college money before your child reaches college age). Any money that the child gets like on birthdays or monetary awards or even some portion of their allowances should be stocked away in some account in your name in trust of your offspring. And whatever the financial situation you are facing, do not even touch that money earmarked for college purposes.

You have heard the expression out of sight and out of mind, if you get money in your child's name you should immediately deposit it in his/her account. Another way to save is to use the college funds which the states have initiated called 529 plans which can earn money overtime (although I would be hesitant to recommend it since I don’t know much about them and have not invested in it) but in terms of your money growing it can be alternative. You can also purpose a short term Certificate of deposit and keep on rolling it, although the interest is abysmally low but hey the principal remains intact. Although I read all the time that your retirement plan is very important and you should take care of yourself first but paying for your college offspring and making sure he/she does not struggle with college is more satisfying financially and emotionally. So keep on hunting for money for college any which way you can find including selling your own unused stuff in garage sales and putting it in your child's name.

The scramble to pay for college

Every year, the anxious parents of teens who have graduated high school and have been accepted to colleges of their choice (or not) scramble to get money to pay for their kids. This mad dash to get hold on loans were made easier in years before since the parents could tap into their home equity and just borrow against their house but with the housing collapse and tighter lending restrictions imposed by the bank, this scramble have now become a stampede. Most of the parents rely on loans to pay for their college kids and even that is not enough and money comes from all places all of which put extra burden on parents and students. Federal loans and private loans take up the majority of the loans, but besides that savings of parents and working during the college years also helps in the paying for college.

Another option which is coming up is to forego the dream colleges and take the first two years in a community college and then transfer to a four year college. Although a heart break for many kids but it can be a choice between graduating debt free and graduating with crushing debt because you don’t know that if you are going to get that high paying job that you think you can get. The choices are vary stark and the solutions are not that much since every family has a different financial situation which may change suddenly and can damage the chances of even going to college in the first place.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The rise of the internet and the Postal system financial woes

Whenever you walk into a post office you see assortment of people trying to mail stuff or buy stamps and there is usually a long line of people doing that, but behind all this fa├žade the postal system is in a deficit and bleeding money thanks to the Internet and other onerous requirements put by the U.S. Congress. Their demand is that if no relief comes to them then they would run out of money by October of 2012. They want flexibility in raising stamp prices, closing and consolidation of existing post offices, no more Saturday delivery and the unnecessary burden of pre funding retirement benefits. Although the rise of the internet has increased the post office business through mail order items sent by numerous internet companies but still it does not offset the fact that most of the people with internet connection have been paying their bills through the internet and also sending email instead of regular mail.

It was evitable that this was going to happen, but the resistance that the small towns are putting against the closure/consolidation of the post offices is making the Congress scramble for solutions to this big problem. I believe right now the post office should be allowed to raise rates on stamps, stop Saturday delivery and stop the pre funding of retirement benefits immediately. In this way at least the number of closure/consolidation of post offices will be less and if need be other measures should be put in place. I can understand the reluctance of Congress to do anything with this in a election year but hard choices have to be made in order for the post office to run efficiently and not rely on handouts or even a bailout from Congress.

The higher cost of college education

The cost of college education keeps on increasing every year sometimes twice the rate of inflation in some years and even more than that in others. This increases the amount of loans that the students and their parents have to take out. This is then stresses out the graduates who are increasing graduating with higher debt loads in the hopes of landing a job. Even if they land a good paying job, the amount of loans accumulated during their student years weighs down on them limiting their ability to buy stuff, a house or even start a family since the debt cannot be discharged even if you declare bankruptcy. There has been increasing focus of higher cost of college education and recently there have been efforts to rein in those costs.

Just recently six colleges have announced reduction in their tuition costs, it is a nice starting effort but still not enough to unburden the students of having too much loans when they graduate and hopefully find a good paying job enough to pay their living expenses and pay down their student’s loans. And it is not only the students who are stressed out on this but their parents have to go deeper into debt to pay for their children's college education. As this economy has taken a toll on adults regarding their finances, this additional burden of supporting their offspring's can have an effect on students choosing to go to college or not. There has not been a whole scale effort on the part of politicians to reduce the higher cost of college education so it has been up to the individuals and their parents to figure out how to pay for college and it should not be this way. We should make effort to reduce the costs and find creative ways to do it. We will have to do it for the sake of our children, ourselves and our country

Renting advantages and disadvantages-2

The best thing I have noticed is that if you lucky enough, your landlord will incorporate all your utility and water bills into the rent. Maybe the rent is higher but just the thought of somebody else paying for your utility bills gives you one less headache to worry about. The only thing you have to worry about while renting is how to pay your rent every month which is the most important part the Landlord cares about since he/she has to pay their mortgages. If you can find a great tenant who pays on time and don’t complain that much than being a landlord is a good thing provided you are ready for it.

The disadvantages are that the property is not yours to start with. Every month you are paying is either going down the drain since you are not building equity on other people's property? In fact you are helping the landlord build his/her equity in the house you are renting. But on the other hand you can save some money while renting so that you have enough money for down payment.
Another thing that I have noticed recently, that you can be out of your rental house before even your lease is up if the landlord defaults on his/her loans and they have to declare bankruptcy or the house goes into foreclosure. There is no emotional attachment to the rental place even if you make that house your home for years and years to come. Ultimately you know that you may have to leave if the rent increases or if the owner wants to sell the house or forever reasons which are not in your control. Although you can see that the advantages outweighs the disadvantages but still I will insist that if you have the money there is no better investment than owning a house or two.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Renting advantages and disadvantages

In my previous post I told you about being both sides of the real estate spectrum being a tenant and a landlord. In this post I will try to discuss as much as possible the advantages and disadvantages of renting a place. First I will start with advantages, the first being you just pay one month rent and one month security and just move right in, no need for you to make the place beautiful as it is mostly done for you by the landlord. For once this post will assume that you have already chosen a house and are in the process of moving in. Signing a lease is a breeze as compared to tons of paper when you are buying a house. Usually the landlord will ask you for your photo identification and two months worth of pay stub to verify that you actually have a job and can pay for the rent for the first year.

Usually leases can be of three types, one is a one year lease and the second one is a two year lease and the last one is month to month lease. I would not go into lease hold or lease and buy back or lease to own or the variations of leases. I will make it where you just lease and that is it. Another thing a landlord if he has been hurt before with a tenant will want to have a credit background check to make sure you are not a delinquent person on some loans. In big buildings they do require tenant credit report but I will again make it simple here just for a two family house and no hassle landlord.

Being a tenant and a landlord

I have been on the both sides of the real estate business; being a tenant and a landlord and I guess other people have the same experience since first we rent it and then owe our own place but most likely don’t become a landlord. Being a tenant has its advantages and disadvantages (more of that in another post). Even when you are trying to rent you don’t want a dump to live in and try to get as much of your expectations in the form of rental and according to your budget. But it really not that easy to find the perfect rental or the perfect landlord and you have to also be the model tenant and don’t become a pain in the neck for little things that you find in the house as annoyance. Remember you are a tenant because you don’t want to take care of the maintenance but that does not mean that you don’t have to take of it for your own living.

Being a landlord is just the opposite with more hassle. You do have to find good and on time paying tenants for your house then you have to make sure the house is habitable enough for your prospective tenant. You don’t have to cater to every small detail that your tenant will desire but your place should be habitable to them. Although a being a landlord can increase your income and support your mortgage but you should plan to have some money in case of unexpected emergencies and usual wear and tear of the house. And believe me I know this since I have been a landlord for the last 11 years and it is not easy but if you have some extra money invest in some real estate and rent out your place it is worth the effort.

The Greek Tragedy Unfolding Tragically

Greeks are one of the nicest people I have met in my life, kind, caring and friendly. That is why it is heart breaking to see the country in such a financial distress that they are literally begging for money to pay of their previous loans. I have not been to Greece (but someday hope so) but what I am reading in the newspapers is pretty scary for the future of Greece. As I have been emphasizing in my previous posts in this blog that there may be a limit to how much the Greeks can take austerity and how much and how long the European Union can help them stay afloat. They are really stuck between a rock and a hard place since they want to stay in the Euro but don’t have the means to do so and they don’t want to go back to their currency drachma since it will be catastrophic or maybe it will not be.

At least with the drachmas they will have control of their own currency and if need by devalue it to get their economy running. It will not be bad to have your own currency, look at Turkey which is not in the European Union (but should be) and its economy is growing faster than many European countries and have its own strong currency. I know that initially in the start there is going to pain and shock of Greece leaving Euro but it may ultimately force the EU to start rethinking the terms of their fiscal agreement and have a realistic approach to the whole integration of the unequal European Union economies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The deadly mix of drugs and alcohol

I just don’t get it, why people have to abuse both prescription drugs and alcohol at the same time. I mean if you are taking prescription drugs isn't that enough to keep your body good and then you increase the dosage without recommendation from the doctor and on top of that you have to mix it with alcohol. Never a good idea in this situation. But despite all the information on the label of the drugs and repeated information in the media regarding the dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol, people keep on doing it and then some of them die too and then the aha moment comes out. Instead of taking care of the body, people tend to abuse it with all manners of drugs so that they can get high. Well the body can only take so much and in the end it just gives itself away.

Despite high profile deaths and dangers, people still keep on pushing the limits on how much their body can take the abuse. Just to let you know that it is not that the drugs are strong and addictive but it is us who is weak enough that let the drugs take control of our lives. There are some people who want to hold themselves hostages to the inanimate items called drugs and then blame it for ruining their lives without being strong enough internally to resist it. Anyway with a little bit of education and will power, a person can resist the temptation to mix drugs and alcohol and lead a normal life.

Mysteries of the Universe-2

We have only reached moon and sending robots to Mars to explore its climate. Another we have sent out space ships to see what we can find. The Space is definitely one of the mysteries which will not get resolved forever, since it is so vast and complicated and human beings need oxygen to survive and some of the planets may not be habitable for any kind of life least of all humans. Then we are contacting if somebody is out there like us or more intelligent than us or even different creatures which our imagination has not made a shape out of it. You don’t even have to go that far enough to find the greatest mystery of all, our own body and what is our purpose here on earth.

Another thing how do the animal communicate and what happens when we die is the mystery never to be revealed. What happens to the soul when it leaves the body, and what happens when you buried a dead person? Does a person really see a light when they die and is there a really pearly gate when and if we reach heaven? How come each person has a unique DNA, finger print, even twins have different DNA and finger prints. There are so many mysteries out there that we would never know the solution to any of them even if we try our best. We are still trying to conquer diseases let alone live disease free. According to me we are really helpless when it comes to discovering what has happened before us and what will happen in the future. So we keep on pondering these Mysteries like a helpless child.

Mysteries of the Universe

Come to think of it with all the advancement a human being has achieved and some calling the space the final frontier of mankind, it is strange that we keep on discovering new species of animals around the world. It just shows that we have not yet explored the whole of the earth. We have not found out what is in the depth of the deepest oceans and only now one Russian ship has discovered the biggest ice lake somewhere around the world. We have not yet explored what is beneath the big glaciers of the arctic and Antarctica. We don’t know what the mighty Himalayas and other mountain ranges hold inside them. We have not yet explored what lies beneath the deserts of Asia, Africa, and Australia.

The snow bound areas of Alaska, Canada and Russia have not been explored at all. we are still scratching our heads of how to predict earth quakes and how to lessen the damage. Then after we have explored our earth (which will remain a mystery forever I guess), we can start looking towards the sky for the next exploration and we don’t know what is really out there. Every few months we hear about a star or a moon or a galaxy nearby being discovered. By nearby I mean like two to three million Light years ( a light year is equal to distance that light travels in a year at about 6 trillion miles). Then we keep on hearing that we may have 100 billion galaxies out there with 100 billion stars in each galaxy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The absolutely, Necessary and essential No. 1 resolution of New Year

At the start of every New Year, people make lots of resolutions and try to stick with it initially but as the year progresses, other unexpected priorities take hold over their resolutions and you even forget that you did resolutions. The top of the list is most of the time to lose weight and then comes to reduce debt. But I believe that the top of the list should be debt reduction or debt free life. But I believe that if you have debt the worrying over how you will pay for it without incurring more debt leads to your weight loss. Financial worries can really take a toll over ones health physically and mentally. Even if you have job which pays your bills and have benefits you need to have a backup or supplemental income like on the weekends or even on weeknights so that you are financially secure.

This should always be your number one New Year resolution every year to pay down your debt or be live debt free. And too much relying on one source of income when there is no such thing as job security is really courting disaster in terms of your physical and financial health. Taking care of debt means taking control of life and that is one less thing to worry about in life.

Protection of a child

This is a cruel world and if you are a child and don’t have somebody to protect you then it becomes crueler. But when the supposed protector does not protect you then where do you go from there. I mean if your parents are careless, reckless or for whatever reasons do not attend to their child's needs then where does the child suppose to get protection, loving, nurturing and guidance. I read almost daily about kids being abandoned, killed in murder suicide pacts, become a pawn in the custody battles, neglected by not feeding them properly, physically and sexually abused all because they can't protect themselves properly. It is not only strangers that do these things to them but sometimes the trusted ones like their parents, and (sorry to say) religious leaders have been accused and found guilty of unspeakable acts towards this vulnerable segment of society.

Although the government does all it can to protect children but they government cannot be at everywhere and it has to trust the people to whom the child is given custody of. I get very angry when I hear abuse of kids for no fault of their own. I am really torn between punishing the adults (meaning parents) for their blunders but also on the other hand it directly affects the child if their parents are punished or sent to jail. Other thing is that with strangers, there should be no excuse to let them go lightly and the stiffest possible sentence should be given to them since they deserve no mercy when it comes to hurting the child.

On the lighter side-Movies-Monsters (2010)

Cheaply made sci-fi movie regarding a reluctant Photographer for a newspapers who is forced to escort the daughter of his employer to safety of the U.S. border from the Mexican side which has been infected by aliens. Cheap special effects and non-engaging actors and even less science fiction sinks this movie to great lows according to my opinion. Not recommended.

On the lighter side-Movies-Sniper Reloaded (2011)

If you have seen the sniper series movies, you will go for this one (I am a sucker for sequels despite my avowed wow), this is the one regarding the son of the original sniper who tries to rescues a trapped European in the Congo and whose gets picked by another sniper. Conspiracy theories start to build regarding why would an American Sniper kills his fellow soldiers. Not that great to begin and not enough action sequences for an action movie. Not recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Sanctum (2011)

I try to stay away from movies which are dark and which we cannot see including any horror movie which is filmed at night. But I was pleasantly surprised to find this movie which is mostly filmed in a cave to be watchable although a little claustrophobic. A team of cave explorers goes into one of the deepest caves in the world and tries to find its way out of it when a storm hits and they are trapped in the cave. Very good photography and enjoyable to watch. Recommended

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Electronics that was Japanese

What has happened to the Japanese Innovation? They just announced that their big three electronic companies will collectively loose more than 16 Billion this year. Granted with the Tsunami and the strong yen against Dollars can be one of the contributing factor but even their premier electronic company has not had a hit in many years and is bleeding cash. I mean the most popular electronic innovation in recent years have all been American like the IPOD® IPAD® and IPhone ®. What has happened to the Japanese famous innovation machine is a mystery but not that it can't be solved. The Japanese have lost their way on the way to the top. Their car industries are really great but most of their production has moved overseas because it is so much expensive to produce something in Japan right now.

Like the Greece tragedy, a whole book can be written on what has gone wrong with the much inspired Japanese innovation and export machine which is being weighted down by aging population and stagnant economy for the last ten or so years. But right now the electronics is the issue. I remember the time that I first got my Walkman® from my Dad and it was a new innovation. No longer had we had to bring a huge tape recorder with us and torture other people with loud noise. Now you could have listened to music without disturbing other people. But those innovative days are gone and now the king of Electronics and trendy stuff is Apple ® and I am afraid with the economic situation and high wages in Japan that may well be the case for the near future.

I hate credit, I love credit

The simple word of Credit conjures up feeling of love and hate in all persons. You love credit because it gives you the ability to pay for things but at the same time when you get your statement you feel disgusted enough and sometimes curse yourself into not controlling yourself while you were spending. Although most of the time, you can use cash but it is far more convenient to use credit and in some places, only Credit Cards are used like while booking your hotels and rental cars. It is an easier way and the most secured one I believe since you don’t have to carry much cash in your pocket as long as you have balance on your credit. I love the convenience of having extra cash in your hand but beware that you should not fall into a debt trap.

But being able to spend money is easier than managing one and if you are not careful, the credit limit that you have used will bite you back hard. You have to at least pay the minimum in order for you not to default but you have to make sure that you pay as fast as possible otherwise those interest rates can be a killer. But I still love credit than debit since it gives me extra cash on hand if all other avenues of raising cash fails. And just to emphasize using credit while hating it too, many entrepreneurs have used their credit cards to launch their businesses.

The horror movie called Unemployment.

Many people (including me) become excited or crave to watch and horror movie and sometimes want to get the scare of their lives. But in reality the biggest horror movie that can and should be made should be about unemployment. It is scarier to become unemployed then just watching some gore or horror flick. I have been through counting now three periods of unemployment and it is a real life horror that you don’t know from where you are going to pay your bills or put food on the table. This can really make you upset, give your stomach aches and makes your stay awake at night and even if you are not the begging type. You really feel desperate to get any job by begging or just saying I will do anything to earn a living.

The psychological tool is another tool that can affect not only you but if you have family then it extends to them. The whole entire behavior that you exhibit when you have a job is suddenly replaced by annoyance, irritation, anger, frustration and general unhappiness over the way the world is treating you despite the fact that you have played by the rules of the society all your life. Even if you work around the house and try to be active about household chores, you don’t feel productive enough and try to avoid the conversation of your job search with your loved ones. Overall the effect that unemployment takes upon you is the worst horror movie that you can ever see and it is not pretty.

Sometimes, Sorry does not cut it.

You the best word besides Thank you and excuse me is Sorry. People say sorry all the time because it shuts up the affected party and nothing goes out of the pocket of the perpetrator. Sometimes it is an honest mistake or an unintentional accident that is summed up in the Word Sorry. But even if it is not an honest mistake or a deliberate accident, people still want to avoid the consequences of their actions and try to pass off the event by saying Sorry. This word Sorry is the consequences of us being human and we all make mistakes and blunders and the like. But what if the word sorry is used when you can't take back the resultant action. Like I was reading in the newspaper about a girl who said sorry to the intended victim family whom she has killed and I said what kind of sorry is that when all is said and done in this case taking life of another person.

Taking life of another person is already a very horrendous act and then saying sorry while trying to show remorse according to me does not cut since the perpetrator wants to get a lenient sentence. Even if the person is truly remorseful about the action, just saying sorry would not cut it with the victim's family since it is already too late for the victim and their family. I believe that the use of the word Sorry should be curbed to the extent of minor infractions between human beings and not killings and other deadly matter

Why not an exit clause for EURO

It can be sorry spectacle when an agreement does have an if what clause. And when it comes to the European Union integration, I don’t understand that the so called best minds in the business either deliberately or intentionally did not put in the agreement that what and how a country can exit the Euro if it is forced too or by choice. Even Marriage the so called most sacred institution has an exit clause called Divorce if one party cheats or there are irreconcilable differences in the marriage, so how come the Europeans thought that once a Country has adopted the Euro it will stay there and other rich countries in the Union will bail them out. First it is not a true union to start with since every country in the Union has a border and speaks different language. Second every country has its prime minister and has elections to elect its sovereign parliament and then each country has its own armed forces, budgets, visa policies, border control and the list goes on and on.

The only thing the Union said that fiscal union will be integrated but some countries went into the Union when they were ill equipped to do so and here we have Greece now. If Greece or for that matter any other fiscally weak country wants to exit either by choice or by force, it should be allowed too since you cannot force somebody to stay with you piling it with more debt. If it cannot pay the old debt with few exports, how will it be able to pay more debt? The European Union should stop this doling out of money and let Greece finds its own way out of its mess.

The Anti-Piracy Act showdown

The big showdown between the internet companies and intellectual property rights industry (including Film and movies studio) came out to be winner for the internet companies. They campaigned that the two bills would be very big in censorship and will make the U.S. the laughing stock of totalitarian regimes who work on the same premise. I believe that if the existing laws are enforced rigorously there would not be any need for an additional piece of legislation trying to do the same. Piracy is bad for everybody including the intellectual property rights holders, the U.S. workers and sometime internet companies themselves. But so is excessive profit which encourages the piracy in the first place. If the contents are made available in cheaper form , I don’t believe that people would then like to buy pirated stuff else.

But this thing has not quite got down well with the rights holders who are still grappling to come to terms with the emerging technology. They are still relying on old tactics without decreasing profits or finding new ways to profit from the technology where I believe they can make more money if only the content is reasonably priced. Other thing is that the right holders have failed to inform the public the harm it does to U.S. workers. This is quite surprising since they are in the business of marketing their stuff to the public but have not yet convinced clearly to the consumers that it is in their interest to use legitimate stuff. Hollywood is still seen as a greedy place with outsized salaries and high priced tickets and if anything they public is more understanding if the problem is presented to them in clear cut way rather than the same old tactics of using their lobbying power to ramp in through a legislation which will not stop piracy in any significant way.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Hardware and Software Price difference-2

The same thing happens with the Phone plans; you can buy a phone for either free or pay for one and get the three free only if you sign up for the phone company's plan for two years with early termination fee usually the cost of the phone itself. So actually they are subsidizing the cost of the phone through the phone plans. As everybody knows, no business exists to lose money and if you think that they are losing money, they are making on something which you cannot even think about it. Since it is really a trade secret that how a thing cost to make in Asia, you will never know if the company is creating a loss leader in order for us to buy their other regularly priced stuff or not.

My point is that the prices should not be so astronomically high that the difference between the hardware and software becomes ridiculously absurd. I mean you can earn a profit but don’t kill the small person in the process that the only way to get your hands on is to share one software with many people like it happens in poor countries. But every year I have seen that as the price of the Hardware keeps dropping, the price of the software goes on the opposite side. Until we know how much it really costs for the software to develop and how much margin they charge on each software, it will be up to the market to decide how much it can bear to sell that software, which in individual cases is very negligible but on the corporate side, there is a captive market to sell at whatever price the average company is willing to pay for licensing that product.

The Hardware and Software Price difference

Come to think of it, it is really a neat and money making trick. I am talking about the huge price differentials in the Software and Hardware of almost everything. The other day I was at the office supply store to get ink for my printer and total black and white ink cost me more than fifty dollars. I was shocked but more than that I was disgusted with the price since the printer you can get a good one for less than 200 but the ink can cost you like in a year more than the printer itself. Same goes for DVDs, I read somewhere that DVDs cost the company making it at one dollar but they sell it for more than twenty dollars or more. For that price you can get a brand new DVD player.

Same goes for the office software which cost like almost 450 dollars and it cost less than that to buy a computer. So these companies make a killing selling the software, while not even taking a loss on the computer since most of the computers are made in cheap labor markets. The defense these companies take is that the development costs of these software are very high but I still don’t see the price of the previous versions coming down to lower cost levels. Then these same companies make a hue and cry when their software is stolen in overseas markets. The price of one software here in the U.S. can feed a family of five or even six in some countries, so how else the population will get education if the cost is even at 50 dollars (which I believe it is not).

Exercise without a Gym-2

If you work for an office and have to take an escalator, try to use stairs instead, although it is tempting to use the escalator since it is there but I have seen many people who despite the escalators use the stairs since they think that it is a good form of free exercise which is really. Another form of exercise not used that frequently but still used is carrying your grocery from your car to your house and also folding clothes after a wash is also a good exercise. Cleaning dishes to put it in the dishwasher is another form of free exercise. Even after the dishes are cleaned putting it back in their places is also exercise.

I am sure anything which you do in a routine manner may or may not be considered exercise enough to lower your cholesterol but collectively it is free exercise. You may not think of driving as part of exercise but even accelerating your vehicle and putting on brakes now and then is a short of that. Typing on a computer even while sitting is yet another one that people may not think of part of their routine exercise. One more I can come up with is washing hands and face and even taking shower is also exercise. So even if you don’t want to spend money or don’t have the time to go to a gym, the above mentioned activities if done on a regular basis can give you enough exercise to keep you healthy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Exercise without a Gym

There are so many ways that you can do exercise and burn those calories without spending a dime and going to a gym since quite a few of us start out with a gym membership and then become lazy or busy enough not to go and keep on paying them without using their facilities. It is not a hidden fact that there can be number of exercises indoor and outdoor that you can do and built muscles without resorting to expensive equipment or driving to a gym. The best and the cheapest one and the one that everybody is to walk. You walk to your work, into your house, even from one bedroom to another and to the bathroom and kitchen and the living area. Indoor you walk your stairs if you have one and outdoors you can just walk around your house (if you have a big enough house) or just around the block of your house to get good exercise.

If you want a rigorous exercise you can either bike or just climb stairs up and down six or seven times each day (stairs being ten or more steps), even slow running around the house is enough to give you exercise. Playing with your pets or kids can be another exercise without a gym and so is mowing a lawn which is a really good exercise during the summer and spring seasons. Cleaning snow can be a good exercise but I would caution here it is very strenuous and not everybody can do this and even a young person can perspire doing it.

The coming Defense cuts

Before I can say Cut, the defense cuts are coming and every representative is trying to save bases and jobs where the cuts will hit the hardest. Already the Republicans are crying foul and saying that it will hurt the Nation's security and our global commitments. But are we going to be the big Daddy with everybody riding on our coattails and enjoying the benefits of U.S. protection while contributing less money to the collective defense of Europe, Asia and other global hot spots. I don’t think the Republicans and their allies relies how much deep financial trouble we are in and we don’t have the luxury (read: Money) to pay for all the defense projects. We are right now going in the right direction will cutting military spending while emphasizing small elite troops who can go and get the job done and not commit hundreds of thousands of troops for which we don’t have the means to support another war.

By war we mean attacking Iran in case it comes to that, since Iran is three times larger than Iraq and mostly Homogeneous meaning that the attack would not be welcome the populace nor the international community. We should realize that we can be a global power without spending more than half a trillion dollars on defense defending other countries who are equally capable of defending themselves without our help and it is time that our military might should reflect the new financial reality that we are in now. Defense cuts should be prudent in order for us to reduce our debt and our regular budget deficit which is hitting one trillion dollars fourth year in a row.

The Underwater economies of Europe

Like a house which has lost its value enough so that the mortgage on the house is more than the house is worth, a similar comparison can be made for the under water economies of Europe particularly Greece and Portugal. Greece is in a terrible shape and were it not for the fudging of the deficit, I really doubt they would have been even admitted into the Euro Currency. I really see any exports made in Greece or even Portugal for people to buy, so how are they going to pay for all the loans being given to them to stay afloat. It is like you have cosigned on a loan and then have to bail the cosigner so that your credit score don’t take a hit. The same is going on with the Greece. The European Union having admitted the Greeks into their Union are now putting more and more money into a money pit or as we say in Finance it is sunk cost.

I know it can be scary situation if Greece defaults and the ripple effect is felt through other European countries, but is the European Union ready to keep on propping up the Greek government and its people indefinitely since their exports are negligible and the amount of benefits generous enough that it still attractive to thousands of illegal immigrants from the east. But to be fair and truthful, the economy of Greece is not that competitive and the same can be said about Portugal and Spain with rigid labor laws and overly generous benefits. Unless the troubled economies reform themselves drastically (no matter how much pain there is since they have enjoyed illusionary prosperity for a long time), they will ultimately have to exit the Euro which accordingly to me seems like a better idea than this uncertainty about if they will exit.

On the lighter side-Movies-Sucker Punch (2011)

Dark Atmospheric movie about an abused girl who is sent to an insane asylum (doubled as a brothel) and who fantasizes about escape from there through dream like sequences, Lots of action the usual Martial arts, not boring though. Recommended.

On the lighter side-Movies-Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010-HK)

Visually stunning movie starring Andy Lau as the subject Detective who is released from jail to find out why the high officials of the Kingdom are being killed mysteriously. Very good martial arts sequences and a treat to watch. Highly recommended (if you don’t mind the English Subtitles)

On the lighter side-Movies-Death Stop Holocaust

Run for your lives from this movie like a plague, I thought it would be bloody mess but it was a bloody bore with abysmal acting and cheap gore, but what can you expect from a movie which was reportedly made for less than 15k dollars. Anyway not a horror or suspense movie and the actors don’t elicit any sympathy. Not recommended at all.