Monday, December 31, 2012

On the lighter side-Movies-Looper (2012)-Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Now here is a movie where you have to scratch your head and think that if you want to take it to conclusion or just stop it in between or at whatever time. It is about the future where Time Travel has become possible but the government bans it for fear of misuse. Enter the mob and if they don’t like somebody they send him or her back 30 years to get killed by their designated hit men. Joseph Gordon is sent to the past to kill his future self (don’t ask how I figure it out) but it is something at least for me to avoid. Not Recommended

The employed and the entrepreneur-7

For the entrepreneur, every day is a struggle to develop more contacts, maintain the existing and achieve something more than you did yesterday. Entrepreneurship is not everybody’s cup of tea that is why you see a lot more employees than bosses, but once your company has achieved maturity (many years down the road) you can reap a lot of rewards with it. You see if you work hard in the office, you may or may not get rewarded with bonuses, raises and very rarely a promotion and you are limited to the time the office is opened. But in the entrepreneurship, the more your work, the more you get rewarded in terms of contacts and money. You are not restricted to five days a week and you can and must do work on the weekend, every waking moment in your life is about how you get the next dollar more than you earned before. So there you have it, a brief posts about the differences between an employed person working for somebody else versus the entrepreneur working for himself and being more productive and flexible and versatile in his/her ability to achieve greatness. Although it is also true that majority of the businesses started in any given year end in failure but that does not diminish the lure of entrepreneurship for ones who want to take the risk and earn more money and get more satisfaction out of his life than they working for somebody else.

On the lighter side-Movies-Silent Night (2012)-Jaime King, Malcolm McDowell

Direct to DVD horror movie about a Santa Clause killing people in a small town with hundreds of Santas in Uniform on Christmas Eve. Gory and brutal will satisfy fans of Horror and gore movies. Everybody else stay away. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Trouble with the curve (2012)-Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams

Aging, bitter and ailing baseball recruiter takes his estranged daughter for one last road trip scouting for a new recruit in his slow paced and well acted Clint Eastwood piece as always. With Amy Adams as his daughter and Justin Timberlake as the love interest and rival recruiter. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-El Orfanato (The Orphanage-2007-Spanish)

Excellent Spanish language movie (with English Subtitles) about an orphan who returns to former orphanage with her husband and adopted son and encounters supernatural doings at the place. Good atmosphere and story line, superbly done. Highly Recommended

Friday, December 28, 2012

The employed and the entrepreneur-6

As an entrepreneur, you have to pay your own contribution of social security and Medicare and unemployment taxes and have to provide and look for a health insurance because you have to do everything by yourself. There is no set time that you can come to the office and a set time to leave. Every minute of your waking hour is for you to make more money and since this is the internet age, 24 hours of work is what people expect from you. It is not that you will be working 24 hours but if you are on the internet or even if you have a physical store with web presence, customers expect you to be online always and any excuse from you for not having that will compel your customers and potential customers to move to another website by the click of the mouse. Once they are gone, it becomes harder for you to cultivate them again. Then you have to balance your family like because you are constantly working. Any time spent on emergencies will take you away from your goal of increasing revenue for your business. It does not mean that you don’t have to take emergencies, but initially when you are at the developing stage of your business, any emergency should be taken care of as fast as possible so as not to lose time and hence the customers. If you are a sole proprietor (meaning you are the lone person in the business), you have to deal with all the above in addition to several other duties like accounting, tax duties, dealing with suppliers, attending to mail and deliveries and everything you can think off, a sole proprietor has to do and the hours he/she spends on them does not end with eight hours but sometimes double that time or even more than that.

The employed and the entrepreneur-5

In fact, your sleep becomes the most cherished asset in your life when you become an entrepreneur. Even if you want to sleep you are still thinking of ways to increase your revenue, reduce your costs, increase efficiency, market your products, develop your network of potential clients, worrying about supplies, shipping our products (if you have a physical one), answering your emails, dealing with suppliers, unexpected emergencies and in addition dealing with your households stuff in the process. So an entrepreneur's life is no fun and game if you want to join this crowd of adventure seekers. One thing I can tell you about entrepreneurs are that they are risk averse and risk takers at the same time. They may have tolerance for risk taking but once they plunge into it they may be risk averse to certain things and risk taking in certain things. But overall you can say that they are risk takers since they are going out on their own, not knowing when they will be profitable and where the next meal on their table will be coming from. In an employed environment, you know that you have to deal with one or two bosses directly but when you are in entrepreneurship, every client is your boss and you have to make sure that you keep them pleased in order to be in their good books for ever. That does not mean that you have to bend over backwards to please them even for tiny matters, as they usually say in marketing classes that "customer is king" but you do have to give them excellent service to further your reputation and gain more clients but word of mouth.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

On the lighter side-Movies-Premium Rush (2012) - Joseph Gordon-Levitt

If you have ever been to New York City, you would notice that there are bicyclists and then there are bike messengers delivering anything in a hurry when you have something urgent to reach some place without the hassle of traffic and other uncertainties. This is the story about a bike messenger who is asked to deliver a mysterious packet to someone and gets entangled with a crooked cop heavily in gambling debt. Exciting bicyclists racing along congested New York traffic. Very much holds your interest throughout. Recommended.

The employed and the entrepreneur-4

I am talking this out of blue but have experience with what I am saying. I have been in the unemployment position not once but twice (not to mentioned the two times when I was also unemployed) and I have been to the same situation regarding waiting for the messiah to give me a job otherwise I will be sending my resumes through the internet. As if the internet is the savior, since you don’t know who receives it, you are just wasting a lot of your time, trying to send your resumes. And it is rare nowadays that your relative or your friends will help you out since they are also clinging to their own jobs. My point is that the employed people once they are in employment a long time are scared to venture outside their situation and rarely start on their own even is an opportunity does arise. So now that I have shown you that the employed people are handicapped not by their circumstances but by their own nature of risk aversion, fear of uncertainty and other countless reason, let me show you the other side of the coin that is the entrepreneur who don’t have it got going any easier and have their own advantages and disadvantages. You really have to change your lifestyle and your way of doing work in order to be a successful entrepreneur. Laziness goes out of the window as fast as you can say entrepreneur. In fact the most important trait is that you cannot afford laziness in your life for a certain number of years.

The employed and the entrepreneur-3

Once your work is done in the office (mostly) you can go to your homes and start preparing for the next day. Nothing more is expected of you and your retirement, health and other benefits including vacation, personal and sick days are taken care of. It may seem a lot of safe bet to continue on this path. As I have seen people checking their 401K retirement accounts and sometimes complaining that their money is down due to Wall Street. But if you want these people to risk and even start a part time job on the side like on the weekend, they balk as if stung by a rattle snack. They want to do other stuff or they are not interested in pursuing anything riskier. Spending time with the family, although the best time, does not take away their complaints that their take home salaries are not enough to cover their expenses. Even when offered a chance to supplement their income, they dream about either not having time (although you have to take out time), or their don’t know what to do, or they think that everything that is to be done have been done in business or they want to do something big or don’t have enough money to start a part time business or they will name a number of excuses just to avoid not working on the weekends. I am so tired about hearing people complaining of not finding work and then they are looking for a job for sometimes years and could not find one and then they blame the government (and the economy ) for all the faults that they are unable to land a job.

On the lighter side-Movies-Kill ‘em All (2012) – Gordon Liu

Not worthy of your time about a bunch of assassins kidnapped by a mad man and kept prisoners in his building so that he can enjoy seeing them kill each other. Although Gordon Liu (of The 36th Chamber Fame) is in it but his role is very limited. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Hamilton-I Nationens Intresse (In the interest of the Nation) (2012-Swedish)

Sometimes out of curiosity I dwell on foreign movies to see how the other side of Hollywood is doing with limited budget and I stumbled upon this movie, which is a low tech but bloody version of the James Bond movie out of Sweden. Good story line but the acting is a little bit stiff. Recommended. With Subtitles.

On the lighter side-Movies-The Vow (2012) – Channing Tatum, Rachel Mcadams

Based on a true story, this is about a wife whose memories about her marriage to her husband goes blank after they are involved in an accident and all through the movie, the husband tries to help her recovery whatever memory they had together before the accident. Good movie with good acting and story. Recommended

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The employed and the entrepreneur-2

Although I may have written about it before but as I interact more and more with people and know their fears and apprehensions and their ambitions the more I know how an entrepreneur spirit is evolved. First of all the employed people have an inherent fear of the unknown that is they don’t know where their next paycheck is going to come from that deters them from pursuing the entrepreneur path. They are just frozen at the thought of not getting paid at the end of two weeks and don’t know how to earn a buck outside their protected cocoon. They are comfortable in their lives even if that means working ten to twelve hours a day just to keep their jobs. I have noticed all along that most of the employed people just have to show up and everything is ready for them to start their work. They don’t have to worry about stationery or supplies, computers or printers running out or even to buy a new one. The computer software is updated (somewhat) with the latest Anti Virus software to protect the office data. Even in some offices you get free coffee/tea to smooth your time and even internet is provided if the day is slow enough. You don’t feel lonely as there are several people like you working in the office and you chat with them even while you are working. You have to deal with only one or two bosses and don’t have to worry about developing relationships with clients since this part is already outsourced to account/relationship officers who do the work of going out and marketing the products of your organization. There is a set time to come to work and set time to leave if you are in the non management position but if you are in the management position then time is of no essence to you and your organization. You again get one hour of lunch break unless you are in the management position where you are working and eating at the same time. You sometimes get bonuses and parties and raises if the company has done well. The only thing that is demanded of you is you have to use your brain in order to perform your duties.

The employed and the entrepreneur

Now here is a comparison I want to do regarding how the employed and the entrepreneur differ in their approach to earn a living. Although this is not an exhaustive list and many will argue with my assumptions but after being in the employment business for almost twenty years and interest in entrepreneurship for the last five years, I can say for sure that I have come up with the tips that make a person cling to employment and the one daring to risk it all to go for the gold. Although there can be entrepreneurs who are part time employed or were first employed and then started on the path of entrepreneurship or vice versa, nobody has the monopoly on who can become one or the other. I have seen countless articles where they give the traits of an entrepreneur and you can extract from it why the other part is employed but it is entrepreneurship does not come naturally (although there has been a counter argument that it does come naturally). Sometimes you can say that when you have lost a job and can't get one, some of the people say goodbye to the search for a job and try to start on their own, they are still in the minority as many people after several years still cling to the hope of finding a decent paying job but still there are people who do go the entrepreneurship in times of unemployment. There are several advantages and disadvantages to both (which I will elaborate later) but I believe that once you have entered the path of entrepreneurship, you decidedly don’t want to come back to be under a boss (unless some extreme emergency makes you change your mind or circumstances).

Friday, December 21, 2012

Free Speech Dilemma-2

So this is dilemma that confronts everybody. For example, Hitler items sold on some U.S. websites are prohibited in some European countries, so is the denial of Holocaust in some European countries and not in others especially the U.S. Hate speech is a protected form of speech in European and other advanced countries but not in other countries and what constitutes a hate speech may not be such in other countries. Recently the issue of the Screening of the derogatory movie about the Prophet of Islam came to boil in Islamic countries. It was a free speech issue in the U.S. but for the people in the Islamic world, the word Free speech ends when you insult the Prophet of Islam (although curiously they tolerate other kinds of insults on other biblical Prophets). The explosion of new technology while it has eased human beings lives and make the world a little bit small has also spread the kind of speech some people or even countries don’t like. Now in some cases you can say whatever you want without fear of offending someone (with limits as has been shown by the courts). But this freewheeling technology has even the supporters of free speech uneasy too. My question is what is the limit of free speech, how do you define free speech, what universal body says that these things are off limits and cannot be considered free speech in any country. This is such a complex and vast discussion that it can never end because of different opinions and views of billions of people and thus this is also my dilemma since I may support free speech in some cases and not in others.

Free Speech Dilemma

I have been meaning to write these posts for a long time but had to gather my thoughts before I write since it is a sensitive and critical subject to all of human beings not just Americans. Every year, many cases come up where the limits or restrictions to Free speech are challenged in courts. The U.S. Constitution guarantees free speech but does not define what the limit to it is. It has thus up to courts who try to interpret what constitutes free speech or not. The courts decide each case individually and thus come up with different verdicts. There has never been a set of rules where free speech can or cannot be applied. In this aspect everybody has to struggle individually of what to say or not to say since free speech can mean different things to different people. This post of mine will not be the last word on free speech and my point will or will not be endorsed by anybody reading it. But I can still try to find out what constitutes a free speech. As a case long time ago decided by the U.S. Supreme Court said that you cannot cry fire in a crowded theater and then claim free speech. And apart from that ruling you cannot threaten somebody with physical violence or smear their name and call it free speech. What constitutes a free speech to one individual may not be free speech to another person.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A state's right to exist-2

Without security, you cannot work or go about your business every day. The fear of getting caught up in a crime paralyzes the whole society and no or slow economy activity happens. You can say that a failed state embodies their biggest symptom of being failing in its responsibility to provide a safe environment for its citizens to live and work. Although a failed state can have laws on its books but it is not implemented or implemented selectively and then the common person loses its faith in their state to provide justice if they become a victim to a crime. The victim will not seek to go the police since it has already decided that the state will not provide him/her justice. Thus for this person, a state does not exist anymore and the geographical boundaries that define a nation vanishes from their vision. For me, I believe that if the state fails to provide foremost the security to their citizens to live and work without fear of getting hurt or killed, then that has no right to exist in the first place no matter how hard it is trying. It is not the hard part but the intension of the state to provide security that has the greatest amount of effect on how the citizens perceive their states. If a state fails in this responsibility then the citizens have the right to demand that either the government resigns or they be allowed to go their separate ways because if you cannot provide people security then the state essentially does not exist.

A state's right to exist

What is a state's right to exist. Is it merely that it is a state and people have decided to live in it as citizens that it becomes a state? Or is it that the state exists and thus have a responsibility towards its citizen who relies on it for everything that happens in their daily lives. I believe that it is the later portion since a human being does not have choice where they are born, although they do have a choice to emigrate for economic, security or for any other individual reason but usually it is one of the two either economic or security reasons. Now nobody can question that why is a state existing since only the citizens have the right to decide but a state do have rights that make them justify their existence in the eyes of its citizens and the outside world. Although it has been written a thousand times before that what is a states right towards its citizens and outside world like secure them from internal and external threats, provide laws for them to work and prosper and facilitate their travel to the outside world. But to me the most important duty of the state and its right to exist is to provide security to its citizens. If there is no security for a citizen then what does the state's role in governing them. The state should then be dismantled and every citizen should fend for themselves.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

And truth will set you free or get you into a whole lot of trouble

While we keep on emphasizing that we should always speak the truth and the kids should never lie about anything, but in reality truth is harder to say than preached. Although truth may hurt initially but it does help you in the long run. But again sometimes people lie not because they love to lie but to protect their loved ones from the harmful effects if they speak the truth. Same goes with the politicians, everybody know that it is very rare that Politicians speak the truth because if they do, they would not get elected. It is easier for them to lie or to say in a nicer way fudge facts so that they can either get elected or know that it will hurt their constituency in the short run. Kids lie because it is easier for them not to get into trouble because even if the parents say that they will not punish them, they end up doing it anyway. This gives the kids more time to stay out of trouble. Same thing with the Politicians and other people because truth is sometimes so painful that people tend to lie so that it does not blow in the faces of their intended audience. Here I am not defending that you should always lie so that you may have more time or pray that nobody finds out about the truth but my point is telling the truth can bring its own set of troubles.

What is happening in Japan-3?

I guess the easing of monetary policy and spending money on social projects while you don’t have money or idea of how to revive the economy is a good way to deflect attention to the shortcomings that Japan is facing now and will be in the future if things remain as is. The biggest threat is right now the demographics where the rigid and ultra strict restrictions on immigration to Japan are reducing the population below the replacement level. Japanese people are living longer than ever and hence their social security and other benefits are rising but with the population in decline, fewer young people would be able to supplement or replenish these benefits in the future until either local population goes up or immigration is opened up. More immigration means more young people would be able to support the older generation. In order to open up immigration, the nation should start to shed its attitude towards foreigners if it wants to grow economically. Although India and China also do not have robust immigration programs in place but their huge population insures that their economy will keep on growing outlasting the Japanese one and the Japanese companies would tend to relocate to other cheaper locations. Other thing is that Japan has to come with ideas of how to revive and grow their economy instead of relying on Public works to generate jobs which are at best a temporary solution. The rigid educational system which was fine when Japan was growing has to change so that the flow of ideas should flourish and students need to think for themselves and have entrepreneurial spirit also. Also the idea of working in a company for your entire life so that you can retire with a good pension needs to be revisited. In this case the attitude of the Japanese population will have to change drastically. Until the current thinking and mindset of the Japanese people does not change, Japan will slowly follow down a steep decline in its economy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On the lighter side-Movies-Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)-Milo Jovovich

More of the same with the female lead coming back to fight one more time but the ending is set up for another of this zombie fighting movie coming sometime in the future. Although the action sequences are great but the story line keeps on dragging. Recommended for action fans only, all others stay away.

What is happening in Japan-2?

In addition to xenophobia, the population is ageing so fast that the Japanese will be hard pressed to support it by their social welfare unless there is immigration. But here again since Japan is small and had never had the welcoming attitude towards open immigration, the population will keep on shrinking. Then there is the rigid attitude of the people itself that the schools are turned into rot learning center where the challenge to authority or even questioning someone senior is not heard of. It would have been okay when the Japanese economy was growing, but now it is now so with the change of times, they need to change their attitudes toward learning and education. Furthermore, Japan has the highest national debt as compared to GDP in the industrialized world estimated at more than 200 percent of their GDP. Although the debt is mostly held by Japanese themselves, but still it is a liability that needs to be accounted for. It was not too long ago that the Japanese companies were the envy of the world with world class innovation coming out of Japan. But not anymore, since the rise of Apple ® Inc., things have not been looking too good. Add to that Korea coming up fast and China is emerging as a greater threat. Japan Inc. is now paralyzed and the companies although profitable are trying to find cheaper places to produce their goods instead of the high price Japanese labor. The only remedy that the Japanese government lately is coming out with is to throw money at more social work and create jobs that go with it.

What is happening in Japan?

Another election, another prime minister elected in Japan. Japan had more government changes in six years that we have it here in more than twenty years. People in Japan are desperate to find a leader who can lead them out of their current malaise. It used to in the eighties that there were fears that the Japan will take our the U.S. since they were on a buying binge, buying all kind of American Icon properties and all the innovation was being done in Japan. Now it is no more the case, the rise of Apple® and other manufacturers from South Korea and rise of China has put a dent to the term "Japan, Inc.". With a decade long property bust in Japan starting the 1990, Japan has not fully recovered from that period. I love Japan and I have been there once. It is a beautiful country with hard working people, but no matter whatever way you cut it, it is in slow and steady decline. I don’t want to sound pessimistic but there are factors that are hampering the growth of Japan. I am no Japan expert but by following Japan for a long time and have visited that place, I have certain ideas of what is going on Japan that is making them go to slow decline. The first of all I believe is the population. Japanese population is not growing as it should be and that it is ageing faster than any industrialized nation in the world. Add to that, there is this huge problem of xenophobia that is the fear or hostility towards foreigners.

Values are that matter the most

Stereotyping is rampant in the world, we label people not on their values but on what their particular race is known for but this is not correct. It is the values that the parents instill in you that make up a human being, not some preconceived notion that has nothing to do with the ability of the person to perform a particular task. For example if we see someone from Asia, we automatically perceive them to be good in math and science or somebody good in sports or singing to be of a certain race. Anybody with the right upbringing and resources can achieve all of the above without being fit into a stereotype. But still it is very hard to change people's views because most of the people cannot get out of their mindset. This preconceived and built in perception does a lot of damage to people since they have to work hard to prove otherwise. In this matter no matter how hard they try, a single event at a particular time reinforces the stereotype and then you cannot get rid of it. Most of the people refuse to believe that values that parents instill in their kids are way too important and have a positive influence in their lives because if the people do believe that then the whole notion of a set of beliefs will crumble down and then they will have to decipher each person individually which is pretty hard than lumping a bunch of people or race in one category and go along with it. It is the fault of the people that they refuse to budge from their own stubborn views of a race rather than focus on an individual's achievement and values.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The fines keep coming and the attitude of businesses as usual

Recently there has been a rash of fines to the financial institutions mainly for violations of law regarding money laundering and other violations and the financial institutions have agreed to pay heavy fines to the government. Although stringent requirements are in place to make sure that violations don’t occur in each bank including audit by different regulatory agencies but these violations keep on happening and the institutions keep on paying the fines like they include as part of doing business. And it seems like each fine is getting bigger than the next one but the behavior of the financial institutions does not change with each violation. I don’t know that if the temptation of big money is so great that the institutions completely ignore their own laws or it is just plain negligence. But whatever it is, it does not look good to the reputation of the offending institution. But apart from reputation, the regulators apart from fining the offending institution don’t go after the prosecution of them since it is more convenient I believe to fine them and then go to the next one. This all comes to the phrase "too big to fail" which should be changed to "too big to close it down". The regulators don’t want to close down these big for fear of having a domino effect and the repercussions of being discriminatory in one case to shut them down and not in the other. And as the history of the fines says this will keep on going and the financial institutions would keep on paying as part of their business expense.(Full disclosure: I work in a financial institution and my opinion here only reflects an individual unbiased opinion and nothing more than that).

We do not learn from history

By We means not only the United States but all human beings don’t learn much from history as time passes by and lessons become a distant memory for overwhelming majority of people. For the U.S. we have already finished one war (in Iraq) and trying to wind out the next one (Afghanistan) when we intervened in Libya and wants to inch towards another one (Syria) and are always on the brink of war drums for Iran. Despite all the peace efforts, we keep on going on entering one war and exiting another one without realizing the mistakes of getting in one in the first place. And it is not nations only but individuals, despite all the evidence stacked against them, we always want to do the same thing that we did in the past with disastrous results only to hope that the outcome this time will be different but it really is not. Although the cost of making the same mistakes again is enormous but we (meaning the Human beings) keep on doing it and not learning anything from history even if we know that the same mistakes have been done in the past. If we can at least the history with open mind and learn from it, we may not do the same mistakes again but human beings being arrogant and egotistical keeps on insisting that this time it will be better and then go ahead and do the same thing ago even after getting a warning that the same mistakes have been done in the past. This the so called greatest tragedy of Mankind that even knowing that we are wrong and have committed wrong before, not learn from history and cause their own destruction.

Innocent lives shattered in Connecticut

A few days ago, a terrible tragedy befell a small town in Connecticut, where a deranged person (for lack of a better word) opened fire in an elementary school killing 26 people including 20 kids for no fault of their own. It is one of the worst tragedies that has befallen on a community as far as memory could (although it was the second worse after Virginia one, but here six years and seven years fell victim, shot multiple times). No eyes were dry when it was found out that innocent and small kids fell victim to a random act of a deranged individual who should have known better. In the next few weeks, further details will emerge regarding his motive but for now the lives of the parents affected by this tragedy has been irreparably destroyed forever. Although the suspect's mother was shot to death before this thing happened but my question (and so does millions of people's question) is why kill little kids, what did they do to deserve this kind of atrocity. Now there are so many questions regarding this shooting that people directly and indirectly affected by it will be asking for a long time. I am at a loss of words to describe this tragedy which has really shattered the lives of not only the little victims but also will change how the parents will view the security of their kids and become more paranoid and overly protective (rightly so). After this tragedy, things would not be the same for a very long time for every community in the country.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Honor for what killings-2

While immigrating to the West, these parents fail to see that when their offspring's are born , it would not be the same situation as in their native countries, they have to make sure what is good or bad instead of leaving it for the future time. Time and real guidance is the essence here. Now in their native countries, honor killings are rampant because of illiteracy, ignorance, sheer rage and jealously and also their own cultural upbringing. There although Honor killings are not actually celebrated but I believe that they are indeed tolerated and not for big things but trivial things, people start praising the perpetrator instead of the victim. Mostly the society blames the victim for that happened to them. I can just describe these societies as sick and deviant blaming everything on everybody else including their religion except themselves. If you don’t like something, why don’t you either leave them alone or at least explain to them what they are doing is wrong. Killing does not solve any problem in this case, but you can say that when a person is enraged, religion and reason is thrown out of the window and the only thing on their mind is to eliminate their victim without thinking about the consequences. These honor killings have become an epidemic all over the world and unless individual societies rise up to deter this, this will keep on happening and the perpetrators will keep on blaming the victim instead of their own fault.

Honor for what killings

Although it has been happening for centuries, but due to awareness and many channels of communication, the Honor killings are coming to light more and more. Mostly it is afflicting the Muslim Population like a disease not only in their native countries but also to the countries where they have migrated too. Obviously the old generation can't bear to see their offspring go astray and in that it is partly their fault, since they are so hung up in earning a living that they don’t have the time to monitor their offspring's' lives and friends. And an issue like having a boyfriend, wearing western clothes or going to clubs come to then the old country's habits come to lives and in a rage they kill them not thing that it is not honor killing but plain and simple killing. These people don’t feel a little bit ashamed that killing their own kids will bring them more shame but they are stubborn in their attitude that they did the right thing and they never repent on their deeds. No Religion of this world advocates killing of another person just because you are uncomfortable with your kids' lives. In fact no killing is allowed of another human being in any religion and people blaming a certain religion for killing need to separate the religion and individual's behavior in their actions. I mean that the parents have given the time and energy to spend with their kids, this type of behavior never arises. But in their race to earn a living, they forget the most basic responsibility-the one towards the right upbringing of their kids.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On the lighter side-Movies-The Bourne Legacy (2012) - Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton

New Novel, New faces and new adventure. Although it starts off slow and builds from there, there is enough action to satisfy the action fans and it holds up pretty good but I believe that the they (the producers) are taking this franchise into a new direction ( I don’t know which one). In it Jason Bourne is again the target of government rogue agents trying to silence (or kill) him so that he does not expose their dirty works. Recommended for action fans only, otherwise don’t bother to tune in.

On the lighter side-Movies-Ted (2012)-Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth McFarlane

Foul mouthed extremely funny movie about a boy who wishes that his Teddy bear would talk on Christmas day and gets his wish in the shape of a talking bear who is very foul mouth. This movie is sure to offend everybody but it is very funny and a must see. Highly recommended but watch at your own risk, definitely not for everyone and not for kids.

Deceptive Advertising and Individual's Responsibility

All there have always been deceptive advertising regarding stuff and people have rightfully sued the manufacturers/retailers/distributors for it but the new rise of deceptive advertising is disturbing. Without naming names, some industries like the education one go out of their way to quote starting salaries in order to lure students to their institutions and when the reality hits them, it is already too late since they are already hooked for several hundred, sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars and have nothing to show for it. Now I can understand that some people are desperate enough to believe that by taking a certain skill they will be able to better their lot but most of the people get blindsided by too much advertising and get hooked into them anyway without researching. Although you can say that some advertising is really creative but there should be some type of individual responsibility when they take on low demand majors that are obvious to everybody doing a little research that they will be hard pressed to find a job and even if they, it will not reduce their student debt or even would be able to buy a car or a house. We as a society keep on saying that deceptive advertising should be punished but if somebody gets duped by this, would it not be individual's responsibility also to check the facts and do some research before putting their financial life on the line?

Who is affluent?

There is still a huge debate going on to raise taxes on affluent people making more than 250k and more as the government (and majority of the people) think that they are the richest ones who can afford to pay the taxes and fund the lower class. But who defines affluent and how did they come about this arbitrary figure of 250k to define affluent? Although I don’t make that much money and neither the majority of the Americans, this figure can be deceptive. Out of the 250k, after adding all the taxes (federal, state and local) you go down to maybe less than 150k. The needs of the so called affluent are entirely different than other people. They are still paying more taxes but they also live in expensive neighborhoods, shop at expensive stores and eat at expensive restaurants. Furthermore their kids go to expensive schools and then you have all the mortgages and utilities and other miscellaneous expenses included, they are paying more than their fare share. Although I am not defending them, effluent's threshold starting at 200k for single filers and 250k for a family is really not affluent if you start counting how much they are paying. Although you can argue that they can live in less expensive neighborhoods to save money but then the human mentality is if you get richer, your expenses also goes up no matter what class you are in. So before raising taxes, all the other tax implications should be considered before we lump the affluent at this arbitrary threshold level.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Do we really need a business plan for a business?

There is somewhat heated debate about the advantages and disadvantages of having a business plan for a business. Some people or businesses do not have one and some have elaborate ones. If you want to get funding then I believe you would need one since you would have to show the trajectory of your business from start up to maturity so that the investors know how much time it would take them to cash out or even know if their investment is worth the risk. But if you are self-funding than either you can have one so that you know you are on the right track or at least fulfilling some of the goals of your business or you can just build one as your business grows. Here I can say that you need to have a plan business or otherwise so that you know where you are heading. You can either create one from scratch or have some software do it for you but at least you should have rough draft of what you want to get out of your business. I believe that business plan is needed but it should not be so elaborate that you are hung up on it so much that you are paralyzed in case you don’t follow through. As always business plans are very dynamic and fluid and as your business grows so does your business plan. A business plan is just a starting point and it can take sometimes a few hours or sometimes a few months but don’t get too much attached to this notion in a way that your business never gets off ground.

What's so wrong about adult kids at home?

Now this maybe a touchy subject for some but it is worth discussing. People freak out when they hear that adult kids are still staying at home. What is so wrong with it? If you have given birth to them and nurture them till they grow, how come we want them not to stay at home for a bit longer. Nowadays with the economy in the doldrums, adult kids need more help than ever with their own finances and it is perfectly all right to come back to their parents. Where else do you suggest they should stay? Less job prospects, crushing student loans and other financial hardships makes it imperative that they should stay with their folks until they save enough money to be on their own. On the other hand, people say that if the adult kids come back home, then they will not able to stand on their own, housing market and the economy will suffer. But if you can mutually help each other in their hour of need there is no harm in staying together. I believe that parents will never shun their kids and say that don’t come back. In fact they welcome their adult kids with open arms. But as the kids are adults and parents will be parents, there need to be set rules and boundaries so that there is no clash of values between the parents and kids. I believe adults kids being at home after college is beneficial for both parties in the long run as kids save on rent and having the loving parents to talk to and the parents enjoy the company of their kids no matter what their age.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Signs of sheer absurdity

I have been noticing a long time while driving around that people have erected signs which does not make sense to me. For example, I saw a sign outside a school, it reads "Bully Free zone" and in another area in the residential part of different towns, "drug free zone" . Now let me get this straight what are these signs. If a school says that it is Bully free zone, does it mean that it is okay to bully someone away from school like even across the street. What are they giving this message that bullying is okay away from school and the responsibility ends at the border of school? I have no idea who came up with this slogan or sign but it must be someone with a very limited vision (even for a town or people in it). Now the next sign drug free zone is more absurd than the first one. It shows that drugs are not allowed in that area but it is okay that you can do drugs in other areas. Who comes up with this sign is clearing just looking after their own neighborhood. And who can define what a zone is? Maybe it can be a few houses on the block or you can still do drugs just in the next neighborhood because someone in that neighborhood forgets to put up this absurd sign. Bullying and Drugs are not allowed anywhere and that is the message these signs should convey broadly instead of putting up these signs which shows lack of vision and farsightedness. I am sure you may have seen other signs similar to the ones I mentioned above and you would see plenty of absurd ones in the future.

Performance based compensation

In some professions, it is a must that compensation is based on how you perform, but contract or no contract, I cannot understand how is sports or in any field where there are contracts does the signers draft something in the contract that if you reach certain level of performance than you will get the full compensation. The most glaring example I see is in the sports industry where you are injured (not by their fault), not feeling well or not performing the minimum, you still get paid the full amount of your contract even if you are not playing all year long. In most industries you work all year long and then you get a paltry amount not commensurate with your performance and you are happy that at least you have a job but not in sports or for that matter movies also. Although I believe that as you keep on making bad movies you are not paid that well but still my main focus is in sports. Now as usual not many people will agree with me since they are sports fanatic but think about it in a neutral way. You are paying a guy to play with millions of dollars of not clubs money but with people’s money and then you underperform and still get paid no matter what because it says in the contract. I don’t believe it is fair since the common folk is struggling to just get by after working their back off and then there are these guys who are enjoying all the perks including what they love to do and you don’t see that kind of performance to match their salaries. I mean is it really fair?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The scare tactics of the fiscal cliff

There is a lot of talk about the U.S. falling off a fiscal cliff (due to the expiration of Former President Bush era tax cuts that were set to expire ten years after its enactment namely at the end of 2012). And although there have been different reports about how it would hurt the economy and individuals and business as a whole, all this scare tactics have made a little tired of why can't this uncertainty be finished so that we can get on with our lives. Every day I read the newspapers and internet and every day the same headlines in all of them about how the earth will come to an end (like the Mayan Calendar in 2012) if we fall off this fiscal cliff and how much urgency should be resolve this uncertainty but come on, even if there is no deal by the end of the year, sky would not fall. We will all be here but with little less money in our pockets, everything will be functioning although with more stress and less money and people will still be cursing the congress and the government for not compromise on issues. Ultimately there would be compromise, although in that compromise some people will be losers and some will be winners in terms of how much tax they will have to pay. Then the blame game will start again that who did what to save which interest group in this tax talks. So here it is ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the United States Government.

Coastal areas and flood insurance-2

Now the idea is to deter people in two ways, either they should be given a free hand in building after all the obvious risk but they should be required to develop all the necessary work including roads, plumbing utilities and government should not get involved in any kind of aid and if the storm comes to their areas, the only thing the government has to do is to rescue them to a safe area and that’s about it. The second (told by one of my colleagues) was to not build any building on the barrier islands and it should be made a public beach and the government should charges access fees so that the government will only maintain it through that revenue. Now since the government is allowing the resident to build what they have lost, they are trying to make sure it becomes prohibitively expensive to even think about building it on those islands. Although this idea will resonate with many people (not all of them), the government is now requiring them to get flood insurance which will increase by at most 25 percent (according to some news) and increase every year. Although it would be unfair for people with modest and fixed income to dream about owning a house on the beach but the Federal government flood insurance program is broke and they will have to replenish it to pay for future disasters. I would not comment on it since everybody has different circumstances and have to decide what is best for them regarding rebuilding but it is a fair to say that life would not be the same for many people who have houses on the beach.

Coastal areas and flood insurance

After the super storm Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast which was not that much prepared for it despite warnings, it was only a matter of time that the issue of flood insurance and responsible coastal building came into the equation. Most of the people living in the devastated part of the Hurricane had either had no flood insurance or had very little which did not even cover a small part of their property. Although the politicians and the people hit hard are saying that they will build it again even better than before, but now there is chorus of voices stating that is it necessary to keep on building in places especially vulnerable to flooding. Although both sides are now using emotions but it is the truth that something has to be done to fix this issue of irresponsible building in coastal areas even when you are told that it is flood prone. But on the other hand how can you stop someone from not rebuilding even after the warning. Nobody said that we should not rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and nobody would object to saying that New York City or parts of Long Island and New Jersey should not be rebuilt to stronger standards. But what about the so called barrier islands, should the government stop people from building there despite the apparent risks. That is the question which is too complex since raw emotions are involved. How to create an environment that will make people realize that it is not safe to go back to normal in the flood prone areas.

Fire at the Bangladesh Garment factory

A few days ago there was a fire in a Bangladesh Garment factory killing at least 100 people and destroying the factory. Among the charred remains of the factory, one was shocked to find that it has on its clientele leading Western retailers and brands who had outsourced their work to this mostly impoverished South Asian Country. According to one estimate, people who work in those garment factories get as low as 37 dollars a month to work there. It is not shocking me to since I knew that they work for less money, what was shocking is that it is so low. You can almost a get a shirt here for that price, meaning that we the consumers pay outrageous prices just for the name brand without thinking about the conditions in cheap labor countries. I had this habit from my childhood that I always look for the label of where it was originally made and most of them are now made in countries where the labor laws are not as vigorous as the U.S. and also they are a cheap source of labor. I am willing to pay top dollars for something made in Europe or here in America because I know that the labor is expensive but to pay for hundreds of dollars for stuff made in overseas third world countries and pay for the brand is beyond me. Unless we the consumer demand that the conditions of overseas factories are somewhat humane and the prices paid to the poor workers reflect some kind of decent living, we will continue to be ripped off on any stuff which cost a few dollars to make ship and selling for outrageous amount of money that does not reflect their true price but the brand price.

Time to start putting our own house in order

Although nobody including the Tea Party people and the ultra conservative are talking about it , but the fact it putting your head in the sand and wishing it way won't solve our problem of unfunded and funded liabilities that we have promised and accumulated already. Unless we tackle this thing head on, our fate would be not that much similar with Greece. We need to start putting our house in financial order and then think about spending our money overseas. We have to look at your resources and our debt first and then spend because we cannot assume that we have the money (which we don’t have) and spend it like we would not pay it back. Although as in the previous posts, I have said that we have to drastically reduce the entitlement curse (which was fine at a certain point in time) or we would just be borrowing and then spending it on something which does not generate additional revenue. Although my idea seems and is radical, I only propose that Medicaid should be continued with strict criteria about who should get and Medicare should be given to everybody with full insurance and market premium. Social Security should be continued but the age should be increased one year every two years to reflect improved medical conditions for increased age and the percentage should be increased to be deducted from the people. Defense expenditure should be reduced to reflect new priorities of war. Tax should be increased for everybody not just the wealthy. All the above proposals will be changed in a few years as we realize how close to we are the actual fiscal cliff which will be more disastrous than the current temporary one.

Alternative to drones?

This is a big thing in Pakistan where it is being used to fuel Anti-Americanism and also saying that it is killing innocent people. I wrote an essay three years ago stating that Drones (unmanned armed aircraft) were a violation of sovereignty of Pakistan but after reviewing all the facts, I came to the conclusion that since the Laws of Pakistan does not apply there then there is no question of sovereignty. Some will have a big argument with that but anyway other question is that it kills innocent people. But since that area of Pakistan is inaccessible, we don’t know if it is true or not. The drones are being now used in Yemen too to kill the terrorists. Now the question is which remains unanswered is there any alternative to drones to hunt down terrorists? Right now I can say that there are some alternatives but they are more deadly than the drones. For example a foreign country can go into the next country for a full invasion which will entail more losses than the drones or we can send in Special Forces to hunt them down. But again this means gross and real violation of country's sovereignty. Other thing is that if the country in question can deal with terrorists amongst them then there should not be any need for drones but right now they are not doing or are incapable of tracking these terrorists/jihadists/militants (whatever you want to call them) and killing them and until such time they do their job, the U.S. will keep on pursuing these terrorists without much loss of life on our part through our use of drones (which is sometimes talked about being done with the tacit approval of the government and military of the Pakistan and Yemen). And now there is talk about expanding drones reach to Somalia or Maybe Mali, lets see what happens there? I guess drones are the future of war.

It’s a cultural thing

Have you ever noticed that if someone is doing something peculiar out of the norm and it looks like he/she maybe doing it right according to you then if you correct them, they will say that they have been doing it for a long time in their respective culture. Culture is a very powerful thing and it brings cohesive to societies and communities. Even in one country, there are different types of culture reflecting the different areas they come from. It is not uniform throughout one nation. Anything done outside the culture is frowned upon by members of that culture. It may or may not be the right one but at least that is how it is done in different cultures and one cannot superimpose their believes and values on others without offending them or being arrogant about your righteousness. I have seen different cultures in my life time including Arabs (even in them you will find difference among nations), the Far Eastern culture (Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan) the South East culture (Pakistan), the British and French culture, all of the above have something important to add to the world history and it is fascinating to see how much diverse things you can see among them. For the people in the U.S. fortunately you don’t have to go to all these places since living in big cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Florida you will find all these culture with a touch of America in them. You can learn a lot about cultures from other people and you should be open minded about it lest your judgment, prejudice (whatever you want to call it) stops you from enjoying this fascinating part of human from other parts of the world.

How can you spend without taxing?

Now here is the question, politicians especially the Republicans don’t want to talk about. They hate to tax people but still they have their pet projects that they want to fund. They believe in the Small Government is good, but I don’t believe very few republicans want to remove Medicaid, Medicare or social security from the government payroll. They want to look strong on defense and want to hike the defense budget but don’t want to tax without which the revenue would not come to pay for it. The Democrats on the other hand want to keep on spending but since majority of the people hate to get taxed are in catch 22 position. The people want big government and they want the government to take the lead role in providing them services like I mentioned above but they don’t want to pay more taxes. Now what gives, where the revenue will come to spend it if not by taxes? We can keep on saying that we should reduce our spending but our biggest expenses are our entitlement which nobody wants to touch or even talk about it. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security has to be funded by tax payers and we are going deeper into debt just to keep up with the entitled (I did not mentioned defense because it is not an entitlement and can be adjusted accordingly). There will come a time (certainly not to late) that we will have to raise taxes to keep on spending money on these entitlements or drastically reduce their scope and reach otherwise we will definitely fall off a fiscal cliff like the Greeks.

Are Republicans ready to compromise?

After getting defeated in the Presidential elections, the Republicans are in a quandary. They had hoped that with all the discontent with the current administration and their big government policy and their number one target Obama care, they thought that they would win by a landslide or at least win the majority of electoral college. But to their surprise, they lost by a heavy margin and have yet to accept four more years of democratic rule. They don’t have the require votes in the senate and the House even with there majority will not be able to overturn so called Obama care. So will now they be able to compromise on some core issues facing the nation as a national poll shows that people want to have a bipartisan supported government so that things should be moving along and try to solve the nation's problems amicably. But as I said above, the Republican have not yet to come to terms with this victory and they will try to fight on every bill whether they like or not. You can see a glimpse of it with the fight over the Libyan Attack on our Ambassador and their confirmation of the next Secretary of state. And there is the fiscal cliff that people are all talking about and the fears and apprehensions of the public and businesses alike. Expect more of the same for the next four years as Republicans dug in to fight every battle with the Democrats. I don’t see much compromise happening on the horizon on key critical issues facing us.

On the lighter side-Movies-Men in Black 3 (2012)-Will Smith, Tommy lee Jones

Long time, no see. Continuing adventures of the secret agency maintaining control of the alien population on earth. This time Will Smith goes back in time to save his partner Jones from certain death at the hands of a criminal that Jones put behind bars on the moon. Great movie and effects. Highly Recommended