Friday, December 4, 2009

When you have ‘nothing’ to do, do it on social media

A hacker attack briefly shut down Twitter yesterday. Millions of twitterers were forced to talk to each other the old fashioned way - through Facebook!

We all agree that social media is a wonderful invention of the 21st century which helps us to stay in touch with friends and acquaintances. If you don’t agree or you don’t have a profile on at least one social networking site, I would strongly recommend that you go back to the 20th century, where you belong. If Shakespeare was still around, he might have remarked 't
witterers never quill, and quillers never tweet!'

I am an avid social networking user. However, I have to confess that it has been a love-hate relationship, though mostly it has been love. Despite its obvious advantages and even if one doesn’t misuse it (i.e. where one doesn’t use it as a ‘chat and cheat’ tool), social networking is not without disadvantages. Few years back, when I met family and friends after a long time their complaint used to be that I didn’t write. Nowadays, the complaint seems to be that I didn’t write, I didn’t call, I didn’t fax, I didn’t email, I didn’t page, I didn’t text, I didn’t blog, I didn’t scrap, I didn’t tweet…….

I like staying in touch with friends. I would like to know about their whereabouts and updates. But do I really need to know that Sanjay is enjoying his ravioli, or that Sarah’s flight has again been delayed, or that Tina is feeling sleepy during her meeting? I don’t think I do. Nor do I like navigating the minefield of postings about picnics and parties, or worse, Farmville, Fortune Cookies and Quizes.

Secondly, there is the uneasy feeling about being
at the epicenter of ALL the friends and acquaintances of my ENTIRE life AT ONCE. They may no longer be the people I knew, and I, certainly, am not the person I was even two years back. I worry if I will be able to ‘effectively’ communicate through my updates without offending anybody or making them feel as if I am a stranger.

Imagine my situation where I have all of the following and more on my contacts - three of my old girl friends, my school mate who knows that I once cheated on my test, another school mate who knows the teachers and girls on whom I had crush, a college mate who knows that I was the one who wrote the love letter which was blamed on another college mate, a neighbor who saw me peep at the bedroom of the beautiful girl who lived across my house, a fellow intern who knows that I once cheated on a travel claim, a colleague whom I backstabbed during my previous job, etc. To add to the complexity, it also has my current friends who think I am decent guy, my current colleagues who think I am a good colleague, my current boss who thinks I am an okay employee, my (current?) wife who thinks I am a not-so-okay husband. Above all it has a certain set of people who look upto to me (such people do exist, atleast in my imagination).

And so, how do I communicate to ALL of them at the SAME time? I come up with one-liners and (not-so-)wise-cracks that is so impersonal that they will never know the ‘real’ me! I am getting accustomed to such impudent social behavior. Because I don’t want to land in this kind of situation. If what I write on my blogs and social networks can be used as evidence, my wife would divorce me, my employer would sack me, my neighbour would sue me and my friends would leave me. But thankfully there is no handwriting detection on the net as anybody can write in Arial 10 font!

The other mistake people do is being injudicious about the folks they add to their contacts and add anybody who invites them. They seem to have more school mates on their Facebook than they ever had in school! I just hope they are comfortable sharing their personal moments with these strangers. I am not. I add only people whom I have met or atleast know very well. Despite that, I have 200+ contacts. Can you imagine how many hours it would take to just do the “hello, how are you doing?” bit with everyone!

Thirdly, there’s the whole voyeurism issue. I always believed that if someone followed me, I should be worried. Now because of ‘tagging’ there are thousands of people, albeit friendly, who have access to places I have been and people I know. And worry about it, I cannot, because that is the cost of virtual existence.

The other unique problem that I have is that if I secretly meet somebody (why, because I am a married man, you see), the person immediately puts up an update with a photograph disclosing the meeting. Hence, I have stopped dating women with Facebook profiles! Also if I conduct a party and invite a few friends over, as per my estimation, the chance of it hitting the net the SAME day is 82.34%, for the entire majority who were NOT invited to see.

Above all, the biggest drawback with social networking is that it deprives a person of the much more valuable ‘real life experiences’. More often than not, people who are active on social networking sites, do not have many ‘real’ friends. Soon we will need to set up social networking rehab centers, like where Bill Zucker was taken. But one also have to admit that it is not a new demon in the house – television has had its share in making humans less social and sociable.

However, as I said I have more love than hate for social networking. I have found and interacted with people in a way that I never imagined possible. In the older days, you really had to DO something to be social - helping your friends, baby-sitting the neighbour’s child, giving a poor guy something to eat, and other terrible selfless things. Nowadays, you just have to tweet every few hours via your cellphone and you are done!

And I just love the way it works; instant karma at its very best. Don't you agree?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

No excuse for no exercise

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you would rather not - Mark Twain

Virgil once famously remarked that the greatest wealth is health. I think people ignore that advice. They spend their health to gain wealth in the first half of their lives, and then spend their wealth to regain their health in the latter half. In fact, a person's health can be judged by which the person takes two at a time - pills or stairs.

As I approach middle age, I realize what 'middle age' means : it is when your age starts to show around your middle. A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths. I have been employed for the last 12 years, and my only savings have been the added girth around my equator. But I feel better off than a colleague of mine, who has what one would call a soldier's stomach - everything that he eats goes to the ‘front’. He also has flabby thighs, but fortunately his stomach covers them. If he had acted in the place of Russell Crowe in Gladiator, the character would have been named Gluteus Maximus instead of Maximus Decimus Meridius.

For a large part of my life, the only exercise I got was eating and sleeping. I can imagine a lot of readers nodding their head as they read this. No, I am not implying that that is the case with them (though honestly, I am). In fact, if it weren't for the fact that the TV and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn't get any exercise at all. I guess women are better off, since they get a lot of exercise doing shopping, as they walk up and down giant shopping malls, occasionally resting to make a purchase.

Then computers arrived, and I started getting my exercise by swiveling on the computer chair, typing on the keyboard, and clicking the mouse. Once I got employed, I got plenty of exercise at work by jumping to conclusions, beating around the bush, dodging the issue, going back on my word, swimming against the tide, and pushing my luck.

Despite all this, I have always ‘wanted’ to be healthy and fit. But as they say if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. I have this constant fear that if I don't take care of myself, the undertaker will overtake that responsibility for me. In fact, I have become so obsessed with health these days that I sense there is something fundamentally ‘unhealthy’ about it.

I do exercise once in a while, if only to hear heavy breathing again. As I have to force my body to exercise, I do it early in the morning before my brain figures out what I'm doing. At other times, when I feel the need to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes. Like every one else, I have 'joined' several health clubs and spent a lot of money. But I haven't lost a pound. Apparently, you have to show up! I guess if I were born in UK, I would have lost a few pounds (GBP).

Though there are a host of health books, articles, blogs, etc, I never read them heeding to Mark Twain: “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” Also I never bought any home exercise equipments, because everybody I knew used them as clothes hanger. In fact a friend of mine argued that his food is enriched with high iron content because he uses his dumbbells to bash meat.

Walking/jogging/biking could help stay fit. As per research (my blog, my research!) for every mile that you jog, you add one minute to your life. This enables you, at age 85, to spend an additional 5 months in a nursing home at $5,000 per month. Talking of that reminded me of the famous joke – “My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was 60; now she's 97 years old and we don't know where the hell she is”. How I wish I could say that about my wife one day (Rakesh, this joke is dedicated to you). By the way, I do enjoy long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.

Then, there is dieting. It is an alien concept in the part of world where I come from, where people think that they exist on this world to eat. When I heard about the benefits of a healthy diet, I switched to 'fat-free' chips and 'light' beer. The diet experts claim that red meat is bad for you. I don't believe them because I have never seen a sick-looking tiger. If you see blue-green meat, now, that might be bad for you. By the way, have you heard of the cardiologist's diet: If it tastes good, spit it out!

Everybody these days are advising me to buy Wii Fit. Of course, I would need to buy a TV and Wii before that. But isn’t it ironical to think that you could be fit by playing games on TV? However, it is not too funny if you consider that most people do seem it logical to 'drive' to the gym doing their best to avoid walking, or to order a 'diet' coke along with a 'double cheese' burger.

I got to work out. I keep saying it all the time. But it has been about three months since I have worked out. And I just don't seem to have the time. That is funny considering that I do find time to go out on long lunches and dinners. To watch movies. To update my Facebook status message and to write blogs. But the question that I keep asking myself is - Do I exercise to keep fit? Or do I need to be fit to exercise, in which case do I need the exercise?

So my dear readers, here’s wishing that you live as long as you are fit, but no longer. Or, may you rather die before you cease to be fit, than after. Ok, if that sounded awkward, then here’s a tip to keep fit!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

History was made on this day

It’s been one year, 365 days to be precise. Earth has gone around the sun once. It seems like it was only last month that it happened. Maybe earth should slow down!

On June 28, 2008 I wrote Gratitude Note. Even my wife did not read it. Only one person read it - Joseph, the person who influenced me to join the blog world. See, I am not responsible for this space. You should send those hate mails to him. But in all fairness I must add that he did not know what he had bargained for when he asked me to write a blog.

It has been a very interesting (actually it has been silly and an absolute waste of time – but I can’t say in public) journey over the past one year. Has it been a success? Apparently yes, because nobody has stopped me yet. See, success is a relative term!

A handful of people with nothing better to do visited my blogs. A few among them glanced over the posts and even fewer actually read the blogs. Some were so infuriated that they left unpleasant comments. But I converted those nasty comments into an appreciative one. And then, yours truly replied to each of them in all humbleness and modesty. Of course, that also gave me the satisfaction of having had the last say.

The first couple of blogs I wrote were personal stuff. But I quickly learned that my friends and family in ‘real’ life are not interested in reading my blogs. Only strangers read my blogs, who incidentally (and rightfully) are not interested in my personal matters. So I switched to writing opinions and thoughts, mixed with humour, which was soon accepted for two reasons. One, everybody has an opinion about everything, even if they don’t know anything about it. Two, since it is humourous, even if they really don’t like it, they cannot admit it, because then they will appear to lack a sense of humour.

I have gained a few ‘virtual’ acquaintances and couple of ‘virtual’ friends along the way. Can one call them ‘real’ friends and acquaintances? NAH! They are busy writing their own blogs and attracting readers to their blogs. The bare minimum conversation that they have with me is with an ulterior motive to attract me to their blogs. But what they fail to understand is that I too have the same motive.

Now that I have become so famous because of my blog, I am seriously considering contesting elections. Probably I will contest in Thiruvanthapuram in 2014 against Shashi Tharoor. You know, Shashi needs a worthy opponent; he won so comfortably last time.

I am an accountant. I say it with numbers. So here are a few stats (see, I told you that I count my blessings):

Number of blogs written: 23
Average number of blogs per month: 1.92
Number of followers of the blog: 29
Number of readers subscribed for email updates: 8
Number of readers who have left comments: 143
Therefore, number of readers visited the blog: >143
Average number of new readers per month: >11.92
Number of comments: 387
Average number of comments per day: 1.06
Average comments per blog: 16.8
Number of blogs with no comments: None

Top five commented blogs:
I am sorry, are you sorry? (36 comments) - not surprising; everybody felt apologetic
I don’t forget anniversaries (32 comments)
The older I get, the better I used to be (31 comments)
Gifting, my Achilles heel (30 comments)
There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else there is credit card (29 comments)

Finally, the five top commentors on my blog:
Joseph (14 comments) - he was obliged to comment since he dragged me into this!
Devika, Gazal, Shri Ramesh Sadasivam (13 comments)
Blogger formerly known as Sansmerci (12 comments)
PRG, Usha (11 comments)
Ganga, Renu, Shail (10 comments)

* Comments exclude duplicate ones, by anonymous readers and mine
** These stats are despite me not being a woman. Oh didn't you know, if you are woman blogger, you attract comments like how a sweet attracts ants.

Readers mentioned above, I would have liked to thank you from the bottom of my heart, but for you my heart has no bottom. I admire your forbearance for having survived the blog and commenting on them, even though most of you never read the posts fully. Please keep your acceptance speeches and interview notes ready, because you don’t want to be taken by surprise when CNN, BBC, NDTV, TOI, Asianet, etc approaches you for your response to the recognition.

Readers not mentioned above, no donut for you! You were informed about the benefits of leaving comments on my blog but you ignored it. Now, the above set of people has stolen the limelight and has left you licking your wounds. You will get your chance next year, in 365 days to be precise. Earth has to go around the sun once again, but it will go by like a month. Maybe earth should slow down!

PS : Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favours.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gifting, my Achilles heel

The best gift you can give is a hug: one size fits all and no one ever minds if you return it.

I have a huge problem. No, not my ego. Despite my social skills, or rather the lack of it, I get invited to parties at times. That, though, is the not the problem. My problem is that in those few occasions that I get invited, I am expected to take gifts. And that is a big chink in my otherwise strong armour.

Gifting is an art. And like all art, there are artists and then there are wannabes. Unfortunately, I fall in the latter category in the art of gifting. It is a pity, considering that I do give it a lot of thought, and mostly rational.

I don’t like to buy a gift that is useless or is thrown away after couple of days. So before buying a gift for someone, I think about all the things the person needs and does not have. This works like a charm because you will invariably find that the person has all the things he needs (he would have already bought things he needed). And in those rare circumstances when he does not have it, you will find the thing either not affordable or not available. Either way, you can get away without buying a gift and not feeling guilty about it.

On our last wedding anniversary (I guess it was the seventh or eighth, I forget. Some things are better forgotten.), I gifted my wife a diamond ring. She actually wanted one of those sporty four-wheel-drive vehicles, but I could not find a fake one! When she had asked for something that goes from 0 to 200 in 6 seconds, my initial thought was to buy her a weighing scale. I intend to get her something with diamond next year too (remember, they are a woman’s best friends). I plan to buy her a pack of playing cards, which if I remember right has 13 diamonds in it.

Scott Adams (of the Dilbert fame) said that anything that has enough mass to displace water is a ‘gift’. But from real-life experience, I have found that people like gifts that displace A LOT of water. If you don’t like the person who invited you, you could always buy a very large-sized gift, but still cheap and useless. If you don’t like the person and you are sure you will not meet him again, you may even try gifting an empty box with no name in it. But remember that it may backfire, if you are the only person who did it.

Gifts speak a lot about the personality of the person gifting. Gifting a condom on friend’s marriage shows that the person has a whacky sense of humour and is not a conformist. Gifting a live frog to your boss on the office party shows that the person has great courage and is a risk-taker. A plain gift card shows that the person is unimaginative and risk-averse.

People think that one of the safest gifting techniques is to buy something that can be hung on the wall or displayed in a room. But in reality this approach is full of risk because it assumes that the person has enough space in his wall/rooms for all the gifts that he will receive in the party and that the gift would go with the theme of the person’s wall/house. By the way, I was told that everyone is gifted - but I guess some people never open their package!

I hope you have heard about the gift-chain. People preserve all the useless gifts they receive and gift them to others at the first opportunity, and this goes in circles. I think there is only one gift clock in Kerala, and people keep gifting it to each other

Women have an advantage over men in gifting – they get to buy the gift and also enjoy the process of shopping for it (if you recollect, I suffer from Shopophobia Mallfeorosis). On that note, it is said that women are god’s gifts to men – god must really love gag gifts! And if the invitee is a woman, I was told that the best option is to gift flowers. However I learned that if you want to say it with flowers, a single rose says: "I'm cheap!"

Notwithstanding all my troubles of trying to buy (and end up not buying) the ‘perfect’ gift for others, I try to keep things very simple when it comes to receiving gifts. People who do not bring gifts don’t get invited to my next party. And my best friends are those who give me the most expensive gifts. Somehow, I have always felt that a gift watch shines so much better than the one I bought for myself.

And guess what has been the greatest gift I have ever received? - Readers like you!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

To vote or not to vote?

‘One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors – Plato

Ok point taken, let me vote.

‘The next time they give you all that civic bullshit about voting, keep in mind that Hitler was elected in a full, free democratic election - George Carlin

Oh, then what is the point, let me not.

The elections are over in India. We will have a new Prime Minister soon. We, as usual, witnessed an election with all the elements of a drama – conspiracies, lies, scandals, smears, crimes, and topped with economic recession. If you are a neutral in the midst of this, like me, you will have a merry time laughing all the way. If laughter is good for health, I guess frequent elections have been good for me.

India is the largest ‘demo-crazy’ in the world, and it can get ‘real-crazy’ (get the pun?). Therefore, one would assume that people would be keen to exercise their franchise. But the (sad) fact is that they were not. I guess that only 40% of the population is registered voters and only 50% of them actually vote – which is only 20% of the total population. And the winner at the most gets around half of those votes (10% of the whole, or about 1 in 10), who then governs all 100% for the next 5 years. Ha, did anybody say ‘democracy is majority rule?’

People who did not vote feel happy that they are not responsible for the mess, in the name of governance, that goes on in the Parliament. I asked a philosopher friend of mine if he voted, to which his response was ‘There is an election going on all the time; the Lord votes for you and Satan votes against you, and you must cast the deciding vote.’ I did not pursue the matter further. But the political melee is fast approaching the point where people don't want to elect anyone stupid enough to want the Prime Minister’s job.

Elections have made me a cynic too. It is ironic that we are attempting to pick the least incompetent person, when we should be picking the most competent one. Choosing the lesser evil is still choosing evil. Of the 20% population who actually vote, I guess 95% would gladly select ‘none of the above’ if the ballot paper had such an option. And another 4% would have voted ‘good lord, not him’. The rest 1% are the relatives and families of the contestants. (See the amount of statistics you are getting reading this blog. Statistics, as you know, can prove anything but the truth)

When I was a boy I was told that ‘anybody’ could become a President or a Prime Minister, and I am beginning to believe it. It is also funny to think that we are choosing from just three or four people for Prime Minister of the country, while we choose from atleast 50 for Miss India. A friend of mine confided that he never voted for the best candidate, instead he voted for the one who will do the least harm.

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first. You can lead a man to Parliament these days, but you can't make him think. Harry Truman once remarked that ‘My choice early in life was either to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference.’

99% of the politicians give the other 1% a bad reputation. A good politician is someone who gets money from the rich and votes from the poor, to protect them from each other. Sometimes I feel that politicians really don't believe in the script themselves, but have the incredible skill to make everyone else believe in it. It seems the latest new dance craze is called ‘The Politician’ – its two steps forward, one step backward, and then a sidestep.

I find it very amusing that all the events of the last so many months of election propaganda will come down to a minority of 5-8% of undecided voters making up their mind on the last day. I wonder if there is some way that these voters could be identified early and the whole process be run only for them. Imagine the time, money and effort that could be saved. But then, how will be the media companies pay their salaries? Television channels and newspapers are the biggest beneficiary of elections. Now you realize why they are always keen to bring down a government.

On that note do you know the real beneficiary of the last US elections – Tina Fey. Last heard, Tina Fey has dedicated her latest Emmy awards to Sarah Palin. How can a blog on elections not mention the (in)famous 2000 US elections, in which the person who got the lesser number of votes actually won and when democratic power was taken from the ‘people who voted’ and was given to the ‘people who counted’! There is actually a similarity between US and Indian politics – politicians in both countries go to prison before they enter politics; just that in US they are prisoners of war, while in India they are criminals.

I guess the only thing we learn from a new election is that we learned nothing from the old ones. We continue to vote thinking we can make a difference, when we should actually be buying a lottery. But whatever be the outcome of the election, the fate of the common man is going to be the same. Get taxed more!

No prize for guessing who pays for the government and the elections.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

How to make money in the stock market?

The safest way to double your money is to fold it and put it in your pocket.

Being an accountant, the most frequent request I face is advice on making money in the stock market. I am sure they must be out of their mind to actually know my 'financial situation' and still ask for my advice on 'making money'.

Hence, I have decided to write this post so that people can follow this advice, become millionaires, pay me royalty and thereby make me a billionaire. I assure you that this blog will change your life forever, particularly considering the current market conditions. By the way, do you know why advice is always so cheap? Because supply exceeds demand manifold.

The most successful investment manager was Noah: He 'floated stock', while everything around him went into 'liquidation'. While the most unsuccessful one was King Midas. He sold all his 'gold' and invested in stocks.

One sure way of making money is to forget who you borrowed it from, but I wouldn’t advice that if you are not willing to relocate often. For others, here are my ten commandments on how to make money in stock markets:

1. You need to understand the market. Understand the different instruments in the market, like the stock, which is a magical piece of paper that is worth Rs.250 until the moment you buy it and will be worth Rs.50 after you buy it, or the bond, which is what you had with your spouse until you pawned her jewellery to invest in stocks. Then there are the ‘gilt-edged negotiable blondes’, which I will not discuss here as this is a family blog.

There are two types of market. Bull Market is a random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius. Bear Market is a 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewellery and the husband gets no sex. If you are ignorant of these, then the next time you put your money in the market, you will neither be a bull or a bear, but an ass.

2. Understand the actions of others. Successful investing is nothing but anticipating the anticipations of others. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you justify a short-term investment gone wrong as a long-term investment. They say that the best way to make a million in the current turbulent markets is to start with two!

3. Spend at least as much time researching a stock as you would while choosing a camera or a television. If you hear that everybody is buying a certain stock, ask who is selling. The amazing thing about the stock market is that every time somebody sells, another one buys, and they both think they're smart!

4. Get your timing right. A study of markets reveals that the best time to buy anything is yesterday. There are basically two methods of investing based on timing - momentum investing, the fine art of buying high and selling low, and value investing, the art of buying low and selling lower.

October is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are: July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August and February. In fact, your best investments are the ones you did not make.

5. Diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but while putting in different baskets, you still need to take care that you don’t break them. Remember, they are still eggs!

By diversifying, I managed to double my interest income from term deposits. I put half my money in one bank at 5% and the other half in another bank at another 5% and thereby earned 10%!

6. Cut your losses. If investments are keeping you awake at night, sell down to the 'sleeping point'! Don’t put yourself in a situation like my friend who sleeps like a baby every night ever since the markets are bad. He wakes up every hour and cries.

7. Get the help of a stockbroker. A stockbroker is a man who is always ready, willing, and able to lay down your money for his commission. It is quite strange that the person who invests your money is called a ‘broker’. It is only a matter of time when the broker ensures that all your disposable income gets disposed off. The joke ‘it was so cold today that I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets’ is more applicable to a stockbroker. The only thing more dangerous than a stockbroker is an amateur stockbroker. And the only thing more dangerous than an amateur stockbroker is a professional stockbroker!

In fact, a stockbroker friend of mine down at Wall Street confided his unwritten philosophy: A man is a client until proven broke. He used to have a corner on the market. Now he has a market on the corner. I doubt if he took to stockbrokerage when he realized that he doesn't have the charisma to succeed as an undertaker.

It is called a bull and bear market for nothing; your stockbroker will feed you all the bull you can bear. Actually, my stockbroker and I are working on a retirement plan. The only problem is that it is his! I have a doubt whether my broker was a fisherman, because every time he hangs up the phone, he laughs, rubs his hands together and says 'I just caught another fish'.

8. Heed to market forecasts. People who criticize weather forecasts have not followed market forecasts closely. Technical analysis is the art of drawing a crooked line from an unproven assumption to a foregone conclusion. A stock market analyst is like a cross-eyed javelin thrower: He doesn't win many contests for accuracy, but he keeps the crowd's attention.

There are a couple of laws of market analysis that one should be aware of. The first law is that for every market analysis, there exists an equal and opposite analysis. The second law is that they are both wrong!

9. Hire a good financial planner if you can afford one. Financial Planner is a guy who will tell you, “I've reviewed your financial picture, and if we manage your money properly, there should be plenty for both of us.” He will tell you tomorrow exactly why the things he predicted yesterday didn't happen today. There are two types of financial planners; those who don't know, and those who don't know they don't know!

10. I have saved the best tip for the last. This is the most foolproof advice which will definitely make you a millionaire. Buy into a stock as per your investment appetite. If it goes up, sell it. If it doesn't, don’t buy it.

By the way, you can send those royalty dollars either through check or direct deposit.

Friday, February 6, 2009

It’s about that time of the year

He who breaks a resolution is a weakling; He who makes one is a fool. – F M Knowles

What is special about February? February was named after the Latin term februum, which means purification. February is the second month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. It is the shortest month. It is also the month when Valentine’s Day is celebrated. But more importantly, it is about that time of the year when New Year resolutions are broken, if not already forgotten.

There is nothing more synonymous with New Year than New Year resolutions. It sounds funny to me that people actually believe they will be able to change old habits and create new ones overnight. On 31st December night, the person is fat and lazy and goes to bed late and fully drunk. From the time he wakes up on 1st January morning, he expects to lose weight, be more hard working and give up drinking. Can 6 to 7 hours of careless sleep change a person so dramatically for Pete’s sake? Rather, for their own sake?

After hearing people talk about their resolutions, it is obvious to me that they think it is fashionable to make resolutions. The New Year resolutions of people make me chuckle and vindicates my theory that the world is a lot funnier than we think. The real scenario of a New Year resolution is something like this – “Dear Lord, So far this year I've done well. I haven't gossiped, I haven't lost my temper. I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I'm very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I'm going to get out of bed, and from then on I'm probably going to need a lot more help. Amen.”

I think that a New Year's resolution is something that goes in one ‘year’ and out the other. My guess is that people would have forgotten all about them by February. This is the time people end up making a 'new start' to their 'old habits'. As Oscar Wilde said resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.

A few years ago, I resolved to be more decisive. But I could not decide on any other resolutions though! But since then, my resolution has been not to make resolutions. So I have made no new resolutions for this year too. My computer’s resolution remains at 1280X800, while by DSLR’s is 12.2 MP. The act of making plans, setting deadlines, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is something that my wife does on a daily basis for me. But things have changed this year. My wife’s New Year resolution this year was to stop telling me what to do all the time. Just that along with her resolution, she made mine too!

I believe one doesn’t need an excuse to start or stop something that one believes in. But there is nothing wrong in making a resolution (any time of the year!) if one intends to stick to it. Like my friend who insisted that she would not make any resolutions this year, since she was still working on all those she made in the previous years. In fact, if you look carefully, there is a solution lurking in re’solution’ itself.

One way is to keep the resolutions realistic, like this – ‘When I thought about the evils of drinking in the New Year, I gave up thinking.’ or ‘I resolve that I am not going to the moon unless space travel becomes really affordable.’ Instead, people end up making resolutions like this – ‘My New Year resolution is to stand up for myself. But if you think that's stupid, let me think of another one.’

It may be a good idea to break resolution into phases as follows – Peter, at a New Year's party, turns to his friend, Pan, and asks for a cigarette. 'I thought you made a New Year resolution to quit smoking,' Pan responds. 'I am in the process of quitting,' replies Peter with a grin, 'Right now, I am in the middle of phase one.' 'Phase one?' wonders Pan. 'Yeah,' laughs Peter, 'I've quit buying.'

Discipline is the other important ingredient to make a resolution work. Few years back, a colleague announced in February that he had resolved to go on a 'sea food' diet and have been successful so far. He had the admiring glances of everybody till he let out his secret, “Whenever I see food, I eat it!”

Another effective way to make resolutions work is to set it up for a month instead of for a year. This also gives you the opportunity to break it twelve times a year. If your integrity is really low or you are of a weak heart, you could go for weekly resolutions. Just to clarify, that is not the reason why I make daily resolutions! A friend of mine told me last month that his New Year resolution was to procrastinate less this year. “But today is already January 11th” I told him. “See, I am getting better already. I made the same resolution last year on January 26th.”

Having condemned New Year resolutions and given you tips on how to keep a resolution, here’s wishing that all your troubles last only as long as your New Year resolutions!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The older I get, the better I used to be!

“There is nothing permanent except change” – Heraclitus (535 - 475 BC)

Ever since I met my wife (at that time, to-be-wife), she has been constantly trying to change me; of course, with the good intention of making me a better man. But even after 12+ years, as per her, I am still work-in-progress. The sad part is that after being subjected to so much change and having changed so much, she feels, particularly when she is angry or we have had a fight, that I was a lot better man in the past. I wonder if she even thinks if I am the ‘same’ man she loved so many years ago. In fact, I even wonder if she wonders why I wonder so much, which is so wonderful.

Before I got married, I had thousands of faults I didn’t even know about and I used to live merrily. But after marriage, I came to know about all my faults and I live miserably. As per my wife, I need to change only two things to eliminate all my faults - everything I say and everything I do.

My process of change started off with me being asked to be “sensitive” to her needs. I was told that the first step was to be attentive to everything she told me and to be able to recall the details later on, like the following example:

When meeting a lady, whom she had known from last week, in the shopping mall, she would talk as if they grew up all their childhood together and then look up to me and say, “Dear, do you remember about the neighbour’s uncle’s friend’s daughter that I told you about?” And I am expected to answer, “Yes honey, the one who lives in US and has a Dalmatian (apart from the husband, of course).” That reminds me of the joke which goes that at the beginning of married life, every wife treats her husband as god, but later on somehow the first and last alphabets get reversed.

The next step I was made to undergo was to share common interests. This in normal language would mean where one person starts taking interest in the other’s activities and vice versa. But later on I realized that this, in her language, meant that I start finding shopping as an interesting activity and in return stop watching cricket, tennis and other games on TV.

I thought, and so did my friends, that I was a pretty funny guy before marriage. But I was told that all my jokes were silly and sometimes even vulgar. I was asked to be respectable in my speech and more serious in my conversations. This has made me a somber guy, which gets particularly exaggerated in the midst of bachelors.

The other thing I have been made to do is to help in domestic chores. I used to live a life where I considered tasks, like paying the electricity bill, calling the electrician, or dusting the house, to be menial. However, after marriage I was told that they are unavoidable tasks needed to perform in the household and I would better do them unless I wanted to sleep in the living room couch. (psst psst…. I will share a secret with you if you promise not to tell my wife - I try to mess things up often so that I will not have to do them again. And believe me, I have had reasonable success with it.)

When we got married, we decided that my wife will not add my surname to her name. But I had to fight four teeth and three nails to prevent her from adding her second name to my name. That is when I learned that the principle of change only applies to me. She has never attempted to change (psst psst… except her weight). What she doesn’t realise perhaps is the saying that a man will never change, unless he's in diapers.

I have heard that love and marriage are purely matter of chemistry, which explains why my wife treats me like toxic waste. But if change is the only constant, shouldn’t her treatment towards me also change? I am sorry to report that it hasn’t.

So my dear readers, is change permanent or could Heraclitus be wrong?

I hope my wife wouldn’t care much about this post. But between you and me, I have been, in the past, a remarkably poor judge of what my wife cares about. As you leave, please watch this funny commercial on change….