Sunday, March 29, 2009

Can India 'Get there'?

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A quick update: I'm writing my thesis right now and don't get enough time to write posts as usual. After all, its hard to find the passion to write when all you've done is to wrestle with words for the past four hours straight. Imagine grappling with multiple such sessions and you'd get an idea as to what I'm going through. But, in all that, I treat myself to reading articles when I'm done with parts of my work. Though I keep it to a bare minimum, they are a good perk-me-up. One of my friends recently sent me a link to an article that pulled me out of my thesis-writing reverie.

Do read the article to understand my post better!

Being an Indian, I accept with shame that ALL of it is true. Every single thing is true. And the comment about the population and political structure being behind it got me saying "Oh-so-true!". But the problem is not only because of population and politicians. It is deeply rooted in the culture. There were always lots of people to do everything. All the machine-intensive tasks of the West are labor-intensive in India(and generally, the East). For example, here, I use a vacuum cleaner, a dish washer, a laundromat, etc for my daily cleaning. But, back in home, there were people to help out with everything.

Further, when you have resources only fit for 10 people and you have 100 people fighting for it, people would do anything and everything to be in that elite 10. And what happens if you have the ability to collect resources meant for 2 or even 3 people? People start hoarding for their future, their kids' future and so on. Hence the divide between haves and have-nots increases. For, after all, there is no limit to a man's greed, right? So, in India, life is always "survival of the fittest". If you wanted to do well in life, you had to compete with 1000 other people in India compared to 3 other people in USA and other western countries. That makes a HUGE difference in the way people's attitude towards life. All said and done, life in US is a huge vacation compared to what is going on in India. Imagine if you worked hard all day for a big loaf of bread and got it? That is US. But if you worked hard all day for a small piece of bread but you are still not sure if you would get it or not? That is India.

This attitude towards life is the basic reason behind so many problems in politics, corruption, lack of good infrastructure (lots of infrastructure money is used to fund the contractors' private kitties first, and whatever remains goes to the actual work), pollution, etc. The Indian law code and budget are really good. But implementation sucks! The author had asked what the Nobel laureates and economists are doing for the country. They did what they know best: design a really good system taking into account all variables. As usual, they were brilliant in it. That is why we have one of the best law codes in the world and some of the most efficient budget plans. However, they are not good at implementation. And that is what India lacks! India needs people who are free of this 'hoard-all' mentality and who are brave enough to implement the perfect systems we have got already.

Further, the author said that India cannot change. I do not agree with it. India is changing, but in smaller portions. As more and more people are getting educated, they start realizing what is good and what is bad. That would lead to a better India, for sure. The reason Kerala is a lot better(from the author's view) is because it has 97% literacy rate. But Kerala has problems of its own which might not be visible to a tourist. I feel that education and efficient usage of resources would really change India, albeit in smaller steps. As more and more people realize that pollution and corruption would eventually kill them, there would come a systemic change. That change would change everything else as well. However, this change cannot be brought about by the Government(even if it wished) or any external body simply because these problems are deeply rooted in the Indian's daily way of life. So, quoting China or Thailand or US and comparing them with India is like comparing apples to oranges.

To fellow Indians, lets strive to make that change in our lives. Use lesser resources, work better, improve your life, help a less fortunate human. If we multiply that times one billion, we can surely 'get there'.

To fellow world citizens, India is still a very good place. I still welcome one and all to come to India and experience the unique experience it provides. India is much much more than all these problems. That is the beauty and problem of India. It has layers and layers of complexity to it. There is no one definition of India nor solution for its problems.

And, winning without problems is not challenging. Its winning, despite problems, that is challenging. And I'm sure India will win and overcome its problems, even if it takes time.

What are your thoughts on it? Do you think India is too big to succumb to these problems? Or do you think these problems are too deeply 'into the system' to make a change?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

எது நீ?

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நண்பருடன் இருபது நிமிடம் கதைக்க நேரமில்லாமல் நீ
நான்கு மணி நேரம் கதை புத்தகத்துடன் நீ
இதில் எது நீ?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How does your memory work?

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I recently came across a great video about how human memory works. Some of the information is interesting and fun while some others are scary, but all of them amazing! Earlier, I had thought that memory loss is only about forgetting past facts and that didn't seem like a big deal as long as you could keep the main pieces figured out. But when I heard that it also affects how you imagine and plan for your future, it was shocking. Further, when it was showed that effect of experiences in the memory can be increased or decreased, it was totally hard to digest it all.


One small question. I think a lot about India now. Does that mean I'm continuously refreshing those experiences, and by that video's reasoning, slowly forget it all if I don't go to India regularly to refresh it?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Try it out!

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Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine over phone. We caught up with each other and discussed plans after graduation. He asked me mine and discussed as to why some of it was wrong and what I should do about it. Then, I asked him about his plans. There was a freeze. He didn't talk for a few minutes. Then, he said, "I want to do another MS". Now, I know this guy from my school age. I know that he is not the studious kinds nor is he really interested in engineering. I for one, thought that he was wasting time in graduate school and instead should be trying to figure out his passions. So, imagine my shock when he said he wanted to do another MS!

After a bit of probing, he came out with the real reasons. He didn't want to search for a job here (his exact words, "Jobs are too hard to get now. So, why bother to search? I'm happy in grad school. Let me be here!"), he didn't want to go back to India and take up a job and he didn't even want to think of doing an internship or part-time gig. So, I said that he should atleast give some thought to a PhD in his field for once he has decided to study more, why not do a doctorate? That would in fact help him get deeper into whatever he is doing right now. For it, his answer was "But research is too hard!". That, in one word, sums up to not wanting to take up responsibility. 

After discussing with him for ten more minutes, I found that he felt safer in grad school, he didn't have to face the realities of life(job search, recession, etc.), he preferred to be a college student all his life(not unlike Aamir in RDB), he didn't want to really try out anything at all. But if you look at his activities, he would be the first person, ready to try out all types of activities from camping to football to volunteering. I found a totally disconnected profile of him where he was uber-confident in smaller things in life but not so in the larger things in life. My heart filled with pity for him. He was afraid of his own shadows. No amount of pushing and prodding by others would help him out of his misery.

In fact, what would life do to you? Worst, you'd know that you died trying to reach your dreams. But if you decide not to even step out of your comfort cocoon, then dreams would just be wishful thinking. Heck! You wouldn't even know if there was a BETTER comfort cocoon than the one that you are in right now. And best, you'd have achieved all that you set out to do and would think, "Did I get scared for this simple thing?". So, go ahead, try things out! You have but one life to do it all!

A uber-fast weekend edition

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It was a really busy weekend with me trying to catch up on my data analysis part and discussions on some meetings and shows(yup! I'm hosting a show in my university for the Tamil New Year. I did it last year as well and it turned out to be great fun. Also, I got some really good advice(as in, real advice) that made a dent in my views of life. This year too, I'm looking forward to it.) But here are a few interesting articles that I ran across:

Strange how the buyout of one company can seriously affect two unrelated companies - a followup on my ibm-buying-sun post - happens only in the technology sector.

Buiding an innovation nation? - The innovation heat map shows it all.

Will you take advice from fictional billionaires? - Strangely some of them make a lot of sense.

Some interesting office sites - wish I had the yacht or treehouse office(I know, I know, I wouldn't get any work done!)

Some disheartening scenes from recession - most of them show signs of arrested development - construction, job scene, shopping


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Change of guard!

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She loved life!
Loved everything in it
Every minute
Every second
Every moment

She lived life!
Lived everything of it
Every experience
Every emotion
Every fibre

She gave a lot,
And took a lot back

She had a lot of stuff
Even from the simplest of interactions

She decided to pare down
Even if it meant letting go

She threw stuff out
Gleaned from long-over endeavors

She built life!
Built everything from it
From the foundation
From the scratch
From the beginning

She changed life!
Changed everything in it
From the heart
From the sheath
From the mind

The foundation was shaky
She stabilized it with her mind

The beginning left her in the dark
She kindled a lantern from her heart

The start was scary and alone
She started it with her sheath

The path shivered her to the deeps
She took a ray of hope from her soul

The Voice smiled
Smiled at everything there!
At the decisions
At the changes
At the intensity

The Voice serenaded
Serenaded with questions there!
At the plans
At the thoughts
At the rules

The Voice was concerned
That the decisions were too fast

That the changes won't stand
That that intensity was against her nature

That the plans weren't well laid out
That the thoughts weren't well reasoned out

That the rules were too harsh
The serenading continued....

The Voice was worried
Worried that she was stressed
And making changes too fast

She was firm
The rules had changed
So, she better change too

The Voice said
'Don't go against your nature
You'll hurt yourself'

She said
'I won't go against my soul
I'm just letting it heal'

'By not pouring myself
To every cup in this world
And letting myself go dry'

'By not worrying about others
And unworrying about me
Acting too silly to keep everyone grown up'

'They can defend, they can do
The world doesn't need me to heal
The world goes on, even without me'

'Though my scent is rare and precious
It can live without me
I need myself, I need me'

The Voice understood
Her expectations needed a break
A break from family
A break from friends
A break from the world

The Voice thought
She needs herself now
Herself to heal
Herself to be happy
Herself to find meaning

The voice chided itself
For not seeing this happen

For concentrating too much on the out
For not seeing the health of the soul

The Voice wondered what to say
For this was a matter of the soul

It didn't have experience in it
Nor a soul to understand

She said
'Do you get it now?
For I need you to guide me through'

The Voice said
'I do get it now
But I can't guide you through'

'I don't understand matters of soul
For its not the heart or the mind
Which is child's play to me'

'Soul searches are like a cave
You can come upon diamonds
Or upon skulls and bones'

'Be prepared for both
But I feel its more the diamonds
Than the skulls in this place'

'Keep your ray of hope shining
For that is the link to your soul
And that will guide us through'

'Through the best of times
And through the worst of times
But always remember why the rules changed'

'That is the food for your lantern
The shovel for your mind
And the nutrition for your sheath'

She and the Voice
Hand in hand,
Walk the ray lit path.

The path was rough
This was a path less taken
And they needed each other

It all came to this in the end
The test had begun
And the rules of life had changed.

Lets wish them both
Give them time to heal
And keep a prayer on our lips!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A deal watch now?

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As we see more and more companies laying off, the difference between companies that are doing good and the companies that are doing bad is becoming starkly clear. The ones that are doing OK would have to choose sides soon. And, in the end, the ones that are doing better tend to buy the ones that are doing bad(not unlike the jungle where the strong animals eat up the weaker ones, no wonder we are living in a corporate jungle!). The most recent talks are about IBM buying Sun. As the recession becomes worse, more and more deals and acquisitions are in the horizon. Do I have to start a deal watch now?

And, another question is, the strong companies are strong now. But, once the weaker companies are bought, would their position still be strong enough to wear out the recession? Or would that make them a weak company too, ready to be another victim?

Further, if this recession leaves us with just one or two players in each field, would it be good for the consumer? Would we have as many choices as we have now? And, worse, what if there was only one company per field? or worst, what if there was only one company that dominated many fields? I can see some companies emerging better in their fields and wielding considerable clout in others. Is it good for us as consumers? Wouldn't it be giving too much power into too few hands? Every time that has happened, it has led to tyranny and revolution in history. Would we see a corporate war in future?

What do you think? Is this deal the first of the recession or is it a one-off? And are these deals good for the economy and the future?

Disclaimer: All these views above are mine and mine only. They are spoken from the point of an ordinary consumer with data available to everyone in the world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A trillion dollar bill?

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Can you imagine a one dollar bill? 
Sure, you can get small stuff with it. 

Can you imagine a five dollar bill?
Sure, you can even have a decent meal at Burger King with it.

Can you imagine a ten dollar bill?
Sure, you can have a good sit-down lunch at a decent restaurant with it.

Can you imagine a fifty dollar bill?
Sure, you can use it to get stuff for a weekend party... the money would be best used for lot of stuff.

Can you imagine a hundred dollar bill?
Sure, it would be a good chunk of my rent.

Can you imagine a thousand dollar bill?
Sure, it would be in terms of my paycheck.

Can you imagine a ten thousand dollar bill?
Sure, it would be what I pay for my semester fees to my school.

Can you imagine a million dollar bill?
Uh! Now its getting harder. How about the economy of some companies or even small countries? Or maybe the life savings of an average American? I'm sure it would be a hard-to-imagine money for an average world-citizen(all the people in the world).

Can you imagine a billion dollar bill?
Wait! its a thousand million dollar bills right? So, is it the economy of thousand companies or countries? I can surely say that every Indian can get one dollar of it and still be fine. Or maybe the American stimulus bills can simplify it in my brain? 

Can you imagine a trillion dollar bill?
Whoa! that is a thousand billion dollar bills. And that means, its a thousand thousand million dollars. Are there even that many people in this world? Combining all the people in this world, I'd think the figures would be around 50 or 100 billion? Lets do a google search! Wikipedia says that there are only 6.76 billion as of March 2009. What??? Less than 0.7% of a trillion??? And here, the Iraq War alone costs more than a trillion dollars? And, you need more than a trillion dollars to revv up the economy? And, people aren't sure that it would help? Ok, based on thisinspiration, lets say the US Government decides to get all the cash to make a trillion dollar stack. Heck! The total circulation of currency bills is itself not a trillion dollars. Ha! Ha! Now its becoming funny! Other than war and pumping money to an economy, what else can a trillion dollars do? But surely, we are talking more of it. No wonder, the trillion is the new billion.What isa thousand trillion, anyone? For, with the way the economy is going, we might need to talk in terms of that soon.

What are your thoughts on this one?

Update - 3 17 09

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Today was a lot better in terms of my research progress - atleast better than my whole spring break combined.
I got to:
  • get some more ideas to tweak my algorithm (boy! would I be doing it till the day I defend?)
  • analyze some prelim results and they were very satisfying. There is only one user profile that exhibits out-of-expected behavior but I would like to keep it in my user group, just so that I get to change my algorithm to cover that corner case too. But, there is only so much that can be done with my algorithm and I'm tempted sometimes to remove that profile. Lets wait and watch!
  • started one run for a main result analysis - ended today morning - yet to take a look at it.
  • spoke to my advisor and finalized some more leads.
In all, a satisfying day's job, provided the time I had between class and spending time with friends. My Rutgers friends left yesterday night and I spent some time with them. Also, wasted some good amount of time reading blogs(damn! stop it!!). 
See you with the next update.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Break ends!

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Ah! One more last post!

My last spring break ended yesterday. If all goes as I have thought of life right now, this would be my last spring break for I'd be done studying with this year. I planned to enjoy my best this spring break(yeah! yeah! I hear you say I do it all the time). But this time, I did my best to have all the fun possible, so much so that I didn't do much research this week. Don't let my advisor know about it, though! I did some number crunching and some tweaking but otherwise, it was a pretty slow week with regard to research. But with fun, it was very busy....

I had gone to Texas and had some really good time with my family and friends there. I caught up with some friends after a long time and had a great time with them. My nieces still retain the "most adorable kids in the world" title :) And B has perfected the art of disarming us with her smile. Every time she needs something from me, all she has to do is smile at me with her 17 teeth(yup! we counted!) and I'd be in poodles(I'd have melted already) and would be ready to do anything for her. Thankfully, for me, she asks simple requests like playing blocks with her or walking around the house with her. You wouldn't know how much time I spent putting five blocks through their corresponding holes over and over again. But I wouldn't trade it for anything else in this world. And, I couldn't resist photographing her every day, just to hear her say "cheese!" :D 

And, N! She is now the "big girl" and tries to throw her weight around. That is so funny! :) Its amazing to see how quickly her thought process changes and how she adapts to everyone. She is a perfect Leo, getting all that she wants through others! And, its amazing how B handles her big sister :D Reminds me of A and me, I'm sure my mom would have laughed at it all. With my sis and bil, it was a good time alltogether and it was a perfect getaway from school. 

Then came a potluck with friends. I had earlier decided not to cook because I was returning from Texas that day, but suddenly decided to do so and whipped up some great curry within 15 minutes. Guess I'm getting better at cooking! And, SB's pooris were just yummy! They were the best of the lot(guess I'm partial to pooris because I don't get to eat them here. In fact, that was the second time in two years that I ate pooris in US, the first being the time when my aunt visited us). Followed by that, some of my friend's friends came to town and we had great fun planning for it. Add a hectic day of shopping, driving, cooking and you get the picture. 

Finally came yesterday... THE LAST DAY of my spring break! We went to Luray Caverns and Shenandoah and had a great time there. I'll post some pics later. The different poses(can anyone forget the V picture and the Attitude-look picture? Thanks to GV for that! But the most hilarious was the K-A picture. It was totally unintentional but kept us in splits for a long time. Something more to tease K with.... ;) ) were just too good. It was great driving through highways and country roads and fog and after 7 hours of driving, my driving desire got quelled for some time and I gladly handed over the keys to S(thank God he was ready to drive! otherwise, I would have started hating driving because I had a serious backlog of sleep.... and sleep makes me irritable. Period.) After a blissful power nap and some teasing of K(becoming my favorite hobby, gonna miss them all when this year ends!), we returned and I got to chat with home. Then came a late night drive and some good talk. Tell me this, are you or do you know of people who don't expect anything from life but lead their lives mainly for the experience of doing something and work hard at it? S told me that such people exist but I'm finding it hard to relate to. Any help, anyone?

Now, back to work! This last two months(starting today to May 15th) would be "work hard, Alpine!" period. But even I burst out laughing reading it. I don't think I would be putting in long hours doing research day in and day out. I would burn out far too quickly and wouldn't get anything done. My strategy would be more to:
1) get work done in a schedule
2) work in short bursts interlaced with other mindless stuff and fun stuff so that I don't feel that I'm working too long and have to take an equally long break.
3) Not go to the site of novels(yeah, the online english and tamil novels sites or library) till I finish these two months. (It would be the hardest of all the points, trust me!)
4) Copy all the movies I decide to watch to my hard disk and spend two weeks after May 15th to go through that list. 
5) Make a list of all the to do stuff and do them based on importance. (Not declutter my cupboard or computer just because I don't want to do the most important thing(usually something related to my research!) but because I'm doing it for their importance is higher than other tasks(like laundry))
6) Write a post daily on my blog to keep myself to accountable to myself and others - just a short list of how my day went and what I did to get nearer to May 15th goal. The goal is to graduate. But as to how well I graduate, you'll get to know at the end of May 15th. I have a plan and a wish. I'm sure my plan will work, I hope my wish works!

In all, I want to thank all my friends and family for making this spring break a truly memorable one. And a special thanks to all Rutgers friends for doing that special trip with us! 

How did your last spring break go? Any memories of it? And any unforgettable incidents? Do share them all! And keep an eye out for these accountability posts!

Applied for OPT

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Applied for my OPT, finally. Hoping I get it done quickly!! 

For the clueless:
OPT or Optional Practical Training is the 12 month practical training period option given to foreign students to train practically in their field of study. It is mostly used as a transition period from F1 visa to H1B visa. For more info, check Wikipedia.
For official information, check the USCIS site. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Do you want to - link edition

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A collection of some interesting articles I read this week:

Do you want to own free land in the US of A? Here you go.

Do you want to rent rims to your new car? Off you go.

Or do you want a new car itself? (Hint: I'm thinking of one car from this family for my first car... hoping that it happens soon!)

Do you want a clean inbox and a happy email life? Here it is.

Do you want to get your creativity kicking and happy? Enjoy it here!

Finally,
Do you want to give a shot at the meaning of life? Check this out!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thoppukaranam = Super yoga

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Namma oor thoppu karanam, inga Super Yoga aayiduchu. Now I understand why all the makku students were made to put thoppu karanam by the vaathiyaar in olden days. On a totally unrelated note, does this have anything to do with the jokes about husbands putting thoppu karanam to their wives? Interesting question!

Budget making - the hows

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Recently, I had written a post as to why someone needs a budget and how useful it is in the long run. Here is the follow up on it. How do you make a budget? Mind you, I had no clue as to what a budget is and how it would help in using the resources I had. So, I did a Google search for making and using budgets and then tried some stuff on my own to hit on a sweet spot where it is not much work any more but gives all the info I need at a glance.

Some thoughts on the budget mechanism I use:
1) I didn't want to spend money on budget tools like Quicken, YNAB, etc. for I wasn't yet convinced of the positives of a budget. So, I didn't want to spend anything on it. Further, I wasn't sure if my enthusiasm would remain after a few budget sessions to justify buying the tool.
2) I didn't want to put up my finance data online. All said and done, I'm freaky about keeping my personal info offline(at least, as much of personal info as I can). So, that threw away services like Wesabe, Mint, etc from the pool.
3) I didn't want to keep moving from one format to another.
4) I wanted to be able to tweak things as I wanted them to. Basically, I wanted something that would grow and change with my learning of finances. 

At the end, I was left with either plain old pen and paper option or excel spreadsheet option. Knowing that it is hard for me to keep up with paper, I chose the spreadsheet option. I use Excel spreadsheet for entering all the info.

Here goes the mechanism I followed for making a budget.

1) Start keeping tabs on what you spend money on
Open a spreadsheet and enter columns like date, item(what you spent on - groceries, dinner, cab, printing, etc), credit(money coming to you - salary, tax refund, etc), debit(money going out - all expenses). All you have to do is to enter all the transactions in it and sum it up. The difference between credit and debit is what you have in savings. In order to know how much you spend per category, just add columns labeled groceries, utilities, etc and enter those transactions in it. Summing them up would give you an idea as you how much you have spent on each category. You can have as many categories as you want. One of my friends has about 40 categories while another has only five. But, both of them use the budget well. So, depending on your level of need for micromanagement, the number of categories would vary.  

I used to spend a lot of money on eating out(in our university dining centers and in downtown) with friends. The second vice was shopping. Not that I brought lots of stuff, it was more passive shopping. Intrigued? I usually go for shopping with my friends and help them choose stuff. In the process, I would end up buying a shirt or a perfume or a book or a ... hope you get the drift. Also, half of my eating outs happened when I went on these shopping trips - a smoothie at 11 am, lunch at 2 pm, a snack at 5 pm and finally ending the day with dinner at a restaurant cost us way more than expected. I had no clue I was spending so much on these two categories.

2) Take a hard look at each of the categories
Take a look at each transaction and see if there is something that you can drop without changing your comfort level too much. Mark each of it and make a note of the amount you can save in each category. For example, if you get a total of $300 for eating out every month but feel that you can reduce it to $150, make a note of saving $150 in that category. This would give you a feel of your budget.

For me, eating out was a result of me not having time to cook at home. By scheduling time to cook at home(at least on weekdays), it became easier to plan my groceries, get them and finally cook and eat at home. Bonus point was eating healthier stuff at home.

3) A budget draft
With the newly created cap for spending on each category, you are now ready with a budget draft. Try to consciously reduce spending in each category for the next month. Check to see if each transaction is worth it. For example, the blender that you get at Walmart might be worth the cost for it may help you cook faster whereas the cute teddy that you see in Toys R Us might not make the cut.

For me, I brought some microwave bowls(about ten or eleven) that cost me a lot more initially. But they help me store food and I don't have to cook every day. Whereas, shopping didn't make it. So, I stopped going out for shopping 'just like that' to avoid getting unnecessary stuff.

4) Making changes
Repeat steps 1 and 2 again and compare it with your expectations. Sometimes, your expectations might be satisfied(you expected to save $150 and saved $150 - keep it up). Sometimes, you might have done better than you expected(you expected to save $150 but saved $200 - keep up the good work and change your budget accordingly). Sometimes, you might have done worse(you expected to save $150 but saved only $100 - change your budget to reflect that).

For me, I had thought I would save a lot on eating out(which I did) but went over budget on groceries(expected but I hadn't thought of it). So I changed my budget to reflect the change.

5) A final word
Keep repeating the above steps and you would see that as the months go by, you have a fair idea as to what you do with your money. A budget is a living document and changes with changes in our life. Especially, for students, its hard to say that you get a set amount of money every month. Some months, you get to work more while in some others, you have so many deadlines that you just can't work part time. So, based on your situation, the budget can expand or contract. For, it is you who is being accountable to yourself.  Do what works for you!

Further, you can decide how to have fun and do it well. For example, if traveling is your kind of fun, you can save money for it and have fabulous vacations. It really doesn't make sense to spend money on movies and eating out when you could use that money towards your vacation. In all, its all about your priorities and a budget helps you chart a way towards those priorities.

For me, I try to keep all my spending on necessary expenses to 70% of whatever I earn, 20% on irregular expenses and 5% for fun spending and 5% for saving. Though this is not a hard and fast rule(I order to-go more often on days when I have a deadline looming ahead, my 'eating out' category shoots up while my groceries category goes down a bit), I try to stick to it as much as possible.  
Happy budgeting!

What type of a budget works for you? Do you use any software to track your expenses? Any comments?


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Satisfied Mind

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Recently heard "Satisfied Mind" by Jeff Buckley. The following lines stuck out:

Money can’t buy back all your youth when you’re old
A friend when you’re lonely, or peace for your soul
The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Rajavum Rosyum

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ராஜாவுக்கு சரியான கோபம்... இந்த முருகனுக்கு கொஞ்சம் கூட அறிவில்லையா? இன்றும் இதே வீதியில் தான் வாக்கிங் வர வேண்டுமா? இதில் இவனையும் இழுத்து கொண்டு. "நாம் கூப்பிடற இடத்துக்கு இவன் வரதுக்கு எவ்ளோ கஷ்டபடுவோம்? ஆனா, இவன் இழுத்த இழுப்புகெல்லாம் நம்ம வர வேண்டியதா இருக்கு. நம்ம பொழப்பு நாய் பொழப்புன்றது சரியாதான் இருக்கு. ச்சே!", என்று சலித்து கொண்டான். ராஜாவுக்கு இந்த வீதி பிடிக்காததில் ஒரு காரணம் உண்டு. அந்த மூலை வீட்டில் ரோசி இருப்பாள். அவளுக்கு எப்போதும் முருகனை பிடிக்கும். எதோ அவன் வந்து தான் தன் வாழ்கை நன்றாக போவதாக சீன் போடுவாள். "இதெல்லாம் தேவையா?" என்று ராஜாவுக்கு எரிச்சல் வரும். இது கூட புரியாத மண்டுவாக முருகன் இருக்கானே என்று உள்ளூர ஒரு வருத்தம் கூட.

ஆஹா! மூலை வீட்டை நெருங்கி விட்டோம்! முருகனுக்கு கொஞ்சம் கூட வெக்கமே இல்லையா? இவன என்ன பண்றது? என்று நினைத்த ராஜா திடுகிட்டான். இது வரை முருகனை இவன் அவன் என்று சொன்னதில்லை. அதுக்கும் அவன் மேலேயே கோபம் வந்தது. இந்த முருகனும் தான் ஏன் இவ்வளவு வேகமாக நடக்கிறான்? "ராஜா, சீக்கிரம் வா!" என்று அதட்டல் வேறு! ராஜாவுக்கு சுறு சுறுவென்று கோபம் வந்தது. அப்படியே கடித்து குதறலாமாவென்று நினைத்தான். ஆனால் என்ன செய்வது? எல்லாம் தலை எழுத்து. இந்த ஜென்மத்தில் இந்த பொழப்புக்கு வேற என்ன செய்வது? என்று தன்னை நொந்துகொண்டே முருகனை தொடர்ந்தான். இதோ! ரோசியும் நிற்கிறாள். முருகனை கண்டதும், எதோ காணாததை கண்டது போல அப்படி ஓடி வருகிறாள். ச்சே! இதெல்லாம் பார்க்கணும் நம்ம தலை எழுதிட்டானே! ன்னு பிரம்மா மேலயே ராஜாவுக்கு கோபம் வந்தது.

மூவரும் அருகில் இருந்த பார்க்குக்கு சென்றனர். முருகன் தான் எடுத்து வந்த பிஸ்கட்ஐ ரோசிக்கு தர, அவளும் அதை ஆவலாய் சாப்பிட்டாள். "என்னவோ இவங்க வீட்ல பிஸ்கட்ஏ கண்ல காட்டாதது மாதிரி! அங்க தான் ஏழு கார் நிக்குதே! அப்பறமும் ஏன் இந்த சீன்? ஓவர் சீன் ஒடம்புக்கு ஆகாது!" என்று ராஜா சைடு காப்பில் பொருமினான். ஆனால் முருகன் இதெல்லாம் கண்டால் தானே? ரோசியுடன் நேரம் செலவழிப்பது தான் உலகில் மிக முக்கியமான பணியாக செய்து கொண்டு இருந்தான். ரோசியும் ராஜாவை திரும்பி கூட பார்க்க வில்லை. ஏதோ முருகன் மட்டுமே உலகம் என்று இருந்தாள். ஒரு மணி நேரம் கழித்து, முருகன் மனமில்லாமல் கிளம்பினான். ரோசி ஏக்க பார்வை பார்த்தாள். "அப்பாடா! இந்த கருமம் இனி இல்ல" என்று குஷியாக இருந்தது ராஜா மட்டுமே. ஆனால் அவனுக்கும் முருகன் முகம் பார்த்து வருத்தம் தான். "ஆனா! அதுக்காக? ரோசிய தலையிலயா வச்சுக்க முடியும்? அவங்க வீட்ல என்ன சொல்வாங்க?" என்று நினைத்து கொண்டே ரோஸிஐ திரும்பி பார்த்தான் ராஜா. அப்போது ரோஸி வேண்டாவெறுப்பாய் வீட்டுக்குள் சென்று கொண்டு இருந்தாள். "என்னடா இது? நாம் நம் வீட்டுக்கு போனால் அம்மா காலையே பிடித்து கொண்டு சுற்றுவோம், அப்பா வந்தால் விளையாடுவோம், அக்கா கொஞ்சாமால் விட மாட்டோம். இவ என்னடானா, வீட்டுக்கு போறதுக்கு இவ்ளோ மூஞ்சிய தூக்கி வச்சுகறாளே? முருகனை அவ்ளோ பிடிச்சி போச்சா?" என்று நினைத்து கொண்டே வீட்டுக்கு வந்தான்.

இரவு தூங்க போகும் போது, முருகனும் அம்மாவும் பேசுவது கேட்டது. "என்னடா, இன்னைக்கும் ரோசிய பார்த்துட்டு வந்தியா? உனக்கு இதே பொழப்பா போச்சு. படிப்பு தவிர மத்ததெல்லாம் பண்ற! அப்பாகிட்ட சொல்லணுமா?" என்று அம்மா கேட்கும் குரல். "நல்லா வேணும், முருகா! பிஸ்கட்ஆ குடுக்குற பிஸ்கட். அம்மா கரெக்டா கேட்டீங்கமா!" என்று துள்ளாட்டம் போட்டான் ராஜா(மனதிற்குள் தான்!). கொஞ்சம் கழித்து முருகனின் குரல் கேட்டது. " அம்மா! பாவம்மா ரோஸி! அவ வீட்ல தான் யாருமே பார்த்துகறதில்ல. vet இருக்காரு, instructor இருக்காரு, சமையல் காரம்மா இருக்காங்க. ஆனா, யாருமே அது கிட்ட அன்பா இல்லமா. ஏதோ கடமைக்கு சாதம் போடறாங்க; மத்த காரியம் பண்றாங்க. ரோஸி எவ்ளோ நல்லா வெளையாடுது தெரியுமா? அது பாவம்மா. நாய்னா அன்பு எதிர்பார்க்க கூடாதா? அதுவும் உயிர் தான மா! அதான் நான் போய் டெய்லி கொஞ்சம் வெளையாடிட்டு வரேன். இது தப்பாமா?". "இல்லடா கண்ணா! தப்பே இல்ல" என்று அம்மா அணைத்து கொண்டார்கள். கேட்டு கொண்டிருந்த ராஜாவுக்கு யாரோ மண்டையில் ஓங்கி அடித்தது போல இருந்தது. "ச்சே! ஒரு சக நாயோட கஷ்டம் தெரியாம இருந்துட்டோம்! அதான் ரோஸி சோகமா வீட்டுக்கு போச்சா? இப்ப எல்லாம் புரியுது. இனிமே நம்மளும் ரோசியோட friendlya இருக்கணும்." என்ற முடிவுடன் தூங்க போனான்.

மறுநாள், ரோஸிஐ பார்க்க முருகன் சென்ற போது, ராஜாவும் துள்ளி கொண்டு சென்றான், ரோஸிஐ பார்த்து சிநேக பார்வையுடன்.

- Alpine

Monday, March 02, 2009

Sometimes....

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Sometimes, the hot coffee smell from a cafe as you pass it reminds you of home and your grandma's coffee.

Sometimes, the four-part hairdo that an American girl sports reminds you of the time your granny taught you to do it and her appreciation of your making.

Sometimes, the soft white snow that crinkles under your touch reminds you of your grandma's skin and its softness.

Sometimes, the tasting of some exotic Indian dish at a friend's place reminds you of the time your grandma made it just the way you liked it so that you eat it without fuss.

Sometimes, your friends advising you about healthy eating reminds you of the care that your granny took to make sure you were healthy.

Sometimes, seeing a swing reminds you of the innumerable hot summer days when you went back home for Nannari sarbath after playing in the swing with friends.

Sometimes, seeing a perfectly made vadai or appalam makes you think of the countless vadais and appalams and other dishes(all of them perfect) that you had made by your granny.

Sometimes, seeing your international school advisor reminds you of your granny and you wait half an hour to just meet her instead of getting the work done by another advisor who is free.

Sometimes, you tend to look out for some colors when shopping for clothes because they remind you of your granny in her favorite sari.

Sometimes, the cold weather reminds of the bhajjis and bondas that your granny made for you and your cousins.

Sometimes, seeing a small American boy and smiling at him just because his nose and jaws remind you of your granny.

Sometimes, calling your mom just so that she uses some words that your granny always does.

Sometimes, even in the midst of hardships, you know that your granny would have been happy at what you've done.

Sometimes, in the dead of the night, with her picture near you, your pillow reminds you of her lap and all the times you slept in it.

Sometimes, when you feel nothing goes right, your granny's serene smile brings joy to you and a confidence that you can win the world.

I miss you, paati!