Rant

Food insensitivity

And I’m not talking about breaking out in hives after eating peanuts.

Have you ever paused to consider why some kind of food, perfectly acceptable in some cultures and countries, are totally a no-no for you? Not because you don’t like them – you haven’t even tasted them in your life – but you can’t even entertain the thought of consuming them. You have put them away on the list of “Food that I won’t ever have”. What brings such strong emotions to edible, palatable, even delicious food?

If you are an Indian, and a “non-veg”, stop and think about why you won’t eat cow’s meat. I’m not talking about eating it in India where political forces are at work. But if you are living in the US, (or Australia or Canada), and beef is generally the most accepted form of meat. Is it because of your upbringing, where you not only never had beef but were also told that it is against your culture, your religion? If it really is religion, then stop reading this post. I have nothing to offer you. But if it is some psychological barrier that you haven’t yet overcome, or even tried to overcome, then maybe it is time to address the real reason.

If you are an American, consider the following prospect: you are served a perfectly cooked plate of horse steak. Did you just throw up a little in your mouth? If yes, you’re not alone. According to this piece, eating horse meat was “abolished” on religious grounds. But in today’s world it has all to do with the perception that most Americans hold of horses. Ohh, so lovable creatures. I can’t possibly eat a horse, that’s preposterous! The same with dogs and guinea pigs, which are eaten in many parts of the world.

Now that I have managed to gross out all of my readers, let me point out the lack of sensitiveness we show when we hear about or, worse still, are actually offered to eat a food product that we – as individuals or as a collective society – have quite arbitrarily deemed not fit to be eaten. We flinch, we cringe our nose, our eyebrows arch up with the absurdity of the mere suggestion. That sends a powerful message to the person around you, who is completely at peace with eating whatever you feel is the last thing you’ll ever eat: that I’m being judged and judged to be BAD.

So, the next time someone says that they enjoy a certain food product you consider un-edible, do yourself a favour and stop showing signs of revulsion. And then go a step forward. Actually try out a new food!

Categories: Culture, Rant | 1 Comment

Un-real

Picture this:

You are watching a drama, on television. You think this is different from other shows since this is “reality” TV. The characters will be unpredictable; the outcome is unknown.

Except, that it is not. The characters are molded into what the viewers would like them to be, and the outcome is very, very scripted.

Take an original show on TV. One that is conceptualized, thought out, characters developed, direction provided, has a story or a narration, production value given ample thought, cast assembled with real actors. Now, take that same show and strip it off the last 3 aspects, mentioned in the last sentence. The 3 most important factors in a show: a story-line, good production, and starring people who can really act.

What you’re left with, is reality TV.

No story line. No production value. No one knows how to act. And if you thought the only saving grace would be the spontaneous nature of the reality TV, welcome to reality. All reality shows ARE scripted.

One of life’s big mysteries: why would anyone want to watch a reality show?

Categories: Rant | 1 Comment

Roundup of May

Not having one particular topic to focus on, today’s post will take a look back at the important happenings in May.

Flickr, Yahoo’s photo storage/sharing service recently expanded their space to 1 TB, that is, 1 Terra Byte, which equals 1024 GB. If this isn’t a game changer, I don’t know what is. Surprisingly this news was overshadowed by Yahoo’s buying out Tumblr, which seems as epic a deal as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. (Tangential point: Instagram’s founder Kevin Systrom, was not only included in TIME magazine 100 most influential people for year, but also given a full-page coverage, whereas the CEO of Samsung, Kwon Oh Hyun and the CEO of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, were given 1/3rd page coverage!! Is it just me, or does anybody sees the national (forget the global) significance of a guy who’s claim to fame is to let you apply bad filters to your already crappy cell phone photos?!)

May was the month where 30-year residential mortgage came close to going over the psychologically debilitating, and actual 4%, mark. If the upward trend continues, the days of über cheap mortgages might be drawing to a sharp close.

mortgage rate graph

courtesy: Zillow

 

Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, retired after 27 consecutive years in charge. He is, inarguably (and yes, this is one of those times that inarguably is correctly used), the most successful manager of any professional sports team, anywhere in the world, of all time. And this is coming from an Arsenal fan. If you don’t know who Sir Alex is, or what he has done, my first question to you would be: under which enormous rock have you been hiding, for the last 20 years? Any number of links I insert in this post will not be enough. Search, and you’ll be answered.

 

 

Categories: Economics, News, Rant, Sports | 1 Comment

Tipping

This is an out-and-out rant, after reading this article on how much should one tip for services rendered. Pure and utter balderdash.

Why would anyone be REQUIRED to tip? For ANY service. It seems like (no – read it as: The norm is) there are certain favourable profession where it is expected – almost mandatory – to tip, to even ensure basic services that we are already paying for.

Let’s see, who do we tip? Waiters/servers, bartenders, home food delivery guy, hair stylists, parking valets, cab drivers. And few more, you get the gist. Do all these professions pay below the minimum wage? Some do, some do not.

Now, let’s have a look at a list of professions which pays comparable, or lower, or are more menial to the ones listed above. Grocery store employees, workers at a fast food joint, janitors, amusement and recreational assistants, dishwashers, gaming and sports book writers and runners, ushers, ticket takers (look at Table 1 and Table 2 here).

How many of these people do we ever tip? Just because they are “behind the scenes”, out-of-sight-of-mind, not very presentable people? A smiling server comes up to us and asks, “How does the food taste tonight?” and we feel the excruciating impulse to please this unknown person, and say “Good”, even though the truth might be a little farther down the road. We leave a tip –  a 10% or 15% or even 18% or top out at 20% – for this person. On top of the sales tax. Read the last sentence. Most people tip on top of the sales tax – the gross amount you are charged in your check – not just the amount the service was rendered for!

Somewhat arbitrarily society have deemed a certain section of the working class as “people who we must provide gratuity”, never mind if there are certain other sections who are more in need or deserving.

Categories: Culture, Economics, Rant | 1 Comment

Name

I find it incredible that my name has a greater chance of being pronounced correctly by an American than an Indian.

Krishanu is not a common Indian name. It is intrinsically a Bengali name, and it is not even a common Bengali name. For this reason (not that it is justified), most Indians who hear my name for the first time somehow automatically processes it as one of the similar sounding name listed below, without registering what I just told them. Two seconds ago.

Krishna – I hate this the most. Specially when they ask me, if my name is derived from this. It is not.

Krishnu – A combo of Krishna and Vishnu, or what?

Krishnanu – What? How?

Krishnau – This is mostly South India specific.

Krishnendu – This is very specific to Bengalees as this valid Bengali name is more popular than mine.

Ok, if this happens the first time ever you are talking to me, I’ll grant you the benefit of doubt. But for this to happen not only the first time I’ve corrected them, but also in subsequent conversations, or even the same one, is not pardonable.

Americans on the other hand take a few seconds to play back in their mind what I told them and make an effort to make it sound right. Most of the time they get it. If my name is printed on paper or on the screen, it becomes easier as I just have to tell them, “It is pronounced just the way it is spelt. Kri-sha-nu”. Done.

I was talking to this Indian guy from work on the phone the other day. We have worked together before, though not recently. We have exchanged emails. He addressed me as Krishna when I called him. First time, I thought, I’ll let it pass. During the conversation he kept the Krishna going. Just before hanging up, I brought up what my name really is. He was flustered and said, “Oh I’m sorry, Krishnu!”

Really? If you are, you’ll send me 500 written lines of “I will call you Krishanu“.

Or take the example of this person who e-mails me back, changing my name to Krishnau and insists on calling that. So I replied back to him with letters in his own name juxtaposed incorrectly, deliberately. That got his attention! Next time when we talked on the phone, he asked, “I think I’m not saying your name right ..” and I corrected him. Again.

Now compare this with the numerous Americans who I have interacted with at work and while playing football (soccer). They might require a second hearing, but when they say it loud, most get my name first time. Some ask me if there is a shorter version – like Kris or Krish – but then get on.

Not that I haven’t had Americans calling me variations of my name, mostly Krishana. The association is then with the more common Chrissana (which is a girl name!).

In college and subsequently in my work life in India, which were out of Kolkata, I have had more instances of people – Indians – mispronouncing my name, than I’ve encountered in my life in the US.

Is this a cultural thing where something as important as a name is not given a second thought and people take it on themselves to say it whichever way they please to? Is it because the US is such a melting pot and people are cognizant of so many variation and forms of names that they make it point to say it out correctly?

Footnote: I am very comfortable with my name and I thank my parents for coming up with something so unique. Krishanu is a synonym of ‘fire’ in old Bengali.

Categories: Culture, Language, Rant | 5 Comments

Extremes

Last January I had a post on an 80 deg change in weather – that was a change from Kolkata (in West Bengal, India, Asia) to Minneapolis (in Minnesota, US, North America). Understandable, right. Now consider this scenario, and judge which is worse:

This Tuesday – January 10th, 2012 – we had a high of 53° F (12° C), an all time high for this date ever recorded in The Cities. After a high of a breezy 38° F on Wednesday afternoon, we hit a low of 19° F at night. By Thursday, we were back to a normal(!) 12° F (-11° C). A 41° F change in temperature in the course of 2 days. Not in 2 continents, or in 2 countries, or in 2 states, or even in 2 cities in the same state. In the same freaking city.

Talking about extremes, the mortgage rate for 30-year old loans fell to 3.89% in the US on Thursday, January 12th. This is the lowest on record dating to 1971. Refinancing, anyone?

Another (soon going to ‘record’) low: Team India, after falling to 161 in their 1st innings against Australia in the 3rd test in Perth in the current series, are well and truly on course to their 7th straight loss (and 8th as well, taking the 4th Test in consideration) in away Test matches. After their record 17 straight loss in away Tests from 1959 to 1968, this current streak is the longest. Anymore talk about the ‘golden generation’ is unadulterated balderdash. The IPL killed the Test-star (sing it along the tune of Video killed the radio star).

Now a personal extreme: This week was the 1st 5-day work-week for me since the week ending December 9th, 2011. We might see a 42° F change in 2 days, in the future; the way the mortgage rates have been dropping, another new record low might be just around the corner; Team India might touch new lows. But for me to have 4 consecutive less-than-5-day work week …now that is some record that would be hard to beat!

Categories: Economics, Rant, Sports, Weather | Leave a comment

Something’s wrong

…when you can get more cash back on your credit card than you can earn on interest on your bank accounts (checking/savings accounts).

If that did not sink in, read the sentence above again. Then close your eyes and think what this means.  No one – the government, banks, corporations, the SYSTEM – wants you to save money. It’s all about spending, baby!

On one of my cards I get back 1.5%  on every dollar that I spend. On another, I get 1% guaranteed back, and 5% on various categories, which change every quarter. The 2nd card gives me anywhere between 2 to 3% cash back every month.

When compared to the rate offered by most banks, either brick-and-mortar or online, which is a pittance nowadays. You’d be lucky to get even 1% rate of interest on your checking or savings account.

Except, certain credit unions and small banks which offer over 4% interest on your saved up money. Use this link to see the rates in your area.

Now think about one reason why you would not avail these.

————————————————————————————————————————

…when you go to the theater to watch a Hindi movie and invariably there are babies/infants/toddlers who will cry out time and again.

How hard it is for Indian parents to either a) not go to a movie when you have a kid who is young enough to disrupt everyone else’s viewing time  b) get a baby-sitter at home, if you really can’t wait for the movie to come out on DVD? Apparently, quite hard.

Doesn’t fail to happen every single time  we go to watch a Hindi/Bollywood movie (which is not very often)!

And the strangest part of it all is that the same parents will never take their babies to a Hollywood movie. It is just somehow acceptable to take them to Hindi movies, where you know there will be an overwhelming majority of Indians. The thinking goes something like this: Oh, everyone is Indian there, they won’t mind my baby screaming at the top of its lung.

We DO mind. A lot.

Categories: Economics, Rant, WTF | 2 Comments

Warren Buffett proposes

..and Daniel Gross finds faults with his proposal. Not just Mr. Gross but most of the Republican establishment.

Mr. Buffett wrote an editorial for the New York Times, in which he lays bare certain facts. Eye openers (if your eyes weren’t open till now, that is).

 Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

 Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

Daniel Gross, economics editor at Yahoo! Finance, says that the only reason Mr. Buffett wants to do this is to “build that much goodwill”. He also adds, that if Mr. Buffett wants he can simply write out a check to the IRS with whatever amount of money he thinks he should sacrifice. The idea that if tax rate increases, over 200,o00 households earning more than $1 million a year will be compelled to pay more in taxes, is conveniently overlooked.

The fact of the matter is, spending cuts and tax increase needs to go hand in hand to reduce the federal deficit. This is not anymore an either-or scenario. Cuts and tax increase. Reality. No one likes to see more from their paychecks disappear as tax, including me. But this is the only way forward.

And how much did Obama manage to get tax increase as a percentage of the deficit reduction deal?  0%. That is zilch. To paraphrase Bill Maher (I couldn’t find the link for this quote): “The country is approximately half Democrat and half Republican. The top 1% of earners are Republicans, but the rest 49% of the country, what are you thinking?!”

It just boggles my mind how ordinary middle class people are so opposed to even the idea of raising taxes on the top 1% (or doing away with the Bush-era tax cuts). Do they seriously believe that they are going to in the 1% in their lifetime? I just don’t get it.

Categories: Economics, Rant | 3 Comments

Really, now this?!

Is Jon Stewart the only media personality who finds it beyond the realms of absurdity that the Republicans are now trying to ‘define’ rape? This is because they want to stop the ‘wasteful’ tax payer money spent on abortions, for victims of rape. Last year there were a mammoth 191 such cases.

See the video with Kristen Schaal.

[My attempts to embed the video in this post failed miserably after half an hour when Vodpod said that they don’t support “iframe videos from this site”.]

Categories: Rant | 1 Comment

First responder? Ha, joke is on you

The abject display of moral turpitude shown by the ‘conservatives’ by the action of not only passing the bill to extend the tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans but also, and more importantly, to block the 9/11 first responders bill, is simply beyond the …the casual observer that I am.

This bill would cost around $6-7 billion dollars, over 10 years. And the tax cuts? They would mean a loss of over $700 billion dollars to the government, which the GOP just had to pass before the year ends. But the 9/11 bill, which is effectively one-hundreth of what the tax cuts would cost, cannot be rushed through as it might create “bad legislation”. Besides, convening a Congressional session during the Christmas holidays would be ‘blasphemous’ as who has ever heard of people working during the Christmas week, right??

Wow. Just wow.

Jon Stewart has been waging war on this for some time now. The last episode of The Daily Show for the year was devoted entirely to this cause (probably the first time that there was one central theme to one full show). Full episode can be seen here.

There might still just be hope for the passage of this bill this year, as reported in this article.

Categories: Rant | 3 Comments

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