Monday, October 6, 2008

Why is the dollar appreciating?

My knowledge of economics tells me that if the government borrows money, either from taxpayers or from external funds, two things should happen:

1. The currency should depreciate.
2. The credit rating of the government securities should worsen.

Why is neither happening? I think Shyamal Roy was wrong.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Postmen to track inflation at grass-root level

Heard on radio today that postmen in India are entrusted with a new responsibility - to track prices of items at the consumer level across the country, to gather data to assess the real impact of inflation in the country.

Innovative, I say!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting the most from your hairdresser

To all my loyal readers, apologies for disappearing from the blog scene without a trace. Fret not, for I have been well, alive and kicking; and Fear not, for I'm back with a vengeance, and you can expect me to be prolific with my posts.

Well, this post is a fallout of yours truly being a victim of professional hairdressers in the recent past. Those of you who have seen me with my latest hairdo will immediately know my anguish.

You would empathize with me if you have had variability in your experiences with not only hairdressers, but beauty professionals in general - Head massages, pedicures or facials that fall somewhere in the continuum of absolutely awesome to oh please what did I do to you to deserve this. This set me thinking - is it true of all personal services, does variability exist only between individuals (service providers), or with the same individual at different points of time as well, if so, is there a way to manage this variability?

Questions that I have:
1. Does talking to the hairdresser enhance or mitigate effectiveness of service? That is, will the fact that I actively engage in a conversation with the beauty professional about life, the universe and everything make her warm up to me, and therefore she will do a better job? Or, by being chatty I make her uncomfortable and she ends up screwing up my hair?

2. What works better - expressing expectations clearly (I want my hair an inch longer than the shoulder line, 50 strands, no more, coloured auburn) or giving her a free hand (saying coyly do what you think suits me best)?

3. Does it pay to express dissatisfaction then and there? When asked Ma'am, is the pressure ok?, do I say no idiot you are doing a lousy job, you are hurting me and yell I demand that someone else does my pedicure. I have never tried it, will I get a better person if I do that, this time or the next?

4. Do you tip beforehand to ensure s/he does a good job, or by leaving it for the last, you are dangling the carrot that motivates her to do a good job?

5. Does leaving a large tip during a visit ensure better service during your next?

I have asked the questions, does anyone have the answers?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Diapers, detergents and deodorants

Sigappu lolakku kulungudhu kulungudhu.....
He: Wow! These earrings are nice.
She: Why shouldn't they be? They are a gift
He: A gift? But I didn't get you any earrings?
She: When did I say you got them?
He: Then who?
She: As if there can't be anyone else is my life except you!
He: Tell me, who? (pleads)
She: Your son! (ha ha ha, fades into the background)
Narrator: Now, you can buy whatever you want with the savings that your infant baby can make for you. For, a set of two diapers costs just Rs.15.
This is a radio ad made by the largest consumer product company that claims to have fully understood the consumer, and can strike an emotional cord with the audience. The same guys who (i) made the little boy feel inadequate because his toothpaste had 2 less so-called-good-properties than their product,
(ii) made all the girls in India feel that brown is unattractive, and being fair is the only way to self-confidence, a great career, and obviously a handsome boyfriend,
(iii) made two cute little kids go ga-ga over one inane brand being re-branded as another (Mom, I have good news and bad news for you - The bad news: Brand 1 is no longer available (shudder, shudder - the world comes to a standstill), and the good news - the same product is now available as Brand 2 (and the world is happy again) Duh!
(iv) let the world know that body odour is the greatest turn-off, less-than-perfect white clothes cost you a promotion, dandruff is the next greatest turn-off, the list goes on!

Can someone please tell them that they need not sell their products by making people feel inadequate?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Of newspapers

Got into a lunch discussion about newspapers, more specifically about how we end up paying for newspapers that ultimately land up at the old-newspaper-shop (pazhaya paper kadai). I have been brought up on the ‘reading newspaper is a good habit’ thing in school, moving to the ‘reading newspapers is desirable/essential/paramount to success in CA exams/ MBA interviews/ placement interviews’, later in life.

I have always been a supplement reader; be it Young World on Saturdays or The Sunday Magazine on Sundays (both from The Hindu stable), Siruvar Malar on Fridays and Varamalar on Sundays (from the Dinamalar stable), or The Metro Plus or more recently, Chennai Chronicle and Chennai Times. I am also a big fan of tabloids – I used to look forward to the free tabloid that you could pick out at the London tube stations (can someone remind me the name); I still look forward to flying out of Mumbai in the evening, I love the Mid-day. Ergo accounts for my 15 minutes tea-breaks in early afternoons.

So what do I like to read?

1. Cartoons (I love them, Calvin and Hobbes, Heathcliff, Wizard of Id, Archies, Asterix, Garfield, Dilbert, Simpsons)
2. Simple brain exercises (Spot the differences, word jumbles, mazes, sudokus (to an extent), cross-words (very rarely))
3. Gossip
4. Agony Aunt columns of whatever kind (especially relationship columns, I get almost voyeuristic pleasure reading them)
5. Regular Columnists (not a regular reader of any of them in the paper version, used to enjoy V. Gangadhar’s Slice of Life)
6. Editorials and Opinions
7. Local news (the chain snatching, broken roads beware, woman elopes with neighbour kinds)

It is fairly obvious from the above that I do not enjoy reading political news and business news, possibly the real ‘news’ portions. To me at least, reading news is like following a TV soap; you need to know what has happened earlier to appreciate/understand what has happened yesterday. Just make it several hundred soaps and you know how difficult it is to completely comprehend all news. If you take a New Year resolution to start reading newspapers regularly (like I have done on several New Years), you are starting a movie from just before the interval. Too much has happened that you are not aware of, and there is no way you can immediately find them. You only to need to wait and watch more of it, and try to figure it out. Which requires too much patience, which is always in short supply. When forced to read with an end-objective in mind (like CA exams, interviews, etc.) it only gets worse. The outcome is the same (you don’t read them), but add to it a feeling of guilt.

That is why I enjoy reading newspapers online. Read something that catches your fancy, and there are always related articles that you can read, an opinion column that provides a beginning and some context, and if you read on rediff it will inevitably lead you to a slideshow of scantily-clad models :-).

A separate post on The Hindu vs lesser mortals will follow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

California consumes more fuel than India

Came across this page, courtesy Dhanno.

A follow-up article by Rediff:

Wanted to post some analysis - blogger aint cooperative. I cannot paste tables. So retaining my original post

Am I a hypocrite?

1. I do not like to punch in daily attendance, or make an entry in the visitor's ledger everytime I have to visit someone on another floor, but I do expect people to follow systems
2. I expect people to do their share of work (based on agreed norms), but wince everytime someone reminds me to pay my telephone bill, when I know I ought to have paid it online but have forgotten
3. I do not like it if people make derogatory remarks about women drivers, but everytime I encounter a bad driver, and it turns out to be a woman, I'm like 'That explains it!'
4. I do not have a problem racing past the signal after it has turned yellow, but swear at anyone who does exactly that (people have no patience these days!)
5. I do not have a problem taking my son to school fifteen minutes late (because of my own laziness) when I know they will turn him away, even though they have never done that, and I would hate the school for it when it happens
6. I hate to be kept waiting, either for the lift or at the cash counter at the friendly (?) neighbourhood departmental store, but I do keep my husband waiting outside my office (not without guilt, Maddy, I swear!) without intimation of how long I'm going to take

Am I a hypocrite?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Of movies contd..

Read Arghya's sequel to my previous post here.
Agree with him on several counts - Definitely about Clockwork Orange, one of those movies I could not proceed beyond 10 min (if I cannot get interested in the first 10 min in a movie, I cannot get much further beyond); another in that league is Memento. Agree more so on the snobs about the camera angles and obscure references - these are interesting points, agreed. A movie with a different screenplay is definitely worth watching - the chronologically non-linear ones are my personal favourites (Pulp Fiction), so are technically sound movies. Different camera angles are interesting too (a recent good movie I watched was Anjaathey); however it should be remembered that these are only supplemental to the storyline itself. The plot itself is a hygiene factor, everything else is just to glide the story along. If the plot and the screenplay aint captivating enough, it takes a lot of patience to appreciate the other aspects.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Of award-winning books and movies

Read that Midnight's Children wins 'Best of the Booker'. Don't know what to think - either I am stupid to not appreciate the ramble of Salman Rushdie, or the poll is made up, or God forbid, it is a problem with all Booker-winning books (if this one were the best, I shudder to think of the rest).

I was always of the opinion that one should avoid (like the plague) award winning books and movies. This opinion started with the Sunday afternoon regional language feature films (national award winning feature films) screened on Doordarshan. I do remember one particular movie that I watched when in school. The movie opened with a dark shot of a porch (its called a mitham in Tamil) in a rural Tamil house.

Let me take a slight detour to explain this location - it is a rectangular area (a square is also a rectangle right?) typically in the middle of the house, at a slightly lower floor level than the rest of the house. This is flanked by cylindrical pillars. The reason this porch area is different from the rest of the house is that it is open to sky - in some variants transparent roofs - to let light flow in. It is in this area that a broad, deep vessel (called an anda)(usually brass or copper) of water is kept. One would use a sombu (also of copper or brass, sometimes of stainless steel) to take water out of the anda to wash one's feet upon entering from outside. (If you are wondering what this detour is all about, let me assure you that you are not alone :-))

Cut to the movie - so this is a shot of this porch for a full minute - sixty seconds, no less - no background music (national award winning movies rarely did), and then an object comes into the frame - of a bare kneee (obviously belonging to some person, he is sitting on a wooden chair) - all you can see is his bare knee, and then he starts vigorously rubbing his palm over his knee in clockwise direction. This shot continues for what seems like an eternity before I lose my patience and give up.

This belief in award winning things was strengthened when I read (or tried to) Midnight's Children, and God of Small Things in quick succession (well both in the same day, for exactly two pages before returning to my comfort reading of good old James Hadley Chase). Some disclaimers in place - It was over 10 years ago, I had just completed school, not perhaps the stage of life for heavy reading. Nevertheless, both books left on me a deep wound that didn't heal for a long while.

Watching some Oscar movies did help altering that opinion to an extent, and for the record I did read The God of Small Things recently, and quite enjoyed it. But Salman Rushdie is a very different cup of tea. And speaking of tea, there is a variety of tea called Golden tips - it goes through very stringent quality checks, it is the finest of tea, and it is claimed that when you make tea with those leaves, the tea would still be colourless, but with all the flavour. Now, this is the cup of tea I am talking about - I would never enjoy something like this. Believe me, I have tried - I have given Monsieur Rushdie a second chance, and I have to say (not unapologetically), he has not passed muster.

Hence the musing on how exactly do these books win awards.

In search of a good title

Have you thought about how our memories of people are time-stunted (is there such a word?) at what they were when we last saw them? How many times have you had to say - S/he was not like this when s/he was in college ten years back? Or as a response to They are such a happy couple; you retort with oh come on, we know how they used to be when they were seeing each other. We tend to do this all the time about siblings, and relatives and friends that we are not in constant touch with. This one I am sure all of us must have been at the receiving end of - Ohh you have grown so much! I remember you used to be this tall, this would be followed by a vivid narration of some of the things you did back then that you would pray the earth folds in before you hear them being repeated in front of an audience.

We all know people change, we change, we mature (or otherwise) as the days and years catch up; yet we sometimes fail to acknowledge that the same could happen with others we know as well. We expect people to understand that we have changed over the years, but find it difficult to accept the changes in them. We also fail to revise expectations from the other person, at the same time expect them to revise expectations from us. Especially so with siblings, close relatives and friends. No wonder happy reunions are not so happy after all.

I re-read what I have written and the only thought I have - I really did have a point when I started writing this. I swear, I did.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dr. Scholl's Foot Cream Mousse

This post is not for you if you have feet that can sport dainty looking sandals with thin straps, or stillettos that show off a lot of feet skin, or for that matter, anything apart from closed shoes. For the less fortunate rest of us, here's a godsend. I picked it up from Foodworld, and I love it!

Take it from me - I have a perennial problem of dirty looking feet, I mean the dry skin makes it white and scaly and of course, ugly. I have a bottle of moisturiser on my worktable to keep my feet lookable. And I have tried several things: olive oil/vaseline petroleum jelly are good, and reasonable effective, but you can't apply them during the day unless you want to feel sticky and attract a lot of dust, or during the night if you don't want to end up with oily bedsheets. Normal skin moisturisers (in the recent past I have tried St. Ives intense moisturising Aloe and Chamomille lotion, Marks & Spencer Hand & Body Lotion, our own Vaseline Body lotion) are very simply ineffective.

But this one, Dr. Scholl's Foot Cream Mousse is very good. On the face of it, it is a simple moisturiser that claims to soften dry skin, keep the feet hydrated. However, the texture is like shaving foam, so it is light on the feet. And it is really effective. 24 hours after the first application, my feet did not have white areas. Priced at Rs.200 for can (that claims to have enough for 160 applications), it aint all that expensive. After all, who doesn't like healthy looking feet!

Well, I've been through just 3 applications, so it'll be a wait-and-watch for a final verdict, but I am loving it so far :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Impossible is nothing

Taglines of advertisements fall into many categories: many of them fall by the wayside, some of them stand the test of time, some of them go on to join their superior counterparts are age old adages. The cola wars used to create some of the best tag lines - Nothing official about it, yahi right choice baby aha!, yeh dil maange more and so on.

Now it is the age of insurance companies vying with each other to create senti pitches that a strike an emotional chord with the viewers. The Sar Uthake Jiyo series of ads is quite nice. So are the Be life confident ads of the little son adding letters to his name while his proud father watches on, or the one in which the new father jumps with joy on knowing that he's had twins. For that matter, even the zindagi ke saath bhi, zindagi ke baad bhi ain't so bad, even though the ads are. I am not sure how effective these ads are in translating into incremental revenues, because I can hardly identify these taglines with the brands themselves.

When I talked of some taglines becoming age old adages, I was talking about Geography is history. I am sure everyone of us has heard it as a one line statement for globalisation; it is apparently an tagline for a product that failed completely. It is a powerful statement about shrinking distances and effective communication. Another one is the Impossible is nothing tagline which I simply love. A simple juxtaposition of words of the vintage Nothing is impossible, this is much more powerful than its parent. For one thing, Nothing is impossible is a global statement that is a good philosophy to live by, but is of little practical applicability. The 'nothing' part of it can apply to just about anything, and in consequence applies to nothing (pun intended). On the other hand, its variant is a complete opposite. When you say Impossible is nothing, you are talking about something that is widely considered to be impossible, a definitive thing, and then you are saying with confidence that it is easily achievable.

When you say Nothing is impossible, in some sense you are acknowledging the massiveness of the impossibility, and meekly put up a brave front against it. There is no ring of truth about it when you make that statement. However, when you say Impossible is nothing you just pooh-pooh the task on hand. You say that for someone else it is impossible, but for me it is nothing . Nothing is.. is a strategy statement, while impossible is.. is an operations perspective.

Well, so much for Adidas' campaign (I had to google for this, for I was quite sure that it was a Nike campaign until my husband suggested otherwise - again proving ineffectiveness of ads for brand recall). It takes a brilliant stroke of creativity to come up with something as simple and as profound as this.

Someone else thought it was a smart idea to juxtapose a common saying/statement/question (what category does this example all under?), and came up with Next is what. My foot! It would easily go down in history among the worst taglines ever created. What on earth does it mean anyway?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thissa time itsa officialle.

Yes, it's official. After several rounds of 'should I, shouldn't I', I have finally decided to take the plunge. Here I am, one of the several million people who are of the (conceited?) opinion that their thoughts are important enough for other several million people in the world to care about, and take some time off from their busy schedule (I couldn't help using that phrase) to read about them. In case you haven't got it yet, I am talking about my decision to enter the blogging sphere. Here goes my first post to prove it.

I am not sure what are the reasons why people blog. I haven't really thought about it, and someone somewhere must have been jobless enough to investigate this and prepare a list of 'top 10 reasons why people blog'. Let me give you my thought process. Initially I thought it was a cool thing to do. Then, I was beyond caring about being cool. Then, I have been reading a lot of books recently; and I see different writing styles and seem to like every one of them. That set me wondering, what kind of a writer will I be? Will my writing be fluid enough? Will people enjoy reading it? That thought was an irritant mother dragging her reluctant toddler (me) to school (blogsphere). Wasn't pushy enough. Yesterday clinched it for me. Been thinking about the multitude of things that I seem to do be doing, and was like I am not creating anything. Nothing tangible, nothing that is meaningful, nothing that makes a difference to anyone's life. I wanted to do something (anything at all) that I am not obliged to do. Something I can do out of my own volition, something I can do whenever I want to, something I can choose not to if I don't feel upto it.

I am not under any illusion that this blog is going to make a difference to anybody's life. It is possibly one of those things that has caught my fancy at the moment and has a limited shelf life. On the other hand, I might enjoy it a lot. Either ways, I am giving it a shot.

So what am I going to blog about? As the name suggests, it will be mostly gibberish. As to the etymology of the name - as a late blogger, it is not easy to find something of your fancy that is available. And definitely not for someone whose creative part of the brain is retarded. Over the several months that I have been thinking of this, I have come up with several names most of which I do not remember. I did try some of them, they were not available. Something I liked, I let a friend borrow - that was the reluctant blogger. This title is a 'creative' variation of the title o one of Douglas Adams' books - Mostly harmless.

So long, and thanks for all the fish! Happy reading!