November 22, 2007

My idiot flatmate hasn’t paid the electricity bill and the power’s been cut off.

The good news is that this happened during winter in Bangalore, and so this doesn’t lead to much physical discomfort. The bad news is that thanks to another decision by the idiot flatmate (viz., buying a manual defrost refrigerator instead of a frost free one), the kitchen will be flooded by the time I return today. I suspect all the salad inside the fridge will also spoil.

Also, this will lead to an absence of blogposts which required either the use of a scanner, or embedding YouTube videos (which I can’t do at work), or quoting stuff I saw on facebook (again, blocked at work).

Noblesse Oblige and Merit Based Gifts

November 21, 2007

This year, Diwali was not as renumerative as it used to be. This is because I am now a grossly overpaid MBA (who is also no longer forking half his salary over to a Parsi thatha in Malabar Hill as paying guest charges) and noblesse oblige demands that:

  1. I no longer accept gifts from grandmothers with no independent income.
  2. I no longer rely on my parents to finance Bhai Dooj chanda for my sisters.

Conscience and noblesse oblige may not be neglected. Social traditions which promote the voluntary transfer of wealth from the earning and productive to the weak and unemployed encourage the spread of Edwardian values. Failure to carry on such traditions will lead to a society in which free exchange and taking responsibility for one’s property are abandoned, precipitating the collapse of enlightened civilisation. Thus, all cash which came in on Diwali went out equally rapidly to sisters two days later at Bhai Dooj.

However, I face a dilemma. I would rather cut down upon cash gifts to the sister who brought shame upon the clan by marrying into a family of uncultured barbarians who steal electricity and whose approach to religion is to feed goats. The cash saved could then be given to the sister who brought honour upon the clan by eloping. And yet, I shy away from making gifts on the basis of virtue, when tradition demands that sisters be given gifts of equal value. More so because deviating from established processes on the basis of arbitrary valuations of virtue violates Saivite tenets of adherence to eternal law.

However, in this as in most other things, Tyler Cowen provides a solution: merit based gifting. Instead of giving people gifts on occasions like birthdays or Christmas (or indeed, Bhai Dooj), give them gifts at random times based on how much you value them.

This is excellent. Tradition only specifies giving gifts of equal value at Bhai Dooj. But I can give merit based gifts throughout the rest of the year, at random occassions. Edwardian objectives of rewarding virtue can be achieved after all!

I think the best way to do this going ahead is to avoid Bhai Dooj gifts completely. However, since all the sisters have kids, give the kids gifts in proportion to their virtue. This is a good thing, because:

  1. Noblesse oblige is even more vital when it comes to being a rich uncle who can give gifts to children with no source of income whatsoever.
  2. Nephews and nieces whom I approve of (because they bugger off to a secluded room and engross themselves in Roald Dahl) can be rewarded with more Roald Dahl (or Phillip Pullman for that matter). Gifts to nieces who watch Shah Rukh Khan movies and nephews who bite can be cut back accordingly.
  3. Gifting to nephews and nieces is an investment, while gifting to sisters is merely an expense. Investment is more Edwardian than expense.

The virtue of nephews and nieces must therefore be tracked going forward.

Chequebook Archival

November 15, 2007

Realised this just yesterday. I’ve been saving my old chequebooks just for the record of cheques. This has been adding to the clutter in my cupboard for no good reason. I can happily copy all the chequebook entries to Excel. This will let me write even more detailed narrations, slice and dice my chequebook data, and of course throw the paper chequebooks away and cut down clutter.

About 60 entries over the past year and a half to transfer to Excel. This will be done with great urgency once I’m done with Sunday’s quiz.

Improvements at the Margin

November 10, 2007

Remember how I had been looking for bins to store my unironed laundry in? I found them!

Laundry Bins!

Much joy. A mess of scattered clothes which was engulfing one side of my hall has now been transferred to the laundry bins. As you can see on close examination, there are separate bins for undergarmaments, socks, and everything else.

This still isn’t perfect. For starters, the ‘everything else’ pile is still too big. This makes searching for specific items of everything else difficult. However, there is an easy solution to this: more bins! Two more bins will allow further segregation into shirts, trousers, and t-shirts. Less mess for just a hundred and sixty rupees.

However, the unorganised laundry was only one mess. There is also this ferocious one still to be dealt with:

Newspapers and Chaos

What you see above is the final frontier: quasi-mattresses (I refuse to call anything without springs a real mattress), newspapers, polythene bags stuffed with assorted papers, flatmate’s suitcase, and flatmate’s travel bag. However, this can also be dealt with – starting with more bins!

Another bin for newspapers will reduce the mess even further, and make it easier for the maid to carry the newspapers out for raddi. The most obvious contributor to clutter will be taken care of. That still leaves me with the following issues to deal with:

  1. Quasi-mattresses. Solution: donate them to maid, who wants them anyway. In case Beta Manav (or anybody else for that matter) visits, bring in a sleeping bag, which takes up less space than these things when it isn’t in use.
  2. Polythene bags filled with documents. Solution: buy display and clip files. File the documents which are needed. Throw away the ones which aren’t.
  3. Flatmate’s travel bag. Solution: throw it away. He doesn’t seem to notice it anyway.
  4. Flatmate’s suitcase. Solution: substitute flatmate’s medicines with arsenic (this was the plot of at least two Agatha Christies), stuff body in the suitcase, and dispose of suitcase and corpse by throwing it into the Indiranagar sewer. This prevents further messes from accumulating as well.

It is through small, continuous improvements, that we better our quality of life.


September 16, 2007

Why being a grossly overpaid MBA is brilliant: it lets you go berserk at the Crossword Sale.

Read the rest of this entry »

Laundry Management

September 11, 2007

Beloved readers (especially the Bangalore ones), please help. Does anybody know where I can buy the following things in Bangalore? Home Stop and Lifestyle don’t have them, and neither does the Dubai shop on CMH Road.

  1. A clotheshorse. As I mentioned earlier, drying clothes on the balcony puts them at risk of getting wet again in the rain, or being crapped on by pigeons.
  2. PVC bins. What I’m looking for is three or four bins with a small footprint, not too shallow and not too deep. The idea here is that when the clothes are dry, me or my maid can separate them into shirts, trousers, and miscellaneous, and store each category of clothes in its own bin through the week until I iron them on Sunday. Right now, everything is dumped into one undifferentiated pile on spread out newspapers, and it’s really quite distressing to look at. If the bins come in different colours, even better.

If you have a better idea for sorting dried laundry than bins, leave a comment about that, please.

Running Out of Metals

August 21, 2007

Mature (and maturing) credit card markets have a problem: they’re running out of metals to name their card brands.  Silver has been used. So have gold and titanium. And now platinum. What’s next?

This is what happens when you have too many banks chasing too few customers. The cycle starts off when the market is first introduced to credit cards. A ‘Classic’ is offered to the mass market, ‘Executive’  or ‘Silver’ to the premium mass market (anyone with a better credit score), and ‘Gold’ by invitation only.

What happens next is simple: one particular bank will decide to ramp up marketshare. So it offers Silver cards to the Classic cardholders, Gold cards to the Silver cardholders, and a co-branded gold card with more features, or some entirely new metal to the old cardholders.

In the next stage of the cycle, all other banks do the same thing just to keep up with the competition. So eventually classic cards fall off the market, followed by silver, and then by Gold. I saw this up close in Singapore, where even Platinum now has so little exclusivity that you can ring up phonebanking and ask for a platinum card to be delivered to you the next day.  India is not as developed a retail finance market, so Platinum still has some brand value. Platinum cards aren’t advertised. A platinum card is by invitation only. The invitation goes to select, obscenely wealthy customers. A platinum card has a whacking great annual fees (which will be waived if you’ve got enough assets under management, but I digress). It has brand value. It has a cachet.

Or rather, it had. Platinum cards are now going mass market in India too. It all started with HDFC bank advertising its Platinum Plus card (which, incidentally, is coloured deep green and not platinum) on hoardings of all things. Amex and StanChart’s product managers were probably cursing at the unmitigated brand dilution. The catch up cycle has now started. SBI has launched its platinum card. StanChart and Amex are still trying to maintain exclusivity, but Citi has succumbed and brought Platinum to the mass market.

And this act of Citibank is where the blogpost shifts gears and moves from putting learnings and fundaes about credit card marketing to describing my personal tragedy.

Barely a month ago, Citibank gave me a free-for-life Jet Airways Gold Card (a cobranded gold card being free for life is itself evidence of brand dilution). This card gives you Jet Airways miles instead of reward points (which is good, because Citi reward points can only be redeemed for totally crap stuff at indiaplaza.in). My monthly spend won’t generate enough miles to redeem for a ticket, but the card still has one invaluable advantage: it lets me check in at the business class counter even if I’m traveling economy. Anybody who’s faced the queues at Bangalore airport knows that this is not to be taken lightly.

Unfortunately, Citi got caught up with catching up, and launched the Jet Airways Platinum card. This is a card with the same features and miles benefits as the Gold card. And starting next month, the Gold card’s features will be downgraded to the features of the Jet Airways Silver Card. The upshot is, unless I swap to the Platinum card, I can no longer jump the check-in queue. As Ravages would put it, woe, fucking woe.

Brand dilution is immensely tragic.

Belt Tightening Are There

June 19, 2007

Starting this week, I’m putting in five kilorupees a month on a Nifty index fund, and five kilorupees a month in a growth mutual fund. This is over and above the ten kilorupees a month of ELSS I’m already doing.

That’s for my PhD fund. For my Thailand vacation fund, I’ll be starting a recurring deposit of ten kilorupees a month from now until November.

Looks like I’ll have to stop eating out.

I’m Back

June 19, 2007

I’m not thrilled about this. Over the next few weeks I will suffer withdrawal pangs for a number of things: pretty girls, being flirted at, having my laundry done by professionals, and laksa and sushi.

In the past couple of weeks, I have asked myself uncomfortable questions, been out drinking with a bunch of foreign policy wonks (this is much more fun than it sounds), wandered around Fort Canning Park and Chinatown, and lost an inch on my waist despite all the eating. Now I will get back to a life of dealing with recalcitrant customers.

Oh well. Bugger all that. Time to get on with life.

The spoils from the trip include a new phone, a portable hard disk, a litre of Absolut, a litre of Absolut Mandrin, and a spray can of ironing starch. I rather suspect that it’s the starch which will being the greatest joy in the long term. Starch! In a can! Which you can just spray on while you’re ironing! Is it not beautiful?

Ahem. Got a little carried away. Anyhow. Regular programming now resumes.

Expense Account Arbitrage

June 1, 2007

I am off to Singapore for the next two weeks on *cough*a shareholder sponsored junket *cough cough* training.

During the course of training I will be staying at two five star hotels. It’s hard to pick the best thing about this sort of luxurious accommodation. There are two very strong contenders.

The first is the free breakfast. The idea of a breakfast buffet where I eat as much as I can before its time to head off to the seminar rooms is beguilingly attractive. When it’s being expensed to my cost code rather than to my salary account, it’s nirvanic. But it’s still not a clear winner.

Because there is the other, equally strong contender: free laundry.

Yes, free laundry. I am currently dumping all my clothes into my suitcase so that they can be washed and ironed by professional launderers (who, I just realised, will be Chinese, thus making this an even better deal). After six months of having my clothes washed by a maid who believes that the best way to deal with clothes is tough love, and who leaves the ironing to me, I will finally have an opportunity to have all my clothes stainfree, fluffy, sweet smelling, and crisply ironed. The mind reels in delight.

Right then. Time to get back to packing.

PS: Ritwik, you will have to wait a little longer for the Sohrabuddin and Idiotarians post. If I write a long post while in Singapore, it will imply a failure on my part to spend my free times out partying with an international contingent and Mr. Walker.