Monday, January 29, 2007

A Sock With A View

These photos were taken in Nov 2005. Bablu was wearing a sock with a rather big hole because all his other socks were in the washer. He was very thrilled about the fact that his little toe was peeping out :-)

Kinder Garten Photo!

This picture was taken during the annual day celebration of Indo German Kinder Garten, Rourkela, Orissa, in the year 1976. I was in KG 1 then and my sister was in Nursery (she is in the middle). I don't remember the boy on the left. I think he was in my class but I don't remember his name.

Home PC Clean Up Completed

I finally have everything chugging along as before. The Home Security system is up, the web server, FTP server and video streaming server are all up. Took me a couple of days but it is worth it. I now have more space, and the PC is chugging along nicely thanks to a brand new OS install.

The funny thing is that I forgot to install the audio drivers. My son likes to watch Tom & Jerry from his collection of CDs during his post dinner glass of milk. We were still watching Lagge Raho Munna Bhai on the TV and Bablu was shunted to the PC. I got a rude shock when I realized that the audio drivers were missing. Bablu was not happy with the situation to say the least. I tried to install the drivers etc but quickly realized that it would take too long (time from a small child's perspective is not the same as an adult's). I pulled out the laptop and put his CD in that. Problem solved.

By the way, we loved Lagge Raho Munna Bhai. :-)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy Republic Day!

Happy Republic Day, January 26, 2007.

The local grocery shop keeper gave me a small lapel badge with an Indian Flag. Nice. Mamli was thrilled :-)

Cleaning Out The Home PC

I decided to clean out the home PC this weekend. The cabinet has accumulated a good amount of dust, the CPU cooling fan is clogged and the key board is filthy. I see that Bablu has left pieces of his dinner on the keyboard.

The CPU fan is the most troublesome. Dust clogs the heat sink vanes and the fan can no longer cool the chip. If CPU usage crosses 50% the fan starts screaming. The noise is quite loud and very distracting. I have had a couple of system shutdowns because of overheating. The trick is to open the case and clean out the cooling vanes with a vacuum cleaner or a brush. I use a brush and a blower to get the worst of the dust out.

I also want to give over the entire hard disk to Windows XP. I had a dual boot with EduBuntu but I don't use Linux these days. My Home Security software runs under Windows and hence the PC is always up with Windows XP. I am running out of space on the hard disk. What with home security videos, web cam snaps shots etc, I have to keep cleaning up the older surveillance records every week or so. The 30Gb currently under Linux would be nice.

Well, I must backup all the required stuff, save the basic configuration before I nuke Linux and remove the dual boot. It is going to be a busy weekend.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Long Weekend Coming Up

Jan 26 is Republic Day and a national holiday. All of us are looking forward to the long weekend. Bablu has been chanting the "3 days holidays!" mantra for the last few days. Mamli has an exam on Sunday and will have to work through the next couple of days. We will most probably take in a movie on Sunday evening after her exam is over.

Best of luck Mamli.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rs. 50/- For Helmet - Follow-up

Last month I had posted about the Rs. 50/- for a false helmet invoice issue. Pratul Honda, Somajiguda, Hyderabad, asked me to pay an additional 50 bucks so that they would give me a false invoice for a helmet. They claimed that the Hyderabad RTA office would not register the new scooter if I did not purchase a helmet to go along with it. The idea being that the false invoice would "prove" that I had purchased a helmet.

Well, the scooter is registered by RTA. I have received the registration card and the license number. I did not purchase a new, unneccesary helmet! Nor did I pay Pratul Honda the 50 bucks they were demanding!

These chaps are trying to rip-off the customer. At the same time they are falsifying their accounts. Is somebody listening? IT sleuths, it is time to pay these guys a call.

Nihar's Marriage

Nihar Barik, a colleague at Oracle Hyderabad, tied the knot on Jan 21, 2007 at Bhubaneswar, Orissa. Five of us had planned to attend his marriage. Finally however it was just Arjun & I. Nandu & Raj dropped out because their wives would not let them go. Amar was swampped with work.

Anyway, Arjun & I left Hyderabad on Jan 19th by Faluknama Express. We had tickets in the 2nd class sleeper. All the AC berths were already reserved. This was the first time I travelled by 2nd sleeper in the last 11 years :-) Arrived in BBSR at about 12.30 pm, the train being 45 mins late. Baba, my father, had come to pick us up. Went home to Sahid Nagar, scrubbed the dirt off and had lunch at about 2.00 pm. Then Arjun & I started for Puri at about 3.00 pm. I borrowed Baba's Indigo for the trip. Topped up the tank at the Banibihar BPL outlet and started off.

Our first stop was at Pipili. Arjun bought a patch-work hanging lamp shade there. Pipili produces beautiful stuff. I have a lot of Pipili work at home.

We had a room reserved at Hotel Sonali on the Puri beach. Bulu Patnaik who runs Puri Online helped me with the booking. The hotel is right on the beach and has decent rooms. We took a non-AC, Delux room for Rs. 605/- after tax. We left the car in the Hotel parking lot and took an auto-rickshaw to the Singha Dwara (Lion Gate) on Bada Danda (The Big Road). The Singha Dwara is the East gate of the Puri Jaganath temple and the most commonly used. It is also the gate that the annual Rath Jatra starts from. Before entering the temple we had a bite to eat at e veg restraunt on Bada Danda.

The Puri Jaganath Temple (as seen from Bada Danda)

Arjun Hegde with the Jaganath Temple in the background

I with the Jaganath Temple in the background

Arjun waiting for his Channa Bathura

We spent about an hour in the temple. Visited the main shrine (Jaganath, his sister Subhadra & his elder brother Balabhadra) as well as the shrine of Jaganath's wife Lakshmi, who is the housewife of the temple. The temple kitchens are called Lakshmi's kitchens.

That day Jaganath, Subhadra & Balabhadra were in Padma Bhesha (Lotus Dress). It was indeed a privilage to have seen that.

After the temple we took a cycle rickshaw (man powered) back to the beach. Walked along the beach for a while. Baba had told me about a new restraunt on the beach called Food Track. Food Track is located in a lane near the Puri Hotel and is a very nice place.

Food Track
near Puri Hotel
Sea Beach, Puri 752001
Ph: 06752-320121, Ph(M): 99376-20663, 98611-16376, 93381-27503

It was a little early for dinner so we went back to the Hotel. I had brought the laptop and a few movie DVDs. We settled on Vivah and watched it till 9.30 pm. Went back to Food Track for a dinner of fish curry, roties & rice, followed by coffee & flavoured milk (for Arjun). The bill was Rs. 163 ! Cool!

Went back to the hotel and finished the movie. A mushy mushy kind of movie but okay I suppose.

Woke up early the next day and started for Konark at about 7.30 am. We took the marine drive from Puri. konark is about 32 kms from Puri by this route. The road is good and we made good time. Parked near the temple and walked in. The ASI maintains the Sun Temple at Konark and has done a good job. They charge a Rs. 10/- admission fee.

Arjun posing next to one of the Wheel's of the Konark Temple

I posing next to the same wheel

A frontal view of the Sun Temple at Konark

Arjun at Konark

The Sun Temple at Konark is built in the shape of a charriot. The Konark Chakra, a very popular motif, is taken from the wheels of the Sun God's chariot. The inner scantum has collapsed and extensive repairs have been made to the temple. Entire panels are lost. The temple sculpture is exquisite. The Konark Sun Temple is a must see.

Arrived back in BBSR at about 11.00 am. Arjun & I had lunch with my in-laws. Fish fry, prawns, rice, dal, etc.

We started for Nihar's marriage at about 7.00 pm that evening. Met up with his Barath, or marriage procession, on the National Highway outside BBSR. I parked the car at the marriage venue and walked back to rejoin the Barath. Nihar had a live band which played popular Oriya & Hindi movie songs. There were three male vocalists and a single female vocalist. The Barath procession took an hour and a half to reach the marriage venue (covering a distance of about half a kilometer). Nihar was all decked up in traditional gear and had his Markundi along. The Markundi is a small boy who is also dressed up as a groom and accompanies him to the marriage. The markundi is supposed to divert the attentions of Indra who is jealous of all grooms and can cause trouble.

Nihar with his Markundi

Seems happy enough :-)

The live Band for the Barath.

Arjun dancing with other Barathies

The groom's car

Nihar had all his nails painted a bright red! We wanted some photos of his to show at work. Here goes -

We had a nice dinner (fish, chicken, rice, romali roti etc) and then went to spend some time with Nihar before the ceremonies started. Nihar was sitting in state in a room specially appointed for him.

Nihar, waiting to get married

Nihar with his Markundi

Wistful thinking (oh when!)

Nihar & I

We left for Hyderabad the next day. This time we took the BBSR-Mumbai Konark Express. I had borrowed a few books from Baba's collection and we read for most of the journey.

Our arrival at Secunderabad was marred by the auto rickshaw strike. No autos on the roads and all the taxi services were booked solid. No transportation at all! We finally managed to get an auto that was running in spite of the strike but it cost us Rs. 150/- for a 60 buck ride. Blast! But then with the blasted autos off the roads, driving in Hyderabad is a pleasure.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Morning Newspaper & Crapping

What is the best time to read the morning paper? While crapping of course! Don't agree? Why? You need all your attention focused elsewhere? Can't concentrate on the news?

The answer is Multitasking. Ask Dilbert. Or me.

Okay. What was this about? Oh yes. I remember now. My mornings are blighted. Yes blighted. The blasted newspaper walla refuses to deliver my paper before I go crap. Woe is me. I have tried everything. Everything I say! No luck.

Please please please. Help Me!

How do I get the paper walla to deliver my paper in time for my morning crap?

Simplifying Financial Matters - A India Specific Financial Blog

Ketan has a very nice blog on India specific financial matters called "Simplifying Financial Matters". Very informative & well written.

Great job Ketan.

Rip Off - ICICI Bank's Two Wheeler Loans

I recently bought a Honda Activa for Padmaja. Cost, approx Rs. 44,000/-, including accessories, tax, registration fees, insurance etc. We had already decided on the Activa before I went to the Pratul Honda show room In Raj Bhavan Road, Hyderabad. I had also decided to pay cash for the transaction rather than take a two wheeler loan. But I wanted to see what was on offer on the loan front. So I asked about loans and was directed to the loans section.

There I met a couple of chappies representing ICICI Bank who walked me through the process. I spoke to them about two wheeler loans and learned how the banks are ripping off people by playing to their lack of awareness about matters financial.

This is what the loan agents told me:

  1. There are two loan tenures, 16 months & 22 months.
  2. There is a 3% processing fee.
After scribbling all this on a piece of paper, the first chap pulled out a regular calculator and started punching keys. Here is the data he used:

Cost of Vehicle: Rs. 42,712/-

16 Month Tenure:
Down Payment (Inclusive of 3% Processing Fee): Rs. 13,446/-
EMI Paid For: 16 Months
EMI: Rs. 2,192/-

22 Month Tenure:
Down Payment (Inclusive of 3% Processing Fee): Rs. 16,858/-
EMI Paid For: 22 Months
EMI: Rs. 1,473/-

He then pushed the paper at me and asked me "Which option do you want?". I said "Hold on, I have a few questions.".

  1. Are you collecting any Pre-EMIs?
  2. What is the rate of interest you are charging?
  1. 2 Pre-EMIs, for both options.
  2. Interest rates are 8.00% for the 16 month loan and 9.50% for the 22 month loan.
Note that the Pre-EMIs were not mentioned till I asked about them.

At this point I pulled out my HP 10B Financial calculator and punched in the numbers for the PMT function. Results:

16 month tenure - Actual Interest Rate: 2.53% per month or a whopping 30.40% per year
22 month tenure - Actual Interest Rate: 2.27% per month or a whopping 27.28% per year

Using ICICI's interest rates and ignoring the 3% processing fees, the results should be:
16 month tenure: EMI Rs. 1,921.69/-, or Rs. 270.31/- less than the quote
22 month tenure: EMI Rs. 1,275.03/-, or Rs. 197.97/- less than the quote

What is going on here?

It is actually rather simple. What is happening is this;

The down payment is the sum of three things:
  1. Actual down payment
  2. 3% processing fee
  3. 2 Pre EMIs

Now comes the trick! The quoted interest rate & EMIs are calculated on the actual down payment figure, ignoring the 3% fee & the pre-EMIs! Voila! 8% Interest Rate!

But what does the customer pay? Approximately 30% per year in interest. How? Simple.

Actual down payment = Rs. 13,446/-
Therefore, actual loan amount = Rs. 29.266/- (42,712 - 13,446)
Actual EMI Paid = Rs. 2,192/-
Actual Tenure = 16 months
Hence REAL Interest Rate = 30.40% per year!

(See this Excel document for the calculations)

By fudging the data and showing only part of the calculation these guys are taking people for a ride. They don't mention the Pre-EMIs at all unless asked. Their calculation is not based on what the customer actually pays but on fudged data that is hidden from the customer. The numbers are close. Note that the difference in EMIs as shown above amount to about Rs. 200/- per month. Unless you do the math, this 200 figure will vanish in the EMI number and not be apparent at all!

When taking a loan I always do the calculation myself. I use a financial calculator but Microsoft Excel is an excellent tool for this purpose. Learn to use it and you will not be cheated!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Always 22 SPAM Emails!

Something is wrong. Very very wrong.

For the last few weeks I have exactly 22 emails in my SPAM folder when I log into gmail in the morning.

Why 22? Why not 21? or 56? or 0?

Why 22? Are they out to get me? Or maybe they already have me and I never noticed :-(

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bablu's Adminssion to LKG in Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Jubilee Hills

Padmaja & I were not sure if we wanted to send Bablu to regular school this academic year. He is attending play school at EuroKids, Ameerpet. Anyway, I picked up the admission form for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's Public Scool in Jubilee Hills in late Nov. Dropped off the completed form on the last day and then we all relaxed. Didn't bother to do the same for other schools. During Mamli's time we had rushed around filling up forms for a number of schools including BVBPS.

BVBPSJH conducts a lottery for Sibling applicants (20 seats) and general (20 seats) on Dec 31. We completely forgot about the lottery till a colleague of Padmaja asked about Bablu's admission on Jan 2nd. At first Padmaja thought the chap was asking about Bablu's health and only latter realized that he was asking about the admission! Anyway I was sent off to the school to inquire. I dutifully trotted off, met the principal, Mrs. Rama Devi, and then checked the lottery results. Bablu's name was there! Misspelled as G Jyotiraditya instead of Jyotiraditya Satpathy. I really hate it when people misspell names!

Anyway, Padmaja, Mamli, Bablu & I went to pay the admission fees last Saturday. Mamli was to get her report card too. She has slipped a bit. A C & a B this time instead of all A+s. Sigh. Too many comics :-)

Bablu will start LKG on June 13, 2007. He is all excited about going to "Big School" as he calls it. The day after the admission he refused to go to EuroKids and insisted that he be sent to the Big School. Padmaja told him that his uniform is not ready and he will go to Big School only after the uniform has been purchased. That satisfied him and he went off to EuroKids as usual. I have always wondered how my dear wife manages to think up these things on the fly. The uniform thingy is excellent. You see the shops won't have the uniform, and then we have to find time to go buy it etc etc. Really neat! It is good for the next few months at the very least!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It Did! The BSE Sensex Crossed 14,000!

It did!

The BSE SENSEX crossed the 14,000 mark during trading today, closing at slightly over the 14K mark.

Phew! Where to from here?

Will It? BSE Sensex at 14000?

Will it?

Will the BSE Sensex cross 14000 today?

Spider Solitair

I discovered (!) this game about a month ago. I had noticed it among the other Windows games in the Accessories menu but had ignored it. Ever since the first time I played it, I have been hooked and have wasted many hours playing the damn thing. My target was to complete a board in less than 100 moves and that has been driving to play hand after hand.

Well, I finally did it! And here is the proof!

Monday, January 01, 2007

India Poised

India Poised! Or should that end with a question mark?

I think it should be a simple full stop. Do check out the India Poised web site from The Times Of India. I found a lot of stuff I loved.

And do get yourself a badge. I did.

Happy New Year 2007

A very happy new year. I hope this year brings all that your heart desires.

Live long and prosper.