new job vs. new shoe

Switching jobs is sometimes similar to switching shoes.
The old shoe, no matter how expensive, wears off after a few years and after that it only slows one down. It only gives sores, blisters and pains and no longer meets your needs, goals and expectation. A crappy shoe shows its true color months (sometimes only weeks) after you discard your old shoe and change into this one.
No shoe is no blessing either. During the initial adjustment period, you only regret and have remorse which makes one long for the old shoe which we had so carelessly left by the dumpster. Some people even manage to retrieve the old shoe and beg for it to be your best buddy again. However once the initial adjustment period is over, more often then not, one finds the new shoe to be a better fit for your toe. This time the only thing you would be thinking was, why the hell did I wait so long to try this one out. However by the time you are 100% sure that you and your shoe are fit for each other, the shoe starts fraying.
On a serious note:
Employees ofter overestimate their capabilities when they threaten to quit, but one should always remember that the corporation will continue to exist (and hopefully flourish) long after you have parted ways… much in the same way that you will continue to grow and flourish even after you have severed your ties with the current job. The job never defines a person, its just a stepping stone preparing you for bigger and better things (both professionally and personally)


Nordic Influences – III

William Tell – The Nordic sagas constitute the exploits of various heroes and kings. In one such exploit is the mention of the great archer Orvandel. He was surrounded and captured during the great winter wars. His captor, Halfdan commanded Orvandel to perform the finest example of his archery of which he had boasted. The failure would cause penalty of his life, but freedom if he achieved success. He was to hit it with the first arrow from his bow, a small apple placed upon his son’s head, at a great distance.

The feat was performed in front of Halfdan and his personal advisor. Orvandel took three arrows from his quiver. He aimed one arrow at the apple upon his son’s head and shot it, cleaving the apple in two. Halfdan kept his word and let him free. Before he left, Halfdan asked Orvandel why he took three arrows. To this, Halfdan’s personal advisor replied that if Orvandel had failed and killed his son, the other two arrows were meant for his captors who nearly caused his son’s death.

The tale of William Tell seems to be a fine example of copy paste!

Gandalf – Finally Wikipedia confirmed what I suspected from the start. I was into Nordic mythology a long time before I saw LOTR (never read it though). The description of Gandalf the Grey is exactly like Odin’s disguise on earth, with the exception of Gandalf having both his eyes intact. Check this wiki link.

Hel(l) – Well, you’ve heard it, lesser times than me, but someone has damned you to it at least once. Turns out, Christianity borrowed this from the pagan Nords. Hel was the child of Loki, the trickster God. Her half body was of a beautiful woman, and the other half was rotting corpse. She was banished by the Gods along with her siblings, Fenrir and Jormungandr (Also mentioned in the previous post). But before she was cast out, the Allfather Odin gave her authority over the nine worlds. She was to “administer board and lodging to those sent to her, and that is those who die of sickness or old age.” She was given her own realm where here powers were supreme, surpassing even Odin. There have been instances where even Odin failed to bring back from the dead someone he wanted, because Hel didn’t want it.

Her realm, also known as Hel, had a hall called Éljúðnir, the entrance threshold “Stumbling-block,” curtains “Gleaming-bale,” a dish called “Hunger,” a knife called “Famine,” the servant Ganglati (“lazy walker”), the serving-maid Ganglöt (also “lazy walker”) and the bed “Sick-bed.” During Ragnarok, Hel will lead all her dead in a ship made of fingernails, Naglfar, against the Gods.

No wonder. After such a description, it certainly is hell.



Nordic Influences – II

Here are some more interesting influences from Scandinavian Mythology –

Merchant of Venice – The incident of the Pound of flesh:
Its well known that Shakespeare’s works were heavily influenced by different sources. I found an interesting story which is the source of one of his better plots, the pound of flesh, wherein an adamant Shylock wants the pound of flesh, closest to heart, from Antonio. When all attempts to redeem it in gold fails, it is Portia who uses her wits and tells Shylock that he may have the flesh but not a single drop of blood could be shed. This effectively saves Antonio and Shylock’s plans are thwarted.

In Nordic mythology, there were two dwarf families who were accomplished craftsmen of fine metals, Ivalde and Sindre. They provided ornaments to the Gods and embellished their palaces. Ivalde and Sindre’s kinsmen were rivals. Once, the trickster God Loki challenged both clans to produce their best works, and the Gods would reward the better clan. Before the completion of the work, Brok, a member of Sindre’s clan, boasted the greater skill of his fellows. Loki wagered his own head against it, and the bet was readily accepted.
Upon completion, each of the gifts received praises of the Gods. But those of Sindre’s clan were considered best. Brok demanded his prize, Loki’s head, which he had wagered. Loki offered to redeem it, but Brok didn’t accept anything else. Loki, finding no alternative, vanished from sight. But the angered dwarf appealed to the mighty God Thor to seize Loki, who set forth and returned with him.
Thy head is mine,” exclaimed Brok, who prepared to cut it off.
Thine indeed is the head, answered Loki, “but not the neck.”
Brok appealed to the Gods, but they gave judgment that favored Loki. They told Brok that he might take the head, but the neck he must not injure.

Anchors of Ships – Through films, cartoons or actual observations, we have seen how a ship’s anchor looks like. As it turns out, these anchors are the Viking’s way of warding off the evil world-serpent. The story goes like this – One child of the Trickster God Loki was a serpent, Jormungandr. It was prophesied that it would grow big enough to encompass the whole world and fight the Gods in Ragnarok, the ultimate battle. It was also foretold that it would fight the mighty God Thor and both would kill each other, hence it was immediately banished in the oceans.

Considering that Vikings were a great sea-faring race, what followed was an important incident. Much after Jormungandr’s banishment, Thor was fishing, and instead of a fish, he pulled up the world-serpent! Thor saw an opportunity to change the future and grabbed his famous hammer Mjollnir. By the time he retrieved it, Jormungandr dived back and vanished in the ocean.

It was the Mjollnir, which caused the world-serpent to run from a fight; hence it has been used by ships as a symbol of warding off evils in the water. The anchor of any ship represents the Mjollnir, and this shape is still used with slight modifications.

King Arthur’s Excalibur – The Nordic sagas tell of a great hero Sigurd/ Siegfried who killed the dragon Fafnir using the sword Gram (Old Norse “wrath”). This sword had its own history. It was forged by the legendary smith Wayland and was displayed in the fabled hall of the Volsung. Odin, the chief God of Norse, took the sword and stuck it in the tree Barnstokk in the middle of the hall. Odin then announced that the man who removed the sword would have it as a gift. Sigmund, a hero and the father of Sigurd, managed to do so and achieved wealth and fame wielding it later. This motif was used similarly for Arthur, who pulled the sword Excalibur from a stone to prove his rightfulness to rule Britain.



Nordic Influences – I

I was always intrigued by the Scandinavian mythology. It is one of the few mythologies (possibly the only one) where the Gods will die fighting all evil, in the epic battle of Ragnarok. This came as a surprise because God(s) are supposed to triumph over evil, even if eventually. As I went through their holy books – Prosic and Poetic Edda, I came across some very interesting facts we take at face value.

Weekdays: The names of the six days of the week are named after six Gods of the Scandinavians – Sunday was Son(Sun)’s Day, Monday was Moon’s Day, Tuesday was the Brave Tyr’s Day, Wednesday was the All Father Wodan (Odin)’s Day, Thursday was Almighty Thor’s Day and Friday was Freyr’s Day. I guess most early cultures followed the lunar six days calendar; hence it was the Romans who added a seventh Saturn’s Day.

Directions: According to these legends, the sky is held up at the four corners by four dwarves– Austri, Vestri, Nordi and Sudri, who became East, West, North and South, the four cardinal directions.

Jack and Jill: The old English nursery rhyme has its roots in pagan mythology too. Legends say that with the Moon God are two children whom he carried away from earth-a boy who was called Hjuki (Jack), and a girl whose name is Bill (Jill). These were identified as the spots on the moon. They had been sent out in the darkness of night by their father, to draw a special kind of mead from the spring Byrger, which broke forth from the source of mythical fountain of Mimer, atop a hill. They filled their pail to the brink. (Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.)

This was a fountain special to the Gods and they did not want mortals to share it. When they began to descend the mountain, the Moon God chased them. As they fell down, He seized them and took them away with their pail. (Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.)

 I will talk about more facts in forthcoming posts.



5 elements of wise reasoning

1. Willingness to seek opportunities to resolve conflict;
2. Willingness to search for compromise;
3. Recognition of the limits of personal knowledge;
4. Awareness that more than one perspective on a problem can exist;
5. Appreciation of the fact that things may get worse before they get better.


True Retirement Age

It is not uncommon to witness someone to be employed by the state (government/PSU jobs) till the age of 60 and then would retire with full benefits and pension. However that was not the end of their career, through their experience, contacts and hard-work they continued to work for another 10 years or more as part-time, consultant, board-member, problem solver, or even as a full time employee. I have also known a businessman/entrepreneur who loved this creation so much that all the 3 generation still come to office. The founder of the enterprise intends to pass on the keys of his empire to the kids of his grandson. (By which time he could be as old as 90 years of age)
However I am also seeing people, who are in their late 40s and early 50s. Many of them have been marginalized in their careers and a couple of them are between jobs. What came as a rude shock to them was that when they sit in a job interview:
1. Most likely than not, the potential boss would be younger and might not have as rich an experience as you would have. In a society like India, where the number of grey hair determines your seniority and respect in the society, this could be quite intimidating. After all bosses would never like to create a situation where their authority could be challenged.
2. You might try to project yourself as the intellectual powerhouse, but all along the company might be skeptical of your ability to adapt to the new job, culture and skills that are needed. They would have doubts on your agility, and might prefer a younger candidate.
I am not saying that there are no jobs available, but all I am saying is that the universe of people looking for someone like you might be smaller than what one might have anticipated. Hence it is important to plan for the greyer years.
1. Financial planning: With soaring undergraduate, postgraduate fees and early retirements, ones career has shrunk dramatically. Hence try to save 1/3 to ¼ of your salary every month. Also try to utilize your second income, bonus etc. into asset building investments. This way you always would have enough to sit out a rainy day.
2. Networking: kick your cocoon away and talk to people. Try to broadcast your abilities and make friends with people outside your company and industry. World is a small place and you never know from where does the next opportunity comes.
3. Be in the good books. People switch careers and jobs so often that it is impossible to truly compute the potential downside of one’s actions. The fresher you hired a couple of years ago might be your new boss (and vice versa), the unlikeliest of the person might be asked to provide a character/professional verification.


The cost of governance

History has taught us that the more the lands, resources and trade routes a regime controls the richer the state is. Wars traditionally were a very profitable empire bringing loot and access to resources which could fill the state’s coffers for ages. All this was true till about the early 20th century (First World War to be precise). I wonder what has happened since because today:
1. The richer and more advanced the country is, the more debt laden it is. Poor and developing countries are bailing out the rich, while the rich are unable to muster enough currency to every pay the interest on these debts.
2. It does not matter who wins the war, the participating nations are never able to recover its cost. I might be wrong but the reason why there are so few wars in recent history is because no country thinks they can afford one.
The question is till how long will China & Africa continue to fund the prolerific
Update: Right from the ancient time to Great War (world war 1, 1914), the army was under Ministry of War. People never talked about percentage of GDP that was being spend on army, navy or airforce. Instead each army was like a business enterprise. The loot & plunder or protection taxes always exceeded the expense to train & equip an army. Also after a elongated long conquest, the army general usually paid tribute to the emperor (often as Spanish Steps, Colosseum and glorious building). As mentioned in this post, only in the recent time has the defense being shown as a cost center.


Evolution of food habits

Nature is very tough and punishes species for their inability to adapt and moderate their actions. Then why is it that people don’t realize how much to eat, when to stop eating and what foods are good for health and what are not? What is more interesting is that obesity and malnutrition can occur simultaneously in the same household and in the same individual?
Till about 50-60 years ago, the wages were meager and the food prices were high. Life expectancy was low and sustenance was the key to survival. Hence 25,000 years of man’s evolution taught us to appreciate food that was rich in fats, carbohydrates and salt. Fried, salty, sweet food and meats (esp. red) were rich in them and were keys to man’s ability to stay energized all day along.
One might argue that milk is nutritious, but still kids despise consuming it. Well it’s also evolutionary. Historically milk that was consumed was produced from one’s mother rather than a bovine surrogate. So during the first year, the kid might like to be breast fed every 2 hours, but as it grows up it needs to wean itself away from its mother and find alternative sources of food. This frees the mother’s nutrients which can be stored for the next childbirth and allows the kid to fulfill its dietary needs (which milk alone cannot satisfy)
I had earlier written an article highlighting the importance of salt in all the cultures worldwide. . The family size was larger because there were more children and parents/grandparents were also living together. Very few females sought employment outside the household. All this resulted in the words/phrases like “Bread-winner”, “Bringing food to the table” which highlighted the importance of securing food. However today food hardly constitutes 10% of one’s expenses (rent/housing being the largest expense) and its share in the basket of goods and services (CPI/WPI) used to calculate inflation is shrinking with each subsequent revision.
However traditionally due to dependence on local agricultural produce, availability of food was seasonal. Discontinuous employment, wars, famine and floods were nature’s way to force one into a diet plan and shape up. No wonder “Tighten one’s belt” refers to preparing for the hard times that are about to come. Medical diagnostics and cure were rudimentary. Hence one’s chances of survival were proportional to how much fat/energy was stored inside the body. It’s only in the recent few decades that food is plentiful and the external factors that led to temporary curtailment of food supply to the body are non-existent. Hence obesity seen today might be a temporary phase before our body re-adjusts to the new environment or maybe its nature’s way to prepare us for Dec 2012 (which many astrologers believe is the doom’s day)
PS: I thought of explaining “Obesity and malnutrition can occur in the same household and in the same individual.”
As Indians are getting richer, they substitute greens and legumes with sweets and oily food. Due to religious reasons meat is not consumed and this creates a dietary imbalance. The body does not get its required proteins and micronutrients causing mal-nutrition, while excess of carbohydrates, salt and fats causing obesity.
In households that recently escaped poverty (but are still leading marginal existence), the parents and grandparents bodies still have the older metabolic rates (which ensured their survival during their growing up when food was scarce), while the children have normal metabolic rates. As a result a food which is divided equally leads to malnourished and skinny kids but obese parents.


Hope and Social Harmony

A guy from Kerela once told me a story which never stops to amaze me:

A fisherman puts a dozen crabs in a basket and seals its top. Then no matter who strong the basket is, the crabs team up together and break free. Many lose their claws (limbs) in the process, but it’s a price well paid for the freedom they all deserve.
In the second case, the dozen crabs are left in the same basket, but this time the top is left open. The light from the top of this shallow container is perceived as achievable escape route and all the crabs independently quest towards being the first to reach to the top. In the resulting scramble, they pull each other down and hence no crab is ever able to escape.

Life of a citizen is like that crab trapped inside an airtight container. As Karl Marx once said, “We have nothing to lose but our chains”. A bloody revolution soon followed in Russia which led to purging of Czars. A citizen pushed to the edge has no option but to rebel. An accidental hero is born when the action of this lone desperate man is worshipped by thousands of sympathizers and ardent followers.
So how does any government prevent such an explosive situation? Simple like our fisherman friend, give your citizens/crabs hope. Show them a path through which each and everyone can achieve a respectable comfortable life. Then make sure everybody gets busy pursuing this vision. A point to remember is that it’s the journey, not the destination that keeps a person engaged (and hence under control). When a person believes that their much cherished goals are within reach, they forget all planning, strategy, pledges. This disorganized mass then loses its unity and is easy to control.
India has been a functional anarchy for the past 60 years, but it still survives, why? Unlike the governments in Middle East, citizens witnessed socio-economic mobility. People from the villages moved to the city and escaped the clutches of poverty and oppression from the landlords (zamindars). Education led to creation of a new breed of Indian Middle Class who did not inherit wealth but created one. The government/container is saved because everybody is busy and nobody teaming against it.



Women often say that giving birth is more painful than a guy getting kicked in the nuts. But here’s proof they’re wrong: Sometimes, after giving birth, a woman will say, “Maybe it would be nice to have another child.” You’ll never hear a man say, “I’d like another kick in the nuts.” Case closed!