Date archives "March 2009"

Three Great Films You Probably Haven’t Seen

Living in India, I have cable TV which has blessed me with 10 sports channels, at least one of which will be showing live action football on Saturday or Sunday. This means I’m able to watch the Premiership matches which you guys in the UK can’t, such as the 3pm Saturday matches.

It also gives me 3 English movie channels, so when there’s no football, there’s likely to be at least one half watchable movie on.

For anyone that knows me, my taste in films tend to be action, comedy, thrillers with a healthy dose of escapism (think Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, King Kong – all of which are incredible movies by the way!) and a suspension of reality for a few hours.

Unfortunately the movie channels seem to be obsessed with terrible Jean Claude Van Damme straight to TV films (Until Death and Double Impact registering highly crappy on the crap-o-meter scale) which make you feel a worse person after watching them.

There have, however, been some real gems. These are films that I would never have chosen to watch in a million years, either because they are boring ‘life’ films or foreign independent films, but watched them because they were on, and got drawn in and hooked.

Wasabi – 2001

Definitely not a fan of foreign (ie. in a language other than English) films, so would do everything I can to avoid watching them. However, the Wasabi film was dubbed in to English, so made it watchable. It tells the story of an old French spy who goes back to Japan and discovers he has a tear-away teenage daughter he never knew about.

While getting to know his teenage daughter (who doesn’t know that he’s her Dad until much later in the film), he’s also trying to discover the killers of her mother.

It scores good points because it’s actually quite funny and the scripting is excellent. It’s very tongue in cheek, so the suspension of reality in the gun battles and some of the visual gags makes it acceptable. It stars Jean Reno who has been in quite a few English movies as well.

Little Miss Sunshine – 2006

Wow, never my life would I thought I’d sit down and watch a film like this. A dysfunctional family travel to a young girl beauty pagent. Honestly, that’s all that happens.

Each family member is a real character; the Dad is an unsuccessful success coach who preaches positive attitudes to everything and has an unnerving positive approach to every situation.

The Grandfather is an aging rebel who likes his women and booze and has very little social etiquette, going through life on his own terms.

The suicidal gay brother-in-law who has just been released from hospital after an unsuccessful suicide attempt when he finds out his lover is cheating on him with another man.

The gothic teenage guy who is full of angst and hates his family. He has taken a vow of silence in protest and communicates by writing in a pad of paper. Despite this, it’s his dream to become a pilot.

The mum, who seems relatively normal in the family, and works hard as the mediator between the other grown ups. She is played by Toni Collette and looks a million times better than in About A Boy – it’s hard to believe that she’s the same woman. In About A Boy she has a proper British accent, in this film she has a proper American accent, but she was actually born and brought up in Australia…who knew?

Finally you have the chubby young daughter with huge glasses. It’s her dream to win a beauty pagent.

The story revolves around the family’s road trip to the Little Miss Sunshine pagent and how they all come together as a family, despite all the setbacks.

The film really is laugh out loud in places and it does keep you on the edge of the seat to find out if the young daughter actually gets to star and win the beauty pagent.

Juno – 2007

Given all the crappy teen flicks that are out there, you could be forgiven for thinking that this might be lumped in with them. Not so. Juno is about a 16 year old girl who discovers that she’s pregnant (“how did that happen” “the usual way”). The story centres on what she decides to do and everything that she has go through during a teenage pregnancy.

Once again, never would I have thought I’d sit down and watch, let alone enjoy a film about teenage pregnancy.

The mother to be is very much a happy-go-lucky girl, not getting depressed, just accepts the situation and gets on with her life. She doesn’t expect the father to get involved and doesn’t resent him for what happened. As she goes through pregnancy, she grows up a lot and becomes a lot more mature.

The film is quite funny, not laugh out loud funny, but entertaining. The scripting and dialogue is spot on for American teenage girls (“and she was like, totally, oh my god” “and i was like, I know! crazy freaky huh?”) and the acting and conversations seem entirely natural. What’s also refreshing is the teenagers in the movies are actual teenagers in real life, none of the 20 somethings you get in other teen-flicks.

Juno has been absolutely slated for being a bad movie, with crappy dialogue, I guess I watched a different version to all those people!

A Second Income

There is no real point to this post, just general / random musings 🙂

Being quite an independent minded kind of person, when it comes to making money, I always like to be in control of how much I earn. This can be very good, but if you are relying on your own efforts and you become lazy, you can fall flat on your face, err, as I found out…oops!

This is why I currently like the concept of having a job where your salary meets your basic living and lifestyle needs and the second income allows you to easily cover any one off expenses without getting in to debt or allows you to save some money – which far too many us don’t do!

I do believe that the days of staying with one job are well and truly over – we live in a much more fluid kind of business world. The older generation, the kids of the 50’s and 60’s, were always taught to find a good stable job with a large employer, keep your head down, work hard for 40 years or so and retire for a quiet life.

This was all very well when the large industrial companies were growing and trade unions had seemingly unlimited power to prevent any layoffs. It was also very well when society expected you to conform to certain rules and norms such as getting married in your early twenties, having 2.4 kids, buying your home, taking a single vacation per year etc. etc.

Nowadays things are a whole lot more flexible. Tying yourself down to one particular role or job could be damaging in the longer term because as soon as we hit uncertain times like we have now, the large company you sought out for stability doesn’t consider the personal impact when it cuts 5,000 jobs.

Society has also changed to a more self-centered one where we look to buy the latest gadgets, go on expensive foreign holidays, take weekend city breaks to various places on the continent, being less frugal with money, spending more and saving less.

Ever since I first started out on the internet, I believed that it could provide a good second income. At times it provided an incredible income to me.

However, I now think it’s more important than ever that people look to create a second income to build up a nestegg. Salaries barely cover our lifestyle choices so there is very little left over to save. A second income can help supplement any savings you might be able to make.

I personally run a couple of websites which have earned a small, regular income for the last 6 months or so. I spend less than an hour a week on them, yet they continue to make money on autopilot, allowing me to build up savings back in the UK.

Having the second income also means that when you are a bit more extravagant that you should have been (and some of us just can’t help but spend money when we get it), it is offset by your second income.

For example, yesterday I went shopping to buy a ‘smart’ collection of clothes for any work meetings and occasions. In total it came to £100, which is a bit crazy (I do live in India!), but included shoes, shirts and trousers. This is way more than my salary will allow me to spend, but my second income offset it because in the last week I earned £100 and didn’t work a single hour to make that money!

The second income has allowed me to make some investments back in England (albeit at shockingly bad interest rates) and enables me to be a bit extravagant now and then without putting the income from my salary under pressure.

The internet makes it possible for anyone to earn some additional money, but it needs to be approached with an open mind and with the right mindset. Some people, who are very close to me, could easily be earning $1,000 or more a week if they chose to make money for themselves, but instead their mindset believes that they should be working for a salary from a company – extremely frustrating for me when they have such a wealth of talent.

You should also be careful that generating money for your second income doesn’t end up taking more time than your actual job! Another area to be careful with is that you are not compromising your work position, if you are a logo designer and offer freelance logo design services this creates a conflict of interest that most companies will not accept!

Another point to consider is that you should probably be looking to supplement your income, not replace your income. Even if you are only able to generate $50 a week, that’s $2,600 from (hopefully) very little work, if you can save that, over the years it builds up savings that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Important: Obviously if you do create a second income, you should be reporting this to your tax authorities. I have no idea how this works in other countries, but I fill out my tax return each year online! Don’t be cute and try to avoid taxes! In England the tax threshold is around £6,000 a year, which will be taken up by your salary (and, err, if it doesn’t, might want to pop down to the job centre!), but even if you earn less than this, you need to declare it!

Jealousy: Does You Have It?

A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook, so I stole it off him.

Look at the picture…does it make you even a tinsey winsey little bit jealous??

weather variation between london and chennai

Honestly, I really can’t say that I miss British weather, not even a teeny tiny little bit. Does it stem from being a guy and liking things to be the same and not change?

I don’t know, but waking up in the morning and know that the temperature is either hot or damned hot means you have one less thing to worry about! (do I dress for warm, cold, rainy, snowy, windy…nope, it’s shorts and t-shirts again).

Indian IT Professionals Come Down To Earth With A Bump

When I came to India in the first quarter of 2008, the economy was still pretty much in full swing as I set about building my team of superstars. As I interviewed candidate after candidate a few things started to irk me, such as their belief that by changing jobs it could net them a 100% to 300% pay rise.

There seemed to be a belief that pay was related to experience, not expertise. When an SEO analyst said they had 3 years of experience, it usually meant that they had been pressing CTRL-C CTRL-V for 3 years and never took it upon themselves to learn anything new. Yet because they had been copying and pasting for 3 years, they felt that they deserved 3 times the pay of a fresher.

Err, no, it doesn’t work like that.

Another peeve that I had was when I went through a resume and found a person had as many as 6 jobs in 4 years (I honestly kid you not!) and when pressed on this it was for ‘career growth’. It’s fairly normal to read a resume where a person has lasted 12 months or less in each company before moving on.

Here’s a top tip for y’all: An employer wants to see commitment from the candidate. Changing companies every 6 months sets off nuclear alarm bells that says this person isn’t worth an interview, by the time you’ve offered them a job, they’ve already applied to the next one.

My understanding of career growth is that you progress in seniority if you change jobs. Apparently not in India. When asked why they wanted to change jobs, invariably it was for ‘career growth’, when told that they would have the same designation as they’ve got now, this would rarely be a problem – so where’s the career growth?

The HR guys tell me that I got off lightly with candidates. Such was the need for programmers during the boom times, the candidates would play companies against each other and say “well company X is offering me 4 lakhs (400,000 to my uneducated friends!), how much can you offer me?” And an offer is made and they go to the next company and say “company X is offering 4 lakhs, company Y is offering 6 lakhs, how much do you want to pay me?” And so we had the situation where candidates were putting themselves up for auction.

Fortunately Agriya refused to partake in this, if any candidate tried to auction themselves, our (err, that is, Agriya) interest was immediately suspended.

So, what is the situation now?

It really brought it home to me how rough it is out there the other day when I was interviewing two candidates from the same company.

They had both come in looking for a job. The company they were working for had not paid any salaries for the last two months – yet the employees still went to work on the hope that they could get paid.

When it came to asking about expected salaries, we have turned a corner, there were no requests for 1.5x – 2x their current earnings, they reply came back meekly… “whatever the company wants”. Unfortunately the candidates, despite having four years “experience” didn’t have any more expertise than I would expect from a fresher who’s been at the company for 6 months.

Another top tip: Employers are looking for expertise and passion, not just experience! I read a great article today where a gaming company hired a real estate agent to help develop their new game because he was a passionate gamer and ‘modded’ dozens of games out of personal interest. Give me passion over experience anyday!

So, back on topic how hard is the global economy hitting India?

Well, of course it’s having an effect. The smaller IT companies are folding left right and centre (my writing is Americanized [note the ‘z’] now that the English spelling of ‘centre’ just looks plain wrong), the larger multi-national IT companies are shedding staff – up to 10% of the workforce in some cases, freezing their fresher intake programmes and in some cases imposing compulsory salary reductions as they look to adapt and survive.

One of my friends owns a consumer computer chain store throughout Chennai and he says it’s the toughest he’s seen it as the geeky IT crowd who make up the bulk of his clientele dries up.

Still, India has a very strong domestic economy – 1.1bn people still need to be fed, move from A-B, get clothed, socialize, have spectacularly over the top weddings, be entertained and live.

So while the West is mired in recession, shrinking economies and the looming face of deflation looking more and more likely, India’s annual growth forecast has been cut from 8% to a ‘paltry’ 5%. The West has sneezed, India has the sniffles, but it hasn’t caught the cold – yet.