Digital Diagnostics

So we get this free complete health check up from our company. Turns out that you have a host of options to pick the Hospital or Diagnostic Centre of your choice. For this one, I choose Wockhardt Hospital (Bangalore).

If I run back a year, I see myself sitting in Wockhardt Hospital (same place around the same time of the month), getting a similar health check up done. After about three hours of a lot of questions and answers, juice extractions and urea content push outs – I finally wait for the reports to come. As I doze off in the waiting lounge, somebody calls my name two hours later. Waking up, I see the executive holding a folder in her hand an pointing me to “Room 152” where the Physician awaits. The physician smiles, reports are normal – my Cholestrol is border-lining somewhere and I get to exercise a lot to push it up. Yay!

Zoom forward to this day. I am in the same waiting lounge after all the puncturing and pushing out is complete. I don’t doze off, instead have carried a book along with me. I hardly complete a few chapters when I feel it best to have some lunch with my better half and get back.

So, am back in the waiting lounge. The executive recognises me, calls my name and puts me to “Room 152”. Physician smiles, all reports normal – Cholestrol is border lining on the lower side and I get to exercise a lot to push it up. Wait, deja vu? Didn’t this happen already? “No,” I think to myself, “I haven’t been exercising and hence the status quo of my body.” I take the reports – glance through things that I understand, shove it away in my backpack and return to work.

It’s night time and I am looking at the treasure of the day – my reports. I suddenly realise that I still have my older file, which my better half fetches for me. My curiosity on how have I fared increases and I don’t let it any more. My heamoglobin, cholestrol (both HDL/LDL), bilirubin and every other damn thing hasn’t changed since last year. It’s like my body has locked upon the values and there are a hundred billion cells trying to stand stationary and not move – lest any value changes!

Welcome to Wockhardt Hospitals. The database of this Hospital retains records and reports. Clean – very clean. They not only retain the reports, but they would print out the same report and give it back to you when you visit them next time. So what if they drew 200 ml of your red (or blue) bloods? So what if you pissed away into a container thinking it’s going to be a clear yellow report! The hospital database is retained for people by their names and birth date combinations (primary key for those who know). If there was ever a Rishi Pande in Wockhardt – he will always have the same Hb.

But why am I ranting? This is dangerous. You keep people who are pathologists and maybe they are doing their tests alright. But when you print out the reports, just because your software decided that as long as there is a fetch from the database, it’s good to be printed, you are going to create havoc. Now that every thing were normal today (I still don’t know if really every thing is normal), I don’t care. But suppose it were an emergency and my Hb count had been really low, whereas the report would have said “it’s fine dude, go back home and sleep”, the dude would be dead. Really dangerous for uninsured dudes.

Living in digital age is not fun. As long as there are `database fetch` programmers who are doing it just because they were told to, things are not going to be easy.

Message: “Watch out for the neo-digitised institutions. There are bugs everywhere.”

Your Duty To Vote – Never Expires!

All in Bangalore, your “duty” to vote has arrived. The first step to ensuring that you can vote, is to get a Voter ID Card, also known as EPIC (Elector’s Photo Identity Card). The only catch is, you have to act fast – as the last date for getting your name on the Electoral Rolls is 22 Feb, 2008. All the details can be found here: BangaloreVoterID.org

  • You have to fill up Form 6, indicating your current residence, supplemented with some documents (for proof of age and residence – see below)
  • You don’t have to be a permanent resident of the place where you want to get a Voter ID card (you can be a tenant)
  • If you are working at a place different from your home town, you are eligible to get a Voter’s ID at your town of work
  • Please make sure to fill Form 7 to get your name deleted from electoral rolls elsewhere in the country
    • Search here to know if your name exists in the electoral rolls of your home town
      • Doing this will ensure that your name is not used to register bogus votes at your home place
  • You can also fill the same Form 7 to de-register people you know, who no longer are residing in those places (and hence can’t vote) due to migration or death
    • Please do this for as many people as you can, you will do a huge favour to the nation.
    • You can search for names in the same way as you did for yourself
  • Documents for proof of age (18+): High School Marks Sheet, Birth Certificate, Passport, Driving License or this affidavit on a stamp paper stamped by a Notary (I created this from Annexure A of the Passport Form).
  • Document for proof of residence is not necessary. But it would help to facilitate (speed up) the work of registration if you can provide any of these: Passport, Bank Pass Book (or a letter from bank), Driving License, Telephone Connection (your name), Gas Connection Documents, Employee Certificate or any Govt. document.

Update: Here is a fresh site where you can find details on deadlines and addresses of electoral registration offices.

Update (21.Apr.08): You can now drop a filled in form (with your photograph pasted on it) and get the Voter ID card within 48 hours. Check this news article from Times of India.

It is your duty to vote, not just a right any more. Please see FAQs and detailed steps on how to get a Voter ID card at BangaloreVoterID.org

Saving Tax The Smart Way

You start your financial year (in April every year) by investing in some SIPs. In case your objective is to save tax, you start investing in a Tax Saving fund (refer Mutual Funds to know more). Is there a better way, a new way to do it? There sure is; consider what follows.

Instead of investing money into a tax saving fund (ELSS or whatever), let’s invest our money in some other great fund. We’re looking at doing a small time investment, so choose the fund that has been doing great in the last two years (smaller period shows the popularity of the fund in recent times, though not necessary). So let’s say, we have a top ranking fund called A Company Fund. We choose two other funds (in all 3 funds), B Company and C Company funds (note that all of these funds should be Open Ended). Now let’s break up a monthly investment of, say Rs. 10000 into 3, make a round figure of 3500 each and invest into SIP of these funds from April to December (for 9 months).

Come December, let’s switch in all the investments done in Company A Fund to a Company A Tax Saver fund, Company B fund to Company B Tax Saver and Company C Fund to Company C Tax Saver fund.

Here’s a point-by-point break-up of the same thing:

  • Let’s say, you have a tax investment objective of Rs. 50000 from Mutual Funds (assuming rest of you investments are done elsewhere).
  • April: Start SIP of 1800 in Company A Fund (a top ranking fund from Company A) for next 9 months (till Dec)
  • April: Start SIP of 1800 in Company B Fund … for next 9 months (till Dec)
  • April: Start SIP of 1800 in Company C Fund … for next 9 months …
  • May: SIP for Companies A, B and C Funds for 1800 each (total 5400 this month).
  • June-November: SIPs repeat until December.
  • December: Your last SIPs of 1800 each get deducted in Company A, B and C funds.
    • Investments in each of Co. A = 16,200 + Co. B = 16,200 + Co. C = 16,200
    • Total investment till December: 5400 x 9 = 48,600
  • Now, you switch in your individual investments from Co. A, B and C to Tax Saver Funds (of the same companies) including the profits you got.
  • Let’s imagine if…
    • ..Co. A performed with a profit of 20% – you get back Co. A Tax Saver funds worth 19,440
    • ..Co. B performed with a profit of 15% – you get back Co. B Tax Saver funds worth 18,630
    • ..Co. C performed with a loss of 10% – you get back Co. C Tax Saver funds worth 14,580
    • Your total tax investment for this year would be: 19,440 + 18,630 + 14,580 = 52,650
    • Magic right? You exceeded the tax investment objective you had set even after investing a lesser amount.
  • Now you have to pay back some capital gains: Co. A = 648 + Co. B = 486 Co. C = 324 = 810
  • Just pay back some tax of ~ 800 (capital gains tax calculated with 20%, a good tax return preparer can bring it down further).
  • Including the capital tax gains you paid back, the money you paid for the whole thing was: 48,600 + 810 = 49,410
  • And your investment was done for: 52,650 – you saved an investment of 3240.

Those figures don’t impress you, do they? Then, what else is the advantage of doing things this way?

  • Your tax savings are done all at once in January.
    • This means, after three years, you can draw the whole amount out all at once. When you do an SIP on tax saving, you have to wait month by month for withdrawal.
  • The profits you get out of the earlier investments act as a buffer and take care of any market fluctuations at the time of your Tax Investments.
  • Also, although you pay tax (10% or 20%) on these profits, you actually get the one lac limit benefit on the same money too.
    • Thus you achieve your one lakh goal by investing a lower amount of money through the year.

No really, there should be some disadvantages too? God save you…

  • …if the capital tax gains are increased (from 10% or 20%).
  • …if you run into losses in all the top 3 funds you chose from Co. A, B and C.
  • …if the Tax-Saver funds for the three companies A, B and C somehow stop accepting fresh investments.

But all of the above are circumstances beyond control. And that is where you step in with the word – risk.

So go ahead, and at your risk, try investing in the way above (repeating: try all this at your risk).

Poetry

Was reading through Abhinav’s blog and was delighted to read Pushp ki Abhilasha. Reminded me of another great poem which makes much more sense to me now “Mera Naya Bachpan” by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan.

You can read it here. But I can’t help posting a few lines here:

Main bachpan ko bula rahi thi bol uthi bitiya meri,
Nandan van si phool uthi yeh chhoti si kutiya meri.

“Ma o” keh kar bula rahi thi mitti kha kar aayi thi,
Kuchh muhn mein kuchh liye haath mein mujhe khilane layi thi.

Pulak rahe the ang drago mein kautahul tha chhalak raha,
Muhn par thi aahlad-lalima vijay gaurav tha chhalak raha.

Maine puchha “Yeh kya layi?” bol uthi voh “Ma kao”,
Hua praffulit hriday khushi se maine kahan – “tum hi khao”.

The impact is made when the poetess’ daughter offers some of the mud to her mother, to which the mother fills up with joy and though refusing the offer – she doesn’t stop the kid from having it too. The ease with which the poetess sees her child’s joy and love is remarkable. The unassuming turn down of the offer and the affectionate encouragement are a pure joy to read while you feel those emotions.

Another exemplary creation was “Adhikar” by Mahadevi Varma (read it here). Here are a few lines from the same:

Aisa tera lok vedna
nahi, nahi jisme avsad,
Jalna jana nahi, nahi
jisne jana mitne ka swad

Kya amron ka lok milega,
Teri karuna ka upahar,
Rehne do he dev Arey!
Yeh mere mitne ka adhikaar.

I am simply amazed by the highest level of thinking this lady had attained, and extremely distinct thought processes that set you thinking in a vertical direction. Though you might not be so much into afterlife, but the perpendicular point of view presented here is extremely dramatic.

Beautiful (Instrumental) Songs (That Might Be) Missed

  • Randy Crawford – Trade Winds
  • Lost Found – Be My Baby (Airplay Version)
  • Chris Spheeris & Paul Voudouris – Golden Days – Fri Jan 18 10:09:30 2008
  • Nicholas Gunn – Eye of the Vortex – Fri Jan 18 10:09:30 2008
  • Luna Blanca – I-Ai-Do
  • Frederic Delarue – Future of the Sea – Mon Jan 21 06:08:04 2008
  • You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore – Neil Diamond – Sun Feb 10 15:16:02 2008

Don’t wanna miss these songs, so am putting ’em up here.

Fryol Coin

It took me some considerable effort to design the logo for “fryol”. A cumulative eight hours of fiddling around left me with this final design where I decided to put all the three basic colours – red, green and blue.

I call this logo “The Fryol Coin” and am planning to print out Fryol Coins as car and desktop stickers.

Design Phase
During the initial design phase I was trying to concentrate on what the logo would indicate. As fryol.net would mostly be based on my financial and technical discussions, I was trying to put some money or maybe an electronic circuit there. But that did not work out, so I concentrated on putting the word “fryol” in there. And finally decided to just put the letter “f”.

While making the logo, I was choosing a theme for the site too, and I decided that as the theme’s going to be really plain, the logo should have a lot of colours.

Drawing & Touch Up
GIMP As the logo was done up entirely in GIMP, I didn’t have too many fonts. Zekton is an exciting font, but there were limitations to how it could be used, so I decided to leave it out. I finally decided to rev up the letter f, so I chose UTW..Sans Serif font, and inverted the letter “f” to give both top and bottom a similar look.

Fryol CoinI drew a lot of ellipses and applied different filters and hue colors on them (simultaneously adding some Alpha Channels), so as to try and include all the colours in some uniformity. Careful observation will show that there is indeed a lot of uniformity with regards to the contents in there.

Final Effects
Using the Script-Fu > Shadows > Xach-Effect filter on GIMP, I gave it a coin feel (though I removed the Highlight layer it creates).

Total time taken was around 5 hours on Day 1, and after about a gap of 24 hours, it took me another 3 hours on Day 2. But am pretty happy with the final outcome.

Favicon – Coining Your Address Bar
…so that this nifty coin fits at the front of fryol.net was an exciting thing. Created a new 16×16 pixel PNG file and copied a scaled down ‘Fryol Coin’ into it. Then I included a link tag in my headers, put type = icon attribute in there and gave the path to the image I uploaded.

Balance Transfer – HSBC

If you have an HSBC Credit Card, and you are going to do a balance transfer (BT) from another card to your HSBC card – think twice. It’s been a whole new world of rules that opened up for me when I ventured there.

Suppose you have Rs. 5000 pending on another card (say Citibank), and you want to pay this amount from your HSBC card, here is what you would do:

  • Make sure that your HSBC card is clean and you don’t have to pay them anything, prior to making this BT request.
  • Go ahead with calling them up and re-ensuring there is nothing to pay there. Give them your Citi card number and the amount (5000).
  • Take care to not use your HSBC card anywhere until the end of 3 or 6 months (whatever tenure you selected).
  • As soon as you get the draft – deposit it with Citibank.

Here’s what’s in store for you now. You see these charges on your next month’s statement of your HSBC card:


19NOV 19NOV BALANCE TRANSFER BTW 5000.00
TRF FRM CITI BANK CC # XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX
20NOV 20NOV BT Processing fees IN 249.00
20NOV 20NOV Service Tax + [email protected] IN 30.83

Seems fair enough? Well, they did tell you that there would be a BT fees (for a transfer for 3 months). Now here’s what they did not tell you (in your next statement):


OPENING BALANCE          5279.83
03JAN 01JAN Your Name VisaMoneyTXFR IN 300.00CR
12JAN 12JAN FINANCE CHARGE 16.74
12JAN 12JAN "SERVICE TAX+CESS"@12.36% 2.06

Wow, there is a finance charge of Rs.16.74 (~17) and another Rs. 2 STT! HSBC had charged you a Processing Fee in the previous month’s statement (look at the first snippet above). Now, here are the rules from HSBC:

  • Any payments you make (minimum due) would go towards completing the BT amount first.
  • As the Processing Fee was charged after the BT was given out, it’s considered as a shopping on your card.
  • Until you repay the whole 5000, there would be finance charges on that Rs. 249+30.83 @36% compounded p.a., every month.
  • As the system counts any payments only towards the BT, these finance charges will attract interest next month too.
  • So, here’s the total money you’d shell out for your 90 day BT:

    (249+30.83) + (16.74+2) + (17.48+2) = 318.05

Considering the BT amount to be 5000, this money wasn’t much. But if you did any larger transaction – you’ll be paying much more money.

Remedy

  • Call up Customer Care and ask them to reverse these charges.

    This weird system is not mentioned any where in their Terms (as of date) and also they can’t fool customers with small figures.

  • If the officer refuses to budge, tell them to transfer call to someone senior.
  • If it doesn’t help, drop a comment here and let’s make sure they mend their system.
  • Screen That's Dynamic (screenrc + bashrc = ..)

    I am an avid user of screen. If you haven’t had the chance of using it, do look up here: [http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/6340]. Having said that, it’s of paramount importance to have a nifty configuration for your screen session. I have been successful in having a working combination of my bash profile and screen, which work together to give some pretty dynamic content. I would put these two things in an installable rpm and host it here soon.

    Memory Will Defraud You

    Was reading a book by Sigmund Freud which had some classic experiments. Some times memory can fool you, so much so that what you can recall very clearly had never actually happened. There have been some real life instances where I have experienced this, and so I can confirm this truth (at least for myself). Some really unpleasant memories held by close relatives I know, also live to tell the same truth.

    An excellent way to run ahead of your memory, and always be in time to catch it is writing personal diaries. It has been a long time since I have written into my diary (I used to when I was a kid – basically for logging whatever I used to do). Even though I might resume that, I have taken care to invent a script of my own to make sure that none but some extremely trustworthy people can read it. That said, personal diaries are meant only for the people who write them, and for those who are very near and dear to them.

    Anyhow, the point I want to make is that I can clearly remember the years where I used to write diaries (though not regularly, but I kept as much track as possible). But there is a certain void in my memory for all these years I haven’t been writing, which to somewhat extent does mean that my memory might be fudged. The most interesting part is, the conflicts of whether a certain event happened or not are more during these unlogged years – even though it was only 6-8 months back. Still to read up more on Freud.

    Mutual Funds – Saving Tax

    Mutual funds explained with some comment on how to save tax.

    • ELSS = Tax Saver (Saving) Mutual Funds (Schemes)
    • You can invest upto one lakh in any ELSS scheme.
      • You should check if you really need to invest one lakh, because in all probability, your employer is already deducting PF from your salary.
      • In that case, your investments should be: 1 Lakh – (monthly PF deduction x 12)
      • PF = Provident Fund = Govt’s way of making people save from their salary.
    • This investment gets locked for 3 years (lock in period = 3 years).
      • That means that if you invest Rs. 3000 today, you will get it back only after three years from today.
      • That also means that if your are doing an SIP of Rs. 3000 every month, the three years are counted for every 3000 from the month they were invested.
      • SIP= Systematic Investment Plan = Fund’s way of saying “please invest in us regularly at a definite interval”.
    • Lock in period of 3 years is good, why?
      • …because that ensures that people can’t take out money for at least next 3 years.
      • … and that makes it easy for the funds to make more money for you.
      • … also this is better than locking your money away for 5 or 7 years (in other schemes – don’t worry about them if you don’t know).
    • Which fund to choose?
      • Choose a fund (search now: http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=elss+funds) that has:
        • a decent asset size and
        • and good two years performance (look at the rate of return in the last two years)
      • Frankly, every fund company has two or three Tax funds (or may be just one)
      • It’s better to keep your folios tight and invest in a Tax fund of the company where you already have funds
        • Reason: tax funds generally are better than any other tax saver investment, so you should really not worry about choosing, too much.
    • Which option to choose?
      • Choose growth option. Don’t choose dividend re-investment. That’s because you really don’t want any more money to get locked again for three years.
        • So if you choose dividend re-investment, and the fund declares a dividend of Rs. 500 at the 29th month after your investment, that Rs. 500 per unit will get locked for three more years.
        • In effect, you will get back the re-invested money after another 36 months (in case the Govt. keeps lock-in as 3 years).
        • So, you get back the dividend money after 29+36 months of your original investment.
      • Options: Growth – this means that you won’t get any dividends, but your fund’s NAV will increase intrinsically with dividend declarations.
      • Options: Dividend Payout – this means that a dividend declaration will give you back cash in your account. Some times this makes sense.
      • Options: Dividend Re-investment – Any declaration will buy you new funds for whatever money you might have got paid. Stay clear of this one.
      • NAV: Net Asset Value – Fund’s way of saying “my one unit will cost you this (NAV) much.”
    • The best way to invest is using an SIP.
      • During April, calculate what your PF amount is (assuming your appraisal and stuff is over).
      • Multiply that by 12 and then deduct it from one lakh. There you go, you have an investment figure – X.
      • Divide X by 12, and decrease another figure Y from this new Z = X / 12.
        • This Y depends on your age. Y is directly proportional to [Your Age – 28].
        • Y is the money you should invest in a fixed return investment (like Fixed Deposit, National Saving Certificates or Public Provident Fund).
        • Y is totally your call, but should be quite less than Z.
      • Your total fixed return investment becomes Y x 12, and ELSS investment is (Z – Y) x 12.
      • Your SIP should be for an amount of (Z – Y), starting in April.