Four Stray Thoughts : October 7, 2009

Here are my Four Stray Thoughts for October 7, 2009:

  1. Up, Up and Away: The prices of essentials seem to be rising at an alarming rate. The essentials that I am referring to are food items. While our Government continues to use a flawed benchmark for measuring inflation, the common man is feeling the brunt of prices. The last few months have seen the government blame it on a drought like situation. El Nino was blamed for the drought and as a result the prices will increase, said the Government. The last week has seen the government flip flop and give another reason. This time they say prices are still increasing because there has been too much water. They blame the floods that we have seen in the last week as the reason for prices to inch up further. I am sometimes amazed at how a poor person with a family to feed survives in this country. As a society, we sure are setting new standards of resilience.
  2. What’s up with Butter? : Have you noticed that 500gm butter packs have been absent from the shelves since the last couple of months. In some places, even the ordinary 100gm pack is not available any more. All brands from Amul, Brittania to Mother Dairy have been consistent in performing this disappearing act. No clear reasons are being given and it seems that no one is asking any questions too. The fact is that other types of butter like Nutralite and several low-fat versions seem to be available though. I casually asked the salesman in a Reliance Fresh store about the problem of availability for the 500 gm packs and he shrugged his shoulders and claimed no knowledge about why it is happening. However, he added his two cents to the conversation and recommended that I eat Nutralite (a low fat substitute for butter) and even had the cheek to tell me that it is good for my health. Talk about unsolicited advice being given here. Am I going to switch to this low fat substitute — most likely not. But do I have a choice if the 100gm packs start performing the vanishing act too? In any case – if it comes to choosing between butter and margarine, I would agree with Joan Gussow who said “As for choosing between butter and margarine, I trust the cows more than the chemists”.
  3. Cost of Medicare: Medicare costs are increasing by the day. Anyone who has been hospitalized recently or had to undergo some treatment has seen the costs escalate manifold in the last 10-15 years. The story is getting more murkier. It is common sense for anyone to see that the people who need medical aid the most simply cannot afford it. What use is our medicare if the benefits cannot be got to the most needy. That is not called medicare at all. The senior citizens are the most hit. Except for the really well to do folks, it is beyond anyone’s imagination to have been able to plan for his/her medicare costs during their retirement years. There is just no way these folks could have got their calculations right going by the rate of medical treatment today. The government gives grand plans about a comprehensive medicare policy but all nations have struggled with getting the fiscal part of it correct. The situation is really sad. The are really two categories of people. One are those, who can afford medicare but are too young enough to need it along with those who are old but can afford it. All the others who really need it (and that’s a huge segment) simply cannot afford the medicare costs.
  4. The cost of being Microsoft: It is quite disconcerting to see Microsoft getting sidelined slowly but surely in so many areas that it was once the most visible in. Sure it rules the desktop still in terms of Operating Systems and the ubiquitious Office suite. But it is pretty much losing out on all other fronts and I would be willing to bet that it will see its share eroding in its current strong areas. It is well known about it blundered with the advent of the Internet. But in spite of that, they seem to be repeating another blunder in being far behind in terms of the Mobile landscape. Apple, Google, Motorola, etc all seem to be stealing the thunder from Microsoft. This is more disturbing since it was once the leader in the Smartphone category by a mile. None other than their CEO has admitted that Microsoft did screw up on the Mobile front. And even now, any respectable answer to the current darling of the Mobile OS i.e. iPhone or Android seem to be atleast a year away. It might be a case of too little, too late but I would never discount Microsoft. If it ever gets around to moving itself and punches, it will sure hurt if the punch lands right. The only problem is precisely what I mentioned in the previous statement i.e. it is too heavy to move around deftly and respond to counter attacks that the lightweights are hammering on it. It has just too much baggage and frameworks of its own to integrate and create a newer solution on. But remember, in a boxing contest, the 3rd man in the ring (referee) makes the contest possible. In today’s world, this 3rd man is the consumer(you and me) and they will make sure that the better boxer on all technicalities wins the bout.
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