Unemployed.

I received this image as a forward in WhatsApp from a friend who felt that I should get some printed like this for myself.

I did not think that this would serve any purpose for me but, on seeing it as a forward from me, another friend who has the necessary infrastructure of an office with staff suggested that he order for a hundred cards with my name and with some modifications.

I agreed and when it gets printed, I shall write another blog post on it.

In the meanwhile, the “Unemployed” description on the card took me to one of my favourite exchange of letters in The Economist between a reader and The Undercover Economist.

The Letter.

AUGUST 6, 2005

Dear Economist,

My son-in-law has been unemployed for a couple of months now. As far as I can make out, he’s enjoying a PlayStation lifestyle while being supported by the state and by my daughter, who has had to find a temporary job. What concerns me is that he’ll get used to this. Should I tell my daughter to apply pressure by quitting her job?

Yours sincerely,

Godfrey Pickens, via email

The Response.

Dear Mr. Pickens,

The issue here is whether your son-in-law’s preferences will change over time—will he “get used” to a life of leisure, and so be less likely to work?

There are two competing views here. One is that he will become hooked on leisure (the welfare trap hypothesis) and will work less in the future, even if his wife quits her job. The other, equally plausible in theory, is that he will become addicted to the extra income provided by his wife’s new job, and if she quits, he will go on to work harder than before.

Such competing hypotheses have been hard to test in the past. But economist John Kagel has succeeded in running a series of experiments that shed light on the matter.

Kagel first forces his subjects to work for their income. Then, for a while, he provides them a substantial unearned income—a kind of welfare, if you will. Unsurprisingly, they slack off at once. Later, he withdraws the welfare and observes whether they work more or less than before welfare had ever been paid. The answer: the interlude on welfare makes very little difference.

This implies that your daughter should keep working for a while and see what happens. No harm will result. The only question for you is whether Kagel’s findings apply to your son-in-law.

Kagel’s subjects were rats. Do you think the parallel with your
son-in-law is close enough?

Yours experimentally,

The Undercover Economist

Writing.

A well wisher who, I am sure, would rather not be publicly acknowledged, sent me a link to a remarkable article on writing. I am sending that link in this post to my readers most of whom are writers of blogs too.

The main take away for writers from the article, which are part of the article are:

i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

My sincere gratitude to the well wisher.

Happy writing!

Life And Death.

I had couple of friends visiting me some days ago and we had discussions on a wide range of subjects. Both are part of a group to which I too belong, which has monthly meetings where such discussions take place and, it was not unusual that it happened again.

One of the friends unfortunately has recently been having morbid thoughts. He is four years older than I am and has seen much suffering in his life despite having had a successful academic life. He has been exploring various avenues of living in some kind of seclusion in some old peoples’ home.

Among the issues that have been agitating him is the concept of  “Right To Die”.  He has lately been studying cases of euthanasia and has been wanting to carry out research on the subject among senior citizens of India.

He lives alone except to spend every Sunday with his only son, daughter in love and grandson. My other friend and I believe that his recent bouts with health issues like high blood pressure and insomnia has brought him to some morbid thinking. That is the reason he brought this topic up again to discuss and I was a bit impatient with him as, we had discussed this topic a number of times before and had concluded that he should seek help rather than live with some morbid thoughts of euthanasia.

I finally had had enough and told him that though I had come across many people from all walks of life with fear of death;  he is the first and only one that I have come across with a fear of life.  I bluntly asked him as to why he was afraid to live the full life allotted to him and enjoy it to the best of his ability.

He was taken aback but, quickly recovered and said that, that was the problem indeed. He was afraid to live the way he was living and would rather not. That insight has changed his attitude somewhat as he called me up earlier today to thank me for the insight. I again suggested that he seek psychiatric help and he has agreed finally to do that.

The Great Divide.

The Independent’s headline ‘This is a battle of ideologies’: Divided Delhi goes to polls in penultimate phase of Indian election.

Time Magazine’s cover says, “India’s divider in Chief.

I just want to ask my British friends if when the British go to vote during the next election, the Independent will say “Divided Britain goes to vote. After all Britain today is divided by Brexiters, No Brexiters, No Deal Brexiters and others with other point of view as well as having many political parties with different points of view.

I also want to ask my American friends, if when they next vote, the Time magazine will say, “Divided USA goes to vote.” After all, they too have the Republican and Democratic parties plus various shades within like the Tea Partiers, The Socialists in each party as well.

What kind of arrogant journalism is this?

Comedy Of One Error.

Sequence of events.

1. An old colleague Amol, got in touch with me some time ago, thanks to Facebook. I accepted his request for friendship and as requested by him sent him my telephone number.

2. A few days later, he called me up and we caught up with each other’s stories. And as it often happens during such conversations, he wanted to know where so and so and so and so was and I gave him as much information as I could about those that I knew of. He asked about a particular colleague Shrikanth and I promised to find out about him and let Amol know.

3. I rang up another colleague in the South who was closer to Shrikanth than I was only to find that he too had lost contact with him but suggested that I call the Personnel department of the company to see if they had any records.

4. I called up the Personnel Department and requested for information and was promptly sent a phone number for Shrikanth.

5. I called that number only to discover that it was a different Shrikanth. This gentleman however promised to find out details about the Shrikanth that I was looking for. Just to keep track, I saved that phone number as “Wrong Shrikanth” as, I had three other Shrikanths in my list of contacts.

6. I received a phone call from this Shrikanth a few days later to give me the sad news that the Shrikanth that I was looking for had died a few years ago. The conversation however proceeded further with him wanting to get to know me better as he had heard about me from other seniors in the company where he had joined after I had left them. He promised to keep in touch and that was the end of the story.

7. Two days ago, I passed on the information to Amol who however claimed to have known this Shrikanth and wanted his telephone number. I promptly sent the same via WhatsApp through “Share Name Card” facility and forgot all about it.

8. I got a call from Shrikanth asking why I had made his first name as Wrong when it was Vanchinathan!

9. It took a great deal of tact to describe the entire sequence of events to V. Shrikanth. At the end of course, both of us had a good laugh.