Friday, May 25, 2007

Off to Europe

The wife and I are leaving on a 2-week tour of Europe. We'll be traveling through 8 countries and taking innumerable Patel shots. It goes without saying that this blog will not be updated till I get back. Adios Amigos!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thank God my wife didn't have a choice...

Not because she's from a rural area (which she is by the way - Baroda shhhh!). But because ours wasn't an arranged marriage. I was referring to this

The ordeal of the wisdom tooth continues...

So, where did I leave you guys last time in my epic sob story? Ah yes, right here. So let's get on with it, shall we? After the first wisdom tooth ordeal ended, it was time to go back to the hacker, sorry, dentist to get the other wisdom tooth removed. This one went much better than I expected. The very next day, the pain was bearable and I was waltzing around at work, though I looked like I had a lollypop stuck in my mouth. This just turned out to be the lull before the storm. As it frequently happens with me, the pain hadn't completely gone by the end of the first dosage of pain killers. So I went back to the dentist for more. After that, things seemed to go swimmingly for a few more days. I even played cricket, volleyball and, in general, forgot all about my missing tooth.

That's when it happened. The pain started intensifying just when I was finishing up with my second dosage of painkillers. I could feel some kind of swelling inside my mouth, and the pain was excruciating. So I went back to the dentist, who stuck his finger in, felt around, and said there's something 'weird' going on inside. He thought it was some kind of infection, and prescribed me a dosage of antibiotics followed by some stronger painkillers. He even commented sarcastically "You are the luckiest guy in the world". If only I didn't depend on his prescriptions to get those painkillers, I would've strangled him. No, hung him by his tooth. "Ofcourse" I thought to myself. "This had to happen to me. What was I thinking?".

So I picked up the pills and went back to work. I realized that a single painkiller pill did nothing to relieve my pain. So I started taking two at a time. Not a great idea to do this at work, as it turns out. The pills hit me very soon, and I was as groggy as a cockroach in a beer bottle. The whole day, I was finding places to put my head down and sleep. But after a day, I felt some improvement. The swelling has gone down, and the pain is not as bad. I can even get by with a single pill at a time. That's where things stand now.

So where do I go from here? I'm leaving on a 2-week vacation tomorrow, so obviously I don't want to take my pain with me. I'm hoping things improve drastically today. Still, I might have to visit the dentist and get another round of painkillers, as a precaution.

And yes, before I forget. Remember the decayed tooth next to the first wisdom tooth I pulled out? The dentist cleared away the decay and gave me the "good" news. I get to keep the tooth if I get a root canal procedure done. Infact, he wanted me to get this done before I left for my vacation. With my luck, I didn't want to have a major procedure done 2 days before I left the country. So, no thanks Doc.

Clearly, this is not over yet. Watch this space for more sado-masochist adventures...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Is an MBA worth it?

Came across an interesting discussion on the Businessweek's Debate Room on the pros and cons of doing an MBA. The main article is followed by a lot of comments on both sides of the argument. If you are in the MBA market, this is probably a worth a quick look. However, if you've already done your research, talked to current and past MBA graduates and made up your minds, this article will not come across as something new or ground-breaking. Infact, it was downright frustrating to see people without an MBA degree commenting on the futility of an MBA program. There were a few comments from those pursuing online programs or some that are not even in the top 100. I'm not sure how these people are qualified to comment on the topic, or worse, reject MBA programs outright.

I'm sure the question of whether an MBA is worth it or not is as old as the degree itself. I'm certainly not going to attempt to address this here. But I would say this much - If you are in a top 10 MBA program and wish to follow one of the usual post-MBA tracks (mgmt consulting, investment banking, PE, marketing etc.) the ROI quite certainly makes it worth it. But if you are a wannabe entrepreneur, there's no saying if a business school would help foster your creativity. At the end of the day, its a very personal and subjective decision. A lot of factors need to be taken into consideration:
- where you are in your personal and professional life?
- would you be able to absorb the opportunity cost?
- is your payscale already comparable to that of a post-MBA guy?
- etc etc.

In my case, I seem to have hit a wall in my career. And I was bored of doing the same IT/telecom stuff. And more importantly, I knew I wasn't using those skills that I was actually good at. Business school seemed something exciting to do while rejuvenating my career and injecting a fresh lease of life. It would open a lot more doors in a variety of industries. And I personally think I'm better at managing people than doing the work myself :-) But more than anything else, the payscales at top 10 MBA programs sounded very very attractive. An MBA from Kellogg has the ability to put me in a completely different career and payscale trajectory.

Ofcourse, its not always chocolates and strawberries. MBA recruitment - more than any other degree - depends heavily on the current economy. So if things go downhill by 2009 when I graduate, I might come to rue the decision. Also, I'll be paying off those loans for quite a few years.

The other thing that could potentially go wrong is the fact that I don't have a GC yet. So unless my wife gets her GC before I graduate, I will be left to the vagaries of the whole H1 quota thing going around. Another excellent article here about the issues international students face after graduating from top MBA programs because of the H1 quota. So this is definitely somewhat of a gamble. But I couldn't wait forever for my GC before I start my MBA. Age is a factor as well as the right moment in your career to jump on to the MBA bandwagon. As the article mentions, I could always take an international assignment for a year before I get a fresh H1B. As I write this article, there is a lot of talk about the senate reaching an agreement on a new bipartisan immigration bill. Whether this will help educated legal immigrants - like most Indians - is still up in the air and should become clear soon.

Yes, there are a lot of impediments along the way. But I feel these are cosmetic issues, and can always be circumvented with some planning and foresight. When you think about it, not too many people get an opportunity to do a top 10 MBA program. It requires a lot of dedication and concerted effort to get admitted into one. In the long run, I do believe that my decision will be vindicated.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Heelys shoes!

The other day, I was shopping with my wife at Sam's club when a mom and her son passed us pushing a shopping cart. Actually, the mom was doing all the pushing, while the son was just skating on his Heelys shoes. This got me thinking. In a land that already has 12 million obese children, and more sitting on the fence, is it really a good idea to introduce wheels into regular sneakers? For most kids, walking is the only exercise they get all day. Infact, walking around in stores and shopping malls picking up high-fat food articles is probably the only time they get to lose some or any calories at all. But now, kids don't even get to do that because some genius found out a way to cut out their only physical activity for the day.

And that's not the only issue I have with the heelys. These shoes are basically physical hazards. If you see someone with roller skates or roller blades, then you are mentally prepared to let them zoom past and are careful not to get in their way. But when you see these kids in regular looking sneakers suddenly taking off at around 15 miles per hour and zig zagging around, it totally puts you off. It is an accident waiting to happen. The other day, one kid went over my wife's foot and didn't even bother to apologize. Needless to say, she'll be the first one to sign this petition. I've become extremely wary and suspicious of all kids around me. I propose that these kids be treated the same as automobile drivers, and be forced to take written and practical tests before they obtain their heelys shoes license. If anything, some kids will atleast find the process cumbersome and so not worth it!

Talking of obesity, I happend to read an article on the NY times the other day, about common (mis)conceptions about dieting and exercise on weight loss. The industry catchline so far has been that if you eat fewer calories than you expend, the net negative calories will eventually and gradually end in weight loss. And that the best way to approach this is through a combination of good diet and exercise. Well, this article brought a completely different spin on this - what seems like a - reasonable approach. After extensive tests on healthy and obese people, a few scientists have discovered an extensive link between your genes and your weight. So if you are obese, but manage to lose weight through dieting and exercise, it would be very hard to maintain it since your body will have the tendency to come back to your "normal" - which in this case is probably a size XXXL - body weight. And if you are thin and want to gain weight, this can be difficult as well.

A brief excerpt from this excellent study:

The researchers concluded that 70 percent of the variation in peoples’ weights may be accounted for by inheritance, a figure that means that weight is more strongly inherited than nearly any other condition, including mental illness, breast cancer or heart disease.

The results did not mean that people are completely helpless to control their weight, Dr. Stunkard said. But, he said, it did mean that those who tend to be fat will have to constantly battle their genetic inheritance if they want to reach and maintain a significantly lower weight.

The findings also provided evidence for a phenomenon that scientists like Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Leibel were certain was true — each person has a comfortable weight range to which the body gravitates. The range might span 10 or 20 pounds: someone might be able to weigh 120 to 140 pounds without too much effort. Going much above or much below the natural weight range is difficult, however; the body resists by increasing or decreasing the appetite and changing the metabolism to push the weight back to the range it seeks.

The message is so at odds with the popular conception of weight loss — the mantra that all a person has to do is eat less and exercise more — that Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, an obesity researcher at the Rockefeller University, tried to come up with an analogy that would convey what science has found about the powerful biological controls over body weight.

He published it in the journal Science in 2003 and still cites it:

“Those who doubt the power of basic drives, however, might note that although one can hold one’s breath, this conscious act is soon overcome by the compulsion to breathe,” Dr. Friedman wrote. “The feeling of hunger is intense and, if not as potent as the drive to breathe, is probably no less powerful than the drive to drink when one is thirsty. This is the feeling the obese must resist after they have lost a significant amount of weight.”

So not only are we born poor and stupid, now we are born fat as well. And even if you turn the poor around and somehow talk your way through college, you will still be a rich, smart, but fat slob. So moral of the story is - next time you can't fit in your jeans, blame your genes...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Somebody tell Lata to stop

Is it just me? Or does anyone else think that its about time Lata Mangeshkar calls it a day and stops crooning in Bollywood? I've never understood India's fascination with Lata. Granted, she might have belted some good numbers in her heydays, which probably lasted for a few years somewhere in the 60s. But as far back as I can remember, I've hated her voice. Consider movies like"Hum App ke hai kaun" or "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" for example. Great songs spoiled only by some stupid ass' idea to let Lata near the mike. So when Madhuri Dixit is flirting playfully with Salman at a wedding Sangeet or Kajol is frollicking in a mini skirt in the rain, all I can think of is how much better these songs could have been without Lata's shrill vocals. Her voice does not suit either of these actresses, or for that matter, anyone else in bollywood.

With age, her voice has gotten shriller and almost child-like. Its like seeing an 80-yr old walking to school in uniform holding his mother's hands. She's pretending to be someone she's not anymore. Her voice is just high-pitched and screws up even the best of songs. And for some reason, these idiots in Bollywood do not realize that. They still hold her on a pedestal and feel blessed to be touched by her vocal torture.

It has come to a point when I hear Lata's voice, I start imitating her in a female voice, and I've got it almost spot on. Yes, its that bad! There is something to be said about graceful retirement. But somehow, our Bollywood singers and actors never understand this. So you see Amitabh Bachan in every other movie, shaking it with young things and being a playboy and all. Atleast, he's aged gracefully and has fond his niche. The same cannot be said of Lata. She's had her quota of a few thousand songs, and blasted quite a few ear drums. Maybe, just maybe, its time for her to call it a day and spend the rest of her life gazing at Sivaji Ganesan's photo. Anyone with me?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The ordeal of the wisdom tooth

First off, I apologize to my regular readers (yes, all 3 of them) for my extended absence from the blogging scene. The hiatus was inflicted on me by a combination of increased workload, lack of ideas and a wisdom tooth. Of these 3 factors, I would rate the last one - the wisdom tooth - on top of my list.

I've never understood the concept of wisdom tooth/teeth. If these are essentially useless, shouldn't evolution have taken care of this by now? Besides, what sort of lazy ass wisdom tooth would wait till I am about to enter my 30s before deciding to suddenly erupt, touch my nerve endings and cause me such immense pain?!! This takes away the whole concept of the tooth being called the 'wisdom' tooth, considering I've probably already gained all the wisdom I'm likely to gain in my life. Atleast, I would like to think so. Now, this has resulted in me being the target of a lot of ill-conceived jokes - especially from my wife - about me gaining wisdom quite late in life, and that its better late than never, and more of such lame stuff.

Anyways, enough of my rambling. So I waited out a few days for this pain to go away. And when I realized that it was here for the long haul, I forced myself to make my first dentist appointment in the US (till now, all my dentist visits have been during my India visits). As I feared, the dentist told me, no, ordered me, to remove both my wisdom teeth (although only one was causing trouble). Besides, the neighboring tooth might be contaminated by now and might have to be removed as well. I knew this would happen. My inner paranoid self had always believed that if there's one thing I know about US doctors, it is that they love to suck you into a vortex of procedures, operations, side-effect treatments etc.

So I take the referral and go to a dental surgeon. And the receptionist tells me that I might have trouble getting my insurance company covering both wisdom tooth removals from the same referral. This surprises me. I would think Insurance companies can save a lot of time and money by encouraging multiple procedures for a patient in one sitting. But apparently, they do not like to do this because they cover only 'necessary' extractions, not 'precautionary' ones. So I decide to just pull one tooth out. It was probably the mst painful dental experience of my life. The tooth was growing at a weird angle, and the dentist used a combination of techniques, bordering on the savage, to get it out. There was sawing, pulling, tugging and some old-fashioned yelling till the damned bloody calcium-filled miserable piece of my body came out.

My wife drove me home, with me holding a tissue to plug the blood spurting out of the new hole where the erstwhile wisdom tooth used to be. I was told not to spit, gargle or do anything useful with my mouth until the blod clot forms on the hole. Just about the only good thing that came out of the whole episode was that I could call in sick at work and enjoy a Tamil movie after a long time ('Paruthiveeran' to the curious!). Then began the 'recovery' phase that started with around 50 pills that included painkillers and antibiotics. But when the pain had not abated after a week, I went back and was told I had what is referred to as a 'dry socket inflammation'. This is a very common post-operative procedure, where the blod clot might have moved causing the newly growing tissues to be exposed to food, water etc causing a completely different kind of weird, throbbing pain. So I was given a further dose of another 50 pills, this time consisting of some steroid and another dose of antibiotics.

Through the whole ordeal, the one thing that really irked me was the fact that I had to stay away from alcohol through weekends. This is not easy when you are surrounded by a gang of raging weekend alcoholics and party-goers. I did push the limit with a bit of wine here and a beer there, but for the most part I was a good boy. So eventually, after about a 100 pills and 2 weeks of suffering, I've finished my dosage, the pain is gone and I can go on with the rest of my life.

But only for a few more days. If you had stayed with me through this story, you would realize I still have the other wisdom tooth to go. On top of this, I have another appointment with the dentist, where he will determine if I get to keep the tooth next to the wisdom dude. If not, I will have to face further ignominy, and pull out this innocent bystander as well. So you will forgive me if I have nothing nice to say on the topic of dentists and their happy-go-lucky attitude towards other people's teeth and limb. And if I go into another blogging hiatus, you'll know why...