What image does this picture conjure up in you?

March 31, 2021

Just a few days ago, I was outdoors and came upon what most people won’t even notice, but was there for you to see clearly.

In fact, I had passed this by many times before I decided it was interesting and took a photo of it. It was interesting to me because I could imagine something else quite appealing when I saw it.

Let’s see if we agree.

I have a simple question for you: What is in the picture below?

Join me in this fun. If you want to see what I thought of when I looked at this, please submit this super quick questionnaire. You’ll get my take on this after you submit!

Visit the questionnaire

I have always had fun with imagining interesting things while looking at mundane artifacts of life.

Who hasn’t? Interpreting cloud formations to be interesting characters is a game we’ve all played, I am sure.

I have been happy to conjure up all these images, but never knew that there was a specific term for this skill: Pareidolia.

I call it a skill because it can be an endless source of inspiration for your creativity if you train yourself to translate common occurrences into special situations routinely.

What do you see when you look up pareidolia on Google?

Wikipedia defines it as a tendency for incorrect perception.

Helpful prompts offered by Google as popular related questions:

Wow! Any positive thinkers out there?

Thankfully, the same Wikipedia page on Pareidolia confesses (hidden away from summary view) that while “it was at one time considered a symptom of psychosis, it is now seen as a normal human tendency.”

There are countless sources on the web that discuss this idea, but one that builds on this vindication and offers a few interesting examples further assuages our concerns.

Phew! we’re safe.

When you think about it, every smiley face we so readily use these days totally depend on our perception of these as specific facial expression of moods.

How wrong can this be, then?

Psychologists tried to vilify the gift of Pareidolia in all of us, and looks like we have prevailed.

Now it’s your turn. Sharpen your instincts for it by interpreting the picture above.

Visit the Questionnaire

I am not giving up my hobby of nurturing alternate, artistic perception of ordinary things anytime soon.

P. Venkat Raman

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A single hole was all he needed to stay alive

March 24, 2021

Henry was keeping quiet in his hiding place. It was cramped quarters, yet it was his own choice to get in there.

In the few hours that he found refuge in this confined space, he was jostled, moved about, and even held upside down for some time. His hand was burning with acid injury. Yet he kept silent through all these agonizing moments with a purpose.

Most of it he endured by his own choice. It was in the plan.

The plan

Henry ‘Box’ Brown was a Virginia slave who mailed himself out of slavery! On March 29, 1849, he climbed into a crate which was then sealed by a sympathizer and mailed from Richmond, VA to Philadelphia.

The journey involved an assortment of travel modes: wagon, railroad, steamboat, as well as a ferry. The crate was handled roughly at times and even kept upside down despite clear markings outside indicating which side should be up,

After 27 hours of enduring such accommodation, Brown stepped out of the box, on March 30, as a free man in Philadelphia.

William Still / “Engravings by Bensell, Schell, and others.”, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The man

With meticulous planning which included burning his own hands with sulfuric acid to get the day off from work and drilling a single hole in the box for air, Henry Brown orchestrated one of the daring, yet successful, escapes of the time by thinking of the unthinkable.

That’s entrepreneurship.

Many slaves endured what Henry did, sometimes even worse. But his story stands out because of his resourcefulness in making the most of what was available to him and thinking of previously unheard of ways to press his advantage.

The dream

I have had my own thoughts of the unthinkable. This is in the area of Personal Finance. While this is a broad topic, my special interest lies in a specific focus area: swing trading (laid back short term trading) of U.S. stocks. Even this is too broad in some sense: there are thousands of stocks that are candidates. My focus is on the S&P 500 stocks.

This index consists of stocks that are well understood all over the world, and are under constant scrutiny by investors and traders alike. So, the prospects of coming up with a profitable trading strategy in that niche is daunting.

But I love it for just that challenge. Moreover, I am only trying things out on “paper”, not in the real market, so there is no downside to it!

The hope

I have been tinkering with some approaches in this quest and one of the many variations I have tried shows some promise.

So much promise that I am beginning to worry about the “too good to be true” syndrome. I want to share a glimpse of what I have discovered. What you see is the outcome from back testing, i.e. simulating what would have happened in the past if we had applied this trading strategy in the market.

Below is a comparison of how my portfolio of paper trades would have performed as opposed to the S&P 500 index. You cannot invest in the index directly, but can invest in an index mutual fund that tracks the S&P 500. The performance would be close enough for our needs here.

Portfolio Back Testing: $10K in 2000 grows to $120K in 2009

Investing in S&P 500 fund: $10K in 2000 shrinks to $7590 in 2009

I wanted to take on the worst decade in recent times for stock market performance: 2000-2009. This period includes the dot-com bust of 2000, the 9/11 attack and its aftermath, plus the subprime mortgage crisis that brought down financial institutions to their knees.

I was hoping to do better than S&P, but never expected this type of a blow out. This brings me right to my disclaimers.

The caveats

This experiment is done on hypotheticals. No actual trading. This means that slippages due to trading volume and other reasons are not reflected in the analysis. Some error in coding of the algorithm may be present, invalidating the results. Performance in other time frames need not be similar to this one.

In essence, nothing is guaranteed, except for the possible thrill of the no-risk ride!

If you find the topic of swing trading and what it may have in store for you interesting, you should subscribe to my free emails targeted to just that topic. If you choose to opt in, you will get occasional emails on the topic, with lessons learned and more.

Click on the button below to express your interest. You can always cancel your subscription. As a token of my thanks for subscribing, I will make available to you a comparative report of how this strategy would have worked pitted against the S&P 500 in the following decade, from 2010 up to 2019.

Sign Me Up for Swing Trading Lab Reports!

In search of better unthinkable thoughts,

P. Venkat Raman

P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to give me feedback regarding the topics that interest you, please do so. Please fill out the interest survey here.

P.P.S. If you have kudos, complaints, or any reaction to any of my emails or articles, please reply and say so. I appreciate knowing about opportunities to improve what I write. Thank you!

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Life lesson from the man who influenced four nations for over 20 years as the sole resident of a 134-room building

March 17, 2021

Actions have consequences in the long term. It’s up to you to choose your actions such that you experience good consequences. We have a story below from history that illustrates this point.

In addition, I am happy to share a couple of other items that are of contemporary interest and relevance.

As you can see, today’s newsletter is in the form of a digest. Hope you have been forming opinions of which form of presentation appeals the most to you. I will be asking you to weigh in with your preference some time in the future.

In the meantime, let’s have some fun!

In eternal pursuit of interesting stories,

P. Venkat Raman

P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to give me feedback regarding the topics that interest you, please do so. Please fill out the interest survey here. If you don’t, I’ll just have to focus on whatever has been already chosen by others!

P.P.S. If you have kudos, complaints, or any reaction to any of my emails or articles, please reply and say so. I appreciate knowing about opportunities to improve what I write. Thank you!

TRAVEL

Sundial Bridge

I stood mesmerized by the sleek, slanted, gleaming white column brightly lit by the evening sun against the clear blue sky. The cables tying the column to where I was standing, a pedestrian bridge across the Sacramento River in Redding, California, with see-through glass panels for the deck, made it all the more intriguing and aesthetically pleasing.

Nestled in the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, California, this architectural icon, the Sundial Bridge, serves the city as a tourist magnet and commerce revitalizer. It was designed by the Spanish Swiss architect and structural engineer, Santiago Calatrava.

What makes it so special?

The design elements that make it a bridge across the Sacramento River also make it aesthetic in looks and provide for entertainment as a functioning sundial that dramatizes the movement of the earth.

Read the full story to learn more about what this icon gives up to look beautiful.

FEATURED STORY — HISTORY

The year was 1966 when this period of his life started. October 1, 1966, to be exact.

For many years, he had a few co-residents who participated in this process as well. This group of people first became residents of this building in 1947. But all of the others left, at different times, finally leaving him in charge of his peculiar role.

The funny part is that it was not even his own idea to exert all this influence. He sort of fell into this fateful role when he embarked on his solo flight to Scotland as far back as 1941.

Read the full story

PERSONAL FINANCE

Mortgage Refinancing—What’s the catch?

I recently came across a question by a neighbor who wondered about the motive of their current lender in encouraging them to refinance their home mortgage for a lower interest rate:

My current lender is sending me a lot of communications to refinance with lower rate.

I’m trying to determine why my current lender would try to reduce the interest rate. If it’s someone else, I can understand: they are trying to earn new business. But I’m not able to figure out what’s there for current lender—apart from usual fees etc.

What’s the catch here? What does the lender gain by refinancing my existing loan with lower interest rate?

This is a legitimate question. On the first look there seems to be something fishy going on here. Why would a lender willingly accept a lower interest payments on the mortgage note they hold?

Read more to learn what’s important when it comes to mortgage refinancing.

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All it took to make me spring into action this week was …

March 10, 2021

I just finished reading the book Becoming by former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Every reader takes away something from any book. The same book may resonate differently with different readers. Guess what resonated with me after I read Becoming?

None of the deep life lessons expounded by Obama. None of the behind-the-scenes peek at life in the White House. Well, actually some of them did, but not as much as the one thing that got me springing into action.

The White House Kitchen Garden!

Spring planting in the White House Kitchen Garden
(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

I know, it’s just another garden, for the most part. But it was enough to trigger a simple desire that urged me to break out into a song in Bing Crosby-esque melody:

I am dreaming of a good harvest
Just like the ones I used to have…

Bounty from our backyard garden years ago

That’s right–a desire to revive my backyard vegetable garden. I was really taken up with the kitchen garden that Michelle Obama started on the White House grounds and was especially impressed with how it has enjoyed an additional four years of care by Melania Trump and is now in the hands of Dr. Jill Biden, still producing.

GARDEN NEWS

I am no farmer but I have been interested in gardening and have tried a few different things over the years. You would never want to be a houseplant under my care, but planted in the ground, you’d generally do OK. However, recently everything has been neglected.

I had given it a rest in 2019 and just as the planting season was approaching in 2020, there was the pandemic–a clear disincentive to casually walk into Home Depot to buy plants. Two years washed out.

After Becoming rekindled my passion for gardening, I jumped into action and spent two days clearing weeds in my tomato patch. Boy, what a work out! That effort reminded me of several body parts I have. Good thing is, I’ll sleep well tonight.

Thankfully, I got this inspiration a little earlier in the season than my usual “wake up” time. None of the seed pods in the vicious collection of weeds burst open on contact and there was no spraying of the seeds to take hold next season.

I am happy that the barren planter for the tomatoes is ready to go. The fun starts now.

Bare, loose, soil is so pretty, just like an empty canvas ready for you to paint! I found a few earthworms scurrying below soil surface, now that their weed cover was blown. Before they went out of sight, I thanked them for their service in making the soil more arable for the plants I plan to plant.

Panoramic view of the planter from a yesteryear. Goal is to repeat it this year.
The hope is to get tomatoes and bell peppers and more!

I have to admit, gardening is therapeutic. The relentless pulling of weeds lets you ponder the meaning of life. Heck, I’d rather do that than ponder what I am doing.

But, seriously, the past couple of days helped me meditate with my eyes open and discover the limits of strength in my quads, knees, core, and everywhere else, while releasing the bare soil from the clutches of the weeds, all at the same time.

Spring is an uplifting season in any year, and that’s true this year in particular. With vaccines getting deployed and shopping becoming more of a reality, time may be ripe to dream on!

I plan to share garden news from time to time, as things happen.

Any garden stories of your own? Share with me!

In pursuit of more bountiful healthy choices,

P. Venkat Raman

P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to give me feedback regarding the topics that interest you, please do so. Please fill out the interest survey here.

P.P.S. If you have kudos, complaints, or any reaction to any of my emails or articles, please reply and say so. I appreciate knowing about opportunities to improve what I write. Thank you!

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What to do when you suddenly hear demonic sounds as you are driving along

March 3, 2021

Immediately check if you are in Lancaster, California. Why? We’ll get to it shortly.

First, consider this question: What’s common among China, Denmark, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Netherlands, South Korea, and United States?

The answer: They have all built special roads that make music. That’s right, music that you can enjoy as you drive on them. At least when you are not driving in Lancaster.

Specific technologies vary, but they all use a way to make the tires of your auto make sounds much like what happens when you drift over rumble strips that wake you up on highways. By controlling the spacing between cuts or other devices of disturbance, the sounds emanated can be controlled to make music.

Denmark seems to have pioneered this idea way back in 1995. Other countries have followed suit.

A common theme among these installations is that local residents near such musical roads are driven nuts by all that sound and cause these to be paved over or moved.

Japan seems to have found the key to making it work, installing permanent fixtures of this kind on multiple roads. There were as many as 30 musical motorways as of 2016. Apparently, their innovation even extends to providing polyphonic music that provides for melody and harmony parts to be played by the right side and left side wheels as you drive over them.

Then we come to Lancaster, California, where a curious turn of events hijacked a project of this kind. While Japan is a shining example of multiple roads of music, a Japanese Car Company, Honda, faced a different fortune. It had sponsored a marketing project to create the William Tell Overture on a Lancaster road.

The trouble was, it was out of tune.

You can enjoy an entertaining piece by Tom Scott demonstrating the goal vs. reality of that implementation, or dig really deep into a detailed analysis by David Simmons-Duffin, but the reason was simple to explain after all that analysis.

It was miscommunication

Miscommunication!Something fell through the cracks

The engineers created a specification for the spacing of the rumble strip cuts using distances between the centers of the adjoining cuts and the road crew that made cuts measured these to be from one edge of a cut to the nearest edge of the next cut. In effect, the spacing was all ruined. It was such a flop that it elicited a comment on Tom’s video that the ‘music’ was a demonic summoning ritual! Ouch.

Miscommunication is everywhere.

Take an example. Let’s say an online offer is expiring on March 6 at midnight. What does this mean?

It may mean that it is still on at 11:59 pm on March 5, but is off when the clock strikes 12:00 midnight on the 6th. Or, it could be a day later, meaning 11:59 on March 6 is still good whereas a minute later is not.

While scientifically speaking, the former is correct, in online commerce the latter is the norm.

There are countless other examples, but a common theme among them is that either the sender didn’t send the complete message or the sender and the receiver were using different sets of assumptions in interpreting the same message.

There is another type of miscommunication that arises out of second guessing what others want and, as a result, not communicating one’s own opinions truthfully. This type of breakdown in group communication is illustrated by the Abilene Paradox, introduced by Jerry B. Harvey in his 1974 article.

Before I let you go, let me share with you a funny story of miscommunication I encountered recently!

You must have an interesting story or two of miscommunication. Hit reply and email me what you have. I’ll feature it in a future issue!

In our never ending quest of keeping miscommunications at bay,

P. Venkat Raman

P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to give me feedback regarding the topics that interest you, please do so. Please fill out the interest survey here.

P.P.S. If you have kudos, complaints, or any reaction to any of my emails or articles, please reply and say so. I appreciate knowing about opportunities to improve what I write. Thank you!

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The one winning trait an Ibex teaches

February 24, 2021

Somewhere in Italy, an ibex with its young, stands at the bottom of a steep wall and looks up. She sees what she wants.

She starts a slow climb up that wall. With just small crevices and delicate footholds, the wall is formidable, even for an ibex. The young is still learning the trick. It will go wherever its mother goes.

The pair scales that wall slowly and reach their destination: a patch of salt, exposed through erosion and water action. Yes, water action because the wall is that of a dam that is holding up water on the other side. Did I say it is steep? Why this apparent insanity? The salt and minerals found in that patch are essential nutrients for the ibex’s survival.

You can view the 4-minute BBC clip that provides a breathtaking account of this excursion.

One word describes the trait that the ibex exhibits: Undaunted.

Undaunted, but not foolish. The same clip shows that several ibexes are at this endeavor as that wall offers salt likely in several patches. Hooves do lose their grips at times; calamity doesn’t ensue because the failure of one hoof is compensated by the firm hold of another.

What make it work for the ibex are the singular goal that propels the goat, reliable tools in the form of hooves that grip the scant footholds, a fail-safe operation in having four hooves at work, and the confidence in its own abilities, thereby being undaunted.

We can emulate the same conditions in our lives. I, for one, am applying the parallels to my quest in understanding swing trading of stocks as a personal finance venture.

With a possibly insane profitability that provides the propulsion, the ascent to it is formidable on the first look. Check my article, “Why Trading is a Zero-sum Game and Why it Still Attracts So Many Players” to see why it is daunting.

In future posts, we will explore ways we can become ibex-like: undaunted.

P. Venkat Raman

P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to give me feedback regarding the topic(s) that interest)s( you (how about that creative use of the parentheses :)) please do so. Please fill out the interest survey here.

P.P.S. If you have kudos, complaints, or any reaction to any of my emails or articles, please reply and say so. I appreciate knowing about opportunities to improve what I write. Thank you!

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You can make me write what you like to read!

February 17, 2021

So far, you have seen a few samples of my writing. I chose topics that would likely resonate with most people. Except the personal finance article last week, of course.

[If you’re curious to see how last week’s story concluded, take a look at the wrap up below. It folds in your own feedback! The story gets richer when you chime in.]

Going forward, it may be sensible to choose topics that are in line with the subscribers I actually have.

What does this mean? A survey, of course.

I can already hear the sigh. Ugh. One more homework piece!

Actually, you don’t have to respond at all. If you don’t respond, you will likely read materials that resonate with the other subscribers. Can’t be that bad, right?

But if you do, I will try to keep the topics you like more in the rotation. May not happen immediately, but it should happen sooner than later.

Now, I want to offer another personal finance article to keep the new material going. As we are still in the ramping up mode, this is also a story that some of you may have seen before. A little refresher never hurts, in my opinion.

And that’s a wrap for this week! Hope you will guide my future topics by providing your preferences.

P. Venkat Raman

Tell me what moves you

WRAP UP

The Case of the Missing Milk

​This story is now published, with its own cartoon and gathered wisdom from your responses. Check it out here!

PERSONAL FINANCE

Rule of 72

We saw last week the power of compounding in the returns of any investment. You may recall that we used the Rule of 72 sprinkled in there a few times to illustrate our discussion.

A natural question that arises is whether 72 is some sort of a cosmic number that lends itself to these calculations much like the speed of light that seems to be pretty much a controlling force of our lives.

Check out this article that focuses on this rule and explores its limits.

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The Case of the Missing Milk

February 10, 2021

About three decades ago, I was walking the corridors at my work and saw a short yet poignant story pinned to the outside of some cubicle. I never forgot about it.

Let’s take a look:

Whose Job is it Anyway?

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

—-

So succinct, yet so expressive of the practical issues surrounding shoulda, coulda, woulda, perfectly knit together!

This reminds me of another story I have heard when I was a small boy.

The Case of the Missing Milk

This is set in India where it is auspicious to bathe the idol of Lord Shiva in pure milk.

Once, a king ordered that a huge vat be set up at a temple for an elaborate ceremony of such a bathing. All the merchants of the kingdom were asked to privately donate a jug of milk each by pouring their offering into that vat while praying and seeking the Lord’s blessings. The vat, filled with such donations, would provide the milk required for this special ceremony. The vat was so huge that people needed to lift their jugs above their heads to pour in their offerings.

Each merchant reasoned thus: “All the other merchants will be adding milk into the vat. If I just take a jug of water and pour it into the vat, it wouldn’t make much difference. I can save some money.”

One by one all the merchants made their private offerings, secretly applauding their own smartness.

After all the offerings were collected, the priest arrived to find a sumptuous supply of pure water for the Lord’s bath.

—-

Now I have a question for you: Did you find the story of the missing milk exemplifying the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody?

Please take a quick survey and submit your feedback! I will collect all the feedback and talk about these two stories in next week’s newsletter.

P. Venkat Raman

TAKE THE QUICK SURVEY

PERSONAL FINANCE

How a chessboard helped to humble a king

There once was a king in India who was fond of chess.

He would often challenge visitors to a game of chess. A wise man once accepted such a challenge.

The wise man beat the king in the game. A good sport, the king asked the man to name his reward.

The humble man replied, “O, King! All I want is a few grains of rice. Please give me one grain of rice on the first square of the chess board, two grains on the second square, four grains in the third, and so on, doubling the number of grains of rice with each square and covering the entire board.”

Perplexed by such a small request, the king immediately ordered his minister to fulfill the man’s request.

The worried minister swallowed nervously and replied, “Sire, we have a problem. There are not enough grains of rice in the entire world to accommodate this request!”

He went on to explain by listing the number of grains of rice needed to fill each successive square of the chess board.

1st square — 1
2nd square — 2
3rd square — 4
4th square — 8
5th square — 16

and so on, reaching

8th square — 128
16th square — 32,768
24th square — 8,388,608

and eventually requiring 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains of rice to fill the board.

No kidding!

This is estimated to be around 210 billion tons of rice, far outstripping the entire supply on earth!

It’s anyone’s guess what the fate of that humble man was, having defeated the king twice.

But the question that comes up is: What does this have to do with personal finance?

Read the application of this story in personal finance here.

—-

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How A Dead Rat Trapped Us!

February 3, 2021

After spending January trying to drum up subscriptions, I am turning my attention to actually writing something now. The prospects are certainly daunting.

Why? [and what does it have to do with a rat? Well, keep reading for that story]

Because I am drawing my subscribers from quite a varied domains of interest. The unifying theme is not a topic niche, but just my family or friends. I have tried to enlist support from most of the different groups I am part of.

I am a Toastmaster, interested in honing my communication and leadership skills. Some Toastmasters are here.

I have been a software engineer with analytical skills and a head for numbers. Naturally, I have a great interest in personal finance and financial topics in general. Some people interested in personal finance are here.

I hated history classes in school. But I find in my later years that that was just the fault of the curriculum. These days, history is alluring. In some sense, life is all about history, recent or of the distant past. Some who love history are here.

Interest in history naturally translates to an interest in travel. Only with travel and personal experiences of different cultures can you broaden the horizons and understand and appreciate humanity and, frankly, life. A good number of travel writers are here.

After my stint at software engineering, I turned my attention to copywriting, the art of persuasive writing. I have an appreciation and utmost respect for what it is: A truly potent and powerful weapon! Just like any weapon, it can be put to good use or a bad one. Most of my close circle of copywriter friends are here.

It is a good story how I got into copywriting; that’s for another day, however. Suffice it to say that it stemmed from my interest in writing. I have been interested in writing from my youth. Only now am I truly turning my attention to it. I have many writers in this group.

So the question arises, what can I write that will appeal to most if not all of the subscribers in the list?

My initial plan is to have two parallel tracks of writing.

One that covers personal finance, specifically: Swing Trading. Limited to explorations through paper trading for strategies that any individual investor can employ. This may not appeal to many.

The other that tackles topics of general interest, something so fundamental to humanity that it is likely to appeal to anyone. I am presenting one such article below.

Many of you may have already read this story before. Perhaps it is new to some. Writing it up was certainly therapeutic for me.

Hope this issue gives you an idea of what I am trying to do.

It will be immensely helpful to me if you let me know what you liked, what you see can be improved (also known as what you hated), and any new ideas to strengthen the overall experience.

Next week, I will share something in the Personal Finance topic.

Till then, Have a Great Week!

P. Venkat Raman

—–

Feature Story

How a Dead Rat Trapped Us!

“I don’t have a coverall to go into the crawl space,” said the technician.

He said that with a straight face too. I was watching him closely.

You may not think much of it, except, he was the one the extermination company, let’s call X, sent to deal with precisely our situation. A stinky one at that.

I mean it literally. The stink in the air was unmistakable. However, it was building for a few days and it took my wife and me a couple of days to make sure it was reason enough to call X.

We put through the call on a Friday. Big mistake. Extermination needs are supposed to arise just on weekdays, during working hours. How dare we hope for prompt service when all the overworked technicians were more than ready to throw in the towel on the work week and were dreaming of a cold beer to ring in the weekend!

We got graciously pencilled in for a visit by the gentleman who stood in front of us. Not on the Friday when we called, but on Saturday, in the afternoon. In the meantime, the stink was getting meaner.

The Battle

At the point when the technician declared his inability to visit our crawl space, we got into a staring contest. He was hoping for a quick and easy resolution where we’d excuse him and he could go his merry way home. And we were incredulous at his preposterous declaration and were also waiting for a resolution that would make him relent.“I don’t have a coverall to go into the crawl space.”

The silence was deafening and seemed interminable.

We won that battle in the end (the war was another matter). He mumbled something to the effect that he’d try and find a dirty coverall from a previous job and go down to take a look. He vanished for a few minutes and returned, clad in a coverall. The garment didn’t look dirty!

We were relieved to have someone finally go into that crawl space and get rid of that pesky rodent that was stinking up the place. We were sure that our problems would be solved in a matter of a few minutes, once the technician went under there.

Little did we know.

Like it so far? You can read the full story here.

I am still here; hope you are too!

January 27, 2021

It was exactly a week ago that I floated this list and started gathering subscribers. Though I didn’t plan it that way, it is an uncanny coincidence that my email list was kicked off on President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s inauguration day!

There must be a message in there.

Another special significance to the day: January 20 was the date I met my wife for the first time ever. Random trivia, but interesting tidbit that US Presidents always take office on an anniversary of our first meeting. And this list building commenced on that special date.

There really must be a message in there.

Due to the way I have promoted this subscription, it is likely that there is a lot of diversity of interest among the subscribers, so I am planning to take this slowly and let the topics meander their way through to an engaging mix. We’ll see how it takes shape.

I am planning to start in earnest next week, after another push to add more members before the end of the month. So this is just a quick missive to keep things alive for the next week. Look for something next Wednesday, Feb 3.

Till then, dodge COVID and stay safe! Mask On!!

P. Venkat Raman