Cook vs Eat – The Biryani Blunder

This was a weekday sometime last month, out of the blue – I wanted to cook Biryani (Indian Rice Pilaf or something similar). It is a dish that my husband loves(though not necessarily the veg version).

So, I mentally devised a plan where in I would try and make my husband ask me to cook biryani. That way, I figured I could use the guilt points to my benefit some other day.

How it transpired in my mind:

Me: I feel like eating Biryani.

J: Why don’t you cook some?

Me: Sure. If you say so but you do know the amount of work that is involved…blah blah.

How it transpired:

Me: I feel like eating Biryani.

J: Let me take you out for dinner tonight. You pick the restaurant.

Me: What!!??!!

He couldn’t stop laughing after I confessed my plans to score some brownie points by doing what I was going to do anyway. I told him that I merely wished to cook biryani and not actually eat it. That is alright though, I shall get him some other day(evil laugh).

PS 01: Veg Biryani is a thing. It is not necessary for biryani to have meat in it. If you believe otherwise, let us choose to disagree.

PS 02: Yes, I made Veg Biryani that evening. It was yum, if I may say so myself.

PS 03: We(read I) love playing such games on each other.

Vanguard Stock Market Index Fund Experiment

Does VTSMX\VTSAX really work?

I am a millennial who has heard enough stories about those burned by stock markets. Over the past couple of decades, I have developed a fear (bordering Paranoia) about stock market investing. In early 2017, I discovered Mr. Money Mustache and the online FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) community. They all religiously invest in stock market.

After reading tons of blogs all advising index fund investment, I decided to wet my feet before jumping in headfirst.

The experiment: Keep money invested for 1 year in an Index Fund. See what happens.

On July 24, 2017 I invested 3000$ in VTSMX. I would see where I stand a year from then and make up my mind based on trends. I was neither looking for a raise nor a dip, I was just curious to see what would happen.

VTSMX was worth: 61.75$ as of July24, 2017.

After that, for about a month or so, every single time I logged in, my balance was less than 3000$. Then Life got busy at work and I did not check my Vanguard account for a few months. The next time I logged in was around the end of January,2018. This was a pleasant surprise as VTSMX was cruising around 71$. I was ready to call my experiment a success when the market dipped taking the price to around 65$ again.

I noticed 2 things during this dip. The price of VTSMX never went back to the price of 61$. I also had quarterly dividends (which was cherry on the cake). I forgot about Vanguard and went back to my life. The Market corrected itself and the stock prices started rising again.

1 year later VTSMX is now worth: 70.76$

Initial Investment = 3000$

Price of Investment Currently = 3437.5$

Investment Returns = 437.5$

%Investment Returns without Dividends= 14.5%

Dividends: 13-15$ every quarter.

Yearly Divided: 50$

%Investment Returns including Dividend: 16.2%

For someone who was so skeptical about the market, this is a lovely gain and I plan to invest most (if not all) of my money in Vanguard Index Fund. Once the investment hits 10k, one can convert from VTSMX to VTSAX (Admiral Shares) which has lower expense ratio.

Other Notes:

  • I was so happy in Jan about the rise of VTSMX Price that I poured some more savings into this when the dip occurred in February.
  • I am extremely happy with the way this is turning out. I do not plan to touch this account for a few years, so I am not worried about short term dips. I have a different emergency account.
  • 100% allocation to VTSAX is a risk that I am willing to take. There is a certain stock to Bond ratio that investors are advised to maintain that I am willing to ignore based on my research.
  • Had I done my experiment in any other year or even if my investments were off my a few weeks, the results could have turned out differently. But I like how the prices keep rising.
  • I shall never wait for a dip to invest money as it doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

Keeping up with Dog Expenses

How much Money does it take to keep a dog?

I have been asked this question multiple times since we got our dog. I figured, it is easier to list it here and reference this when the question comes my way again. Below are most of our dog related expenses.

Detailed Description Amount Comments
Adoption Fees 150$ You might get this waived if you visit during any adoption drive
Harness, Collar and 5ft Leash 25$ Bought at shelter. Overpriced as it is a donation.
Lease modification and 1 time pet fees 325$ Only for those in apartments.
Pill Pockets 10$ Our dog had medication when we got him. Found out later that Costco has better rates.
Furminator Deshedding Tool 50$ Was suggested to us. Was an unnecessary expenditure
Dog Bed 50$ Costco has good quality beds for big dogs.
Dog Kennel 80$ Walmart had good kennel with removable floor.
Reflective Collar 5$ Good Quality
County Dog License Fees 25$ for 3 years.
Retractable Leash 20$ 16ft.Our dog doesnt walk without leash
Kong Classic Dog Toy 10$ The folks at shelter recommended this and he does love it.
Seat Belt 8$ Found out hard way after he jumped out of the window at local park.
Seresto Flea and Tick Collar 50$ Because I saw a Giant Tick on another dog at the local park.
Nail Grinder 35$ Because I don’t take him to a groomer and do it all myself.
Zoom Groom Brush 7$ The lady at the Vet’s office recommended it. And it works wonders.
Pet Hair Vaccuum Handheld 30$
Car Plug In Portable Vaccuum Cleaner 15$ Markdown at local Aldi. Got Lucky
Baby Gate 30$ To keep him away from Kitchen
Wellness Insurance Monthly 26.5$ Cancelled after Month 01
Vaccine and Heart worm Medicine 60$ Will recur Twice a year
Wellness Physicals at Banfield Pet Clinic 42$ Will recur Twice a year
Pet Shower Spray 11$
Lysol Disinfecting Wipes 13$
Arm and Hammer Pet Fresh Carpet Cleaner 10$
Dog Treats 10$
Hand Sanitizer Giant Size 14$
Candles and other Room Freshners 30$
35lb Food bag per month 50$ Our 70 lb dog is a picky eater and eats only Hills Science Food.Monthly Recurring.
Sum Total 1191.5$ What can I say, he is worth it.

Our dog was neutered before we got him. So, that is another 100$ saved. He might need a dental cleanup soon – so that is another 250$.

There are cheaper ways to do this and if I had to do this again, I would probably start with Facebook Marketplace for things like Kennel or Dog Gates.

Sacred Games | Netflix | A Indian Thriller that would go toe to toe with any other series out there !

A stellar cast, a fluid narrative and no over-the-top Bollywood heroism and lo we have the first India based Netflix Original that can truly compete with the rest of the world. Before we even go into the details of the series I would like to pause for a moment and express my awe for Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the true focal point of the entire series. 

The series begins with Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan ) a honest-downbeat  Mumbai policeman who is going through a rough patch with his peers, superiors and life in whole, getting a call from a notorious gangster Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who gets him going on a wild goose chase. Ganesh claims that the country is going to burn in a matter of 25 days and with that he takes his own life. Anjali Mathur (Radhika Apte), a RAW analyst chances upon the exchange and joins the hunt with the motive of proving herself as a field agent as well as protecting the country. 

Co-directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap the series draws two parallel universes one which depicts the rise to power of Ganesh Gaitonde and body trail he left behind in his wake and the other the 25 day countdown to doomsday. It’s a credit to the story teller when he is able to easily mix both timelines and stories so seamlessly and provide us with a compelling narrative that keeps us glued till the very end.

The series also boasts of some out of the ordinary support cast performance by Neeraj Kabi (Parulkar), Jitendra Joshi (Katekar) , Shalini Vatsa (Kanta Bai), Anil Charanjeett (Chota) and Jatin Sarna (Bunty). Every single one of these characters riddled with shades of gray and are fighting their own demons. I do not remember the last time when every single member of the acting crew of an Indian production provided us with such a compelling performance. I would even go on to add that this is probably the best performance of Saif Ali Khan since, I do not know when 🙂 . Radhika Apte, although a lead character, was notoriously underutilized in the series. Despite all the above Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Ganesh Gaitonde stood out as the stand out performer in what I would term as a revolution for Indian television. 

The series might hit a few nerves with the honesty in which certain aspects of our Indian way of life like religion, politics and history are handled but all I have is respect for the makers for spitting out things as they are, in all its earnestness.

It’s not without it flaws as well. The parallel narrative where Gaitonde tells his story to Satraj gives some insight into Gaitonde’s past but does not really explain to us how it places itself in the story. The way the first season ended left us with a lot of questions and it would be a disaster if Netflix chooses not to renew ‘Sacred Games’ for a second season.

I would rate Sacred Games as one of the very best i have seen of Indian television and would suggest this to anybody interested in crime, thriller, mystery genre. For the folks who do not understand hind/marathi/punjabi ,- Netflix has done a wonderful job with English audio as well. There is nothing stopping you 🙂

Netflix Original | The Forest | La forêt | A french thriller circled around a beautiful village.

When a 16 year old school student Jennifer goes missing, Captain Gasper Decker (Samuel Labartheand  his team goes about investigating. All that they have as lead is the phone call received by the ever mysterious french teacher Eva Mendel (Alexia Barlier) right before the girls disappearance.  The series is entirely in french, but was riveting enough for me to ignore that fact.  It comes with the usual share of mystery, lies and thrill. 

The 6 episode series starts pretty strongly with the first two episodes moving the story along at a brisk pace. All the characters are introduced and some of the prime suspects are introduced and nullified in quick succession. The story takes a turn when the missing child ends up dead and that is followed by two more girls going missing. The story, as the title says centers around a forest in the outskirts of the village where there had been instances of kids gone missing decades ago.

The series however loses its pace as quickly as it had gained it and the next couple of episodes were slow and meandering aimlessly until it gains momentum yet again to end pretty strongly in the 5th and 6th. The makers did close out most of the loopholes surrounding the narrative and some of the ‘surprise elements’ were quite guessable.

This limited mini-series is yet another super catch by Netflix and it pretty much holds its own among other Netflix bigwigs like Dark, The Five, Broadchurch et all, for most of it. The character development, the cast, the locations and bgm were all top notch and thoroughly enjoyable even though i did not understand a word of what was said. I would suggest it for anybody who is into the Netflix genre of mystery series.

Cargo | Netflix | The Martin Freeman Starrer Australian Zombie movie fails to impress.

The Martin Freeman starer, Cargo fails to set itself aloof from the 101 million other Zombie movies that the world has seen till now. The movie is set in South Australia where a plague has ravaged the human population and left most of the places littered with Zombies and hence uninhabitable. It’s the quest of the father Andy (played by Martin Freeman) to protect his infant child from the zombies and get her to safety.

Cargo has high production value and the South Australian scenic beauty captured at its best. The characters, although very few, were all perfect in their roles. Even with all that it was at best short film material that was stretched way beyond necessary to make a film out of it. It’s watchable and yet falls well short of expectations. Go for it, if you have nothing else to do over the weekend.

Safe | Netflix Original | Harlan Coben played it safe on this one.

If The Five , Sherlock and Dexter did not intrigue you enough to give it a go at the new  Netflix Original Safe , i doubt anything would. Harlan Coben’s Safe sticks to the generic formula that worked so well in The Five and is a pretty interesting watch. It, however, does not follow the upward trajectory in terms of entertainment factor as in the case of ‘the five’. 

Safe is set in a suburban British gated community where all the main characters of the story live.  The story gets rolling when a girl goes missing from the community. In typical Coben style there are a few other characters, all with their own share of secrets that form the crux of the story. In the end everything is connected, some less convincingly than others.

After a brief hiatus, Michael C. Hall returns as the main character Tom Delaney , a widower and parent of two kids in Safe. Unlike the weird neighborhood serial-killer Dexter, here he is on the run searching for his missing daughter. The brilliant and beautiful Amanda Abbington (Mary Watson – Sherlock) plays the role of Sophie Mason, who is the love interest of Tom and at the same time the police officer heading the investigation of the missing girl and the murder of the boyfriend.

It felt like watching ‘the five’ and ‘broadchurch’ all over again, except ‘Safe’ was not as intriguing. Some really good performances and the ‘glitter and gold’ theme song sort of made up for the shortcoming though. If you are aware of Coben’s style of connecting something from a distant past to the present, the suspense is there to be guessed. I would recommend this if you are into mysteries and love binge-watching something that has a proper ending.

Deadpool 2 | A love story for the families, NOT.

Deadpool 2 was one of the movies that we were waiting for since it was announced. We did manage to book tickets for the first day. It sure did deliver what it promised. It’s an ode to the content of the script and comic timing of the actor that Ryan Reynolds is. There was not a single dull moment in the entire movie and yet it was not ‘breath-taking’ or ‘out-of-the-world’ by any means. The story line is hardly something to applaud but the dialogues and scenes make it interesting.  I would go to the extent of saying that it is a movie spoof through and through and yet it is so original that you laugh till you cry !  Pssst..It has the best ever mid-credit scene of any marvel movie. 

*** NO SPOILERS***

Deadpool dies or does he ?? Its not a spoiler if I leave it as a Open ended question ! Morena Baccarin should have had more screen time. But hey, it is not her movie – so I guess I cannot complain.

Josh Brolin (Nathan Summers / Cable), turned out to be nothing like Thanos. His backstory was inaptly handled and there definitely was no brooding sense of villainy surrounding him. He was the perfect ‘deadpool-villain’. There were some other surprises as well with the cameo appearances from Brad Pitt and Hugh Jackman . Brad Pitt’s appearance was a blink and you miss it one. Even though i saw the character, I failed to recognize him but my partner shouted out ‘Brad Pitt’.  

Zazie Beetz , rocked the role of Domino and kept on proving that luck is indeed a super power. Julian Dennison as Russell, the ‘kid who must be saved’ had some really goofy, off-the-charts moments with Deadpool. 

Deadpool goes about making a mockery of everything under the sun including but not limited to DC, Batman, Marvel, Thanos, Green Lantern and Ryan Reynolds.

I would recommend it to anybody who loved the first installment as it is more of the same. You can go in with head full of problems and come out with an clear head along with the satisfaction that you laughed your brains out to some of the wittiest dialogues delivered by some of the best in business.

Best Scene:
Someone: Who are you?
Deadpool: Batman!

Anon | Netflix | Another decent futuristic thriller

A dark, futuristic Sci-fi thriller Anon sticks to age old streamlined story telling.  Anon hinges on the idea that anonymity is a thing of the past and that its impossible for anybody to get away with a crime as both the perpetrator and the victim both have every single second of their life available and recorded for the officers of the law. What you see is a digital footprint in itself. Everything is pretty much an open and shut case before the investigation even sets off ! Then, however, things go for a toss when you no longer can believe what you see. Yes, Anon pretty much deals with the hacking of the human mind.

Sal Frieland (Clive Owen) is a detective who investigates murders and is pretty good at it. Things change when he is called into a crime scene where the last few moments that a victim had seen through her eyes was what the perpetrator saw through his/her eyes. A series of such murders and a chance encounter with a anon, led the investigators to believe that a lady (Amanda Seyfried) was the common denominator in all the crimes. Amanda’s character is a human mind hacker who can erase the memories and replace them with fresh memories. The rest of the story is a well paced thriller which sticks to the usual dark setting corresponding to every Netflix Futuristic Movie/Series.

I would suggest this as a one time watch to anyone interested in thrillers. Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried are good in their roles, as expected and background music is pretty engaging throughout.

 

Money Heist | La casa de papel | Netflix | A classic thriller with more oomph than dud moments.

Money Heist came in as a highly recommended series , by many of my friends and it did not disappoint. Its an ‘almost masterpiece’ which at times failed to keep up with the dizzying plot build up that it had over the first few episodes. It’s about a group of robbers spearheaded by the meticulous mastermind ‘El Profesor’ (Álvaro Morte) who plans to rob the ‘The Royal Mint’ by printing 2.4 billion Euros and thereby accomplishing the biggest heist ever !

Like most of the heist stories of our times, the group is carefully assembled together from scratch by the brain of the whole operation and here its the Professor. He teaches and prepares the team of robbers for 6 months so that they can pull off the perfect heist and go by their chosen city names. Thus, the calm and composed  Berlín (Pedro Alonso), hothead and narrator/heroine Tokio (Úrsula Corberó) , genius counterfeiter Nairobi ( Alba Flores),  computer whizkid Río (Miguel Herrán) , the father son duo of Denver and Moscow and the muscles of the twin brothers come together to take hostages and lock out the Royal Mint as they go about their business of printing Money. On the other side of the fence is the brilliant Raquel Murillo ( Itziar Ituño) who heads the investigation against the Professors team. 

Money Heist has its fair share of ups and downs throughout and some of the plot twists could not have been timed any better. Even with all that what got to my nerve is the fact that is the character of Tokio, from whose point of view the whole heist is explained. Every single time something goes south in the plan we know whom to point to fingers at and this was probably a masterstroke by the creator  Álex Pina. It always add to the intrigue when you dislike the main character and yet love the plot. 

I ended up binge watching both the seasons of ‘Money Heist ‘ and loved it for most parts. If you are into thriller genre and can ignore a few unwanted (read – boring) scenes you would end up loving the series like I did. The fact that they ended it properly after the second season is a huge plus point and this is something I would definitely recommend to anybody who love thrillers and can ignore small deficiencies and yeah, the writers definitely believed in the phrase ‘love is blind and stupid’.