An Ode to Reading Without Eye Strain

Kindle and Hot Chocolate
Kindle Love. Photo by Adrienne Andersen on Pexels

It goes without saying that our screen time has doubled (maybe even tripled) after COVID-19 induced lockdowns and quarantines. All that time indoors has made us reach for our devices. So it is not surprising when studies indicate our eye problems have worsened in the last one year or so.

For someone who is working in the field of Information Technology, spending a lot of time staring at the screen is nothing new.

But there is another problem – I love reading.

Physical copies are expensive, and there was a storage problem at home, so I had resorted to using the Kindle app. It was highly convenient. I loved it. But then the eye strain began. Dryness and a heavy feeling above my eyelid. I knew this was happening because of all the phone reading, because when I stopped, the discomfort would subside.

I realized it was time to finally invest in a Kindle.

For someone who loved reading so much, why didn’t I pick up a popular e-reader like the Kindle sooner?

  • I am frugal. I don’t buy something unless I am absolutely convinced that it would add some kind of value to my life. The reason why I wasn’t convinced is the next point.
  • I never knew Kindle was anti-glare & easy-on-the-eyes. All I heard from fellow readers was about its space-efficiency. Yes, storage was a problem at home, but that was not a serious concern for me, which leads us to the third point.
  • I was ignorant. I did not know the benefits of using a Kindle. I did not bother looking too much into it, because a) it wasn’t cheap b) mentioned in the next point.
  • I was truly happy with my Kindle app. Everything a Kindle could do, my Kindle app was able to do perfectly. The app could even highlight in colors, something the Kindle device could not do. So why even bother?

I am sure there are more, but these are the reasons at the top of my head.

A couple of days back, I finally succumbed and got this Kindle.

In just a day, my eye strain considerably reduced. I do not feel any heaviness or pain. I think I even shed a few happy tears over how relaxed my eyes feel now.

A few reasons why I got the Kindle Oasis.

  • I initially thought of getting the basic model. But through some research, I realized it is best to invest in an e-reader that offers at least 300 ppi resolution (for sharp text). The basic Kindle model has 167 ppi.
  • I thought of going for the Paperwhite next. This model generally has the best reviews. It was a close call, but what made me finally get the Oasis was the a) warm, adjustable light b) the page buttons c) a fantastic Amazon Prime Day sale!

I find the warm light really helpful & relaxing for night time reading. The page buttons are okay, but I would have been fine even without them. That said, if there wasn’t a sale going on, I would have gone for the Paperwhite.

An investment for the eyes. That’s how I would prefer to look at it.

An Ode to Tata Nano Owners

Tata Nano
A Family Adventure with Tata Nano. Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

When the Tata Nano came out, I remember looking at the owners in awe.

They had the guts to own the cheapest car in India.

Society doesn’t treat you well when they know you haven’t paid a huge sum for something – be it a car, house, TV, anything.

Nano owners knew that – “Yes this is a cheap car. My relatives, friends and family might gossip behind my back. But guess what? It doesn’t matter!

Similarly, ever told someone that you plan on buying a studio apartment? Try and gauge their reaction to see how deeply embedded materialism is. 

You need a high level of emotional stability and strength to own something that isn’t a status symbol. Most are only talk “I don’t give a f***” but Nano owners truly proved it with their actions! They really didn’t give a f***.

Their only wish was to transport themselves and their family from point A to B in a new car they can truly call their own.

No other frills.

Plain and simple.

It is another thing that Tata Nano did not live up to its expectations because of the cheap material used, resulting in its downfall. It was discontinued in April 2019.

Nevertheless, because of Tata Nano, I came to admire this different group of people and their persona.

If you are/were a Tata Nano owner, hats off to you! For showing everyone around how comfortable you’re in your own skin, without the need to prove a point to anyone.

An Ode to Learning from Other People’s Mistakes

The cheapest way to learn is by analyzing other people’s mistakes.

True, sometimes you need to make your own mistakes. It is only then that the lesson sticks to you. But that can get quite expensive, in terms of time and capital. This is why I feel, more than success stories, you need to observe and learn from other people’s failures. They teach you a lot, with no damages incurred.

I love going through Quora and Reddit. Back in the day, we used to have Yahoo! Answers. You get to learn from the insightful answers given by users who truly want to help you out without any monetary gain.

I happened to stumble upon a Reddit thread today. It was titled “What common thing screams “I make poor financial choices?”

I am attaching screenshots below with some personal finance mistakes to ponder upon. Some of the replies are witty. I am including them just for smiles!

Getting another pet when you are not financially ready

Poor Financial Choices #1
Personal Finance Blunders #1

Rolling car payments into your next car

Personal Finance Blunders #2
Personal Finance Blunders #2

Buying expensive infant/baby/toddler clothes

Poor Financial Choices #1
Personal Finance Blunders #3

Not living within your means

Poor Financial Choices #4
Personal Finance Blunders #4

Wearing/Owning designer brands but struggling to purchase anything else

Poor Financial Choices #5
Personal Finance Blunders #5
Personal Finance Repairs
A lot of car-related answers!

Getting into debt to pay for a wedding

Poor Financial Choices #6
Personal Finance Blunders #6

Expecting too much? 🙂

Poor Financial Choices #7
Personal Finance Blunders #7

An Ode to Naval Ravikant’s Quotable Quotes

Naval Ravikant. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

It is only recently that I came to know about Naval Ravikant.

A popular Indian YouTuber was raving about him in a recent video of his. It led me to this highly popular twitter thread titled “How To Get Rich Without Getting Lucky” and the thought-provoking Joe Rogan episode. I was hooked.

Naval Ravikant is an entrepreneur and angel investor. He had invested in a number of popular startups in Silicon Valley early-on like Twitter and Uber. What makes him different from other businessmen is his thirst for knowledge beyond investing. He is a deep thinker who is intrigued about human psychology and can passionately discuss topics such as meditation, emotional health, happiness and peace. For him, it is not all about money, but he does not dismiss wealth. He believes in a good mix of both, which is refreshing, because we usually see influencers either scorning wealth or being too into it.

Naval Ravikant does not want to monetize his knowledge, because a) he’s already rich b) he says it defeats his purpose of altruism. This makes you want to trust him.

After going through many tweets of his (he is quite popular on Twitter), and the Joe Rogan video, I ended up downloading the free book called “The Almanack of Naval Ravikant” which is a compilation of his best advice and anecdotes.

Here are a few Naval Ravikant quotes that left a mark on me from the book:

Making money is not a thing you do – it’s a skill you learn.

Specific knowledge is found much more by pursuing your innate talents, your genuine curiosity, and your passion. It is not by going to school for whatever is the hottest job; it is not by going into whatever field investors say is the hottest.

The internet enables any niche interest, as long as you’re the best person at it to scale out. And the great news is because every human is different, everyone is the best at something – being themselves.

Escape people through authenticity. Basically, when you are competing with people, it is because you’re copying them. It is because you are trying to do the same thing. But every human being is different. Don’t copy.

The most important skill for getting rich is becoming a perpetual learner. You have to know how to learn anything you want to learn.

Compound interest also happens in your reputation. If you have a sterling reputation and you keep building it for decades upon decades, people will notice. Your reputation will literally end up being thousands or tens of thousands of times more valuable than somebody else who was very talented but is not keeping the compound interest in reputation going.

Knowledge only you know or only a small set of people knows is going to come out of your passions and your hobbies, oddly enough. If you have hobbies around your intellectual curiosity, you’re more likely to develop these passions.

We waste our time with short-term thinking and busywork. Warren Buffett spends a year deciding and a day acting. That act lasts decades.

Value your time at an hourly rate, and ruthlessly spend to save time at that rate. You will never be worth more than you think you’re worth.

Literally, being anti-wealth will prevent you from becoming wealthy, because you will not have the right mindset for it, you won’t have the right spirit, and you won’t be dealing with people on the right level.

The problem is, to win at a status game, you have to put somebody else down. That’s why you should avoid status games in your life—they make you into an angry, combative person. You’re always fighting to put other people down, to put yourself and the people you like up.

Retirement is when you stop sacrificing today for an imaginary tomorrow. When today is complete, in and of itself, you’re retired.

Money is not the root of all evil; there’s nothing evil about it. But the lust for money is bad. The lust for money is not bad in a social sense. It’s not bad in the sense of “you’re a bad person for lusting for money.” It’s bad for you. Lusting for money is bad for us because it is a bottomless pit. It will always occupy your mind. If you love money, and you make it, there’s never enough.

To the extent money buys freedom, it’s great. But to the extent it makes me less free, which it definitely does at some level as well, I don’t like it.

The most common bad advice I hear is: “You’re too young.” Most of history was built by young people. They just got credit when they were older. The only way to truly learn something is by doing it. Yes, listen to guidance. But don’t wait.

Let’s get you rich first. I’m very practical about it because, you know, Buddha was a prince. He started off really rich, then he got to go off in the woods.

It’s only after you’re bored you have the great ideas. It’s never going to be when you’re stressed, or busy, running around or rushed. Make the time.

The smaller the company, the more everyone feels like a principal. The less you feel like an agent, the better the job you’re going to do. The more closely you can tie someone’s compensation to the exact value they’re creating, the more you turn them into a principal, and the less you turn them into an agent.

An Ode to Learning Personal Finance On Your Own

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels

I am no personal finance guru.

I am no millionaire. Far from it.

I am just another person hoping for financial freedom one day.

But since the last few years, I have been enjoying reading about personal finance, researching and then taking action. As mentioned in my previous post, I have no clue where this journey will take me, but it has been an enlightening one so far.

I must have been 10 or 11 when a friend’s father asked a question to a bunch of kids (including me) at a party – “How much of your salary should you save once you start earning?” I remember just staring back at him. I had no clue. To be fair, which 10-11 year old would? Our parents don’t usually ask us such things. He answered “20%” and since then that percentage has stuck in my mind, living rent-free, refusing to leave.

20%. I took this number with me. When I started working, it was the first thing I thought of. Makes me wonder – if only kids were taught personal finance at school. They would grow up to be better at managing money.

I am 36. There are times I wish I had started my journey on learning about personal finance a bit sooner. I try to comfort myself saying I did not have the resources I do now back then. Our resources were our parents, relatives, friends and all those people we regularly interacted with. In short, people who were not financial experts. My 20s and early half of my 30s were mostly spent in a bubble, thinking Fixed Deposits (FDs) are the way to go. When I started researching, all the info I got just blew my mind.

If you are in your 20s, this is the best time to learn about personal finance and invest because there are so many valuable free guides online. Plus, you have age on your side!

It was only recently, in the last couple of years, that I learnt saving your money alone is just not enough. You need to invest as well to create wealth.

Here are a couple of things I have learnt from my personal finance journey so far:

  • Read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts, read personal accounts on Quora and Reddit.
  • Diversify not just your investments, but your knowledge sources as well. Get your knowledge on personal finance in various formats. Don’t just stick to one.
  • Latch on to the things that the different sources keep repeating. I find these repeated pearls of wisdom are of more value and reliability than the things that do not get repeated.
  • Use social media to gain knowledge. Follow “Personal Finance”, “Investing” topics on Twitter. Related tweets will pop up on your feed. You will find some of the best personal (and honest) anecdotes and tips this way.
  • If you are on Instagram, search for personal finance pages/experts and follow them. Same for Facebook and any other social media platform.
  • Start investing in equity as early as you can.
  • Be patient with your investments. When I started off investing, the value of my portfolio went down considerably, but then picked up in 3 years. My emotions varied from “Did I make the right choice? Maybe I should exit.” when I first started off to “Why didn’t I start this sooner?” after 3 years.
  • Live below your means. I am trying not to increase my standard of living as my income increases. Instead, I am trying to increase my savings/investments.
  • 20% – always keep this percentage in mind.
  • Do not trust every advice you see on the Internet (including this post!) – do your own research, and customize your own personal finance itinerary depending on your risk profile. Whatever step you take, make sure you take it as soon as you can after doing a proper research.

An Ode to Saving

Photo by maitree rimthong on Pexels

An excerpt from a book I am reading right now called “A Random Walk Down Wall Street“:

Two suggestions have been made to overcome people’s reluctance to save. The first is to overcome inertia and status quo bias by changing the framing of the choice. We know that if we ask employees actively to sign up for a 401(k) savings plan, many will decline to join. But if the problem is framed differently, so that one must actively “opt out” of the savings plan, participation rates will be much greater. Corporations that frame their 401(k) savings plans with an automatic enrollment feature (where a conscious decision must be made to fill out an “opt out” declaration) have far higher participation rates than do plans where employees must actively “opt in” to the plan.

There is this aversion to saving because it leaves us with less money to spend. Even if it’s a small amount like say $1, most would prefer to spend rather than save it. It is a never ending cycle that doesn’t change even with an increase in income. This explains why many of us are bad at saving. We are just not ready to take that first step, no matter how small it is. Psychological techniques like the one quoted above are then needed to motivate people to save.

I learnt “why” it was so essential to save by observing the people around me. I grew up in a home where budgeting never happened. We lived in the moment. That along with inflation left my parents next to nothing at the time of retirement. It kind of motivated me to learn more about personal finance, budgeting and investing.

I now take a note of all my credits and debits. I save some, I invest some. I also started investing in index funds, something my family never did before. I have no idea how successful I will be in this “new” personal finance route that has not been traditionally followed by my family, but you never know unless you try. I am reading a lot, not just books that compliment my current outlook, but the ones that thrash it as well, so I can see both sides of the story. I have never learnt so much about personal finance as I have now.

Getting back to the topic, why are people so averse to saving?

  • We are conditioned to believe that thinking about money is bad, that only greedy people think about money etc. We are then less inclined to learn about managing money.
  • We are not thinking about inflation. Our purchasing power is decreasing. It isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago. Not many understand the seriousness of this, leading to lack of motivation to save.
  • We think the interest we earn from our savings account is enough to get us through. But if you take inflation into consideration, you will realize that the money you invest in Fixed Deposits and Savings Accounts are giving us negative returns! We are actually losing money investing in these instruments. This “all is good” bubble that people (including me) thrive in makes them less motivated to save.
  • We do not wish to limit our spending. There is a constant internal struggle between wanting to buy it all and also wishing to save. More often that not, the latter wins.

These are just few points at the top of my mind but I am sure many financial experts would be able to cite more reasons.

It is always difficult to take that first step. It is always tough for me whenever I increase my savings. I struggle with that thought inside my head that reminds me my spending capital has reduced.

The trick is to get past that resistance. Once it becomes a way of life, you will realize it’s not so tough after all, and you will end up wishing that you had started sooner.

Edited to add: This wonderful advertisement from the 1960s that perfectly encapsulates the power of savings.

The Pleasure of Walking Tall

An Ode to Saying No to Dowry

Photo by Baljit Johal on Pexels

Yet another day in Kerala. Yet another dowry death.

Vismaya, a 23 year old, who died days after sharing her pics of abuse with a relative, has yet again prompted many to chant “A divorced daughter is better than a dead daughter.” Her parents were very much aware of the abuse she was going through, so was her brother and cousin, but unfortunately, not one of them could save her. There is no single person to blame here. Almost everyone is at fault, including the society.

I am a divorcee. Fortunately, my parents were super supportive, and gave my safety the utmost priority when I chose to leave my husband’s place after yet another episode of abuse. The day I left home was the day my parents came to know that I was facing physical and emotional trauma over many months. I did not want to worry them. Maybe Vismaya felt the same. The difference was, my parents did not tell me to compromise.

Mine was an arranged marriage. My parents and I were, are and always will be strictly against dowry. We always had made it clear when a proposal came by that no dowry would be given. My in-laws and husband said they had no demands, though traditionally their family practiced it.

On our wedding day, amidst all the flurry of activity, it felt odd when my husband quipped happily “(So and so) told me you are wearing a lot of jewelry; that I am a very lucky guy.” It was a hint of what was to come.

The emotional blackmail began on the first day of marriage. My ex-husband’s old relative, with a full authoritative tone, told me to put my jewelry in a locker at their chosen bank. When I naively told him that we usually put our jewelry in our own lockers, he was adamant that I keep it in a new one at the current location. This was odd to me, because I have never heard of such a thing happening in my family before. The women of the family always kept their jewelry in existing lockers. There was no question of transferring or shifting it to the husband’s place. Plus, it is so redundant – why open another locker when you already have one? There can only be one answer.

I consulted my mother, who panicked and told me not to do anything till they arrived. So I kept stalling their attempts to put my assets in their locker. My mother came to visit soon and took away the jewelry. This angered my ex-husband, and things (predictably) went downhill from then on. I remember asking him “Did you marry me for my money?

Physical abuse soon began. Not enough to get me hospitalized, but enough to give me bruises. “There are so many women getting hospitalized, that’s what real physical abuse is!” – he justified his actions to me. I forgave, but could never forget because he would keep repeating it. At the end, I ended the relationship and walked out. I realized my tears did not matter to him, nor my well being or happiness. I was married for just one year.

To all the unmarried women who are reading this, this is something you should note. You will hardly see anyone talk about this anywhere online – how dowry nowadays is rarely mentioned before marriage, camouflaged and hidden, all ready to make a move on its prey when the time is right. Many predators, cunning to the core, have realized that this right time to get what they are eyeing, is not before marriage but after it – when the woman is the most vulnerable, getting accustomed to a new place, confused and dazed. No one is explicitly going to use the word “dowry” but you will get to know from their actions.

Please remember, your current assets are yours alone. This needs to be strictly mentioned before marriage. You need to underline your deal breakers, so that there is no room for confusion. If after marriage, you decide to mutually hold future assets together, that is entirely up to you. But do not let anyone emotionally manipulate you into gaining access to your safety and security. Once you lose control of that, you lose control of your life.

I survived the worst phase of my life because I had solid support. Whenever I see a death or abuse case, it feels overwhelming. A lot of “if only” phrases come to mind.

  • If only, the family had supported her enough. Instead of telling her to compromise, they had told her to come home or “We are coming to pick you up” instead.
  • If only, the victim realized her life is not meant for suffering, to endure everything in silence. That staying married, even if toxic, is not the ultimate goal in life. Happiness is.
  • If only, the society made it easier for women to call it quits when her relationship with her partner becomes irreparable. Instead, mostly, we are told to compromise and adjust more.
  • If only, all men had the guts to strictly say no to dowry, go against tradition.
  • If only, a man’s parents did not put social status on such a high pedestal.

If only…

Many women, like Vismaya, would then still be alive.

An Ode to Questioning Biases

I have been increasingly questioning my biases lately.

Social Media Bias

How my opinions are largely formed by what the media is showing me. Sometimes, never bothering to look at the “other side.” A kind of blind faith that the news portals will show me only the truth and nothing but the absolute truth.

This belief was shaken up quite a bit when I understood that a lot of times, the media chooses to pick a side and highlight only that part of the story. We never get to know why “the other side” acted the way they did, said the things they did. It is well hidden. We never get to know the full picture. There are times I have made that extra effort to know more.. and have been amazed at how well the media hides bits and pieces of relevant information. The kind of information that wouldn’t have agitated the people so much if it were to be revealed alongside the flustering headline (or at least at the top of the news article). Add to that the social media’s personal opinions, which again, most often than not, do not give the complete picture.

With all this excessive one-sided information, a person who used to feel concerned about the issue in a healthy way before is left extremely agitated, angry and restless in a matter of minutes. The issue won’t leave your head. It stays with you when you sleep, it is the first thing you think of when you wake up. You snap at the drop of a hat, refusing to see any other angles. This keeps happening each time a new issue pops up. Imagine the stress your body has to go through, taking the world’s collective burden on your shoulders. In short, it just messes up your mental health.

I have had to log out of my social media accounts multiple times in the last one year just to calm myself down and to dissociate from all the noise. During such moments I often think, is social media a boon or a bane?

Information Bias

A large number of social media influencers (the ones who review movies) are largely influenced by critics and the media. If the critics say it is a good movie, they will say it is a good movie. If the critics thrash a movie, they will say it is the worst movie of the decade. I was so caught up in this information bias, that I was afraid of saying that I liked a movie that the majority hated. I was also afraid of saying I did not enjoy a movie that the majority liked. Because then, the movie shaming begins. Your taste in movies is questioned.

It is the case with almost anything, not just movies. If the general review of a product is positive or negative, you are expected to have the exact same view. Herd mentality in such cases is encouraged. If you step out of the box, you are questioned.

That was until I got out of that zone and said to myself “You know, I laughed watching this movie. It is funny. It worked for me. Why should I ashamed of something that kept me entertained throughout?” I started being open about liking the movies I really liked (even if they weren’t critically acclaimed) and not liking the movies that I truly did not (even if they were liked by the majority). I was being true to myself and that felt good.

I realized there were more people like me out there, shying away from voicing their true likes/dislikes, when I started getting messages (in private) that they liked/hated the same thing too.

Halo Effect

When you admire a person (it could also be a celebrity, politician or government), you tend to believe that everything the person does is justified – whether good or evil. We refuse to believe they are human after all – prone to mistakes. We forgive and forget. This is a bias I am trying to overcome as well. Trying consciously to notice and acknowledge those errors even if I like the entity very much. To hold them accountable if feelings were hurt, and not to give them the status of a superior being who is incapable of mistakes.

I have been reading up on biases and media bias is something that struck me the most. When you seek more information about something, weirdly enough, you start noticing these little things that you used to ignore before. You become aware of the biases that are now part and parcel of your daily life.

It is a scary thought to reflect on, that you can be manipulated into believing something that is constantly thrown in your face, as if there is no other truth.

An Ode to Cryptocurrency

Photo by Worldspectrum on Pexels.com

I have been staring at crypto news all week.

I have not yet invested in this “asset.” I would prefer calling it an “asset” over “currency” because in India it is not yet a legal tender.

My interest piqued when I heard of India’s involvement in Polygon/Matic. It was all over the news. A person who has not yet invested in crypto (i.e. yours truly) ended up watching a dozen new videos and reading comprehensive news articles on Matic (hello, patriotism), wondering dreamily when she will ever be able to invest in it confidently, without fearing the consequences of strict protocols that the government may or may not enforce later on. I even consumed with much interest a YouTube video on whether Matic would survive after Ethereum 2.0. All this makes zero sense to me as I am a new believer, but my curiosity seems to have taken over, wanting to know the future. All the answers I got were in the positive (for Matic). It has now become a forbidden fruit of sorts.

This is a big shift from how I was a few months back – an overconfident cynic who was pretty damn sure she would never buy crypto. “Too volatile, no regulations, weird names” My reasons were plenty. People change, so did I. Realizing the ever-growing power of virtual currency world over, it would surely be a step back, if India were to ban it completely.

I was proud that India got into the world of crypto (that too successfully), and also felt a bit dejected when the promoters of Matic said they couldn’t promote or advertise it in a way they would like to, because of India’s current stance on virtual currencies. Hopefully with crypto exchanges like WazirX fighting for #IndiaWantsCrypto, the officials will take notice, and newbies like me can also venture into a zone that has gained immense popularity worldwide. Call it FOMO or whatever you wish, but no one can negate the solid growth crypto is experiencing.

I still have to wait though, for the Indian government to make its stand clear. And this the story of many in India. Why?

Because, for a safe investor like me, playing by the government’s rulebook is of absolute importance. India does have a lot of crypto investors, who are fully aware of the risk factors that come with possessing an unregulated asset, but they continue to do so as they are ready to take that risk. Buying and selling crypto in India is not illegal, but the government sending across mixed signals makes it a bit tough for many like me to jump into the bandwagon with surety.

Hopefully, soon enough, we will get to know. Hopefully, by then, crypto would have not lost its charm.

An Ode to Humanity

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

I stumbled on a couple of YouTube videos recently. Posting 2 of them below.

Palestinians: Would you invite an Israeli Jew to Iftar meal?

Israelis: Would you invite a Palestinian to Shabbat or Passover meal?

Truth be told, every single “no” was painful to hear.

Circumstances force us to dislike even the humane, the innocents, people who have nothing to do with the terror attacks. It becomes difficult to separate a person from his religious identity.

In the videos, it doesn’t seem to matter if the invited person is of good character. An invite is extended based on religion alone, on a generalization that “If one person of a community is like this, then all of them might be similar.

I couldn’t help placing myself in such a situation – someone denying me an invite looking at my race, color, religion, caste and the actions taken by a group. It wouldn’t matter if I had raised my voice for the oppressed. At that moment, it only matters whether I am from “the other side”

It is not just restricted to Israel-Palestine, you can find similar cases world over.

The suspicions can’t be blamed either because time and again people have breached that trust. Suspicion is a natural form of self-defence. Better be safe than sorry. Yet mistrust can feel heavy when you are not personally to blame.

I pray for a world, where a person is judged by their own character, on humanity alone, and not from some unfair blanket generalization, even if such a hope seems far-fetched at the moment.