Wednesday, March 10, 2021

 It's amazing how an upcoming operation always puts things in perspective.

You start thinking things like:

* Are my finances in order? 

* Is the home clean? 

* Who will inherit my personal belongings? 

Then you begin plans for the after life.

You think things like:

¶ Have I enough credit to get into heaven?

¶ Is my slate of sin wiped clean?

¶ Who will inherit my personal belongings?


Operations scare the hell out of me.

I remember when I was in the outer room of the delivery unit at Bosio hospital, being prepped for my first delivery. 

Dr comes in, checks me and then declares, "Your baby is breathing shallower than normal. If we don't get him out soon, we'll need to do a C-section."

My eyebrows shot into my skull; I said in my mind" No way!!" And proceeded to push my first born out of his 'cozy home' with as much strength as I could muster. The poor guy had the umbilical cord around his neck, true story, and he had swallowed his shit. 

All I could think of at that moment was"Bach ghaya".

Oh no, not him, ME. Mein Bach Gaya.

So my life's mission from then on has been to avoid an operation if I can help it. 

Every delivery after that first one was PUSH OUT time, the only exercise I did to completion and perfection, may I say. 

But now 


I have met my Nemesis. The same womb that got me through is now a traitor. My ally has become my enemy. It has allowed two encroachers to turn my life upside down. Yes, guys, I'm talking about those nasty growths doctors call fibroids. 

Two fibroids are the reason I have to go for this operation soon. It's funny how these small little gotis are making me so scared. I can visualize myself on the operation table, watching through a haze,( coz my doctor has promised me local anaesthesia) as he chip-chops his way around my ovaries, fallopian tubes and finally delivers my uterus. A bloody C-section for my reproductive organs!!

Life is a *****, isn't it?

Thursday, February 25, 2021

WHY WE BUY - Paco Underhill

We use shopping as therapy, reward, bribery, pastime, as an excuse to get out of the house, as a way to troll for potential loved ones, as entertainment, as a form of education or even worship, as a way to kill time. There are compulsive shoppers doing serious damage to their bank accounts and credit savings who use shopping as a cry for help.

If we went into stores only when we needed to buy something, and if once there we bought only what we needed, the economy would collapse.

Signs, shelf position, display space and special fixtures all make it either likelier or less likely that a shopper will buy a particular item. 

The science of shopping is meant to tell us how to make use of all those tools: how to design signs that shoppers will actually read and to make sure each message is in the appropriate place. How to fashion displays that shoppers can examine comfortable and easily. How to ensure that shoppers can reach, and want to reach, every part of a store.

The cash/wrap area (where people stand in line to pay for what they buy) is the most important part of any store. If the transactions aren’t crisp, if the organization isn’t clear at a glance, shoppers get frustrated or turned off. Many times they won’t even enter a store if the line looks long or chaotic.

 Our studies prove that the longer a shopper remains in a store, the more he/she will buy. And the amount of time a shopper spends in a store depends on how comfortable and enjoyable the experience is.

 Here’s another good way to judge a store: By the percentage of customers who have some contact with an employee. All our research shows this direct relationship: The more shopper-employee contacts that take place, the greater the average sale. Talking with an employee has a way of drawing a customer closer.

Have you ever seen anybody cross the threshold of a store and then screech to a dead stop the instant they’re inside? Neither have I. You can’t see it , but they are busily making adjustments- adjusting their eyes to the light and allowing their pace as they crane their necks to take in all there is to see. Here is where they make the transition from being outside to being inside. Whatever’s in that zone they cross before making that transition is pretty much lost on them. If the sales staff hits them with a “Can I help you?” the answer’s going to be, “No, thanks.” Put a pile of fliers or a stack of shopping baskets just inside the door and they will barely see them, and will almost never pick them up. Move them up ten feet in and the fliers and baskets will disappear. It’s a law of nature- shoppers need a landing strip.

 Today many stores have automatic doors, which make life easier for customers, especially those with packages or baby strollers. But the effortlessness of entering only serves to enlarge the transition zone – there’s nothing to even slow you down a little.W

What can you do with the transition zone? You can greet customers – just a hello, remind them where they are, start the seduction. You can offer a shopping basket, a map of the store or a coupon. There’s a fancy store In Manhattan where, just right of the entrance, is the store’s flower department. As you enter, you see it from the corner of your eye, but you don’t usually stop in – instead you think, “Hmm, flowers, good idea, I’ll get them on my way out.” Another solution is to totally smash the transition zone rule by placing deeply discounted merchandise that will stop shoppers in their tracks. An out-of-the-box concept – Instead of pulling back from the entrance, push the store out beyond it – start the selling space out in the parking lot. At one seaside resort, a supermarket had all its barbecue supplies, beach toys, suntan lotion and rubber sandals in a tent outfitted with a clerk and a cash register – allowing beachgoers to pull up, grab a few necessities and drive away, all without having to drag their sandy selves through the food aisles and long checkout lines.

 I was viewing footage from the camera we had trained on the checkout line, witnessing a shopper trying to juggle several small bottles and boxes without dropping one. That’s when it dawned on me: The poor guy needed a basket. Why hadn’t he taken one? The store had plenty of them, placed right inside the door. The transition zone – the baskets were so close to the entrance that incoming shoppers blew right by without even seeing them there. And I thought, if someone gave these people baskets, they’d probably buy more things! We suggested that all employees be trained to offer baskets to any customer seen holding three or more items. And as the basket use rose instantly, so did the size of the average sale – up just like that. In retail, the easiest way to make more money is to sell more stuff to your existing customer base.

 The lesson seems clear: Baskets should be scattered throughout the store, wherever shoppers might need them. The stack should be no lower than five feet tall to make sure the baskets are visible to all, yes, but also to ensure that no shopper need stoop to get one, since shoppers hate bending especially when their hands are full. For books, a canvas or nylon tote bag would be much better and would have the added advantage of being saleable merchandise. 

 There’s a rather elaborate way of keeping customers’ hands free that I’d love to see some retailer try. The idea would be to create a combination coat check - package call system. Customers could unload their encumbrances as soon as they enter the store. And instead of carrying their selections around with them, they’d instruct salesclerks to dispatch the bags and boxes to the will-call desk near the exit. After a full session of vigorous, hands-free shopping, the customer would head for the door, pick up coat and hat and purchases, and be gone, into car or taxi or waiting limousine.

The most amusing manifestation of the hand issue was in a supermarket I visited. Like just about every retailer in America today, this market has decided to put in a coffee bar, where shoppers could sit and drink, if they wished. This wasn’t the first coffee shop I’d seen in a supermarket, but it was the first one to truly understand how the whole thing should work: it had also put in cup holders on the shopping carts, meaning that you could drink and drive. That clever touch sells coffee, I’ll bet.

 People step inside the store and it tell them things. If everything’s working right, the things they are told grab their attention and induce them to look and shop and buy and maybe return another day to shop and buy some more. They are told what they might buy, and where it is kept, and why they might buy it. They are told what the merchandise can do for them and when and how it can do it.

 First you have to get your audience’s attention. Once you’ve done that, you have to present your message in a clear, logical fashion – the beginning, then the middle, then the ending. You have to deliver the information the way people absorb it, a bit at a time.

So you can’t just look around your store, see where there are empty spots on the walls and put the signs there. You can’t simply clear a space on a counter and dump all your in-store media. You’ve got to get up and walk around, asking yourself with everything.

Fast-food restaurants used to hang all kinds of signs and posters and dangling mobiles in and around doorways to catch customers’ attention fast until studies showed that nobody read them. When you enter a fast-food restaurant, you are looking for one ...See More

 Banks, fast-food restaurants and the post office have this in common: lots of customers standing still and facing the same direction – ideal opportunities for communication. We were hired to study all aspects of a bank branch including the large rack that held brochures describing the money market funds, certificates of deposit, car loans and other services and investments offered. The rack was hung on the wall to the left of the entrance, so you’d pass it on your way in. Everyone passed within inches of it. No one touched it. Again, the reason seems obvious: You enter a bank because you have an important task to perform. Nobody goes to a bank to browse. And until you perform that task, you’re not interested in reading or hearing about anything else. The fact that the rack was to the left side of the doorway, when most people walk to the right, only made it worse. We took that rack and moved it inside, so that customers would pass it as they exited rather than entered, and we had a tracker stand there and watch. With no other change, the number of people who saw the rack increased fourfold, and the number of brochures taken increased dramatically.

 There’s one arena of life where sign design and placement isn’t just a somewhat important issue, it’s a matter of life or death. I’m speaking about our roads, our interstate highway system. The principles seem simple enough: no extra words; the right sign at the right place; enough signs so drivers don’t feel ignored or under-informed; not so many signs that there’s clutter and confusion. On the road we use a vocabulary of icons - the universal language- that tells us what we need to know without words. That’s the best way to deliver information to people in motion. Also on road signs, the technical aspects are usually perfect – the color combination provides enough contrast, the lettering is large, the lighting is good and the positioning is just so. The best sign is one you can read fast, and positioned so you can read it while moving. And the only way to achieve that, in most instances, is to break the information down into pieces and lay them out one at a time, in a logical, orderly sequence

 People slow down when they see reflective surfaces. And they speed up when they see banks. The reasons are understandable: Bank windows are boring, and nobody likes visiting a bank anyway, so let’s get past it quickly; mirrors, on the other hand, are never dull. Armed with this information, what do you do? Well, never open a store next to a financial institution, for when pedestrians reach you they’ll still be moving at a speedy clip – too fast for window shopping. Or, if you can’t help being next to a bank, you can make sure to have a mirror or two on your façade or in your windows, to slow shoppers down.

 Here’s another fact about how people move (in retail environment but also everywhere else): They invariably walk toward the right. Because shoppers automatically move to the right, the front right of any store is it prime real estate. That’s where the most important goods should go, the make or break merchandise that needs 100 percent shopper exposure. All shoppers reach right, most of them being right-handed. So if a store wishes to place something into the hand of a shopper, it should be displayed just slightly to the right of where he or she will be standing. Planograms, the map of which products are stocked where on the shelf, are determined with this in mind: If you’re stocking cookies, for instance, the most popular brand goes dead center – at the bull’s eye – and the brand you’re trying to build goes just to the right of it.

Picture this: If you’re walking straight down a store aisle, you’re looking ahead. It requires an effort to turn your head to one side or the other to see the shelves or racks as you pass them. This issue is not limited to a store’s shelves. On the street, how do you approach a display window? In most instances, from an angle – as you’re walking toward the store from the left or the right. This comes up regarding outdoor signs, too. They should be positioned perpendicular to the building, so they are visible to pedestrians approaching from either side, and not parallel to it, so they can be read by maybe 5 to10 percent of possible customers approaching the façade from directly across the street. But how can our insistence on walking and looking forward be accommodated inside the typical store? One method is used in almost every store already. Endcaps, the display of merchandise on the end of virtually every store aisle, are tremendously effective at exposing goods to the shopper’s eye. In a sense, they serve as a billboard, both reminding us of the product and giving us the option of buying right then and there. Of course, there’s a built-in limitation to the use of endcaps: There are only two of them per aisle, one at each end. But there’s another effective way to display goods so they’ll be seen. It’s called chevroning – placing shelves or racks at an angle (45 degrees), like a sergeant’s stripes, so more of what they hold is exposed to the vision of the strolling shopper. There’s only one catch: Chevroning shelves takes about one-fifth more floor space than the usual configuration. So a store can show only 80 percent as much merchandise as it can the traditional way. It’s certain, however, that especially for products that benefit from long browsing time, chevroning works.

Friday, January 8, 2021



- written by Aurrsa.

Come October and I am certain I spotted a cluster of reindeer lights at the mall. Stopped me dead in my tracks! Did Christmas come early to Sydney? (Yeah, this was in the Land of Down Under; wonder why its called that, btw🤔).

I asked my friend Maria and she told me that celebrations begin early because people leave for their native lands to be with family in December.

So decorations go up in homes as early as November probably after Halloween decorations come down. And suddenly, SANTALAND is in town!! 

With this convenient way of raising stock sales, the true meaning of Christmas goes for a toss as Santa and his goodie-ness makes the grand entry. 

'Better be nice, he's checking his list twice'. And you muster up a picture of a shortsighted Santa peering into a long list of all your many many mistakes aka sins and shaking his head in despair. No gifts for you this year, little one. NO WAY!

There was a time I wore a Santa cap, kept milk and cookies near my Christmas tree, belted out 'Jingle Bells' and 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' just like every one else. 

I recall having a ball dancing to merry songs bringing in Christmas cheer at Christmas parties that we went to right after doing the obligatory Mass at church. 

For me then, Christmas was all about new dresses, partying all night and presents, presents, lots of presents. I hadn't even heard of a season called Advent nor of Christmastide. 

Fast forward two decades, and I'm now a mother of five adorable children and homeschooling four at the time, when a friend Anna introduces me to the beauty of Advent. 


Advent songs, the Advent wreath, and soon after, I discovered the Jesse tree tradition. It was a Revelation, I tell you.

I learnt that silly Santa is actually a distorted version of St Nicholas, a saint that I have grown to admire for he's never bothered if I'm naughty or nice. December 6th gets me all excited as I fill the stockings with gold coins (chocolate ones, of course) and leave oranges or little gifts in the children's shoes.

In Advent, we only play and sing Advent songs. Wonderful songs like 'Light one Candle' and 'Come Lord Jesus Come'. As we light the candles, we pray for the Second Coming of Christ. 

The children still love hearing the stories of the Jesse tree, how God traced His finger through history and brought forth a Saviour time and again. Joseph, Moses and finally,  JESUS.

And as the Advent season draws to a close, the decorations go up in my home, not to welcome Santa on his sleigh, but Jesus in His manger. A Birthday Party to look forward to. No more giddy-headed, drunken Christmas ones for me. 

Time to light the Christ candle, play the toy drum, offer Jesus a gift and then adore Him, who is God, Man and Sacrifice. Can you accuse me of not having the Christmas spirit because I won't sing Santa songs? 

For, as I sit looking at the sleeping Baby and at the serene calm of the crib, all I can sing is:


 I'm so glad its Christmas,

All the tinsels and lights, 

And the presents are nice, 



I'm so glad its Christmas,

All the carols and bells,

Make the holidays swell,




Monday, January 4, 2021



(continued from THE PALACE ON THE HILL)

- stories for children by Aurrsa.

The three wise men sat down to a splendid spread, set on an ornate table. They ate to their heart's content, sipping wine from sparkling goblets in between mouthfuls of well cooked lamb and venison. Then,   reclining on silk-laden couches, they prepared for a well deserved nap. Soon they were fast asleep.

Meanwhile, King Herod sent the captain of the guard to bring him the chief priest. When the chief priest arrived, he questioned him at length about the new star. He learnt that the prophecies of old were coming true. Dismissing the priest with a handsome bribe and warning him not to reveal anything to the people, Herod went back to his chambers and woke up the sleeping travellers. 

"Arise, there is no time to lose." he exclaimed. "You must make haste to find this king, for he is meant to fulfill the prophecies of our people,"  "And" he added, "when you find him, you must return back to tell me where he is so that I too may pay him homage."

The wise men saddled their camels with more food and water for they did not know how far their final destination might be. 

"We will need to give the newborn king some gift," Gaspar said. He took out his bag of coins. "I have only these few coins. Much was spent on the journey." 

Melchior had ONLY one thing to give: he could  give only that. "I'll give my jar of frankincense."he said,  showing the other two his priceless possession.

Balthazar said nothing. He looked dismayed. The other two looked at each other, then asked in unison, "Balthazar, what will you give the child king?"

"I have this." he said sadly, showing them the jar of myrrh  "It connects me with my dead son. How can I possibly part with it?"

"See if you have anything else to give then." said Gaspar kindly. Although not a father yet, he could well imagine the pain in  Balthazar's heart. Melchior too understood. Although his loss had been monetary, the pain was the same.

Balthazar shook his head. He had nothing worthy to give other than the myrrh. He had to part with it. There - he had made his decision. No turning back now!

The three wise men bid farewell to King Herod, promising to return soon with the whereabouts of the new king. Mounting their camels, they proceeded to the city gates and - lo and behold! the star was waiting for them there.

They followed the star to a place called Bethlehem, some 4000 miles from Jerusalem. The star led them straight to Farmer Shalom's stable, hovering over it and filling the interior with a radiant light. 

As they arrived, they were greeted with singing. A chorus of angels and shepherds welcomed them in. What a wondrous sight they saw when they entered the stable. Mary, Joseph and a little baby were enveloped in the warm glow of the Spirit. 

The three wise men knew that they were in the presence of something divine. Suddenly, their gifts made sense. Gold for a king, frankincense for a God and myrrh for a mortal being. Bowing reverently,they placed their gifts at the feet of the newborn king.

When they looked up, what do you think they saw? The baby Jesus was smiling sweetly at them. Mary and Joseph thanked them for the valuable gifts, (for in those days, all three were very costly). 

Later, the farmer and his wife took the three wise men to rest at the inn (for by then the census being taken, the inn was empty again except for a few holidaymakers). In the night, however, they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod. So,  they left the inn in the dead of the night without waking a soul and took another route back to Jamal.

Once they reached the caravan, Balthazar gave Gaspar a bag of coins for his journey back home. Melchior, well, he stayed with Balthazar, and became chief trader in due course. And Balthazar got the best gift of all. His wife whispered her good news into his ears as soon as they were alone in the tent.

Wiping away tears of joy, Balthazar placed in his son's clay plate what he had brought back with him from the stable of Bethlehem.



Children, this is the last story for these days of Christmas, but I cannot leave without asking you


Think hard and make sure to give it to Him when you place the three wise men in the crib today. Shalom and may God bless you with patience of an ox, humility of a donkey, gentleness of sheep, simplicity of the shepherds, and sacrificial generosity of the three wise men.

Sunday, January 3, 2021



(continued from FOLLOW YONDER STAR)

- stories for children by Aurrsa.

The three wise men followed the star as it led them across deserts and high roads, into valleys and over hills till at last it hovered over a majestic city. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared outside Jamal, it disappeared once again. 

The men waited two whole days, thinking the star would reappear - but NOTHING! So Balthazar, being the impatient one, said to the others, "Maybe this city is where the new king is. Let's go and ask the inhabitants whether they know anything about him."

Melchior was hesitant, but it was two against one when Gaspar nodded at the idea. So the three travellers made their way through the gates till they reached the marketplace. 

On enquiring around, they were told that there was ONLY one king in Jerusalem, King Herod. He lived in an opulent palace built on a hill. 

The three wise men decided to visit the king and see whether he had any knowledge about the new king. Little did they know what they were getting into. 

They proceeded to the hill where the palace was and climb arduously up its slope till they arrived at the huge drawbridge. The name Antilia was blazoned on the outer wall of the palace near this bridge. 

"We wish to meet His Majesty, the King. We were following a new star that led us here to your city.", Gaspar told the guard. One of the royal servants was sent to convey this message to King Herod.

On hearing the strange news, King Herod was immediately curious and summoned the three wise men to his private chambers. There he questioned the three about every minute detail regarding the star and their quest. In his mind, he mulled over all this information, and cunning, as he was, he knew at once that this posed a threat to him. 

But he pretended to be hospitable and deeply concerned about the welfare of the three men and this new king they were seeking. 

"Come, come. You must be tired and hungry after such a long journey. Freshen up and I will send you some food and drink " Saying this, he left them, but not before summoning his royal guards and posting them outside so the visitors would not escape.


Children, I am sure you are waiting to hear what happened next. We'll see tomorrow. Sleep well now and maybe you'll see the star before the wise men do.