Sunday, December 26, 2010

Catching practice in the slip cordon

In all the years of watching test match cricket, I can't recall an instance of all 10 wickets falling due to catches behind the stumps. Mighty nice of the Aussies to not keep us waiting too long to see England bat. To think I almost wagered on the home team to score over 350 in the first innings. Good call there; but to make things even an opportunity to double up was lost by not punting on the Kiwis at home to beat Pakistan, damn!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The end of an era

When my generation started watching cricket, circa the 1987 world cup, the West Indies were a declining force in world cricket. We read enough about them dominating every other team for the previous 20 odd years, but it was hard to believe given their talent and form.

This was a time when the Australians set the bar and dictated terms to the rest, as long as i've watched international cricket the fight between every other team was always for second best. However, since 2007 there were signs that the Ozzie supremacy would not last, but that too was hard to believe.

However, watching the 2010-11 Ashes series one gets the feeling this is really the end of an era. As an ardent follower of the game, I realise the game needs a strong Australian side. Hence, happy as I am to see the Aussies taken apart, i just hope they come back strongly.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Where is the American dream?" LOL!

The claim about the crumbling infrastructure is a bit rich coming from the Indian journalist, but Thomas Friedman raises all the usual points in an India referenced article.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Consumption haters

Apparently, the Japanese think it's stupid to spend. I could get on board this anti-consumerist band wagon all too easily. However, all jests aside, this might be a good time to start allowing some immigration.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stand up, stand up, for the Saracens!

Saracens v/s Leinster @ Wembley
The home team lost a closely fought match 23-25, but the atmosphere and crowd were one of the best. And their theme song just sticks in your head.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

when no one wants to take over

I guess one way of holding on to your job is to make such a mess of it that it scares off everyone except the very mad. In that aspect Zardari seems to be doing a top job.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Tracking the kids

The New York Times believes "Though it may seem innocuous to attach a chip to our preschoolers’ clothes, do we really want to raise a generation of kids that are accustomed to being tracked, like cattle or warehouse inventory?"

I say it doesn't go far enough, we need to implant chips in the kids. If you disagree, lose your kids for a few minutes in a crowd and then let me know. I only lost track of a niece for a few minutes, and that episode was scarring enough.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Bullied today, bullies tomorrow

If history is a good guide, and she more often than not is very much so, the Muslims in the US should be a happy lot quite soon. Apparently every new community gets heckled, harassed and abused before they go on to become a part of the clique haranguing the later newcomers. Humans are such wonderful creatures, if there is a God, she shouldn't be too proud.

Monday, August 30, 2010


You've got to feel for this nation. From hope to despair, in the same newspaper and within 24 hours. They just can't catch a break. For a change there's some positive coverage in the western press and then it all goes back to being more of the same.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ode to the solitary man - Eddie Vedder

Society, have mercy on me
I hope you're not angry if I disagree
Society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

Sunday, August 15, 2010

About time to 'think the unthinkable'

The Great Depression put paid to the Prohibition; the Great Recession might well do the same to the War on Drugs. Finally it comes down to the money, the state would rather have the taxes than the jail time served. When serving politicians are talking about legalisation there's only one way this can go. Glad to see there's some practicality and realism behind the thinking, which makes it more likely that this will come to pass.

In the words of Vicente Fox "Legalisation does not mean that drugs are good…rather we have to see it as a strategy to strike and break the economic structure that allows mafias to generate huge profits in their business, which in turn serve to corrupt and to increase their power"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Not exactly a Roman Holiday

Maureen Dowd writes on her experiences as a tourist in the forbidding desert kingdom. This is perfect reading as a pick-me-up whenever one feels depressed, knowing that an entire nation is living in the 8th century. I wonder, if the Saudis didn't have oil would we even know or care what they got up to?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Can we give them some vouchers, please?

Over 60 years after independence, and around 20 years since we gave up the socialist pretence and undertook market reforms there are still those who are 'suspicious of market solutions'. Get rid of the ration card, which ties the poor to the availability of stock in the Public Distribution System. Instead if they're able to use vouchers or food coupons to get what they want and from where they want it, you can bet your bottom dollar that the private sector will turn up to provide the services they need.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dirty looking stones

Apparently, Naomi Campbell doesn't know her diamonds.

And of course, she doesn't keep the gift for herself, rather the stones are passed on to a friend so as to auction them off and raise money for charity. Intelligence and generosity, that must be why she's popular.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Friar Tuck was right

And it appears he wasn't alone. This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our maker and glory to his bounty by learning about... BEER.

In the heart of India, the 18th century

and of course, how could you keep Arundhati Roy away? Nevertheless, it shouldn't detract from the fact that this is a disgrace. How is it possible that the state can't address the concerns of these citizens? Or track down and eliminate a renegade outfit that's not savvy enough to qualify as a rebellion? Plus where are these clueless agitators getting funding / equipment from? It's not like the poor they claim to represent will be able to pitch in with funds.

The Berlin Wall was brought down over 20 years ago, Russia and China have embraced and developed their own brand of capitalism. Yet our JNU educated commies still call themselves Leninists, Marxists and Maoists. Even the original reds would be laughing at this. These situations are gravy and fodder for these believers in a dead ideology. At least denying them an opportunity to pontificate should be a good enough reason to deliver some development. Also, how long before our friendly neighbours start funding / training the disgruntled forest folk.

We need to make sure we stop running people of their lands, rather get them electricity, roads, railways, schools, medical clinics. Recruit, train, equip and pay the local police well. Then we'll see how many vote commie or pick up a gun with the aim to cause disintegrate the Indian state.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Football & Finance

In sport as in life, regulators are always a step or two behind the times. The brouhaha about the disallowed English goal against the Germans seems to have forced even the bureaucrats at FIFA to agree to look into introducing some technology. This piece by Richard Thaler brings out a few parallels between the worlds of super sport and high finance. Considering how out of touch with everyday reality both these universes are, they have a lot in common.

PS: If FIFA needs an example one can only point to a cricket match in Calcutta much before video replays were available to umpires. Azhar was declared run-out, while everyone on the field was helpfully shown multiple slow-motion replays indicating otherwise. The good natured Bengali crowd promptly rioted and torched a section of the stadium.

Shiver me timbers!

Martin Wolf in an excellent piece presents a take on current political thinking in the US government that left unchecked could lead to a situation where the mighty USA defaults on its debt. Then we'll have a real juicy worldwide financial crisis. Of course, its not unthinkable for a sovereign to do so. They definitely won't be the first leading power to pull the rug out from under their creditors, nor will they be the last.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ignored by The Economist

The Indian Rupee doesn't figure on the latest Big Mac Index. Probably because the franchise doesn't have a beef burger variety available for consumption in India. Replacing chicken for beef, and running through the numbers it seems the INR is undervalued by almost 65%. This indicates the PPP value of the INR to the USD to be in the range of Rs.15 to Rs.17.

Bad news for the NRI's remitting money to India, "Enjoy it while it lasts. The Rupee is headed just one way, and that's against you". :)

The freedom to be wrong

This fundamental right / privilege goes a long way in making the culture of the USA so appealing to a lot of people elsewhere. The thought process that went into making it so is evident here.

Consider the words spoken by Benjamin Franklin just before he appended his name to the most famous piece of parchment in American history. “I confess there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve,” Franklin said, “but I am not sure that I shall never approve them. For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shhh! The guest is reading a sleep manual

At one time, the stereotype of a business traveler checking into a hotel in a distant city was a boisterous fellow with wine, women and song on his mind. Now the universal craving that hotels seek to satisfy is for something considerably more urgent: a night of true, deep shuteye, with no distractions.

Looks to me that we've all just grown old. What would we rather do on most evenings? That's right, try and get a good night's sleep.

The English (speaking) are everywhere

and they're likely taking over in the not so distant future. The urban elite in most places have a tendency to avoid the public school system. In the developing world this often means moving to a non-native language based curriculum. And it seems parents from all classes prefer this, most don't only if they can't afford a private education.

The linguistic nationalists must take heart, its nothing personal. Just hard to fault the parents for the economics and rationale of the superior quality of life that knowledge of the English language affords anyone in this day and age.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

more on the veil, but here's a surprise

Seems there's a covert curb on the veil in Syria. With an immediate roll-out in the education system, affecting 1200 teachers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Another pearl in the string

Here's evidence, if any was ever needed, of the brilliance of the good folk in charge of long-term strategy within the Chinese government. Though it seems unclear whether this potential client state has any idea what they're getting into.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Let them eat apples

Not exactly a Marie Antoinette moment, but this state has been more trouble than its worth. I don't really care for the opinions and rationales on either side of the argument. As far as i'm concerned, they just provide another reason for the fundamentalists to attack the rest of us. They don't want to be a part of this economic unit, let them go, an occupational force is such a 20th century concept.

Though the stone throwing does bring to mind another flashpoint region.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gandhi wouldn't be too proud

Nicholas Kristof believes that the Palestinians are waiting for the Mahatma. Judging from the present West Bank definition of peaceful protest, they might be waiting a while longer.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

in defense of geeks everywhere

i do occasionally run the grocery errands, quite efficiently too. though the wife would still consider me a card holding member of the 'Can't Find Shit' club.  Now thanks to Scott Adams we know it isn't a super exclusive club.

another moment of hubris?

I get wary whenever i hear "the largest in history", and words of its ilk. This latest public offering from the Chinese government seems to be in keeping with its sentiment of taking money off gullible investors / sovereign wealth funds. The below snippets do not portend a good omen. This may well be a case of 'caveat emptor'.

The bailout did not take. In 2006, auditors said they had found fraudulent deals at the Agricultural Bank totaling 60.3 billion renminbi ($7.5 billion). In 2008, with nonperforming loans composing almost a quarter of the bank’s assets, the government pumped $19 billion more into Agricultural Bank, then assumed another 800 billion renminbi ($120 billion) in bad loans.

However, here's a more balanced viewpoint.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Shifting the production

"Growers continue to find the weak links in the enforcement chain. In 1995 Peru and Bolivia were the world’s top cocaine producers. Much blood and money was spent driving the trade out of those countries and, inadvertently, into Colombia (see chart). In 1999 America sponsored a big anti-drug programme in Colombia. As a result, growers have moved back: in the past decade, the area used for coca rose by 55% in Peru and 42% in Bolivia. Until legalisation, the only thing you can do is make it someone else’s problem.”

And till then, the futile 'war on drugs' seems likely to continue, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

i'd rather have the money please
I never did understand the misplaced anger on the former executives who've been sentenced to jail time. Them serving time won't help the victims; and a trade-off between jail time and higher compensation should be acceptable to most. Of course, this doesn't take away from the embarrassment that is the Indian judicial system that took 26 years to even get to this point. If the oil-spill was happening off the coast of Bombay, BP wouldn't be half as bothered.

Monday, June 14, 2010

famous last words? or just hubris?

"It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills," the president said. "They are technologically very advanced." That's the Nobel Pfaff Prize winner for you. Eighteen days later, the Deepwater Horizon rig went off like a bomb. Will the Swedes at least ask for the medallion to be returned now? 

HT: Wafa Hakim Orman

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

320 deaths every day!

That number has just got to be unacceptable, period. and India seem's to achieve it with far fewer vehicles per capita than quite a few other nations. 

These are the two most telling statements in this article - "Evidence of road accidents seems to be everywhere in urban India." and "it is rare to meet someone in urban India who has not lost a family member, friend or colleague on the road." 

I've seen the signs myself quite a few times and know too many people who've died in road accidents. I used to ride a motorcycle for over 10 years on those very streets. Having witnessed traffic in other parts of the world, now I wouldn't dare get on a two-wheeler. 

Seems like things have just got worse. Depressing!

Monday, June 07, 2010

location is as important as ever

very true. tim harford with an excellent piece on the mystery of knowledge 'in the very air'

also, this kind of stuff is exactly why i'm leaving Dubai to move to London.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Of course, its all the fault of the bankers!

These sweet people who willingly signed refinancing deals when the times were good could never be blamed. There are so many things wrong about this story, I don't know where to begin. Its tales of such stupidity that really get my goat. When borrowers bend rules to get out of paying their fair due, its all good. No one likes Shylock, very understandable but please then don't stand around in wonder when the lending dries up.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Policing for Profit

Seems like George W Bush privatised the local police forces too ;)

Profit seeking policemen, defendants assumed guilty until proven innocent, use of overwhelming force, legal harassment, arresting bystanders, etc. Sounds like a caricature of a third world police force.

Also, the bit about 33% of all currency carrying traces of drugs is highly amusing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Use the market for a solution, brilliant!

It will be difficult to find a better example of effecting change by using market participants efficiently. Always go after consumers rather than producers. Why? Simple fact of the matter is that if demand exists, someone somewhere will satisfy it. Shift demand / taste and you are closer to the cultural shift you aim for.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Six people attended!

Yes, that's right. 6 people paid $300 for the privilege of listening to this guy speak. I wonder, do the folks who can't wait to get on the next flight to the USA even know about these stories. This is a land where Sarah Palin roams free, evolution is questioned and guns are allowed into bars. Rock on!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Can I have a back dated bonus now please?

A few years ago, this deal found its way to my desk. I'd have the opportunity to be the lead manager. A brief study of the financials didn't make for happy reading and I politely said 'No, Thank you' and walked away. Considering this is a $40 million sized hole I played a part in averting, it would be terribly nice if everyone who mocked me then could stand up and applaud now. :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Kingdom

This has definitely been one of the best movies i've seen in a while. Well worth a watch, and highly recommended. No unnecessary drama, brilliant acting, tight editing and no philosophising on the underlying problem; this film just deals with the reality of life in the aftermath of a terror attack.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Home of the brave?

Sure sounds like it, seems like you'll need balls of steel just to get out of your house and wash your car. Amazing that of all the fascination there exists for moving to the States, I never hear about this culture of violence being a concern.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Pride goeth before the fall

Is it possible that at some time in the near future, this is the moment they'll look back at and wonder why they spent 4 billion greenbacks?

If it's really going to cost twice as much as the Olympics, must say Beijing is winning this contest between the cities. It can't really be coincidental that really preposterous ideas look logical just before the party tapers off, Dubai anyone?

If Greece was a Corporation....

dodgy accounting, excessive leverage, union trouble, unclear access to lines of credit - sounds like one in need of a bailout.

Greece’s fiscal woes would be serious but probably manageable if the Greek economy’s prospects for the next few years looked even moderately favorable. But they don’t. Earlier this week, when it downgraded Greek debt, Standard & Poor’s suggested that the euro value of Greek G.D.P. may not return to its 2008 level until 2017, meaning that Greece has no hope of growing out of its troubles.

Geographic factors

If this is not an advert for not buying a house unless you plan to live there for the rest of your life, I don't know what is.

Ten percentage points separate the states with the highest and lowest unemployment rates. But the property crash is making it much harder for Americans to move to where the jobs are. A quarter of mortgage borrowers owe more than their houses are worth. Many people are stuck in places with poor employment prospects, unable to leave for cities where their skills may be in demand. Although the economy is starting to create new and often highly remunerative jobs, they are out of reach to those who cannot move.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lazy bureaucrat, or just prejudiced?

Sometime in the late 1800's a British Raj file-pusher took the easy option of branding an entire people, rather than doing some leg work to find cause and effect. Fallout of that is, there's way too many wrongs done against these people. Instead of trying to get into villages, they really should be going elsewhere, and I can't help but think their only redemption lies in the anonymity of the city.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who'll watch the watchers?

This is a fine example to persuade those who'd have greater government oversight in our everyday lives. The notion of a benevolent government looking after our best interests and protecting us from profit seeking locusts may well be a worthwhile one; but the reality is the government man doing the job is just another fallible human being.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Delegation gone wrong

Something a wise man told me once, you can delegate the work not the responsibility. This case of the Chinese Godfather is a case in point, and also a reminder to recruit carefully.

Not for a minute am I glorifying their lifestyles or modus operandi, but a lesson / parable is almost anywhere.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This is why i gave up on development economics

I can't believe they gave this 'intellectual giant' a Nobel, but then again these guys also gave Al Gore and Barack Obama one of these medallions each, so its in keeping with trend.

The best motivation is the profit incentive, if the big banks make money out of these projects its more than likely they'll keep at it and lend more. If this was a charity project, i wouldn't count on it lasting too long. I can understand the counter-intuitiveness of this concept being beyond the lay folk, but apparently its out of bounds for Nobel winners too.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Free the slaves

I had trouble accepting the fact that slavery exists in the 21st century. It always seemed like a topic for a history text, not contemporary debate. Its a point made even by Dr. Kevin Bales in his TED talk here. After listening to Siddharth Kara i'd gotten curious about this economic system and realised that there's a whole world out there that most people aren't aware of.

Friday, April 02, 2010

What a waste of life!

The headline on this article is actually quite sensationalist and misleading.

These politically motivated suicides aren't for a separatist cause, they just want their own administrative region within the Indian nation. However, the article does highlight the idiocy of some of these 'martyrs'. The most annoying bit was about Mr. Sunil Kumar, whose family lost their biggest breadwinner. And this after they sacrificed so much to get him in that position. 

Thursday, April 01, 2010

When will they ever learn?

I really like Rule # 2 (though i'd have made it rule #1)

Wannabe regime changers should really have an advisor on historical perspective, since everyone of these guys seem to make the same mistake of raising a beast that turns around and bites the hand that feeds.

Though i'd suppose it to be common sense to not get into a fight you don't need to. A fight that leads to a pyrrhic victory and a blood-letting situation you can't get out of should really be left alone.

Looking at how Af-Pak is turning out, am beginning to appreciate the Indian (lack of) response to terror attacks. Much better to be picking up the pieces and carrying on with your life, than stuck in some wild land for so long your forces/public don't recall the reasons they're putting their lives on the line. Especially when your ostensible allies feel more confident running you down in public.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Replace the names and places, it could be urban India

Police brutality, civic harassment of street vendors, mysterious (custodial) deaths, citizenry scuffling with the cops, also the occasional riot. When even the official government propaganda machines sides with the long suffering, the authorities should realise they went a tad too far.

I've never understood this bit about getting civic authorities and cops hassling vendors, who provide a service that urban dwellers value. I'm from Bombay, i understand encroachment better than most, but there has to be a better solution. One that doesn't involve greasing palms, would be spot on.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy to have a job; and they're happy to have you

The recovery is very likely going to be slow and long; while employment figures will probably take even longer to adjust to anything we've grown to accept as an acceptable level. So if this recession does one good thing, it'll be making good talent available to smaller businesses. The pre-recession attitude that most well qualified and experienced employees had of having to work only at marquee brand firms has definitely been surrendered to the pragmatism of making ends meet. This will most likely lead to a more competitive economy as talent that's previously trained at the top-tier firms percolate through the small and medium sized business space.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"They just get chill"

California appears to be considering legalising marijuana. The issue has its pros and cons, however i'd be inclined to support the agenda considering they're making a case based on economics / finances. This is one state that could really use the taxes that sales would bring in, especially since it absolutely cannot afford the 'war on drugs'.

You learn something new everyday

I've had my share of being stuck behind slow people at checkout lines, especially older people. I'm not proud of my initial reactions at such times.

The saving grace is it took an economist to help me look at these instances from a whole new perspective. Everyone does add some value of their own to the world.

Thank you Tim Harford.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Acrostic ECONOMICS!!

Good work by Gordon Boronow, Assistant Professor, Nyack College
(HT: Greg Mankiw)

Ten Key Principles in Economics

Everything has a cost. There is no free lunch. There is always a trade-off.

Cost is what you give up to get something. In particular, opportunity cost is cost of the tradeoff.

One More. Rational people make decisions on the basis of the cost of one more unit (of consumption, of investment, of labor hour, etc.).

iNcentives work. People respond to incentives.

Open for trade. Trade can make all parties better off.

Markets Rock! Usually, markets are the best way to allocate scarce resources between producers and consumers.

Intervention in free markets is sometimes needed. (But watch out for the law of unintended effects!)

Concentrate on productivity. A country’s standard of living depends on how productive its economy is.

Sloshing in money leads to higher prices. Inflation is caused by excessive money supply.

!! Caution: In the short run, falling prices may lead to unemployment, and rising employment may lead to inflation.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fighting corruption in India

Personally, i'm sceptical that schemes like these would work in fighting corruption but a honest attempt nonetheless. Corruption exists because of a lack of sufficient transparency and accountability, hence in order to get rid of petty corruption we'd have to figure out how to revise the incentives.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

3rd grade economics quiz

this would have been difficult for some MBA grads i know :)
and i particularly love the fact that the kid believes 'air-conditioning' is a Need