Tuesday, July 24, 2007


My only encounter with this martial art was way back when I was in second grade, and it lasted just three months. As far as I can remember, I quit before I got a belt (That's right; I quit). But I did learn a bit of Karate while I was at it back then. I learnt how to punch and how to kick. Well, that isn't much to speak of, but at least I can say this when I see anyone fighting - 'Hey, I know that! I had paid to learn that!'

I don't get the thing with Karate. Most of my friends who are black belts in Karate tell me that it is more an art to them than a fighting technique. Well, I wonder whatever happened to dancing, singing, painting that we now have to visualize fights as art too. People who have never done Karate in their life tell me it is necessary for self defense. I fail to appreciate this. I don't expect to have the House-of-flying-daggers type killers trying to kill me for which I may have to learn Karate to put up an impressive fight, pun intended. The most likely ways in which ordinary folks like you and me can be killed are by accident. Now don't tell me you are going to kick the heck out of a car when it's about to hit you. Others tell me that it is a way of maintaining your body, balance and improving concentration and focus. Whatever happened to less violent methods like gymming and dancing?

What bugs me most is to see old people practising martial arts after retirement. Taekwondo, Karate and the like. I have a theory here. I believe the old people are short of money after their retirement. And they plan to attack us able bodied fellows one fine day and run away with our money. Quite obviously the senior citizens are waiting their time patiently to stuff our money in their bags and make a dash. And I pity most of you who are wasting their time working hard to earn money while the uncles and aunties are silently preparing for the war. And I pity myself more for knowing this, but still not getting the hang of Karate. I wonder which group is Sam in.

It isn't long before the people who are learning Karate instead of working hard to live good lives will attack us and run away with our money. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Staying ahead of idiots

Frankly speaking, there are two types of people in this world - smart people like us, and tens of billions of idiots who get in our way often. Idiots are difficult to handle, especially those who consider themselves to be smart like us. For now, let's stick to calling their stupidity as 'personality'. This has its own good reasons. For one, you can get away with an idiot easily without provoking him.

Me: That's quite a personality that you have Sam.
Sam: Thanks man.

If you are not yet surrounded by idiots, you soon will. They are everywhere, taking over mankind without the slightest hint of such an invasion. If the above mentioned way to tackle them fails to keep them away, I can suggest you three options to deal with them:

1. Kill them.
2. Accept them as they are and respect them for the way they are.
3. Use them.

Option 1 is not a realistic prospect, considering that killing one idiot will provoke hundred others. Option 2 again is absurd, simply because that guy is an idiot and you aren't. Option 3 looks the best if you ask me. Use idiots for your own gain. That is what they are born for. It's like this cow from the restaurant at the end of the universe in the 'Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy' - it says it's made to be eaten. Same goes with our personalities; their very nature begs us to use them. To do this though, you have to predict the behaviour of these idiots, which is difficult, considering the fact that an average idiot cannot predict his own behaviour. For one, you can try hurting the idiots' ego into working for you.

Sam: Hey you were supposed to complete this project long back. Are you ever going to get done with this?
Me: Look I am trying ok.
Sam: I have to face troubles coz of you, you know.
Me: That is quite unbecoming of your personality Sam.
Sam: (pause) I am sorry man. I don't know what came over me. Don't you worry, I'll do it myself.

Most idiots are also god fearing. You can exploit that weakness too to harness it for your own good.

Me: Sam, where are you off to?
Sam: To do your girlfriend. She invited me over.
Me: You can't do that Sam.
Sam: Says who?
Me: Says God. You will burn in hell if you do that.
Sam: Oh thanks man. I never knew. Now that was close. Hey, what if I kill you first?
Me: (pause) Sorry, that isn't any good either.
Sam: Shit.

The most irritating idiots aren't the ones you meet in person. They are the ones who call you on your phone and hold you up from doing your important work for hours talking non sense. If you hang up, their ego is hurt and they may get provoked, which is not what you want. It is best to use an answering machine on your phone with a recorded message that goes like this:

Idiot answering machine: Hello. Before speaking to Tallur, please let me know if this phone call is going to benefit him in any way whatsoever.
Sam: Uh.. umm... yes, I guess so.
Idiot answering machine: Lying son of a gun! (click)

The phone can also be used to insult idiots without provoking them. Go into a room with a cellphone held up to your ear.

Me: You are the most stupid duffer I have ever known.
Sam: Excuse me, what was that? (angry)
Me: Sshhh... I am on the phone. Can't you see?
Sam: Oh, sorry.

Well, I believe I have told you some things that you need to know about idiots. Let me tell you this: you can identify an idiot by the symptoms of stupidity. Watch out for these and you will be easily able to predict whether the person you are thinking about is an idiot or not. Some of them are quite easy to notice:
  • Idiots like growing ear hair.
  • Idiots will vote a cucumber for President, saying that it was time for a change.
  • Idiots will make stupid decisions and call them investments.
No matter how much you try to change idiots, always realise that you can never strip them off their stupidity and selfishness. You may be wondering why I am letting out my secrets about idiots, won't some idiots be provoked by this. Well, I don't care. No matter how much you try, I shall always be two steps ahead of you.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Evolutionary U-turn

Ever since I can recall, I have this what I call a 'healthy' built. I never worked for this, which I believe somehow explains how I got it. I never played any game for my school back in my childhood, primarily because my school didn't have a team at all, nor I think would they have considered me in case they might have made one back then. Some fellow humans have long since confused my healthy lifestyle for lethargy and obesity. How can I convice them that it isn't about laziness nor excessive fat, but about trying to master the art of a healthy, easy and inconspicious solution to emerging as the survivor in Nature's scheme of things?

Some curious folks ask me why I have such a 'healthy built' (if I may use that term), to which I reply that I have a hollow body with huge air pockets, which enable me to fly if I choose to. Keep an eye out on the horizon, and if you spot a floating balloon, observe closely, you may just have the rare privilege of seeing me in flight. Some cynics argue though that I do have huge air pockets; not in my belly though, but between my ears. Guess that explains my occasional light headed behaviour whenever I am not flying around.

The more you grow, the more is the trouble. Besides, if your lateral growth rate exceeds your central growth, you are doomed. I am not sure why, but the 'society' that I live in labels me as 'fat'. I, for sure, am not fat, because I can easily see my toes whenever I want to, even when I stand. But most people prefer to knowingly ignore me, more so the opposite sex. I think that the heavy inertia of my belly somehow bends their gaze around it, much like heavy objects bend the path of light. This I believe is why many people fail to make eye contact with me. Eureka!

Couple this drum of mine with my, let's call it a relaxed spine, and you have someone who doesn't get flattered a lot. I feel this is another reason why people fail to make eye contact with me; my relaxed spine sort of makes my eye level a bit lower than theirs'. The fact that I am tall doesn't help either. Those of you who haven't seen me may picture a tall, hunchback fatso in their minds, and chances are that the first time we meet, you will say, "Hey, I know you! I had imagined you!" Stranger than fiction? Certainly not. I have always tried to maintain a low profile, and a low center of gravity, which may explain both traits I guess.

I guess the oddity with my posture is the fact that it may seem as if I am traveling on the path of evolution in the other direction for most others. Not too long ago, our forefathers were very much like what many of you would have just visualised, primates with huge bellies and bent spines, struggling to walk on two feet as against the other animals who were content on making optimal use of all the feet they were endowed with. But I think I have to change now. Maybe become a bit slimmer and walk straighter. I guess it's high time to take a U-turn on the evolutionary highway, and let civilisation take its chances, along with everyone else.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A notion of gravity

Here is one more in that series of seemingly strange perception of the universe. I am pretty sure I read this in some Scott Adams' book sometime.

Gravity. Ever since seventh grade we have been taught to consider gravity as a force that causes masses to be attracted towards each other. The magnitude of that force is proportional to the product of the masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. I guess ever since Newton discovered this fact due to a bump on his head caused by a falling apple, no one has debated this understanding firmly.

Einstein came up with another notion of gravity. As most of us know, Einstein never accepted the commonly known perception of the universe, and tried to understand it in his own way. He was a school dropout, which is why I wonder he turned out to be so successful. Newtonian classical forces cause a force acting upon a mass to accelerate, where the force is independent of the mass of the body on which it acts. Gravitational force isn't independent of that mass, which set Einstein thinking. And he went on to propose his general theory of relativity, where he describes gravity as something that causes a bump in space-time (Geek stuff here). This was a revolutionary breakthrough in the understanding of space and time and gravity. I will write another post on my perception of space and time in another post, but right now let's concentrate on gravity.

Before I give you my interpretation (rather the one I read somewhere and which set me thinking), let me give you a simple scenario to visualise. Consider a room inside which things double in size every second. Let us not worry about whether the room expands too right now. Suppose I keep you inside this room along with a pen. Now you will never realise that you are doubling in size every instant, because you can compare your size only with that of the pen, which is also growing in size at the same rate as you are. Hold on to this room for the time being.

Now suppose we have a big room like this, and there is a huge globe inside that room. Say you are standing on the globe. Now you feel like doing something funny and try jumping upwards. Let us consider what happens here. You and the globe, both are doubling in size constantly. When you jump up, both of you expand. But the globe is much larger than you, so you will feel it expands faster than you. Notice that I didn't say 'more' but 'faster'. As such, the globe will eventually catch up with you after you 'jumped'. Makes sense?

So what is gravity? Is it a way in which we perceive an ever expanding universe? Consider the other case where say objects would be shrinking in size constantly. In this space, once you jump upwards, the globe will seem to be going further away all the while, instead of catching up with you. I guess this is simple enough to be understood. So are we truly held to the earth by a force, or is it just that the earth is expanding faster than us, and so we never realise that?

One more line of thought. Newton's gravity fails to explain the bending of light around massive objects. Einstein's does; as gravity curves space time, thus reducing the shortest distance between two points, and also light always takes the shortest path from one point to another. How about our expansion theory? It can also explain the bending of light; the faster expansion of a 'massive' object can make us feel as if light is indeed following a bent path. So how do we really understand what gravity is? We cannot approve of this expansion theory unless we leave the system (universe; or if you go by my last post, a multiverse), which I am not sure is quite possible. I guess until we find a solution to do that, we should be content hypothesising such strange, but interesting theories.


Universe. Not long ago, people held the conception that the sun revolves the Earth, and that we live on a flat planet, a disc to be precise. The stars were only known as little dots of light spread out on the mosaic called sky. I guess before that time, living on a globe was only a fragment of one's imagination. One could have only imagined a universe where the earth wasn't in the centre, and the stars are huge balls of gas, way much larger than the puny earth. Imagination thrives on ideas. Ideas thrive on imagination. This intermingling of ideas and imagination is what makes them special, and not everybody's ball game.

I had read this somewhere before, but I am not sure who the author is; otherwise I would have given him due credit. To the best of my knowledge, it should be Scott Adams, but I am not sure. Anyway, I am not the type of writer who research their sources and ideas. I am the type who simply write down their ideas. I was reading about this new way to perceive the universe. Before stating that, I will like to ask you if you know how motion pictures work? Well, let me tell you again for the sake of clarity. Motion pictures consist of still images, called frames, arranged sequentially, where each frame differs from the last only by a slight measure. These frames are flashed upon a screen at a very fast rate (24 per second). Due to the human eye's perception of vision (an image seen by the eye creates an impression on our eye that lasts there for 1/10th of a second approximately), we cannot distinguish between the successive images, and confuse that to be a continuous motion picture. You see, the way we perceive the thing is wrong, not the way we know it. Now that I have told you, the next time you see a motion picture you are not going to see separate frames; just a continuous movie.

This brings me to my point. We perceive our life as something continuous - always changing, ever so slightly from the last instant. Could it be that our life too is like the motion picture? I mean, maybe there isn't just one universe, but infinitely many of those (let's call that a multiverse), arranged sequentially and each one differing from the last one ever so slightly. Of course, there are many variables to be considered in an universe - starting from the various living beings to the various inanimate objects and also the behavioural moods of the living beings etc. So for each universe in this multiverse, there will be infinitely many universes at the next instant. And for each of the next, there will be infinitely more later on too. So you see, I propose a system of infinite universes, that is ever growing. Which brings me to my next point.

Assuming this model of a multiverse holds, why do we traverse through these universes in a particular way. I mean while I am sitting at my desk and typing this document, why am I always here? Why can't I keep switching places throughout the process of writing this article. Or for that matter, why are we the way we are, generically speaking. Assuming my notion of the multiverse is valid, is there some force controlling our travel through the universes? Or is it that we are instinctively programmed to function in a certain particular way, that this multiverse has an order, which is difficult to overcome; or for that matter, can it really be overcome?

Could it really be possible for us to traverse through the universes the way we choose to? And what would we call the entity which traverses through these universes? A soul? Is that soul truly separate from this body then, as many people have said over and over again? Do we have a control over the way we live, partially, if not fully. When one of our forefathers said 'You make your own future', did he mean it?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I remember when I was a kid, my mother always told me to beware of strangers. Somehow I developed this strange notion of strangers being bad men with nice chocolates. Now that I have grown up though, I seem to notice that most helpful and generous people are strangers, as I see here in Cornell. In fact, I believe I am yet to meet the most insightful and helpful people in my life, as they are all strangers for me now. Pun intended.

It isn't a surprise at all therefore, that most companies across the world have also realised the importance of strangers and are relying upon them for a major chunk of their work. Besides, strangers always seem to have our best interests in their mind, unlike our own people, who surprisingly, sometimes do care for our good. Companies don't always have to look out for the best quality of work output when it comes to outsourcing. Any low paid employee in India who will be more than glad to accept a sandwich as a reward is sufficient for the job. The fact that we chaps come out to be talented and speak good English is an added bonus. For other countries where people might be talented but suckers at English, the employer can always learn swear words in the native language and make threatening phone calls late at night to scare them to extract better work at lower pays.

Scott Adams goes a step further in suggesting the USA should outsource its governing work to India for its own good. I shall not be surprised if this happens soon in the near future. Italy has already outsourced its government to India. You may pull out an argument by saying, "But hey, Italy practically has no government at all; the crime rates and all are so high - it isn't a stable government that is in power there." And I would say, "Exactly."

Considering the rate at which outsourcing to India is increasing, I don't think the day is far where India shall be doing the entire work in the world, and other countries will be either fishing or lying on the armchair in their front porch. What this means is that I am both benefiting and losing out by deciding to settle in India for the rest of my life. Of course, since I do most of the work of the world, I will be paid a obscenely high salary. But if things go wrong, the whole world would know who to put the blame upon. But there are other advantages too. When I am in the mood, I can always call in ill and skip work for the day. The consequence of this could be a massive global depression, as I shall be a major part of the workforce throughout the world. Won't that be fun?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Soaring over petrol prices

If there could be one good reason that the rising oil prices don't bother me as much as they bug my sister is that I don't drive while she does. It's her scooterette that I gifted her on her birthday this year that concerns her about the rising petrol prices. "Hey, it went up by 2 bucks so quickly!" she says. But I don't care all that. As long as the train and bus fares don't hop around this way, I am quite content with whatever happens to petrol.

And so it so happens that whenever I am not using public transport, I am either walking or enjoying a ride in a friend's car. Not more than a month back, I was traveling with a friend on our road trip from Ithaca to Dallas. It was a 3 day trip where he drove all along, while I relaxed in the passenger's seat. On the first day, we got held up in a traffic jam near Cleaveland. My friend, who was quite intent on getting to Cincinnati for our halt for the night was getting frustrated with the time being wasted in the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

"You know what? The world burns up more gas waiting in jams than while driving. If we cut down on this wastage, maybe we can bring down gas prices by half," he said.

"I think there's an accident ahead," I said, trying to change topics. I didn't want him to know that I am as ignorant as a stone when it comes to gas prices and the like.

"No, if there were an accident, there would be cops around here and there would be go slow signs flashing around."

"Hmm, good one. Go slow while you wait at one spot for 5 minutes."

"All this is Bush's fault. He starts the war in Iraq and takes control of the oil, and due to all the disputes they have afterwards, the oil prices go up."

"Don't blame that chap," I said. "Sure he wants control of the major oil reserves in the world, but I am sure he doesn't want the prices to go up. I believe he is happy as long as all the money enters his pocket, no matter if it's what it is now, or half that."

"Ok, so whom should I blame? The oil marketing companies?"

"No, don't blame them. They are good sponsors."

Listening to the traffic report on the radio, we discovered it was a lock between two SUVs on the narrow lane that was the culprit. It would be another long wait till the lane could be cleared and normal traffic resumed.

I asked, "Why can't they just push them to the side like they do in India?"

"The insurance companies won't let them. Things run differently in this country."

"Hey, we will have to stand at this very spot for another 5 minutes. Why don't we get out for a stroll? You can kill that engine and help the world save some gas," I said as I opened my door.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you. Not that anyone can take the car away in this jam, but I prefer sitting in the AC instead of in the heat outside."

Sure, I thought. It's you who pays for the gas so you can enjoy the AC all you want. I don't mind the open air as long as I don't pay for the petrol.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Phone(y) calls and the like

2pm on a typical sultry Mumbai Wednesday afternoon. I have just returned from my hostel mess after a not-so-good-but-okay-nevertheless lunch. Wednesday afternoon is something I always look forward to, because IIT policies typically allow no lectures and labs on Wednesday afternoons, which paves the path for a nice brief siesta. I close the curtains to keep out the sun, pull out the soft music folder and enqueue it in Winamp, and set an alarm for 3 hours on my cell phone and lay down happily, awaiting the ever so sweet and lovely sleep. And then arrives the unseen.

It makes its presence felt with a loud ring, which on my phone is the monophonic Rang de Basanti Bhangra score. I agree that the tune is good, but you don't want to hear that when you are trying to catch a few winks in the middle of a busy week. I wake up groaning only to see an unkown number on the screen. I pick up the phone and go,

"Hello?" (in a sad, grudging tone)

"Hello sir, I am calling from ICICI bank and we would like to tell you about our new credit card which has many features such as..."

Click! I don't want to hear any more of this crap. These call centre people working on behalf of the banks, the mutual funds and other what nots catch you always at the wrong time, wrong for both you and them. Neither do you want to talk to them nor do they want to inform you about the latest in their what not scheme of things. Now that my sweet siesta was mercilessly snatched away, I sat down and dreamt of some way the call centre girl would meet her match.

A few days later, I was at my cousin's place and playing with my one and a half year old nephew, Raju. Then, Ring, ring. I answered the call.


"Hello sir. I am calling for Mr. Rajesh from ICICI bank."

"(confused) Uh ok. Hang on,"

I now hand over the phone to Raju. He is very happy that someone is offering him the phone by himself; normally he is driven away the moment that thing rings. I turn on the speaker phone just to watch the fun.


"Hello sir, I am calling from ICICI bank and we.,"

"Da.. um... (giggle)"

"(confused) I am sorry sir, I didn't get you on that. Were you saying something?"

A pause. Raju is now unsure of what he should do. Well, I don't blame the kid, probably this was the very first time that anyone called him. Maybe the call centre girl is happy that she found the one in a millionth caller who hasn't hung up on her as yet, and goes on with her rote message. Raju has nothing to say anyway, except his 'da's and 'ugh's and his giggles, so he stays glued to the phone and listens attentively, all the while fiddling with his favourite toy truck, while I take a break from all the playing, turning off the speaker phone. Raju was smiling all the while he was on the line, and maybe wanted to tell me to take his pic or something; you know he had that gleam in his eyes and the desperately pleading smile that most people offer you when they want you to take their snap. Anyway, I wasn't in the mood for the paparazzi role and called it quits. I guess after a while the call centre employee realised that either she didn't have the right fish on the hook, or probably someone was playing games with her and so she hung up.

Raju suddenly became sad. Maybe he thought he had done something wrong and that is why the nice aunty on the other end cut the call. He gave me that sad little look that he usually gives when he knows he has wronged and started crying. Hearing the loud cries, my cousin sister came rushing out from the kitchen and asked me what happened. I told her all that she wanted to know.

"Don't tell me they had Raju's name on their list. I wonder where they get all this information from!"

I said, "They have their ways. You know, the list of names from the hospital where he was born. Maybe they thought he's some patient or something over there and called. Could be anything you know. Maybe they have many lists of such people out there. Who knows how many Rajus are on their lists."

"Can't they make a list of do-not-call-these-people and put our phone number in there. All this looks scary to me - this prying and snooping around business on the call centre's part."

"If they do that, then Raju would never get another phone call for many years,"

"I don't care. Besides, how would he know?"

"Well, he wouldn't. But now that no one stopped him from playing around with the phone, he will rush to pick it up each time it rings."

"At this rate, maybe he will start receiving junk mail next year onwards!" and she went back to manage the kitchen.

Probably yes, I wondered. The next few months will be full of I-will-get-it's and how-many-times-do-I-have-to-tell-you-to-stay-away's and the accompanying beatings and the cries. Tough times sure lie ahead. But I was happy the call centre girl met her match. Someone with more spare time than her's to actually make her feel she was wasting time.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Foreign investments and India

I have been in the USA for about 2 and a half months now, and am eagerly looking forward to returning to India, which will be in another fortnight. My stay here has benefited me in many ways, but more importantly I got to see India in the light of a foreign culture. Many people here have a very wrong image of India in their minds. For some, India is just another developing country which supplies cheap labour to theirs'. There is no doubt, a hint of truth in this statement, but such statements coming from ignorant fellows makes no sense. Such facts are somehow instilled into their minds and they cannot notice India's position in the world today. Let me focus on something that is of relevance both to them and us Indians - foreign investments in India, which are a major factor in India turning global.

As is not surprising, the news about India that an average learned American gets here is all the bad stuff - the bomb blasts, communal riots, crime, political confusion and a bite of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Sometimes I feel a major people of this country inherits its views on a country, or for that any other matter, from their President, who is probably the worst-informed among all those I know. They should not mix Mumbai's train blasts and its communal riots with the successful financial condition of the city. The Naxal attacks in AP shouldn't be jumbled up with Hyderabad's success in the IT industry. Most Indians never mix up the goofy Bush administration with USA's successful industrial growth and high standard of living. Things ought to be looked at in their right places.

Coming back to our topic of foreign investments, one may notice that most investors are willing to invest in India's southern states, and not so many in the North and north-east part of the country. One reason could be the successful lineage that people from South India have managed to establish abroad, and also that the southern states are more stable politically and economically than their northern counterparts. Another concern for investors is the Leftist rule in India, which slows down economic growth. With a leftist rule in India, investors look at the government falling near to the point of collapse on numerous occasions. But if one thinks more carefully, India has better off having the Left in power, rather than in the opposition, where it can create more problems for India's progress, including strikes and agitations across the country, resulting in deterring foreign investments.

Another problem that investors face I think is the bureaucracy in India. Information about security of their investments in India also is not easily available to the investors, and whatever is available is also not all that reliable. India should not rely on the media to provide this information, but the government should take up this matter and establish good communication and law and order for investors. Besides this, I think India also needs to improve its policing system to draw in more investments. The New York police has witnessed lots of changes in the late 19th century because of the needs and efforts of a small group of citizens who were frustrated with the level of corruption and politics in the department, and the department has fused well with the industrial and community needs of the city, contributing to its progress. It is important that India also takes some steps in this regard. The police should be given more operational freedom without compromising on their accountability. We need more policemen like Julius Ribeiro and KPS Gill who being good servicemen, are also quite active in community service. A good rapport between the police and the industrialists in India is necessary to convince foreign investors to invest in India.

Let us now focus on the current scene of foreign investment in India. Almost 17% of the top 200 stocks in Indian markets are owned by foreign investors. In most top companies in India, foriegn investments have either reached the maximum limit or are almost about there. This is causing concerns, both on a patriotic and strategic level; it is sad to see foreign domination in Indian markets, and also to know that Indian players have not much of a control on the market, that control lying in the hands of few persons sitting in London, Montreal or New York. Besides, when there is a case of such an over investment in a firm, domestic players are also noticed to lose interest, resulting in a waning sensex over a period of time. Such over investment also has had good effects. Now India's domestic assets in equity are a mere 2% compared to 7% when the liberalisation policy was newly announced in 1993. This simply means that industrialists in India now have more capital available than before. This has not discouraged foreign investors too, who believe that retail ownership will still see a rise in India.

Besides, Hedge funds have been showing interest in India in recent times. India offers money making opportunities to them, that have become rare in USA and Europe. Hedge funds are looking at huge investments in Asia, primarily in India, as the market here is more fertile than in China, due to the growth of the derivatives market in India. This is seen as something that might hugely contribute to India's growth in the coming few years.

Thus, India is no longer a mere little developing country in the eyes of most industrialists throughout the world. Indian markets have never had so much diversity in the opinions and addresses of foreign investors. It's high time that people across the world start taking notice of India's role in the global market, lest it be too late.

'Nothing' much of an article

This is an article I wrote long ago on my very first blog. On MaMu's request, I am transferring it to this blog. This one was published in the May '07 issue of the 'Kanara Saraswat' Magazine, and from what I know was received quite well.

On nothing...

Today, I have nothing to write about. So I've decided to write about nothing. It's not easy writing about nothing because something usually comes up. But I think if I try hard, I can come up with something on nothing. So far so good. Cool. Nothing... ok?! Ok.

I feel like I've probably run out of things not to talk about. It's not easy talking about nothing. As usual, I'm tempted to bring up something; and then pretend it was nothing just to have something to say - but that seems a little cheaty (which would be something in and of and by itself). I think if I want to write about nothing, I have to keep it strictly about nothing and not something that has something to do with nothing. It should be something that ain't got anything to do with anything else except nothing. Just nothing at all.

Nevertheless, I still am not sure why I have nothing to write about. Nothing has been going on I guess. Not actually; I mean there have been some things going on, yes; but nothing really worth mentioning which works out fine for what I'm talking about now. But ain't I talking about nothing? Or is it so that there is nothing that I have to write about nothing? What else can I not write about? I guess I could write about this and that- and by this and that, I mean this here nothing and none of that. There. That works. Is this annoying yet? This whole nothing writing? I don't know about you, but it surely is annoying me 'cause I can't think of things that aren't about something or at least slightly more than nothing.

You might say that me writing about nothing does in fact mean that I am indeed writing about something - 'that something' being 'nothing'. Maybe nothing becomes something just by referring to it as nothing. The discussion of talking about what is nothing may even qualify as something more than nothing - even if that discussion turns out to be nothing - the discussion itself might be something anyway. I guess that's already happened maybe. Maybe all this nothing has been about something. But I can easily cancel that out by saying any ideas you may have that this has actually been about something isn't true. This whole thing is indeed about absolutely nothing.

That's all I have to say for now. Nothing more, nothing less :D

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel

This was a quote made by Dr. Samuel Johnson, one of England's most famous literary figures on the evening of April 7th, 1775. It is said that the reason why he said this is still pretty unclear, as it is not clear as to what or who he was referring to with this quote. Well, here's my own analysis of quote, and I shall view this in light of the administration of the President of USA, Mr. George W. Bush. Again, my main source for this and my reference shall be Wikipedia.

September 10th, 2001. It has been 8 months since Mr. Bush has been in office, and his popularity ratings among the American public have fallen down to a low of 50%, which is really shameful for a President of such a developed country. The next day, all that changes. The people who felt they were the safest on the planet are made conscious of an enemy hiding from them but ever watching them - the terrorists. The Bush administration left no stone unturned in raising the feeling of Patriotism in the country. From books to clothes to bags, even diapers (Wal-Mart) adorned the stripes and the stars. When Bush aimed his guns on Afghanistan, his approval ratings leaped up to almost 90%. In the cloudy atmosphere created by the 9/11 attacks, Americans took an increasing liking to their commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

On October 26th 2001, the Congress passed an act called the 'USA Patriot Act', which basically empowers the Government to do anything with anyone they feel is making them afraid - the terrorists; without allowing them to consult a lawyer, or by invading any country that they feel is threatening them, or has links to the al-Qaeida. I guess my smart readers would have realised by now that I am moving on to Iraq.

In October 2002, many leaders of the Christian right sent an open letter to Mr. Bush outlining a just war on Iraq since Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear and biochemical weapons. There was a decreasing support for this invasion in the first few months of 2003, less than 31% in support as per a New York Times poll. Bush's State of the union speech in January that year and Collin Powell's presentation in UN in February that year changed all this. The support percentage jumped up by 7 points to 38. USA invaded Iraq in March. The nation was now triggered into madness, with more than half the population supporting the war even if weapons of mass destruction never be found there. Bush got reelected as the President in 2004, with his campaign focusing on the war against terrorism. By 2005, the military had sort of become the image of the US, with about 3 quarters of the population looking upon it as the most important institution. On July 4th 2005, the Council of Churches took a stand against the war calling it dishonourable. Ever since the support for the war is decreasing rapidly, and Bush's popularity ratings are dropping ever more, with only 32% supporting him.

As of today, USA is still to withdraw from Iraq. I personally believe the invasion was for oil and nothing else, and more innocent Iraqi lives were lost in this battle than American soldiers. There have also been reports of American soldiers harassing and assaulting Iraqi prisoners. Well, I think it wouldn't be wrong to summarise that America has invaded the freedom of two countries under the Bush administration. Educated Americans are able to see this easily and criticise the government, but their strength is too little. I believe America is slowly turning into a police state and the Americans are kept in the dark by the administration. If this goes on like this I think slowly we will have a government that makes decisions against the will of the people but the people can't do much about it. Slowly we may have a country where patriotism shall be the only refuge of the scoundrel.

Friday, July 6, 2007


I have been reading Cosentino's 'Case in Point' lately and yesterday I came upon this observation by the author - Cosentino presented an excerpt from an article that talked about pricing methods. Two main methods were enlisted - cost based pricing, and price based costing. In the former method, the company calculates all costs incurred in developing the particular product or service, and attaches its profit margin to that before selling it at the new price. In the latter, a company first calculates how much would a consumer be willing to pay for the particular product or service, and fixes that price while judiciously allocating resources to keep the costs in check below the price. He talked about why you see so many Japanese companies leading the Consumer electronics industry today as compared to American companies, which are quite few, as many of us would know. The reason presented in his analysis is that the Japanese companies practised price based costing while their American counterparts concentrated on cost based pricing.

Isn't it remarkable that such a seemingly trivial business strategy can either spell out to be a triumph or a catastrophe? Most of us are comfortable with the notion of cost based pricing. So let me focus on a pricing method called 'Activity based costing' for now, based on what I learn from Wikipedia. This method arose and became popular in the 1980s, primarily in the manufacturing sector in USA. The traditional cost accounting methods were designed somewhere around the 1870s and in those days the industry was labor intensive, devoid of automation, with a limited product variety and the overhead costs in companies were generally very low. Such costing methods began spelling trouble for companies in the 80s owing to their irrelevance to that time. Activity based costing came to the rescue of many companies during those times.

The main differentiating aspect about Activity based costing is that this method assumes that costs do not consume resources, but activities. Besides, this is a process oriented method, as against the traditional methods of pricing which were structure oriented. In the traditional methods, cost allocation held more importance. In the activity based costing scheme, it is assumed that costs cannot be managed; one can manage the processes and the costs will respond automatically. This affords a greater scope to companies to increase productivity, by proper supervision of production capacity in each process. Besides, traditional costing methods were labour intensive. Now-a-days in countries like USA and other European countries where labour is expensive, such costing schemes are inefficient for this reason too. In the new scheme, drivers are used to assign costs (Drivers are cost estimates at each process level - unit level, batch level, product level and facility level). There are two main types of drivers - activity drivers (which track how cost object behaviour effects activity levels) and resource drivers (which track how the activity levels influence resource consumption). the notion of fixed and variable costs is different too - a fixed activity cost is something that exists because of the sheer existence of an activity, and a variable activity cost is something that varies with the output of the activity. These notions of the costs make more sense than the traditional ones in modern day business.

Thus, account based costing can point towards the causes of costs by focusing on processes, which are critical success factors for any company. This makes the costing scheme a powerful tool towards a company's growth and success. Rather, it is a must-have these days.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Challenging complexity

One has different ways of looking at complexity. While some take delight in its sheer intricacy and the inherent puzzling aspect that it presents, others look upon it as a problem and try to simplify it, attempting to create a simpler version of the otherwise complex problem, so as to derive more benefits more easily from that former.

I like my life to be simple, and hence abhor complexity. But there are things that cannot be simplified beyond a limit - take for instance the current project I am working on with Xiao. It is a very complex system (the nature of which I cannot disclose due to an NDA that I have signed, all I can say is we are working on a low power UWB radio), and hence something that irks me. Now however hard I may try, I cannot strip the circuit off its complexity. Yet I am supposed to lay it out for fabrication. So I felt that it would be more worthwhile investing time in simplifying my notion of complexity rather than avoiding all things complex, large and small.

I feel that any complex thing can be analysed as a simple mix of 2 complex parts - what I prefer to call individual complexity and system level complexity. You can always break a complex system, or for that matter anything complex, say a complex problem, or a complex issue, into a simple combination of various blocks that may or may not be complex. The complexities of each of the individual blocks in turn contributes to the system level complexity, which is what one encounters when one looks at the complex phenomenon superficially. Although the two levels of complexity are very closely related to each other, I feel that it's very important to analyse them separately. More often than not one fails to make breakthroughs because one becomes more obsessed with the system level complexity while he may be better off attacking each complex block separately.

Also I believe some issues are adaptive in nature; their complexity increases with each failed attempt to simplify them. Consider a case where you want to recover from a failed venture, say a failed startup, with little backing from others. For such issues, it becomes necessary to tackle the individual complexities one by one, rather than focusing on the system level complexity, which may result in one inadvertently aggravating the individual complexities, probably resulting in a bad impact on the complexity of the system.

How should one then approach the issue of individual complexity? Most often, people look for a good strategy to deal with complexity. This is describing the situation in a broad way; I shall not narrow down to any specific case. This is a good approach and will pay off most times. But poor strategic choices may have a negative impact on solving the problem at hand. I think it would be much more helpful to solve this problem through well-sequenced activities. While aiming to simplify a complex system, it is also important to manage the complexity along the way. One should first identify the parameters determining the complexity in the block under consideration and fix the kind of simplification that one is looking for. Then make attempts to solve that while at the same time seeing to it that one doesn't affect the complexity of the other blocks adversely.

A certain degree of complexity may be unavoidable, but then the answer is not to pare back and simplify at all costs. Managing complexity is equally if not more important than simplifying it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

I am a worm, hear me roar

Boyhood - they say you should be done away with this at an early age, or it causes a catastrophe if it surfaces when you grow up. At times, adult life can seem a bit difficult, especially when you pass through such childish phases along the way, much like a worm (caterpillar, say) who leaves the cocoon and spreads out its wings. You leave your own little universe and enter a very complex system, where things aren't being started from scratch, but an art whose elements play well defined roles to create the bigger picture. Most often such ambitious new entrants into the system fill in cracks and niches in the same - ending up doing something believing they and the role were meant for each other.

I don't quite know what I am - a worm or a fly; maybe I am one wing out of my cocoon yet, alternating between re-entering the cocoon and trying to spread my wings out of it and explore all those things that I can never find inside there. We live in a world where we look upon change in the same way Houdini would have looked upon at his padlocked boxes - first try to wiggle free from it, and surrender only if you cannot escape. I believe we all share a strength - of taking control of our own story than succumbing to one scripted by others. I take it from whatever little I have seen of life so far, that each one of us realises this strength in our own capacity and benefits from the same accordingly; to each his own success.

Brainstorming, debates, chitchatting, talks, sermons, advice - how many ways do we seek to reconcile our past, our life with what we aim to be, with what we should be. We seek information and review our life in the light of the same and ever more try to improve upon it. But all this that we do, everything we think of, isn't this all biased? Don't we all inherit biases when we interact with new acquaintances? No matter how original one may think one is, the very fact that you are thinking so might be inherited after all. Being original isn't about doing something out of the way - I say it is more about defying what others think you are. The introvert person may become more outgoing, the screw up would become more careful, the fickle minded may learn focus. Isn't this what self definition is all about? - making your own story? A willful and a well-informed way of living that has its roots in our past, is nourished by out present, and seeks to reach out to the bright sun of future?

Maybe I have come far enough where I know what I am doing and the world should appreciate what I do. I am here to shake off the chains of whatever labels the world may have assigned me -I don't want to be identified as Mr. Achieve-all, or Mr. Studious or Mr. Dreamer and the like - maybe I want to leave these behind me yet never forget them. Maybe I do not need to follow the path that thousands of souls have been following all along; maybe I am made for something big, something never thought of before, something of my own. I may be a worm, but hear me roar.