Friday, October 31, 2008

Paul Kruger and Jagdish Bhagwati

When one great talks/writes about another, one should peel his ears/eyes and listen/read.
I came across this ...
"How his MIT teacher, Jagdish Bhagwati, overruled uncomprehending referees’ reports and published Krugman’s paper in the Journal of International Economics in 1979, even though it meant his own work would be eclipsed by that of his former student." in a column of Economic Principals (yeah! the spelling is correct).

I was naturally curious for not very often one comes across large hearted human beings. I had of course heard about Jagdish Bhagwati when I first joined AK Aerotek. My senior colleague Mr. M.V. Kannan was his student in the Delhi School of Economics. And when Amartya Sen received the Nobel Prize for Economics, Mr. Kannan had told me that Bhagwati also deserves one.

In any case, I googled and found this. This is a speech by Paul Kruger in honour of Jagdish Bhagwati.

Peel your eye-lids and read every word of it. It tells you volumes about not only Jagdish Bhagwati but also about Paul Kruger.

Those who are interested in Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati, may want to look up here.

Another interesting article by Paul Kruger is referred in one of my presvious entries, here.

I am pleased this happens to be my 100th entry for this blog.

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Did Dilbert Get His Idea From Me?

Don't believe me? Compare the punch line of the Dilbert Strip of October 31st, 2008 (today) with my blog title of October 17th, Who Moved Their Cheese.
Just kidding!

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Governing Philosophy

It seems everyone has a philosophy in life that they follow or try to follow. I never actually thought about any governing philosophy. I have more or less muddled through. So is that a philosophy too? ;-)

In any case, I pushed myself to come up with something that I should always follow ... here is the result. The problem is that the various aspects may not gel together.

Ok here goes ...

a) "This too shall pass" - this has been borrowed directly from the Buddha.

b) "Is the glass is half-full or half-empty? Depends on whether the quantity of water in the glass is sufficient to quench the thirst." I think this is original. But if someone else has seen this somewhere else, please let me know. I must have picked it up sub-consciously.

c) "What the caterpillar calls the end of life, the master calls a butterfly" I am sure I have picked this up from some Zen book. Don't remember exactly which one or when.

d) "Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best" - certainly not original. No idea where I got this from. But since I practice this without actually stating so, people are confused whether I am an optimist or a pessimist. I think I should refer them to (b) above.

e) Anything that Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes) says. That proves that I am a classic 'muddling-through'.

I think this is sufficient.
I shall revisit this after some time.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Kristian Stokholm. Visit gallery to see more such pictures.

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Let's Learn German Together - Lesson 5 (Grammar)

Ok. Time for some grammar.
This is in response to a comment here.

We will only focus on verb forms in present tense only.

First the easy past. Notice how the verb changes.

gehen = to go (called the infinitive form)

ich gehe --------- I go (it took me a while to realise that there is no present continuous tense in German language. "I am going" is same as "I go"

du gehst --------- you go
sie/er/es geht ---- she/he/it goes
Sie gehen -------- you go (formal you)
wir gehen -------- we go
ihr geht ----------- you (plural, informal) go
sie gehen ---------- they go

Ok! now for confusion points. You (formal), she, they are "Sie", "sie" and "sie" in German. In other words, identical in spelling and pronounciation. Note that for "you" (formal), "Sie" is written with a capital "C".

She (=sie) is easy to make out as the verb has a different form. However, the formal you (=Sie) and they (=sie) take the same verbs. The only way you can make out the difference is by context. I have also commented on this in Lesson 0.

Let's now go to some other verbs. Another example of a verb that is similar to "gehen" (see above).

trinken = to drink
ich trinke --------- I drink
du trinkst --------- you drink
sie/er/es trinkt ---- she/he/it drinks
Sie trinken -------- you drink (formal)
wir trinken -------- we drink
ihr trinkt ----------- you (plural, informal) drink
sie trinken ---------- they drink

Prost! (Cheers)

Now for some irregular verbs. These are irregular because they do not take the normal form. These have to be learnt as we go.

essen = to eat
ich esse --------------- I eat
du isst --------------- you eat
sie/er/es isst ---------- she/he/it eat
Sie essen ------------- you eat (formal)
wir essen ------------- we eat
ihr esst ---------------you (plural, informal) eat
sie essen -------------- they eat

Here are the two most used verb: sein (to be) and haben (to have). Unfortunately "sein" is highly irregular. Fortunately, its English equivalent "to be" is also irregular. Does that make things easy?

Here we go.

sein = to be
ich bin ---------------- I am
du bist --------------- you are
sie/er/es ist ---------- she/he/it is
Sie sind -------------- you are (formal)
wir sind -------------- we are
ihr seid -------------- you (plural, informal) are
sie sind -------------- they are

haben = to have
ich habe ---------------- I have
du hast ----------------- you have
sie/er/es hat ---------- she/he/it has
Sie haben -------------- you have (formal)
wir haben -------------- we have
ihr habt -------------- you (plural, informal) have
sie haben -------------- they have

Now, to address Madhu's problem.

When there is an auxiliary verb in the sentence, like möchten, the main verb goes to the end, and takes the infinitive form.

Ich gehe dort - I go there
Ich möchte dort gehen - I would like to go there.

Pronounciation key:

gehen -- gay-hen
gehst -- gay-st
geht -- gay-t
trinken/trinkst/trinkt -- pronounced exactly the way it is written
prost - pr-o-st
esse -- essay
isst -- east
essen -- aye-ssen
bin -- bin
bist -- bisst
ist - isst
sind - zint
seid - zye-t
habe -- haa-bay
hast - haast
hat - hut
haben - haa-ben
habt - haa-bt

To see all the german lessons on one page click here => Check out my lens

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mind Mapping

mind mapping
My favourite moments in reading a book is when I discover a book inside a book. Say, I am reading a book and then suddenly there is a reference to some other book, the title of which looks very interesting. I would then google or amazon it and find to my surprise an entirely new subject that I would have never come across before or would have heard only very vaguely about.
Of the many such instances, the one that stands out was a couple of years ago when I was reading How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb. The sub-title of this book is Seven Steps To Genius Every Day so obviously I was attracted to it. In any case to study Leonardo is always fascinating.
However this blog is not about this book. It is about another one that is referred in ere. And that is Mind Mapping.
This is what How To Think ... has to say about Mind Mapping.

"While all the principles in this book can help you balance your hemispheres and awaken your latent DA Vincian capabilities, you can concentrate on that balance by using one simple, tremendously powerful method for cultivating a synergy between Arte and Scienza in your everyday thinking, planning, and problem solving. The method is called mind mapping.

Mind mapping is a whole-brain method for generating and organizing ideas, originated by Tony Buzan (yeah the same guy you met here), and largely inspired by Da Vinci's approach to note taking."

The best thing about Mind Mapping is that we actually indulge in it fairly regularly without realizing it - it goes by the name, doodling. Mind mapping is an advanced version of doodling.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Max Brown. To see more of his photographs visit his gallery.

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Obama vs McCain - an Indian's choice

I have been told that if McCain wins it will be good for India. Why? Because Obama is more anti-outsourcing. On the other hand, as per a very hard hitting article by Paul Krugman that appeared in The Week, titled The Frightening McCain, is, well, frightening. McCain is accused not only of having no economic sense but also of having surrounded himself with economically-illiterate advisors. So what choice does an Indian has?

I am, of course, aware that the next President of the US will do whatever is good for Americans. Any impact on India is incidental. Besides, no American gives a damn what an Indian residing in India chooses. But going by financial tsunami unleased by unregulated American financial market, I would rather wish for an anti-outsourcing person as the next American president rather than face another economic disaster brought in by misguided economic policies.

Just one point: The week also points out in a survey that the Americans are worried most about the state of economy. For better or worse, whatever be the actions taken, and who-even takes the actions, the world will recover by 2010. And if Obama is the elected president, does that mean the Americans will have to be content with a democrat when what they require at that point of time is a republican?

Hmmmm... I need to learn more about American politics.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Michael Slonecker. To see more of his photographs visit his gallery.

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The Greatest Indian Sportsperson Of All Times

He has been playing and winning since the age of 14. He has been among the top 3 players for the last 12 years (only recently did he drop down to number 5).
He has won the World Chapionship four times.
He is the original blitzkrieg guy - the term "master blaster" is only a derivative.
He has won the Oscars 5 times.
He is likely to win it this year too.
He is humble.
He is the greatest.
He is Viswanathan Anand.
And he today is the reigning world champion.
He made Kramnik eat his words (something like 'the title is on loan to Anand and I will get it back').

Three cheers to Anand!

Now, can we expect his book My Best Games of Chess to become a best seller in India?

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Google To The Rescue

Just when I thought I was on the verge of a great discovery ...
Thank God for Google, I stopped short of making a fool of myself.

This happened this morning when I was reading Against The Gods. As I was going through Pascal's Triangle, it struck to me that all the rows of the triangle were powers of 11.

For example the first row is 1 (=11^0). The 2nd row is 11 (=11^1), 3rd row 121 (=11^2), 4th row 1331 (=11^3).

This got me all excited as I had not read this pattern anywhere before. Obviously I haven't read enough. Before putting this up on my blog, I decided to google Pascal's Triangle. Good thing I did.

See here.
It has the Pascal's Triangle in terms of power of 11 and more.

Of course this site does not tell you why the probability of having at least 1 girl (or a boy) in a family of 2 children being planned by a young couple is 75%. This can be computed using the Pascal's Triangle. But I am sure you can Google this information too.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

National Integration

We Indians take pride in the concept of National Integration. When I was a child, I came across the concept of "Unity In Diversity" very often in my school. I only hear this now-a-days during the commentary at the Republic Day. Things surely have changed!

An unique example of national integration comes from Germany. Remember there was a protest against building mosques in Cologne and Berlin. However, the biggest mosque opened in Germany without a protest from the local community.

Here area few excerpts of the article from Der Spiegel.

The governor of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Jürgen Rüttgers, said: "We need more mosques in this country, not in the back yards, but visible and recognizable."

Why did everything pass off so smoothly in Marxloh? Is it because the 34-meter minaret is only half as high as the spire of the local Catholic church? Or because the Islamic community decided from the start to do without the muezzin call?

"We spend a lot of time talking to each other, not about each other," said Kücük, 39, while giving a tour through the mosque.

Do you see a spirit of give-and-take?
That's what National Integration is all about.

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Diwali, Loaded Dice and a Warning

Today is Diwali or Deepawali - one of the most beautiful of all festivals. Nothing looks more beautiful than a series of lit earthen lamps on the roofs and the boundary walls of a house. But knowing human beings, we can always expect a (somewhat) negative aspect to Diwali. Gambling!

Gambling comes in two forms - cards and dice.
While playing dice one would generally assume that the probability of any of the 6 numbers coming up is the same - 1/6. However, most gamblers play with two dices and that's where luck stops laying a part. The probability of the numbers 2 to 12 is no longer the same.

Have a look:

Dice#1 -- Dice#2 -- Total
1 -- 1 -- 2
1 -- 2 -- 3
1 -- 3 -- 4
1 -- 4 -- 5
1 -- 5 -- 6
1 -- 6 -- 7
2 -- 1 -- 3
2 -- 2 -- 4
2 -- 3 -- 5

and so on and so forth. Notice than the sum of 2 will never again occur.

The probability works out to be as follows:

Total -- Probability of Occurrence
2 -- 1/36
3 -- 2/36
4 -- 3/36
5 -- 4/36
6 -- 5/36
7 -- 6/36
8 -- 5/36
9 -- 4/36
10 -- 3/36
11 -- 2/36
12 -- 1/36

Notice a pattern? The middle numbers have more probability of occurrence.

However, the problem is compounded because of manufacturing process. The dice people play with are not perfect dice. They are "loaded". As a result the probabilities change.

Most of the players I have seen playing are a little (and that is an understatement) drunk. And no one thinks of probabilities while playing. So instead of starting Diwali with pots of luck they end up losing money.

So, is it safe to stick to cards? Again most of them play with more than one deck and depending on the game the probabilities are not equally distributed. So beware there too.

Diwali is a beautiful festival. There are a lot of ways of enjoying it. Drinking to the gills and gambling is not one those.

Just a thought: did Shakuni know more about probability than Yudhisthira? You bet!

Note: The picture used here belongs to Owais Khan. See more of his photographs here.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stop Reading Management Books

Stop reading management books
At least that is the message that first came to me as I was reading Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense by Jeffery Pfeffer & Robery I. Sutton.

Of course that is not the purpose of the book. It puts forward yet another 'paradigm' - Evidence Based Management. But read through the book and you will see management myths exploding.

The premises of Hard Facts ... is quite simple - every best practice is context based. It is necessary to study the context before application. Use commonsense. But do you think management best seller would say this.

Hard fact ... discusses some well-known management practices in a very balanced manner. The positives and the negatives are discussed and then the authors offer their understanding.

Here are some of the excerpts from the book ... I bet the first thing you would do after reading the excerpts is to buy the book.

The excerpts ...

"Take incentives, the cornerstone of so many celebrated management practices. Do you always need money and other bribes to get people to act the right way? Are people who get more of these goodies always the best human beings? These two beliefs are rarely questioned when applied to work settings."

"... for most jobs in most organizations, assessing talent and ability is fraught with error and bias. Most dimensions of work performance are not as objective as how well someone can pitch, hit a ball, or throw a discuss."

"Variable Pay = Pay Dispersion = Lower Performance"

"Attributing Intel's success to its own strategic decisions is, however, partly incorrect. ... Intel was given the chance to move into microprocessors largely as a result of a strategic decision by IBM to outsource the manufacture of microprocessors for IBM PC, a lucky break that Intel was smart enough to capitalize on but that had little to do with any planning, rational analysis, or strategy formation by Intel's senior team."

By the way, the authors are professors at Stanford. They also authored The Knowing-Doing Gap.

Note: This is the second time I am using A. Kratzenberg's picture. See the gallery for more photographs.

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So You Think Einstein Was A Genius!

the list
All of us have our favourite genius. Einstein comes to most minds when asked. There is also a tendency to mix up role model and genius.

I found this interesting list from the book How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. (More about this in a future blog, I promise).

I quote from the book:

In the Book of Genius Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene make the world's first objective attempt to rank the greatest geniuses of history. Rating their subjects in categories including "Originality," "Versatility," "Dominance-in-Field," "Universality-of-Vision," and "Strength and Energy," they offer the following as their "top ten."

10. Albert Einstein
9. Phidias (architect of Athens)
8. Alexander the Great
7. Thomas Jefferson
6. Sir Issac Newton
5. Michelangelo
4. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
3. The Great Pyramid Builders
2. William Shakespeare
1. Leonardo da Vinci

Lists are meant to be disputed. What is your list?

Note: The picture used belogs to Josep Altarriba. To see more such photogrpahs visit his gallery.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chandrayaan Achieves Success Even Before Reaching Moon

The night before the launch of the Chandrayaan I had wished for a success that goes beyond destination moon. See here.
Turns out the beyond moon achievements have started rolling out already. If this news is to be eblieved, then NASA scientists are already knocking the ISRO doors.

Way to go ISRO!!!

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Let's Learn German Together - Lesson 4

Before I start I must thank the eight subscribers. You give me the encouragement to go on. Thank you.

The story so far ...

You have met up with your pen friend at the Airport in Frankfurt. After the initial exchanges you are now sitting at the Cafe at the airport.

She calls for a waiter ...

She: "Entschuldigen Sie! Herr Ober!" (Excuse me! Mr. waiter! aintshooldigen zee. hair obair.)
Ober: "Guten Tag! Was möcheten Sie?" (Good Morning. What would you like? gooten takh. waas moechten zee)
She: "Ich möchte eine Tasse Tee. Mit Zitrone, bitte." (I would like a cup of tea please. WIth lime please. issh moechtay eye-nay tassay tay. mitt tsitronay bittay)

Ober: "Sicher!" (turning to you) "And what would it be for you?" (Sure! ... zisshair)
You (smiling): "Ich verstehe Deutsch! Und ich nehme ein Glas Saft. Orangensaft!" (I understand German. And I will take a glass of orange juice. issh fairstayhay doyachey. oont issh naymay eye-n glass zaft. oraan-gain-zaft)

Ober: "Sehr gut! Sonst noch etwas?" (Very good. anything else? shayer goot. zonst nauch ate-wass)
You (to your friend): Möchtest du etwas? (Would you like anything? moechtest doo ate-wass)
She (fudgeting with her mobile): Wie bitte? (Sorry! v bittay)
You: Möchtest du noch etwas zu essen? (Would you like anything else to eat? moechtest doo nokh ate-wass tsu aissen)
She: Ja! Zweimal Schokoladekuchen. Für beide. (Yes. Two chocolate cakes. For both. ja. tswai-maal shock-o-laaday-cookhain. fuer bye-day )

Ober: Sofort! (immediately. zoforct)

Please note all the endings with "ay" like in moechtay needs to be pronounced abruptly. Do no linger on the "ay" for too long.

Interesting points:

a) "s" at the beginning of a word or syllable is pronounced like "zed"
b) Now that dreaded work "Sie". It means you. To be used when talking to seniors, complete strangers, officially, formally, and when in doubt whether to use du or Sie.

c) The most important word in German along with thank you is "bitte" - please. Use it whenever possible.
d) "Wie bitte" - actually translates to "how please". But as a set phrase always used to be "what please?", "pardon", etc.

e) "noch" is used for "still", "yet", etc. But needs to be seen in context.
f) the bit "mal" used in "zweimal" actually means times. But used in context here, it just means two. "Zwei" is two. The next lesson will be entirely dedicated to numbers. The earlier we learn the numbers the better for us.

By now you have a big list of vocabulary. So translate the following.

i) I would like tea.
ii) Would you like something to drink?
iii) I (will) take chocolate cake.

Happy Diwali.

To see all the german lessons on one page click here => Check out my lens

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Where is Chandrayaan-1 Now?

I would be of great interest to get an hourly update (if not minute to minute) of the Chandrayaan, don't you think? ImeanI would like to know if Chandrayaan is over India now, or over pacific, at what height, orientation, what is the nest manouevre planned, etc. etc.

There are so many amazing things that could be relayed live on Internet to millions of Chandrayaan fans.

The nearest thing I found to a live news is here. Right now itshows that the Chandrayaan's orbit has been raised. This was updated yesterday at 3:00 p.m.

Need more data.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

The HCL CEO Was Right After All

In one of my previous log, I differed with what the HCL CEO had to say about the current economic condition. See I Think HCL CEO Got It Wrong.

Well looks like he had seen furtherthan I had. Check out this piece of interesting news where US is inviting Indian IT companies to help.

Cheers everyone!

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Always Come Early For An Interview

the long job interview queue
Or how to improve your probability ...

I cannot get over this book. Fooled By Randomness so vividly describes how we human do not understand how randomness fools us.

One fact that emerges out of this book is that traders take probability of an event occurring as risk while actually it is the value associated with the risk that needs to be considered.

I therefore decided to test out this hypothesis.

I asked a family member if she would place a bet on a game if there was 99% probability of winning Rs.100 but only 1% probability of losing Rs.100,000. The answer came almost immediately, "yes". I then asked her the second question. Would she undergo an eye operation which has 99% probability of perfect eyesight post-operation but only 1% chances of losing the eye. "Are you crazy?" was the answer.

My conclusion: people understand risk when the value is more personal. The first question remains in the realm of the hypothetical. Though the value is negative, there is actually no such game and she would not lose any money since we are not playing one. But an eye? We understand the value of losing an eye. That is more immediate. I am not a trader but I can now guess why brokers do not worry about value while taking risk. It is not their money - most of the time. The thought of a loss does not hit them hard enough as the thought of losing an eye would. Therein lies the difference.

But wait there is more.

The above incidence happened a few days ago. Yesterday a colleague asked me if I have seen the movie "21". She then asked me why switching the choice of the closed door in the game show would result in 67% probability of winning, when it is obvious that the probability is 50%. (In the movie the professor asks the protagonist the famous Monty Hall Problem, in which the game host offers the player a chance to switch the door after he has revealed that one of the doors not chosen does not contain a valuable item.)

If you follow the this link you will get an answer. But what is important to understand is that not only do human beings react to probability in a very simplistic way but we also refuse to believe that an action by someone could change the probability, especially when that person is in possession of some knowledge that you do not have.

We tend to treat all events as independent. Just like the previous roll of dice has no impact on the next roll of dice. But that is not correct with life except for some very simplistic cases. If you are appearing for an interview in a job, assuming it is a fair selection process, do you think that every candidate has equal chance of selection? Wrong. Your chance depends on who has gone before you. If the candidate before you impresses the selection committee, unless you are superlative, your chances reduce.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Sigurd Decroos. To see more of his pictures go to his gallery here.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Let's Learn German Together - Lesson 3

Have you subscribed yet? You can subscribe using the link on the right panel of this blog.
If you have some questions, leave them in the comment. (The comments are moderated. So have patience)

Continuing from where we left last ...

She: "Was wird du jetzt machen? What do you want to do now?" (was weert doo yetst maachen)
You: "Zuerst, ich möchte etwas trinken. Ich have Durst. First, I would like to drink something. I am thirsty." (tsu-airst issh moeshtay aet-wass trinken. Issh haabay doorst.)

She: "Dort drüben ist ein Cafe. Gehen wir dort. Over there is a Cafe. Let's go there." (dort druyben ist eye-n kaffay. Gehen weer dort)

You would immediately see some peculiar (from an English point of view, that is) pronunciation:
(i) "j" is pronounced "yay".
(ii) "z" is pronounced "ts" (that is almost like 'zed' but not quite there)
(iii) "d" at the end of the word is pronounced "t". (In the last lesson, you would have noticed "und" (and) being pronounced "oont")

Some other aspects.

(iv) It is common to say in German 'I have thirst', 'I have hunger' (ich habe Hunger) rather than I am thirty / hungry.
(v) I have translated "Gehen wir" as "Let's go". A transliteration would be - "Go we". You will meet many such stock phrases.

(vi) "a cafe" is "ein Cafe". In lesson 2, "a week" was "eine Woche". That is because Cafe is neuter gender and week is feminine. The "ein" becomes "eine" in front of a feminine.

If this is puzzling, just you wait. But don't worry. We will negotiate genders together. Just remember that all nouns in German are either Masculine, Feminine or Neuter. Most books ask you to mug up the gender when you come across a new noun. It never worked for me. I remember genders in context. Now, that I know "Dort drüben ist ein Cafe." Cafe is either male or neuter gender.

It is not only "ein" that changes form. Even "the" takes different forms.

Der - is "the" for male
Die - is "the: for female
Das - is "the" for neuter

Der Mann - the man
Die Frau - the woman
Das Cafe - the cafe

And finally,
(vii) The transliteration of "Was wird du jetzt machen?" is "What will you now make?" But it is used in the sense of "What do you want to do now?"
"Wird" is derived from "werden" which means to become. The usage different from the actual meaning is common across al llanguages and can only be learnt.

The story so far ...
You: "Hello!"
She: "Hallo!"
You: "Wie geht es Ihnen?"
She: "You can call me dear"
You: "Wie geht es dir?"
She: "Gut! Danke. Und dir?"
She: "Wie war die Reise?"
You: "Nicht schlecht."
She: "Bist du müde?"
You (male ego in place): "Nein!"
She: "Wie lange bist du hier?”
You: "Für eine Woche.”
She: "Das ist sehr schön. Ich kann dir im Wochenende Frankfurt zeigen.”
You: "Prima!"
She: "Was wird du jetzt machen?"
You: "Zuerst, ich möchte etwas trinken. Ich have Durst."
She: "Dort drüben ist ein Cafe. Gehen wir dort."


Translate into German:
(a) Over there is a man.
(b) Over there is a woman.
(c) I am hungry.
(d) I would like to go there. (A little tough. Just remember the main verb will be pushed to the end)

To see all the german lessons on one page click here => Check out my lens

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Destination Moon & Beyond

Tomorrow India will wake up to its first mission to moon. Here's wishing all the Indian space scientists and engineers all the very best. I hope it the mission is a grand success.

And in case someone from the team is reading this right now, here's my wish list:

1) Be the first to send a manned mission to Mars.
2) Join the International Space Station missions.
3) Complete the long pending hypersonic plane.
4) Become so successful that the first choice of a young brilliant student would be to pursue basic sciences.
5) Be so successful that all scientists and engineers who have left ISRO comes back to join you.
6) Send an Indian to moon - and let that be me ;-)

Note: The picture used here belongs to G Schouten de Jel. To see more of his pictures visit his gallery.

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Let's Learn German Together - Vocabulary

The words are arranged in the order of their appearance. This post will keep getting updated.

Lesson 0:

German - English
hallo - hi
wie - how
geht - goes
es - it
Ihnen - to you (polite form)
dir - to you (informal form)
gut - fine
danke - thank you
und - and

Lesson 1:

German - English
wie - how
war - was
die - the (feminine)
Reise - journey
nicht - not
schlecht - bad
bist - are
du - you (informal form)
müde - tired
nein - no

Lesson 2:
German - English
wie - how
lange - long
bist - are
du - you
hier - here
für - for
eine - one
Woche - week
das - that
ist - is
sehr - very
schön - beautiful (here: nice)
ich - I
kann - can
dir - to you (informal form)
im(=in dem) - in the
Wochenende - weekend
zeigen - to show
prima - great

Lesson 3:
German - English
was - what
wird - from werden (becomes) see text for more details.
du - you (informal)
jetzt - now
machen - to make (here, do) see text for more details
zuerst - first
ich - I
möchte - would like
etwas - something
trinken - to drink
dort drüben - over there
ist - is
ein - a
Cafe - cafe
gehen - to go
wir - we
dort - there

Lesson 4:

German - English
entschuldigen Sie - excuse me. ("Sie" is "you" , but ...)
herr - Mr.
Ober - waiter
Guten - good (Guten because Tag is male; a female would have meant Gute)
Tag - day (male)
was - what
möchten - would like
Sie - you (formal)
Ich - I
möchte - would like (different verb ending but same as möchten - we will come to this too, later)
eine - one
Tasse - cup (female)
Tee - Tea (male)
mit - with
Zitrone - lime (female)
bitte - please
sicher - sure
verstehe - understand
Deutsche - German (male)
und - and
nehme - take
ein - one
Glas - Glass (neuter)
Saft - juice (male)
Orangensaft - orange juice (male)
sehr - very
Gut - good
sonst noch etwas - anything else (used by shopkeepers a lot)
möchtest - would you like (similar to möchten - but goes with "du")
du - you (informal)
etwas - something
Wie bitte - beg your pardon
zu - to
essen - to eat
Ja - yes
zweimal - two (times)
Schokoladenkuchen - chocolate cake
für - for
beide - both
sofort - immediately

Lesson 6:

German - English
wer – who
ist – is
das – that (das can also mean “the” – look for context)
ein – a / one
Freund – friend (m.)
von – of
mir – mine
was – what
es – it
über – about (this could also mean “over”)
ich – I
muss – have to / must
jetzt – now
gehen – to go (“ich gehe” becomes “ich muss gehen” – the main verb takes the infinitive form when pushed to the last by the modal verb)
hier – here
Ihr – your (formal)
Tee – tea (m.)
mit – with
Zitrone – lime
Saft – juice
und – and
zweimal – two (times)
Schokoladekuchen – chocolate cake (when a noun is plural the gender doesn’t matter – we will get to this later)
danke schön – thank you (danke schön transliterates to beautiful thanks, but in this context it just means heartfelt thanks)
bitte schön – transliterates to beautiful please, but in this context it means you are welcome
wie – how
heißt – called (heißen = to be called)
dein – your (informal)
er – he
Engländer – English (man)
kommt – comes (kommen = to come)
aus – from (out of)
für – for
nur – only
Woche – week (f.)
ihm - him (this form of him comes with “mit”. Otherwise, ihn = him. We will discuss this later)
kaufen – to buy, to shop

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Great Day For Indian Sports

Indians rejoice.
Anand has won his fifth game in the ongoing World Chess Championship against Vladimir Kramnik. He now leads by two points (3.5 - 1.5). His both victories came playing black. Unless something totally unexpected happens, Anand is sure to retain his World Championship.
And, oh yes! Indians have also thrashed Australians by 320 runs in the second cricket test match.
Note: The photograph used belongs to Katia Stamenova. Please go here to see more such photograhs.

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The Liquidity Crunch May Actually Do Some Good

Ok. Liquidity crunch is bad and there is a global slowdown and there is a threat of recession looming large - some say it is already on us. But I see a silver lining in these very dark clouds.
Terrorism thrives on funds flow. At least that has been my hypothesis. See Suicide Bombings in Pakistan and NATO attacks I really hope that the liquidity crunch hits them real hard. If the liquidity crunch results in wiping out terrorism it is worth going through the recession-pain.
Note: The picture used here belongs to Agata Urbaniak. Visit gallery for more pictures.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Possible To Have Democracy Anywhere

How less I know of Africa. This piece of news caught my attention. "Botswana's Mogae wins $5m prize."

For a moment I thought it was some prize for a marathon race. Goes to show my limited world view.

I am amazed the democracy is actually flourishing in Botswana. Need to study this country more. I am quite impressed.

Note: The picture used belongs to Gokhan Okur. To see more such photographs visit gallery.

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Let's Learn German Together - Lesson 2

She: "Wie lange bist du hier? How long are you here?" (V laanga bisst doo here)

You: "Für eine Woche. For a week." (fyur eye-nem wockha)

She: "Das ist sehr schön. Ich kann dir im Wochenende Frankfurt zeigen. That is very nice. I can show you Frankfurt in the week end." (Das ist sayrr schoen. Issh cann dear in dee wockhen-enda Fraankoort ts-eye-gen."

You: "Prima! Great!" (preema)

Now that we are into the 3rd chapter we need to start a vocabulary list. I will therefore create one post called German Vocabulary which I will keep updating as we go along.

Let me know if you wish me to change the style.

One more aspect of these lessons: I am deliberately ignoring a large part of grammar at this stage. We will touch upon all aspects of German grammar eventually.

Ok! We have one more umlaut (see Chapter 1, where umlaut was first introduced)" 'ö'. The way I pronounce ‘ö’ is by clenching my teeth and utter ‘o’. That seems to work.

One peculiarity that you would have noticed. The word ‘zeigen’ (=to show) has been relegated to the end of the sentence when ‘kann’ is used. That is standard. “kann’ (=can) is a modal verb that pushes the main verb to the back. We will touch upon many such modal verbs.

You will notice that ‘i’ is pronounced ‘ee’, ‘ei’ is pronounced ‘eye’.

The sentence “Ich kann dir im Wochenende Frankfurt zeigen” actually transliterates into “I can to you in the weekend Frankfurt show.” It is a bit strange but I got used to it eventually. This peculiarity of the language also ensures that you have to listen to the complete sentence before responding - an extremely handy device to ensure politeness. Wouldn’t you say? And Germans are known to be very polite.

Just to recapitulate the entire dialog so far:

You: "Hello!"
She: "Hallo!"
You: "Wie geht es Ihnen? How are you?" (Pronounced: v gate s ehnen)
She: "You can call me dear"
You: "Wie geht es dir?" (V gate s dear)
She: "Gut! Danke. Und dir?"
She: "Wie war die Reise?"
You: "Nicht schlecht."
She: "Bist du müde?"
You (male ego in place): "Nein!"
She: "Wie lange bist du hier?”
You: "Für eine Woche.”
She: "Das ist sehr schön. Ich kann dir im Wochenende Frankfurt zeigen.”
You: "Prima!"


Q1. List down the words that appear similar to English.
Q2. Translate: “You are here for a week. Great!”

To see all the german lessons on one page click here => Check out my lens

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Keynes Warning To The Financial Institutions

This is taken from the book by Peter L. Bernstein Against The Gods.

John Maynard Keynes, the great English economist had predicted today’s financial chaos.

“When the capital development of a country becomes the by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done.”

In the coming days I will extract some more interesting extracts from this international bestseller.

Note: The picture used belongs to Richard Styles. To see more of his photographs visit his gallery.

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What Cyclists Should Do On Roads

Now this is serendipity - an advise on how cyclists should act on roads in an exceptionally brilliant book on business dealing with probability and randomness.

This extract is from Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

"I am an avid road cyclist. Recently, as I was riding along with other cyclists, slowing down traffic in a rural area, a small woman in a giant sports utility vehicle opened her window and heaped curses at us. Not only did it not upset me but I did not even interrupt my thought process to pay attention. When I am on my bicycle, people in large trucks become a variety of dangerous animals, capable of threatening me but incapable of making me angry."

Hmmmm.... should try this.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Svetlana Maksimovic. To see more of her photographs visit her gallery.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Let's Learn German Together - Lesson 1

learning german
All books on German that I have come across, teach German slightly different from how we would speak. This caused me lot of frustration because I could not begin to speak soon enough.

You see, the books first address the present tense completely and then move on to the past tense and final to the 'future' tense. Unfortunately that is not how we speak.

When we speak we mix past and present. See below ...

The scene continues from where we left it last (see last lesson).

She: "Wie war die Reise? How was the journey?" (V vaar dee Ryesa? )
You: "Nicht schlecht. Not bad." (Neesht shlesht)

As you can see, even in the first conversation we mix up the past and the present. It is a necessary part of any conversation. A delayed learning of the past tense prevents yu from useful conversation.

She: "Bist du müde? Are you tired?" (bisst doo myuda)
You (male ego in place): "Nein! No!" (nine - 9)

You must have noticed that Reise is written with a capital 'R'. All nouns irrespective of where they occur in a sentence start with a capital letter.

The two small dots on top of 'u' is called umlaut. Umlauts change pronunciation.
'u' is pronounced "oo" like the 'u' in 'ullu'.
'ü' is pronounced (almost) like a 'yu' (you could try to pucker your lips to make it sound authentic).


Try to make the following sentence:

1) Are you bad? (doesn't matter if the sentence doesn't make sense)
2) No, the journey was not bad. (all words required for making this sentence is in the lesson)

To see all the german lessons on one page click here => Check out my lens

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Let's Learn German Together - Introduction

Yet another course in German?
How is this different from so many online courses and podcasts?

For one, it is free.
Second, I am still learning. So the idea is to learn together. Which might be more effective, one never knows.
And third, at the end of each lesson I will give exercises and you can do the exercises and respond in the comment of each post.

I will post a lesson at least once a week. The easiest way to track the lessons would be to subscribe (free :-)) to my posts.

I have already two posts in my blog. You may want to refer those too:
1) Free Resources For Learning German
2) Why Indians Can Learn German Easily

Let's make a small beginning ...

You have been corresponding with this German girl for over a year. She writes and speaks excellent English and of course German. You are on your way to meet her for the first time. You are flying to Frankfurt. You land and there she is waiting for you ...

You: "Hello!"
She: "Hallo!"

You: "Wie geht es Ihnen? How are you?" (Pronounced: v gate s ehnen)
She: "You can call me dear"

What ??? You are puzzled. What does she mean, you can call me "dear". Actually what she is telling you to do is use the more familiar form of 'you' - "du"

Ok ... rewind

You: "Wie geht es dir?" (V gate s dear)
She: "Gut! Danke. Und dir? Fine Thank you. And you?" (goot! Daanka. oont dear)

There! That was not difficult. Was it?

'Ihnen' and 'dir' are forms of 'you' or to be more specific 'to you'.
'Wie' is 'how'.
'geht' is a verb form of 'gehen' meaning 'to go'.
'es' means 'it'

So, what you asked was actually 'How goes it to you?' or 'How is it going?'

The easy way to understand this is to say it in Hindi: "Kaisa chal raha hai?"
'Chal' in Hindi is 'to go'.

(I am sorry - I am not very familiar with other Indian language as much as I am with Hindi. If someone can help with another languages, I will be obliged.)


Q1. Did you notice the subtle difference between your 'hello' and her 'hallo'?
Q2. Can you find German words in the above conversation that resembles words in English?

Note: The photograph I wish to use for this series belongs to Eduardo Gibba. To see more of his photographs visit his gallery.

To see all the german lessons on one page click here => Check out my lens

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Counter Intuitive Actions To Take At The Time Of Recession

tough nut
In my experience counter-intuitive actions almost always make sense. Especially because it is invariably a thought out process. While human intuition is good to hunt as a cave man, in a complex world intuition just does not work. Yes I know Blink is a best seller. But if you fall fro Blink you might as well guve up. The hypothesis behind Blink is that spot decisions could make more sense than very well thought out process. What is convenient to forget is that the spot/intuitive decisions are often manifestation of years of hands-on experience that the brain has internalised.

So what is counter-intuitive action to be taken about the present financial crisis? Before I answer that we need to understand one simple fact: like good things, bad things also don't last forever. So ...

For small investors like me ...

1) Do not sell shares. Unless you are sure that the company shares you are holding is sinking. Or unless you desparately need cash.

2) Do not stop your Systematic Investment Plan (SIP). Keep your monthly investment going. SIP will fetch you larger units right now. In any case SIP's are a long term investment.

For small companies ...

1) Go aggressive cost cutting. All those costs that you always wanted to prune but could not because of upsetting some employees. However, do not shed people. Hold on to them, whatever the cost. Focus on process reengineering to cut costs.

2) Hold on to your marketing expenditure. Don't reduce it. Tough! But look at the benefits. When everyone else is cutting back you will remain on the top of the buyer mind by using clever marketing techniques. This is your chance to beat that big brother.

For large companies ...

All what is said for small companies apply plus

Fulfil you ambition of overseas growth by buying property and companies in US and Europe. You will never get it cheaper.

When the tide turns, this effort will pay off tremendously.
The key is focused innovation.

Note: The photograph used here belongs to Cristina Miguel. To see more such photgraphs visit her gallery.

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Who Moved Their Cheese?

who moved my cheese
One of the most enjoyable management parables I have read till date happens to be 'Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spenser Johnson. I find it better than all others I have read, including The One Minute Manager, Our Iceberg Is Melting, and even better than the delightful oldie 'High Five! The Magic of Working Together,. The characters are so believable. It is a story of 2 'small' people, Hem and Haw and two mice, Scurry and Sniff. And how they react to a life altering change. The change comes abruptly but the signs were there for all to see.

The four lessons that comes out of the book are:

Anticipate change
Adapt to change quickly
Enjoy change
Be ready to change quickly, again and again

This is a best seller and I bet, one out of every two corporate manager must have read this. It sold a few million copies. The lesson does not seem to have sunk in though.

To make my point let me take only the first two lesson and one fact.

The sub-prime crisis began more than a year ago. So, Lehman and AIG and the US government had one year to react. Do you see them anticipating change and adapting to the change quickly? And were the other countries, UK, Germany, India waiting for the problem to reach their shores before pressing the panic button?
Point made.

It takes about 15 minutes to read this book. I would recommend this to all the politicians/managers to read in TODAY - before they go about their daily work.

Note: The picture used belongs to 'Sardinelly'. Please visit the gallery to see more of such photographs.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

An Obama-McCain Debate In India

Just now saw a repeat telecast of the last presidential on CNN. Obama and McCain, as one would expect, were criticizing each others proposed policies and McCain was a little more aggressive since this was his last chance to catch up. But that's not what I wish to blog about. Two points that stood out in contrast to the political debates I have seen on Indian TV was as follows:

a) Most important, the moderator did not love his voice. Minutes before before the CNN repeat telecast I saw Arnab Goswami constantly interrupting the speakers - rather aggressively - on the Goa Minister's son's issue who is involved in alleged rape. In disgust I had to switch channel. The Obama-McCain moderator, I could not catch his name, would ask a question and let the two proponents speak, without interrupting.

b) Not once did Obama interrupt McCain or vice-versa during the debate.

I would love to see such kind of debate between Dr. Manmohan Singh and Lal Krishna Advani where each would get a chance to spell out what his policies are and how his policies are better than the other. A debate that gives the Indian people to understand their stand on real issues beyond the rhetoric.

I understand that parliamentary government as practiced in India is different from the presidential form of democracy practiced in US, but I am sure both these gentlemen will talk on behalf of their parties on issues such as health, education, economy, poverty and sports.

The only condition being the debate will be conducted with dignity and grace.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Lynne Lancaster. To see more such pictures visit the picture gallery here.

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Why Indians Can Learn German Easily

The fact that Indian languages and German are related is old hat. They are part of what is called the Indo-European family of languages.

So you have words that are similar. Experts could hold your attention for hours with scholastic discourse on similar sounding words and sentence structures.

I am no scholar of languages. But during my attempt to learn German, I noticed a few things which are worth sharing - aspects that fox many.

For highlighting these aspects I will take Hindi to be the representative language. Though this is applicable to any language derived from Sanskrit.

1) 'Sie' in German could mean 'you' (plural), 'she' or 'you' (singular, formal). It is easy to find when the word is used to denote 'she'. The verb form is different. However, 'you' (plural) and 'you' (polite) take identical verb form. This could be confusing before you suddenly realise that Hindi has identical element in the form of 'aap'. 'Aap' is used to address people formally as well as to address many. 'Sie' and 'aap' are identical in nature.

2) The informal word for 'you' in German is 'du'. Isn't it identical to 'tu'?

3) Hindi when pronounced correctly sounds very different from when it is pronounced by a typical north Indian (I have been in Gwalior, by the way and am guilty of the same). While speaking we tend to chop the last bit. For example, when phonetically written, Rama should be pronounce 'Raama' - meaning, the last alphabet should be pronounced completely, with a stress on 'ma'. A typical north Indian would pronounce this as "Raam'. In Hindi and Sanskrit, this is distinguished by use of a 'halant'.
(By the way, a typical south Indian goes the other way - they would pronounce the word as 'Raamaa')
So what is this to do with German? All words in German that end with 'e' is pronounced with emphasis on the letter preceding 'e'. For example, 'leute' (people) is pronounced with the 't' complete pronounced (identical to 'Raama') - not 'loyt'.

The best way to learn German is of course to keep writing the pronunciation key next to the words. So, use of Devanagri script (the script in which many Indian languages are written) gives a great control over the pronunciation key. It helped me a lot. And since Hindi is pronounced exactly as it is written, pronunciation keys written in Devanagri script gives an added benefit.

Of course, it helps if you hear German spoken. Also see Free German resources.

Note: The picture used belongs to A. Kratzenberg. To see more such pictures please visit gallery.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Brief History Of Market Panics

A brilliant article on history of market panics (including the present one) is published in the Financial Times. See here. It gives me confidence that whatever I have posted under market is a chaotic system is correct (at least in my own twisted logic).

Note: The picture used here belongs to Joonas Lampinen. To see more of his picture visit his gallery here.

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Indian Economy Shall Continue To Lag Until ...

This is in response to a question asked of me by a fellow Xinger!

We cannot compare the economy / markets out of context. The markets in the west evolved. The markets in India are playing catch up. Somebody, correct me if I am wrong, but India has not invented a single instrument that is used in the Indian economy / markets. It is all copied from the west.

There are advantages and disadvantages in doing so.

First the advantages:

1) India gets to pick up only the successful experiements.
2) India avoids the pitfalls that the western economies go through.

An example: Indian markets never saw anything like junk bonds. The phenomenon started and finished before India could make up its mind (or was not in a state to implement it).

Now, is it a good thing to play catch up? So, the disadvantages:

1) India is forever playing catchup.
2) Borrowed ideas may not always be optimum. Plug and play does not always work - sometimes you need to fall and get up stronger.

So the advice is ... stop aping.

And I am not sure about the strong, vibrant industrial base. It is better than what it was but I am a little sceptic. No country can prosper without a solid foundation. The solid foundation for material prosperity lies in strong fundamental research in sciences. That sadly is missing. In the initial years after independence there was an emphasis on fundamental research. That has now gone for a toss. Too much emphasis on Information technology(IT) and IT enabled Services (ITeS).

The fact India is launching a moon mission is not because of our strength of current scientific base. Most of the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) scientists are a generation old (and my hats off to them). I know this because a substantial population of our ex-ISRO scientists are in software.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Lies Meirlaen. To see more of her photographs visit her gallery here.

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Challenge To The Indian Software Engineers & A Business Case

There is this news about a 3D Virtual Model of the ancient city of Cologne in Der Spiegel.

India has a cultural history richer than any in the world. Can any software engineer cum entrepeneur make a similar virtual model for ancient Indian cities - cities of Harappa civilization, Hastinapur, Poompuhar, Dwarka, Tanjore.

The Tourism Department of GOI could sponsor the project and the cost of the project can be recovered quickly by the increase in tourism and advertisemets on the website that hosts these 3D Virtual Tours.

So any body up to it?

Note: The picture used here belongs to Ramzi Hashisho. To see more of his photographs visit his gallery here.

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Petro prices to be cut if crude falls

Someone in the government is reading my blog. At least I like to think so ;-)

There is a news of expected cut in petrol prices (see here) in Deccan Harald dated 15th Oct, 2008.

This follows my blog on "So ... do we get cheaper petrol, diesel?" dated 11th Oct, 2008.

Feels great:-)))))) even if it all in my imagination.

Note: The photgraph used here belongs to Ramasamy Chidambaram. To see more of his photographs, visit his gallery here.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Any One Can Write A Book On Management

You don't believe me -- read on. My first book on Management (brief sketch)

White Water Rafting & Management

White Water Rafting can teach us valuable lessons in management and leadership. Like everything in life valuable lessons can be accrued [editor (me): need to use impact words] while having fun [editor: note the deliberate attempt to generalise].

As an adventure sport White Water Rafting is unparalleled [editor: always use superlatives without actually using words like the best, greatest, etc.] It emphasises a oneness [editor: Zen, anyone!] of the mind and the body and at the same time inculcates team spirit.

But what is not apparent [editor: to anyone but yours truly] is that White Water Rafting holds within itself valuable leadership lessons.

[editor: The lessons will then be broken down in sections and the go like this]

1. The importance of preparation
1.a Defining goals to the team or how to survive the rapids without any major damage
1.b Explaining risks and mitigation action or how the most dangerous object is the paddle
1.c Training or how to tie the life jacket, hold the paddle and stay in the raft

2. On the Spot Leadership
2.a Team SWOT or how to assess the team's strength and weaknesses
2.b Team Effectiveness or how to utilize strength and compensate weakness

3. Execution
3.a Keep watching or how to look out for rocks and rapids
3.b Quick action or how not to respond at the last moment
3.c Gliding Past or how to use minimum strength for maximum effectiveness
3.d Precise Communication or how to "get down, hold on"

4. Team Work
Finally it is all team work.

5. Chill! [editor: also use lingo to identify with the riff-raff]
5.a Get away from it all.
5.b Recharge your batteries
5.c Mother nature has lots to offer

[editor: the middle pages will have photographs of the author river rafting]

There you have it. A management best seller (cross your fingers) in 5 acts.

Many years ago, shortly after returning from my White Water Rafting trip, I had delivered a mandatory management lecture to the managers of a company and the boss was suitably impressed.

And all I spent was 15 minutes of undivided attention to extract something out of my expedition.

Any body can write a book on management - certainly easier than fiction. The point is can any body write a good one?

Note: The picture used here belongs to Svilen Mushkatov. To see more of his pictures please visit his gallery.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Market Is A Chaotic System

I had read this many years ago. The inventor of CFC (the coolant that was used in refrigerator) put his head into a chamber o CFC and breathed it in to show that it is absolutely harmless. CFC is odourless, colourless and harmless. It was wonder-gas. And yet years later it was found to endanger our very existence by creating holes in earth's atmosphere.

Why am I narrating this? Because impact on chaotic systems is difficult to predict. Earth's atmosphere and weather system is a chaotic system. And so is the market.

The market as practiced in free societies evolved over many decades. It is extremely complex not because it is difficult to understand but because it is chaotic by nature. There are just too many variables. A well designed system should have corrective mechanisms. In some case the corrective action appears as deterioration. At least on the surface. But it need not be bad.

Take the human body as a system. Fever need not really mean bad. It just means the body is trying to fight the infection. What happens if we take a dose of a over the counter medicine. It has side effects. In some cases may lead to complications.

The down swing of market may not necessarily be bad. It just means it is going through a correction. Companies that make bad decisions die out. Other smarter companies take their place. Yes, a severe pathological case will require intervention. But as long as we are not merely treating the symptoms, we should be fine.

Besides, treatment should not change the very nature of the system being treated. Let us consider the actions that have been taken in the past few weeks. Banning short selling, desire to take over toxic investments, nationalisation. These are changing the very nature of a free market. These actions may help in the short term but are most likely to have impact long term in some form or other as these are un-natural.

Governments control monetary policies. Use that to stimulate demand and improve confidence. I am sticking my neck out here but one day we will look back and with the advantage of hind sight we would say we did wrong.

Market, being a chaotic system should be allowed to recover on its own. If it is a robust system it will recover. If it doesn't, it was never meant to be.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Andres Virviescas. Please visit here for more such photographs.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

G7 Governments Do Not Understand Market Dynamics

financial markets spiraling out of control
The western governments and the G7 are doing it all wrong.

Instead of breaking the downward spiral they are actually reinforcing it.
This is common with all reinforcing feedback cycles that have a delay. Each action reinforces the other. The actionee does not realize that they are feeding each others action. The only way out is to break the cycle.

The root cause is lack of confidence. Liquidity crunch is a symptom.

Everytime the US and European Governments make big announcements of how they are taking the necessary action to stem the rot and describe the grand actions they add to the fear of the ordinary investor. The ordinary man on street sees these actions as the proof that things are going bad. So there is more panic selling in the market as investors try to extract whatever they can. That is then taken as evidence of what the finacial wizards were saying in the first place - that things are going bad to worse. So the government takes the next action and so and so forth ... you get the picture.

It is not that fianancial institute after financial institute is failing. The rotten ones have dropped off or will drop off. It is not that all banks have zero cash in reserve. And what is this liquidity problem all about? The banks are afraid to lend to each other and the businesses are not getting short term money.

So what should the governments do? The governments of the G7 should get the CEO's of their banks together in a closed door and let each bank state their current position - bad debt, solvency and all. The banks can then see exactly where each stand. This data can be shared with the G7. Once the banks get confidence in each other, the liquidity problem should disappear. Nationalisation of banks is not the solution.

Too simplistic?

Sometimes what is required is a simple solution aimed at the root cause.

Note: The picture used in this post belongs to Lena Povrzenic. Please go here to see more such photographs.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ignorance Is Bliss

ignorance is bliss
I picked up this piece of information from the BBC news on Iran celebrating the global melt down. See here.

"This is the only economy in the world - indeed possibly in world history - in which you can borrow money from the bank and then receive a higher rate of interest by depositing it in the same bank.

Mr Ahmadinejad, who says he is proud of his ignorance of economics, also seems to believe the laws of supply and demand do not apply to the Islamic republic."

As Calvin says, "Why waste time learning, when ignorance is instantaneous?"

Note: The picture used here belongs to Scott Liddell. Please go here to see more such photographs.

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So, do we get cheaper petrol ... diesel?

pumping cash
The price of crude oil has fallen below $80 per barrel. See here.

Many of us have forgotten what the oil prices were when the prices were hiked in June 2008. Oil was hovering around $130 per barrel. See here if you don't believe me.

In February 2008, the price of crude oil was $67 per barrel.

So, are we going to see a price cut? Or is government going to make up for all the years of loss due to subsidy?

Ok is a suggestion for the UPA government. This is election year. A cut in the price of petrol, diesel and cooking oil will guarantee you a return to power. Besides, this will prompt a recovery in the economy.

Remember we have a (technical) industrial recession staring at us. See here

Note: The picture used here belongs to Mike Johnson. Please go here to see more such photographs.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

NATO To Attack Afghan Opium Labs

opium poppy
I would not call this exactly gloating. But yes I am happy. On 21st September 2008, here, I wondered why no one is focusing on throttling the supply chain of the terrorists.

Obviously, what I could think in the comfort of my house, the operators in the field - those whose work is trying to wipe out terrorism - would have thought of it too.

Well, here is the evidence. Cutting off drug money to Taliban will definitely bring them to the knees. I hope this is the beginning of the end. Cut off all the funds (find bank balances next and the arms suppliers) and you would see terrorism reduced to "once upon a time ..."

Note: The picture of opium poppies used here belongs to Trent Webb. To see more such photographs please go here.

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Lending Directly To The Firms

It is a nice feeling when I read the news item "US Fed ups the ante, to lend directly to firms" in the Economic Times of 8th October, 2008. See the first paragraph of this news item here. They must have read my blog entry of 26th September, 2008. See here and share my happiness.

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Safest Banking System - Where Does India Stand

This is a news story reported in today's Economic Times (10th of October 2008): "Canada has the world's safest banking system." Fair enough. Now what do you expect an Indian to search for in this news item. Where do Indian Banks stand? But no. Not a mention of India. Now this is real stupid. I understand that the news item is by Reuters. Reuters is not India-centric so I do not expect Reuters to perhaps mention India. But Economic Times is an Indian paper. All that is required is a little bit of digging to provide us with this small piece of information. Editors need to understand black ink is not just there to fill up pages. It needs to convey meaningful information too.

By the way, it took me exactly 10 minutes to find out India's rank. In Soundness of Bank our rank is 51 out of 134. In order to find about India or any other country go here . On the left panel of the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2008-09 enter the country's name in the field 'Country Profiles' and learn about your country.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Marcelo Moura. For more such pictures please visit here.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Journey Through Genius - The Right Way To Learn Mathematics

I wish I had read Journey Through Genius when I was doing my high school or even when I was in college. It would have made a world of difference to my understanding of mathematics.

William Dunham takes you on an intellectual journey starting with the genius of Hippocrates right to the brilliance of Cantor. On the way, we are introduced to the great theorems of the likes of Euclid, Archimedes (no not the Eureka moment - something simpler and more fundamental), Issac Newton, the Bernouliis and Euler.

Each theorem is presented in its historical context. The lfe of the great mathematicians is discussed - they were very ordinary and normal in other spheres of life activity. And unlike many other pop-mathematics book floating in the market place, there is no attempt to dumb down the mathematics involved. The theorem is well annotated and invites you to try the proof yourself (that is the only way to understand mathematics - reading through the pages does not suffice).

The beauty of this book is that it touches upon those aspects which we take for granted. 10/10 random people off the street will be able to tell you the formula for area of a circle - right! "pi r squared". This book tells you how Archimedes measured the area of the circle. Another gem is Newton's approximation of "pi". Just reading the two chapters in Euler makes me want to buy and read Euler: The Master Of Us All

And since all mathematics in this book is atleast 100 years old, it is not that difficult to follow either.

I am already encouraging my sons to read this book. They seem to enjoy the story surrounding the life of the mathematicians.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Vince Petaccio. Please visit here to see more such photgraphs.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Communists Come To Aid of the Capitalists

Ok! It is not the same as the cold war years. But you would agree that the title of this blog is catching - the newspapers and the magazines do this all the time.

But am I wrong? See for yourself:

First, Russia helps out Iceland with cpital injection - read here.

And now leading economic thinkers are actually toying with the idea that China could save US. Read here.

Looks like Indira Gandhi had all the right ideas when she nationalised all the banks in India way back in the 70's. Poor service but at least the hard earned depositor's money is safe. Today, the people of India believe that even if all the private banks and institution crash, SBI and LIC will survive. (This could be illusion too - remember UTI and US64).

Note: The photograph used belongs to Ilker. Please visit here to see more such photgraphs.

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Dark Prediction Comes True

I had carried out this exercise with my tongue firmly in cheek. But the predictions seem to be coming true.

Particularly "Analysts have expressed concern that if European nations set up varying bank deposit guarantees, people may chose to move their savings to those nations with the greatest protection, possibly sparking a flight of funds to them and thereby causing problems for the banks losing deposits" as reported here.

I can only hope the worse fears do not come true. This would then be worse than Mother-In-Law-Going-Over-Hill-With-Your-Brandnew-Mercedes kind of mixed feeling.

Note: The photograph used here belongs to Tracey Brown. Please see here for more such photographs.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Will India Beat China - Revisited

In one of my previous posts (Will India Beat China?) I indicated that I am not in a position to comment on China's growth model. However, there are other authorities on Net who are in a position to comment. This article here is very interesting. Some of the observations made may surprise you.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Victoria Ermolayeva. Please visit here for more such photographs.

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Asif Ali Zardari - The Man Without The Mask. Yet!

Pakistan's President has backtracked. He denies his statements made in the interview given in the Wall Street Journal and the standard "out of context" applies.

Here is the interview on the WSJ.

Some time ago he was again in the thick of controversy over his alleged remark ("Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you") when he met Sarah Palin.

Zardari is not a seasoned politician. He has not yet learnt the tricks of the trade. The mask is not yet in its place. And so what he says comes straight from his heart. These few initial days we can get the glimpse of how an ordinary citizen of Pakistan thinks. Not very different from how an ordinary Indian thinks.

Watch him closely for some more days. For shortly he will learn how to come across as dignified political person. It will be Yes Prime Minister all over again. Except that it would be a ruthless Pakistan establishment house training the President.

Note: The photo used here belongs to Andre Feldmann. Please see herefor more such photographs.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going

Worried about a slow down? Then take heart. There are businesses that are carrying forward regardless. See here for more details.

Their business model may or may not survive. But what needs to be appreciated is Blink and JetBird have the right ideas. Break the downward spiral with innovative solutions to emerge as leaders.

Note: The picture used here belongs to Laura Shreck. See here for more such pictures.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Scientific Study of Companies - Beyond The Blue Ocean Strategy

Study and Research
Consider two finacial institutions - Fannie Mae and Wells Fargo. These are two of the few companies that apparently made the jump from Good to Great.

Fannie Mae survived only because of government intervention and Wells Fargo is taking over Wachovia (well not quite, even as I type Citi Bank announced that it has persuaded a New York judge to block the Wells-Wachovia deal (see here - you will have to skip the advertisement that comes up when you click the link)

So what happened? Why did the two great companies diverge?
Well the answer seems to be in the Blue Ocean Strategy. W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, the authors of the Blue Ocean Strategy obviously put in a lot of effort to choose the unit of their analysis. Obviously companies cannot be examples to be followed. Not when "great" companies drop like flies soon after they are pronounced great.

To quote from the Blue Ocean Strategy: "If there is no perpetually high-performing company and if the same company can be brilliant at one moment and wrongheaded at another, it appears that the company is not the appropriate unit of analysis in exploring the roots of high performance ... our study shows that the strategic move, and not the company or the industry, is the right unit of analysis for explaning the creation of blue oceans and sustained high performance."

However, I would go a step further and modify the above a little - ok I am not a INSEAD professor, so what? This is my blog ;)

All strategic moves are right or wrong within a context. Remove the context and you have a strategy that has no standing. Blindly following any strategic move - even if it is part of a best seller - cannot be called a wise move.

So, why do I think a company does well at times and poorly at others. It is because what we call a company is a binch of people. The people take decisions. Not one but a set of people. When a company does right, find out what people were involved and what was their thought process. When the same company does poorly, find out whether the same people are still with the company; they may have moved on. Or if the same people are still around, are they still stuck to their old thought process.

I am sure all business thinkers are very good at what they do. But their methods are unscientific. A measure of good scientific theory lies in its ability to predict. Post facto curve fitting is not scientific.

If I were to conduct a scientific study on business strategies, I would report the context and the decisions live, recording the thought process (as revealed by behaviour) as it happens, without drawing any conclusion. Very much like the National Geographic or such similar recordings of wild life.

I might have just hit upon a new field of management study :-))))
Remember, you read it here first!

Note: The photograph used belongs to Mikhail Lavrenov. Please go here to see more such photographs.

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