Archive for the ‘Gyaan’ Category

Preview – 2009

One phrase to sum it all – ‘Hold tight, brave the storm’

Now that we are done with the excitement and enthusiasm of ushering in the New Year and all that, let’s look at what 2009 has in store for us.

With the hypothesis of ‘data doesn’t lie’, let’s look at some of the news across the world and India before meshing in our conclusions depending on the data  –

a) RBI has cut key lending and borrowing rates, esoterically called repo and reverse repo rates (Simply put, these are rates banks pay to borrow from the RBI and get from the RBI for keeping cash there). Repo stands at 5.5% and Reverse repo stands at 4%. RBI cut interest rates for the fourth time since October and has unveiled thousands of crores of stimulus package. If this doesn’t amount to ‘measured panic’, I don’t know what is.

b) In September-October 2008 timeframe, inflation was 12%. It is around 6.6% now. (Inflation, as a simple concept, is rise in prices). Since inflation has reduced from 12% to 6.6%, it is a good thing, no? Actually and worrisomely not. In usual circumstances, reduction in inflation is good for the economy. However, we now have a serious risk of deflation where it might touch 0% or go negative. Economics 101 will tell you that reducing inflation is a slightly easier job than pulling out an economy out of deflation, or even worse stagflation (Lots of jargon like inflation, deflation and stagflation used. Our dear friend Wiki has loads of explanation on them).

c) If Indian economy was on the rise over the past 4-8 years, Real Estate in India was on cocaine. Simple example. In 2003, a 2 BHK (bedroom-hall-kitchen) in one of the very good localities in Hyderabad cost Rs. 17 lakh. In 2007, the same flat costs Rs. 50 lakh. That’s close to a 200% increase. I am not sure any of our salaries rose by 200% in the same period, barring a lucky few. If income doesn’t keep up with investment avenues (or is it the other way round), sooner or later, that particular investment avenue has to be disbanded. Now that we hear that prices are coming down (drastically in some places), speculators will go out of business which will lead to a further spiral. My call is that real estate should correct itself by atleast 20% if not more by end of 2009.

d) Other general news in India includes

– Investments being drastically cut down by manufacturing and service companies.

– Risk of layoffs (massive in some places) to calibrate supply and demand (the offshoot of this being that people would be fraught to take home loans where EMI is more than 1/3rd their net income and hence further reduction in real estate demand)

– Good startups would find it difficult to find funding, and hence many a innovative idea would die a death for now.

– With banks not reducing interest rates in line with RBI reduction (although they had no problems increasing it immediately when RBI was increasing the rates), discretionary spending will drastically reduce. Small businesses will have difficulty getting working capital (Wiki again!) to sustain their business in this difficult economic scenario.

e) Globally, US has cut interest rates close to zero percent, while Japan magnanimously has reduced interest rates from 0.3% to 0.1% to stimulate the economy. US, UK and Japan are already in a recession, while I believe Asia will be truly hit by a recession in 2009. Asia’s biggest revenue generator is exports. With worldwide spending clampdown, exports have already taken a hit and are expected to take a bigger hit in 2009. US’s economic stimulus package – $850 billion, China’s stimulus package – $585 billion. Aren’t those numbers just plain awesome. I think they are avoiding mentioning a ‘trillion’ since it sounds a big number. In fact, I forget the number of zeroes in a billion or trillion now. South east asia’s manufacturing and shipments are down dramatically and expected to continue over the next half year. I wonder what’s up with Antarctica?!

By now, you would have arrived at a conclusion that I am extrapolating at a doomsday scenario. Not really. The end of 2009 will see some light, although recession is going to continue well into 2010.  IT service providers especially will benefit due to the strong dollar-rupee equation along with increased outsourcing from US and UK companies. The health sector is not cyclical and will not be affected by the recession. There are some stocks which you can really buy cheap (although, for the risk of repetition, the word ‘value’ is being bitch-slapped around in media for any and every stock). As Buffett says, ‘I don’t know what will happen 1 year down the line or 5 years down the line. The only thing I know is if I invest in good businesses, they will give me a decent return over the long run’. The advice is valid both for stockmarkets as well as life.

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Kiran’s Hierarchy of ‘Strategic Nonsense’

A few years ago, I was taught a theory which had revolutionized the field of behavioral sciences back then. It was called the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow developed a model in which basic, low-level needs such as physiological requirements and safety must be satisfied before higher-level needs such as self-fulfillment are pursued. In this hierarchical model, when a need is mostly satisfied it no longer motivates and the next higher need takes its place.

Maslow’s Hierarchy:

maslow.jpg

 

Similarly, circa 2008, there has been an effort to publish a fantastic theory after tons and tons of effort (i.e., after generous amounts of drooling over Ayesha Jhulka in JJWS and breaking my head over a Quentin’s movie, Deathproof) which talked about the bread and butter of corporate lifestyle, ‘outstanding gibberish’ (colloquially also known as bullshitting, crap, baloney, drivel and various other 4-letter words). The author, after due consideration over a box of chips, concluded that ‘crap’ cannot be classified under a hierarchy but the tools to generate this crap definitely can. What’s more – he also intelligently deciphered that he uses many of these tools quite liberally, primarily to feed himself if not to write insane theories like this one.

The theory (as indicated in the figure below) states that the more nonsense you want to speak, the higher you go up the hierarchy. The effort of every corporate employee should be to step up each level, without which the primary and lofty objective of speaking rubbish all the time wouldn’t be achieved (and in fruition for that effort, this theory should be mandatory in all HR initiation programmes). Refer the diagram below –

My Hierarchy:

my.jpg

 

The figure in itself should be self-explanatory. But since the author is already at the highest level, he can’t but help reiterate and explain the self-explanatory figure in a verbose manner for the next few paragraphs.

Level 1: These are the most basic tools that are used by anyone and everyone today. Tools, without which most of the corporations won’t survive, let alone flourish. These tools are comparable to Maslow’s 1st level – basic physiological needs, without which a man can’t proceed to the next level in either of the hierarchies. Especially, Solitaire in the author’s hierarchy.

Level 2: This is the introductory and crash course to ‘ridiculous garbage’ at the corporate level. People who are at this level need to be careful to speak their mind (in other words, total crap) since they need to back it up with numbers (else, your situation would be similar to Tushaar kapoor’s in Terminator 4 – badly beaten up, beyond recognition!!). Numbers could be fudged, but they (the ‘evil’ auditors) can easily make out and throw you out of this cozy corporate world into the big bad world. However, this is a very good introductory course – comparable to Maslow’s Safety needs – whenever in trouble, fudge and fall back on this level – it is an awesome safety net and most people fear to tread at this level. (If ever you get bored of looking at those 65536 cells, search for ‘Excel games’ in Google 😉 )

Level 3: An advanced course, and a definite signal that you are on your way to be knighted very soon with ‘Legendary bullshitter’ title. Hardwork is a necessity though at this level. Understanding numbers and translating them into reams and reams of paragraphs, the sole objective being – to be seen by all but not to be read by any one. A few diagrams (from Level 1) and some tables (from Level 2) constitute the basis for Level 3 – and as they say in Mathematics, they are necessary but not sufficient. Your written skills would be tested here – how lengthy can you write, how confusing can you write, how verbose can you be and can you use all the GRE words learnt in this document. A challenging assignment neverthless. Again, definitely comparable to Maslow’s Social needs – sense of belonging and acceptance to the ‘League of Extraordinary Ridiculous People’!!

Level 4: The ultimate, The highest, The best and my verbal ability falls short of superlatives for this tool. ‘It all depends on the way you present data’ – in other words ‘You can fudge all you want, but get me a positive decision’ – if you are in this kind of world, then this is the tool for you. The more you want to speak nonsense, the more you want to explain self-explanatory diagrams in a verbose manner (like this one), the more you want to spend corporate time having fun by moving text from left to right or zigzag around – the more you belong to this level. As I said before and I reiterate (that is because I have nothing else to say), if you want to be considered as one of the ‘kids with potential to become a CEO’ – you exactly understand that this is the proficiency you need – oratory and powerpoint skills. The most abused tool of the lot (as a side note, I once had one of my colleagues present 16 graphs on a single slide!!), definitely comparable to Maslow’s Esteem and Self-actualisation levels put to-gether. Proficiency and expertise at this level would confer you with the title of ‘Legendary Bullshitter Mr./Ms.’ and you would be royally drafted into the ‘League of Extraordinary Ridiculous People’.

Choice – A Catch-22 Situation

A long due post. I was trying to do justice to the topic for quite some time now – seeking an answer to this Catch-22 situation, but still can’t. The following is just a series of thoughts, for which necessarily I have to behave as an economist – 50% on one hand and 50% on another.

As has become the routine nowadays, I drive down to the nearest shopping mall to pick up groceries for the week. The shopping mall is essentially a hypermarket of all goods that exist on Planet Earth, aggregated on a mini-basis. The choices I encounter there is staggering. I can choose from 30 different kinds of shampoo, 10 different kinds of oil, 40 different kinds of biscuits, 7 different varieties of apples, 25 different kinds of cheese and last but not the least, 18 different kinds of toilet paper. The first time I saw such variety, I was pleased and flummoxed at the same time – and those are precisely the feelings that have lead to this Catch-22 situation.

On one hand, I am thoroughly pleased. Those choices cater to my individual tastes. Some marketer has actually thought of selling 15 different kinds of moisturizers – one for ‘normal skin’, another for ‘dry skin’, ‘healthy skin’, ‘normal skin with extra moisturizer’ etc etc. The consumer can pick up a moisturizer which exactly suits his/her skin. Imagine a situation (which was a reality some years ago), where we had only one kind of toothbrush, one kind of schoolbag and every good of only one variety – we necessarily did not have a choice but to buy them. Times change, choices multiply.

It is surprising how opening up India to international markets has brought about such a sweeping change in the country. A country – where I had to wait 3 months before I get a landline connection before, I have now got 3 choices for an instant connection. A country – where the waiting time for a scooter was 7 years, I can now drive a much better vehicle from the showroom today itself. A country – where prices were highly regulated in terms of vegetables and groceries, we now have food marts which cater to every need at different prices.

We now have different industries where we can work. We can now be gainfully employed in different companies, in different countries for entirely different skills. The kind of choice in education is simply mind-blowing. 20 years back, education was limited to Engineering, Medical or the Army. Now, we have multiple choices – from exotic vocations like designing beds for pets to call centers to the most generic of all, the IT industry. The kind of money we can make in different fields is only limited by your ambition. Multiple employers waiting to hire you – and you have choices to make, for good. We have indeed come a long way in having multiple choices for every need in life.

Yet, the very same choices are baffling. It is very difficult to come to terms with choice, if you exactly don’t know what to do, or what you want.* The hypermarket example – how do I know if my skin needs only ‘normal moisturizer’ or ‘normal moisturizer with extra oil’. Vehicle purchase – how do I know which vehicle exactly suits my need? Education – Do I want to do an MBA immediately after Engineering or should I work for a few more years before I venture to do an MBA? Profession – which job would give me satisfaction? What kind of salary would I be satisfied with?

Did I/Do I know the answers to all these questions? I think not.

When I speak to my older relatives, grandmas/grandpas, parents – they were necessarily very satisfied and happy when they were at my age, or so I think. They didn’t have to deal with all such complexities – what do I study next, where should my next job be, which country should I go next, where do I settle, how much money is enough? I don’t think they had to think through and make all these decisions since they didn’t have choices. There was Engineering to do, Government job to take up, a House to be bought in the city and Pension money to live with for the rest of their lives. So simple, so linear – very efficient, thoroughly satisfied.

There have been hundreds of studies which proved that choices beyond a point are bound to throw humans into a psychological condition called ‘decision paralysis’. Yet, I want more choice – choice in everything and anything, so that I can choose what I want (vanity you see, I want make my own decisions and decide what’s best for me). Free markets have definitely made life easier in terms of market offerings but have necessarily bound humanity to make decisions at every step of their life and hence making life more complicated. As I said at the beginning of the post, I still haven’t a clue of achieving the optimal state, whatever that might mean.
* The emphasis I think is the crux to solve this problem of Choice. But then, if I knew exactly what to do, when to do and how to do – I would be God, wouldn’t I? 🙂

P.S –

1) There really isn’t a Catch-22, is there? I actually don’t have a choice about the choices available in hypermarket, education, career etc. – I just have to deal with the complexity, whether I like it or not.

2) My take on the Microsoft-Yahoo battle published here.

Rational vs Rationalizing!

Haven’t we heard the statement – Man is a Rational animal – a million times before. Of the many types of animal he is – emotional, social etc., the ‘Rational’ argument is the most widely accepted one and probably the most effective one to put forth in this irrational chaotic world. The argument helps and is rather comforting to one and all – atleast something in the world is orderly. And, therein lies the catch. I would like to argue on a slightly different platform – I would say that ‘Man is a Rationalizing animal’ rather than just Rational. What is the difference, you are just playing with words?, you might ask/say. I would only say – A lot.

‘Being Rational’ is to act upon reason or understanding. Rational explanation or rational behavior is an act where the explanation/behavior is based on hard facts, which do not change according to the whims and fancy of the ‘Rational’ person. Rationalization, on the other hand involves twisting and distortion of facts and reasoning to suit your own purposes (in the objective world, this is called cheating) – and this, dear readers is not the behavior of a ‘Rational animal’. To quote Oscar Wilde here, “Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason!” You may ask or rather condemn me by saying – how dare you call me a cheater? I have never distorted facts in my life? Hmm, we all have. Let me explain – the rational way – cold, hard facts.

First things first, let me get the ‘mother of all rationalizing statements’ done with – ‘Whatever has happened has happened for the best!’ I guess, we have all heard this statement 100s of times over and again. As I say, no ‘rationalizing’ statement gets bigger than this. Then, what is rational behavior? In much simpler terms, in terms we understand probably the best – money. If I have lost Rs. 100 in a bet and I find Rs. 50 on the way back on the road – the ‘rational’ way to look at it is ‘I have lost Rs. 100 and I have gained Rs. 50’ and not the rationalizing behavior of ‘Ahh! it’s ok – I have just lost Rs. 50 today’! Seems a simplistic example?! Hmm…let me get into reality.

1) Education – Most of us have gone/are going through this phase of life. Let us for example assume (and in most cases, it is true) that you have not been able to get through a competitive exam successfully (EAMCET, IIT, CAT, GMAT etc etc.). You might not have got a rank, a score which doesn’t get you a seat in the college you desired or a percentile which is just marginally short of qualification. (already nostalgic? 🙂 ) The point here is this – what happens after this? Life just moves on – and probably your thought process also moves on to ‘mother of all rationalizing statements’ again!!. And why are we not able to accept the ‘rational’ argument in this case? – simply because you just can’t think that you have failed! Period.

2) Career/Job – How about the coveted job you were looking out for? How about the salary you were aiming at? How about the promotion last year? What happened to your thought process when you got one of these and didn’t get one of them? I’ll tell you what happened to my thought process – My Success was defined by reason, hard facts for everyone to consider and ponder. Failure was marketed as ‘It happens you know. Life just doesn’t stop here, does it? Anyways, whatever happens, happens for the best’. Getting my line of argument? Another example…

3) Marriage – Oh boyy!! Volatile topic to handle – but essential reality of life. Not yet having experienced this phase of life – I cannot comment authoritatively. Yet, I quote an example – an example I heard very recently from two different friends of mine (girls!!!) on the same day (talk of luck! – or the lack of it 🙂 )

– The friend who had an arranged marriage – You know what kiran! I would recomment arranged marriage to everyone. Love marriage involves so many baggages – uff, who would wanna take them along for the rest of their lives. Arranged marriage doesn’t have all these tensions. You just start off afresh!
– The friend who had a love marriage – You know what kiran! You gotta have a love marriage to experience what the feeling is like. You don’t have this tension of blending in with the other person, the usual tensions – he knows you well and you know him well – all other stuff is just manageable.

Let me not ‘rationalize’ my luck in saying that I got two new perspectives of life! Anyways, the point here was that neither of them knew how the other type of marriage was like – and their opinions were biased – rationalization again. (And don’t get me into the argument of ‘ohh…we had a love-arranged marriage’, ‘you know what, we had an arranged marriage but seemed like we were in love for the past two lives!’ Please!! It’s either a love marriage or an arranged marriage!! This rationalization of a combo for feeling better for yourself is plain mediocrity – and for further reference on my opinion on mediocrity, consult my previous blog!)

I can probably go on and on to quote multiple examples from different phases of life – probably restricted only by space. In most cases, rationalization happens when there is a failure. Naturally, the next question would be – ‘Is rationalization bad?’, ‘I am being happy rationalizing things! so, what’s the problem?’. No problem at all. And frankly, I have rationalized quite a bit in my life too. However, I realised over a period of time that when you start rationalizing, you start denying a part of your past – a past that was yours that you don’t want to be reminded of – you want to remember the past as you want to see it (my earlier argument of distorting facts!) and not what it actually was – if I may use the word, trivializing your past – in effect, trivializing yourself. Apart from this, I also see some malign side-effects of rationalization – ‘It feels good, so I want more’ , ‘Everyone is doing it, so it must be OK’, ‘I have to be consistent with my earlier taken stand’, and ‘If I said yes to x, then saying yes to 1.01 x is no big deal’ – sometimes leading to dangerous consequences.

So, is man a rational animal? I would quote one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Bertrand Russell when he said “It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this!”. I rest my case.

P.S –

1) Wherever I have said Man, it also implies a Woman (more so! in fact 😛 ) (what with lot of feminist bloggers around, you never know! 😉 )

Mediocrity!

It is a tradition in India to start of any new venture with a happy beginning. So, here I am, blogging on my new weblog on one of my favorite peeves – Mediocrity. Before I even delve into my hatred towards ‘Mediocrity’ as such, let us have a look at the dictionary meaning (courtesy Webster) -Mediocrity – a. the quality or state of being mediocre b: moderate ability or value

I have had the good fortune to meet some of the best people around – best in skill, attitude, talent etc – not necessarily in one package – but then they strive to be the best in what they are/do. In some cases, I have admired them.

However, I have also had the fortune to meet some who were the most ignorant, inarticulate, talentless and loutish people that the world ever saw – and I despised them totally. If they say, sky is the limit – my abhorrence for them touched the sky. Ideally, I would never even stand such people, but certain circumstances (in terms of education, neighbourhood, friends’ friends, job etc) forced me to interact with such on a daily basis.

So, the first question essentially is – What constitutes my definition of mediocrity? Am I looking for fantastic educational/vocational qualifications? Am I looking for certain psychological traits (extrovert, introvert and the hopelessly controversial ambivert etc etc)? Certainly, over the years I could not stand a certain person and I always wondered what I saw in him/her that made me stay away consciously? Lack of ambition, I thought. But heck, no! I never considered that Nepali Gurkha around my colony to be mediocre – he was brilliant in his skill (whether it came to night patrolling or asking Diwali bakshish J ) but was content in that role for the rest of his life. The answer came through many iterations and certain evaluations – drive! A drive to achieve, a drive to excel, a drive to be the best, a drive to give your best shot everytime and last but not the least, a drive to learn more and better – in short, it was more about the person’s mental makeup than anything else.

My problem with mediocrity is not essentially the person as such – but his pursuit of the trivial and tolerance of the third rate. Being satisfied with status quo, blissful ignorance, lack of desire to learn, faking of being a master of a topic and satisfied mingling with the average – that is what turns me off. My essential belief is that not doing/just about doing more than average is what keeps the average down most of the time. I just couldn’t (and still can’t) understand why some people just don’t want to get better? Why are they content on average quality? As one of the ad went sometime back, ‘swalpa adjust maadi saar’ (please adjust sir) – we have got used to adjustment (which translates into average behavior) almost all the time.

Did I try to bring in some change in such people? I did try – but probably they should have been dealt at a much younger age than today. Inertia is a highly misunderstood term – but affects each and every one of us. And when this inertia has been built into your system for a few years – it is going to be a huge effort mentally to get out of this mode of behavior and I guess that is what happened to my try. To round this first weblog off on a new site, I would quote an anonymous author “All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.” The effortless way of not falling into this trap of mediocrity (atleast my method) is to have your close-knit group (family you can’t change, acquaitances definitely can change) consist of ‘non-mediocre’ people and you have hedged off the risk of being mediocre/risk of falling into the trap of being mediocre to a large extent

I told you so!

Haven’t we heard this line a zillion times before? From anyone and everyone. Usually from older, experienced people to the younger ones but more irritatingly, from your peers, friends and cousins – everyone in the world seemed to have known the result of the endeavor you had undertaken, except one – You.

Before I undertake the noble task of pontificating on this topic, I would like to declare that the author himself has used (and abused) this line umpteen times before – however, he has mellowed down considerably in its usage – blame it on his age, experience, blah and blah.

How many times have people come up to you and said ‘I told you so’ – when something positive has happened to your life? In my experience, I can just count them on my fingers. Rarely, very rarely do you see your friend/relative/cousin/older guy (generically called ‘They’ in this blog) come up to you and say ‘Dude, I told you so’. Even if they did, you would feel irritated – the reason being, you were the cause for this positive result and the result did not happen because ‘They’ had told you before. Aaarrggghhh!!!

The above scenario is atleast slightly bright – because you can sink the ‘I told you so’ bitterness in the positive result. However, most of the time (when I mean most, it means >90%) They would come to you with this line when you are actually down in the dumps – negative result. ‘Arreyy baaba, I had told you before – you should learn to value my experience’, ‘Dude, I told you so right – from now on atleast, you start valuing my advice’, ‘I told you before only na, I don’t understand when will this younger generation get over its over-confidence’ and many many such lines. The max you can do in such scenarios is give them a dirty stare – the only way to get back (my way atleast) is to get to a positive result and shove that in their face.

Observation over an extended period of time would tell you that all the ‘I told you so’ scenarios were pessimistic scenarios – scenarios where the result of the said endeavor was negative. My question to these guys (and these guys includes myself) is ‘How worse can an endeavor get below the pessimistic level you are exhibiting and expecting?’. More often than not (and research has proved it) it would take 100 failures to make 1 successful invention. What is the big deal about being pessimistic? (I have personally seen even the best of so-called optimists utter ‘I told you so’ to poor chaps – so self-proclaimed optimists, please shut whatever).

As everyone and their grandma in the world knows, everyone has a vision of 20/20 in hindsight. It is very easy to say why Walmart was a success, why India won T20 world cup and how liberalization/globalization helped India become a big player on the global stage. Analysis, my dear friends is so easy. But imagine Sam Walton investing his entire life savings in his venture at that particular moment of time, the confidence of Manmohan singh (circumstances aside) to liberalize policies at that particular moment of time – if you have taken a decision which can make/mar your life, you can understand what ‘that particular moment of life’ means.

Decisions in life can be so tricky – at every stage in life. ‘Best foot forward’ has always been my philosophy. Some of the questions I ask myself before taking decisions ‘at that particular moment of time’ might range from trivial to the entirely esoteric. Listening to people, taking in the value of their experience in that particular field, mapping the same onto my analysis of the situation (ahh…explaining this would not be possible on the blog – summarily put, it would encompass probability, psychology, behavioral sciences etc etc etc :)) and arrive at a decision. When I arrive at a decision in this particular way, I am really not bothered about the outcome or ‘I told you so’s. Many of my off-the-cuff decisions have yielded great results and some of them were terrible outcomes. However, the joy I experience after I get to a decision after evaluation is something indescribable. And yes, some of the outcomes were positive and some negative – but look back, and I would have had no regrets at all.

What was the point of the above paragraph? It simply meant that if you are bothered about the outcome rather than the decision (and how it was taken) – you would be troubled by these ‘I told you so’s within yourself as well as plenty of ‘They’s. Get yourself to make decisions in a structured manner, least bothered about the results – you would notice a huge amount of difference. If people even then come up to you with ‘I told you so’s, tell them to ‘Go, Multiply’ [Totally private joke :)…not really difficult to decipher].

P.S –

1) People who know me well, know that I live by the philosophy of ‘Evaluate on how the decision was arrived at than be bothered by the outcome’ – what with I have irritated them umpteen number of times with this behavior. This post might have been a rambling out of this behavior – for all you know, I might be drunk now ;).

2) People who forward me mails about ‘If you had invested Rs. 10000 in Infosys shares in 1993, you would be a Crorepati now’ – please also note that ‘If you had invested in Arvind mills (the biggest and the hottest stock in 1993) in 1993, you would be owing around Rs.2000 today. Noone knew something called IT existed back in 1993. ‘At that particular moment of time’, if you had told me to invest in Infy rather than Arvind mills, I would have booked you for insanity (and couple it with Rs. 10000 to invest was a huge amount back in 1993 – probably three months of savings back then – three months saving in ‘what is that, Infisys, Infosys, whatever, shall we call the doctor to see if everything’s alright with you?’). Analysis and hindsight people, anyone can give’. Let me know if you have any stock recommendation for today – and probably 1 year later tell me ‘I told you so’. I would appreciate that more than the stupid forward.

The Futility of Logic!

How often have we heard the terms ‘How logical is that’, ‘Your logic is brilliant’, ‘Logically, it is true’. Yet, rewind the instances in your thought process and evaluate whether the logic convinced you or your sense of logic or thought process merged with the logic spoken by the other person.

In my experience, logic did not convince anybody at any point of time. As I read in a book the other day, only when the spoken word appeals to the other person’s self-interest, will or thought process, will logic be of any use. Logic primarily is to be used for rational beings, or inanimate objects, say with computers. Logic works perfectly in such a system because they are devoid of their own thought process and neither do they possess a sense of individuality and hence self-interest. Human beings are primarily emotional creatures. In an emotional atmosphere, there is no place for logic.

The religion/culture (or whatever you might want to call it) of almost every country doesn’t propagate selfless service. It propagates ‘you help people, there is heaven when you die’, ‘you get punyam’. The key word essentially is ‘you’. The futility of logic was perceived was by our ancestors thoroughly. They had to create an incentive, a self-interest motive to help the poor and the needy. ‘What is in it for me?’ primarily drives arguments and not logic. Innumerable examples to support the futility of logic. They are around us every day and every moment, from global to personal.

Logic states that pollution of air has to be reduced drastically to reduce global warming. Many countries signed the Kyoto Protocol. However, major pollution causing countries like the US have refused to sign Kyoto Protocol indicating that they do not believe these global warming reports. The most industrialized and a developed country speaking thus – logic, what is that?

Shilpa Shetty being kissed by Richard Gere in an AIDS campaign in India. As usual, a furore over this was telecast a million times in various 24×7 rubbish news channels. Shilpa Shetty enquires – ‘Why is the public raising such a furore? I do not see any logic in raising such petty issues to a national level’. The same lady was silent and probably approving with glee when the same public created a ‘star’ out of nowhere because of another worthless TV show ‘Big Brother’. Wasn’t logic working then?

Personal experiences are multiple. If my friend is faced with a particular situation, and I am offering a so-called ‘objective’ opinion, that is because of two reasons. The decision he might take will not affect me in any way and two, I get this exalted feeling of helping him out of a situation. All said and done however, my friend would act in a way that would maximize his self-interest and not any other way round. I have been on both sides of the fence multiple times and have observed that unless the logic serves our self-interest, the logic is bad/faulty/no use.

Rationalism, Objectivity are all things which can unanimously be applied to machines and computers, never to human beings. Next time someone says it is so logical, just take a step back and evaluate as to how it would benefit that particular person, because the way world is, ‘self-interest’ rules.

P.S – Books like ‘The Art of Negotiation’ and similar books have one baseline, serve (maximize) your self-interests, give and take very few. The blog is fundamentally against a core philosophy I strongly believe (tried it, with disastrous results :)), but then…‘Selfless’ uh…I hope to reach that state someday.

Motorola L6i and Canon A530

Two buys this weekend – one was forced and the other planned. As my previous blog indicates, I finally bought a mobile phone (which was forced) and a digicam (which was planned). Both of them were bought after a lot of research and peer review. After couple of days of intense use, here I present a review on both.

Motorola L6i – Well, any mobile is defined by the requirements of the user along with the budget he has. My major requirement was phone along with a basic level of camera. FM and MP3 were not a priority as I already had a mp3 player. With my limited budget (of Rs. 5k), I went about searching for different models, reviews on Net and reviews from friends.
Now for my review. This model has excellent speaker quality along with an user interface which is comparable to higher end models of Motorola. The VGA camera is quite good with a functionality of exposure on the pic (-4 to +4), although the pics are not comparable to the ones in megapixel. However, this one is much better than VGA cameras of its competitors. With Bluetooth functionality added in, this one is helluva value-for-money. I hope it stands up on reliability for a long time. I guess there is only one hiccup however – the battery needs to be charged almost every day, which can be quite a pain. Other than that, with the sleekness, the looks and the functionalities, I would recommend this to anyone anyday, as long as they are a bit tolerant towards the battery life.

Canon A530 – This one involved a lot of research for over two months. Peer review almost universally recommended Canon over Sony (Sony, it seems are much better at handycams). Within Canon, I was looking for a bit of flexibility in terms of my snaps as well as good picture quality. Budget was not much of a constraint here, although I was very clear that I would not be going for a SLR.
A530 fit in almost all my requirements. After using it for more than 2 days now, should admit am completely satisfied with the product. With a 5 megapixel and 4X optical zoom along with the price tag of Rs 11k, it is brilliant. Some of the features which I love –
1) Stitch functionality – A landscape can be broken into different snaps and can be stitched later in the laptop. Although I used this functionality before in other cameras, the difference and disturbance used to be visible. Take a look at this stitched photograph of Infy campus from the terrace of my house – the difference is negligible (zero in fact). I should experiment on the number of snaps that can be stitched yet, but the first stitched photograph involving three pics is great.
Before Stitching –

After Stitching –

2) Manual Option – My best option in the camera. Although other cameras claim to have a manual option, 70% of it is already programmed. However, in this camera, almost every setting can be tweaked to suit the requirement. Right from Shutter speed, aperture, brightness, ISO, image quality and many others – the feature is outstanding; and the best part being after clicking a photograph it switches back to the initial setting, making every pic customizable.
3) Optical viewfinder – I am not sure, but then I saw a majority number of cameras without the viewfinder. I used to use this quite frequently in other cameras (my friend’s :)) and am fairly comfortable. If anyone is low on batteries, this one is the best solution to save on batteries as well as have some snaps. Wonder what those digicam guys are thinking about removing this viewfinder from their digicams?
4) SCN option – This one is found in other cameras as well, but the range is excellent. From Colour Accent to Pets to Snow, it covers all. I guess more usage would let me fine tune it.
The major feature I did not like is the delay between one pic and another. 1 second – and this is the timeframe between a bird sitting on a porch and about to fly away – that crucial one second. Flash photography was never the claim, but a second is too long. Kodak has one digicam (I dont remember the brand though) where the delay was absolutely nil (though costed around 15k). Hopefully Canon would fix this in the future. All in all, a camera, 1GB card and soft case for 11k seems reasonable for a camera with multitude of features and great picture quality (unless prints are big, I dont think it wud make a difference between a 3.5 megapixel and a 7 megapixel camera).
More pics to come in the blog…and as usual only the best would be put up. Experimental pics would be the first one to be put up although my interest lies with landscapes. Smile please!! 🙂

Lift Conversations?!

Well, the title in itself is an oxymoron. Invariably, there are no talks or conversations while in the Lift. Innumerable number of trips in the Lift have left me with a conclusion that there invariably is some treasure hidden somewhere in the Lift which people are looking for.
I was 10 years old when I first got into a lift which was in one of the offices my uncle once took me to. Lifts back then fascinated me. The whole idea that I need not exert any effort to move up 5 floors coupled with the curiosity for lifts back then was extremely wonderful. Lifts were not as common back then as they are nowadays and the rarity made it a thing to boast about with your friends.
Time passed and I encountered physics. With physics, the inevitable happened. Newton’s laws and Acceralation due to gravity was awed. The effects of these on Lifts was even more fascinating – interesting problems emerged, and with almost every problem on lifts I used to imagine myself in the lift trying to solve that problem – did my weight increase or decrease,
is the lift moving with constant acceralation or constant velocity and the associated solutions. It was great fun solving them as well as served as an enthu factor for getting into lifts again and again.
As time progressed, lifts became more common (and with it, my vocabulary of calling it an Elevator :)). I then began to notice strange things happening. People in the lift almost never talked to each other unless they were closest of close friends. Whether it was claustrophobia or something else, I do not have an idea. People absolutely normal outside the elevator behaved strangely in the lift – staring at walls, looking at the celing, observing their shoes and rarely observing people around in the lift. A strange sense of silence prevails before the hustle-bustle of the floor begins again. I seriously couldn’t (and still don’t) understand as to what people look at. Are they trying to find some hidden treasure on the ceiling or between the walls? Are they trying to observe the formations of dust on their shoe and deduce ‘The Dust Theory’? Are they looking at their watches continously and trying to calculate whether time slows down due to relative motion of the lift against the speed of light? I mean What???
And then there are categories in Elevators. Fast and Slow elevators – the slower the lift, the more tortous it is. Slower lifts are a bane on organisations (my previous organisation had one :)) and their people. People get frustrated waiting for these lifts at each of the floors only to be tortured much more in the ‘Field of Silence’ inside. As luck would have it, I was in the lift with the CIO of that particular organisation one day. Strange situation – I didnt know whether to smile, to talk, murmur – so what did I do? I stared at my watch for an awful loonnng time, spoke a hello, how are you? and looked hard at the ceiling for a virtual crack in it. He got off the next floor and I heaved a huge sigh of relief!! So much, for the slowness of the lift.
And then there are elevators with capacity of 8 persons or 16 persons – invariably during lunch time, you would find more people in the lift than on any given floor 🙂 And god save you, if there is a power cut and no backup available for the lift. Or even worse, the lift gets jammed (experienced it twice). Given the modern world of steel covering and alloy covering, voices inside the lift do not reach outside – all that would be left would be prayers to God, if he can get a peep into a stuffed lift that is!!
Having said all the above, with skyscrapers shooting up in almost all parts of every city, lifts are a necessity rather than a luxury. Lifts have undergone a massive makeover – from typical iron-grills to metal doors and fancy gadgets. However, in my 14 years of experience in these lifts, people have never changed. They never talked inside lifts always looking for the seemingly invisible particles that would make their day. I hope one day, they do find it and prove that they were not wasting time inside these lifts in the ‘Field of Silence’.

Personality Conflict!!

Till Xth class, I guess noone would have had any dilemma as to his/her personality. As we age, we tend to have more and more choices about the subjects we choose, about the friends we have, about partners and various other important aspects of life. I specifically mention Xth class because till then we (or should I say ‘I’) did not have any choice about the subjects we chose – forget about other aspects like friends and partners.
Then came the period between Xth and graduation – mathematics or biology. I for one, did not have any doubt, for two reasons – one, I was terrible at drawing and sketching (which I came to know through my friends who took biology) and two, I liked mathematics – although must admit the love for the latter, especially the so-called glory of being called ‘An Engineer’ swept me away. Limited choices – two of them – was not that difficult to make this choice.
Then came Engineering – college, branch, friends, hangout places, games – multiple choices (now I understand the reason for Entrance exams having multiple choice questions – and choosing the best answer). Over four years, one common thread I observed was that for a given problem, there was only one given answer – analytically and mathematically. This was wonderful, only one answer to any given problem – a methodology which got ingrained, whether you completed Engineering by rote or by experiencing it.
Then came Management. Multiple scenarios, multiple solutions, multiple companies and multiple packages. Initial days of my management classes were a little too difficult for me to digest. Some claimed that Engineering was the ideal background for a MBA – How? I asked. I received no answer. I personally feel they are on either side of the horizon – one speaks of perfection (one answer to a given problem) and the other speaks of time (a good answer now is better than the best answer at a later time). Finance and Accounting they say, is akin to Engineering. To speak in MBA gyaan, to arrive at an optimal value, a company can use different accounting systems and financial policies. ‘Optimal’ is the key word – there is no perfection in Management – Management is about people, and are people perfect – they are only striving towards perfection (Am I?)
There you go – here I am with two degrees on opposite sides of the horizon, trying to derive the best value (‘best’ from Engineering and ‘value’ from MBA :-)) – Isn’t there a personality conflict everyday in every situation??
P.S: At the start of the blog, I wanted to deal with the friends and partners angle too – that angle is waaayyyyyyyy tooo complex – they bring in so many impressions and thoughts with them – there might be no personality left, forget about the conflict :-). Last but not the least, had a taste of Banking – providing the ‘best’ to the customer and now Consulting – providing ‘optimal’ solution to your clients 😀
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