Monthly Archives: June 2010

links for 2010-06-30

  • This is what Silicon Valley can teach New York: make experiments cheap. Don't hire a pricy, outsourced IT company to design a new, exciting book-service for your company. Why not hire your own developers and a visionary tech person and try something. Wait until it fails, learn from that failure, and try something else. Your outsource IT company will hate you if you call them every 30 minutes asking to try a new feature, or to tweak or remove an existing one. But your in-house people will love the challenge and freedom of being allowed to fail fast, iterate, and learn.
    Here's what Silicon Valley can't teach New York publishers: how to prevent copying. Last month at BEA, publishing CEOs all but begged Silicon Valley to present them with a universal, interoperable DRM system that would prevent copying without locking books to one vendor's platform…
    lurking in the heart of every entrepreneur is a monopolist hoping to shut out the competition.
  • In looking for someone to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. But the most important is integrity, because if they don’t have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you. — Warren Buffet
  • LOOK ~ FIFA released photo evidence today showing England was NOT robbed in the Germany game
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Posted by on June 30, 2010 in Uncategorized


links for 2010-06-29

  • Suddenly “what shall I take today” does not seem like a trivial decision. A book is many things. It helps fill time between appointments, on trains. It may spark an idea or help consolidate one. It enables a solitary experience inside one’s head while one navigates a crowd jostling for space on the pavements of Oxford Street.
    Yet a book is not really about appearances. More will see the handbag. Few, if any, will see its contents.
    And there lies the rub. We pick many things for fitting into specific contexts. Our clothes, for instance. But a book allows us to be ourselves.
  • In a completely unexpected move, Congress today expelled its Rajya Sabha member and current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from the primary membership of the party for six years, but the party said that it will let Dr. Singh continue as the Prime Minister of the UPA government.
    Party insiders say that the decision was taken to help Congress perform well in the coming state assembly elections…
    Sources say that Congress was mulling over the expulsion of Manmohan Singh for a long time so that they could call themselves just an ‘ally’ of the central government and could enjoy the ‘flexibility’ other allies have enjoyed for long…
    After this expulsion, Congress is planning to hold countrywide demonstrations against the recent hike in petrol prices and burn effigies of Manmohan Singh to reach out to the aam aadmi.
  • Professor Charles Handy explained his Portfolio Life concept at an Institute meeting: 'What I am trying to do is evolve a lifestyle for myself. I looked into my concerns and activities, and one thing I did was to resign my full-time, tenured professorship. I created what I call 'a portfolio life', setting aside 100 days a year for making money, 100 days for writing, 50 days for what I consider good works, and 100 days for spending time with my wife…
    If, rather than think of life as work and leisure, we think of it as a portfolio of activities – some of which we do for money, some for interest, some for pleasure, some for a cause – that way, we do not have to look for the occupation that miraculously combines job satisfaction, financial reward and pleasant friends all in one package. As with any portfolio we get different returns from different parts and if one fails the whole is not ruined.
  • There are two modes of work: doing stuff, and deciding what stuff you have to do. The essence of working smart is balancing those two. If you do before you decide, you get stuck in the busy trap.
    You want to think first, act next. Because you never know when the next interruption is coming, make sure you always have a broad overview of all of your projects in one place. Regroup and review your lists on a regular basis…When you have clarity about what you need to be working on at the moment…you can say "sure, no problem" or "I'd love to, but can I delegate project X to make time for it?" instead.
    The fact is, interruptions will always come at you in the form of emergencies, requests, surprise meetings, co-worker problems. That won't change. What can change is how you react to them. When you're clear on the state of your current projects and priorities, you can make informed decisions about how to deal with that interruption, the right way, on the spot.
  • the ULIP dispute has been presented as a contest between SEBI and IRDA…This is misleading. One scenario would have each regulator govern the portion of ULIPs which fall within their domain…Some might suggest that this would lead to too much complexity. Yet, we are more used to dealing with complexity than we realize. A person driving a vehicle who causes damage to property could be liable for damages under rules of the Motor Vehicle Act, tort law and possibly the Indian Penal Code. That the net zone of freedom of action in driving a car would be limited to the conjunction of the areas prescribed by these laws seems hardly remarkable. The government would never declare that all motor vehicle drivers are immune from civil or criminal laws. The more complex the transaction, the more regulation might apply. Financial firms are as well-equipped as any actor in society to handle this complexity.
  • big business is as much the enemy of free markets as big government is.
    The cornerstone of free markets, competition, is great for consumers, as it delivers better-quality products and services at lower prices. But it is terrible for established businesses, which are constantly under pressure to keep prices low and salaries high, and may be wiped out by more innovative and efficient competitors…
    now that communism is dead, one of the greatest threats to freedom everywhere is not socialism, but crony capitalism…
    Big government is one ass cheek, big business is another, and together they're shitting on capitalism…
    And here's an excerpt from a speech Manmohan gave in 2007: "Are we encouraging crony capitalism? Is this a necessary but transient phase in the development of modern capitalism in our country? Are we doing enough to protect consumers and small businesses from the consequences of crony capitalism?…
    why on earth was he asking those questions? He's the prime minister, no?
  • At one level, it's a free market; people should be able to buy what they want, even if they choose to overpay, especially when such information is available to them. On the other hand, we have seen a worldwide financial crisis built on the back of information asymmetry; you must decide based on what you know, and you can't possibly know enough. The answer: regulate, de-incentivise, litigate. There has to be a little of each, because in the end we are not rational beings. But it looks like the government decision seems to have just favoured the unregulated market.
    Buyer beware. If you ask me, I would tell you to blindly refuse any ULIP offered to you, for which you will undoubtedly receive a large number of unsolicited enquiries in the coming months. But maybe there is a way to benefit: I suggest you demand Rs. 500 per phone call, payable in advance. For this advice, I demand no commissions.
  • The sale of 'corruption licenses' alone would generate so much money for the exchequer, it would make A Raja look like a cop who just accepted a twenty rupee bribe to overlook a traffic-signal violation. And that's just for starters. Legalizing corruption means that you can tax it directly – resulting in seriously big income for the Government, freeing them up financially so they can ditch hare-brained schemes such as the NREGA and focus on building important stuff such as hideous statues of political figures, ugly memorials to great people and private roads for everyone…
    The beauty of this idea is that it is completely foolproof. Of course, any license-based system is vulnerable to being exploited by corrupt officials, but since, under the new rules, corruption itself would be quite legal, these unscrupulous elements would be in a fix…Anyone looking to take bribes to award 'corruption licenses' would have to obtain a license themselves first.
  • The days are long, but the years are short.
    Someplace, keep an empty shelf.
    It's okay to ask for help.
    You can choose what you do; you can't choose what you LIKE to do.
    Happiness doesn't always make you feel happy.
    What you do EVERY DAY matters more than what you do ONCE IN A WHILE.
    You don't have to be good at everything.
    It's important to be nice to EVERYONE.
    You know as much as most people.
    What's fun for other people may not be fun for you — and vice versa.
    If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough.
    No deposit, no return.
  • I think false choices are tempting for a couple of reasons. First, instead of facing a bewildering array of options, you limit yourself to a few simple possibilities. Also, the way you set up the options usually makes it obvious that one choice is the high-minded, reasonable, laudable choice, and one is not.
    But although false choices can be comforting, they can leave you feeling trapped, and they can blind you to other choices you might make. “Either I can be financially secure, or I can have a job I enjoy.” “I have to decide whether to marry this person now or to accept the fact that I’m never going to have a family.”
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Posted by on June 29, 2010 in Uncategorized


links for 2010-06-28

  • Nearly halfway through the month-long 2010 World Cup Tournament in South Africa, over a dozen teams have been eliminated from the original group of 32, with the Round of 16 beginning tomorrow, June 26th. Television and web viewership has been setting records all over the world as supporters tune in to watch the events in South Africa and react along with the fans and players in the stadiums as they celebrate their wins and suffer through losses. Collected here are recent photos from the 2010 World Cup, as some of the players and their supporters have been experiencing it – in South Africa and around the globe. (43 photos total)
  • Ahasuerus has wandered the world, able to speak every language, never aging but increasingly weary with all he has seen of men, and longing for the release into death that will only come with the Second Coming…
    "I did not feel his fate as a curse; I thought how wonderful it would be to travel alone and endlessly, to visit every country in the world and to meet all sorts of extraordinary people; above all, to be able to read any book that fell into my hands."
    In some ways, the much-traveled Alberto Manguel has clearly lived out his boyish dream. In truth, though, reading can allow any of us to wander the world, as well as the world's past and future. Through books we acquire the means to understand what Manguel calls "our bewildering experience" of life; they orient us through their "mobility and stability, self-reflection and the gift of looking outward."
  • A migraine is caused by abnormal brain activity, which is triggered by stress, certain foods, environmental factors, or something else. However, the exact chain of events remains unclear.
    Scientists used to believe that migraines were due to changes in blood vessels within the brain. Today, most medical experts believe the attack actually begins in the brain itself, where it involves various nerve pathways and chemicals. The changes affect blood flow in the brain and surrounding tissues.
    Migraine attacks may be triggered by:
    * Alcohol
    * Allergic reactions
    * Bright lights
    * Certain odors or perfumes
    * Changes in hormone levels…
    * Changes in sleep patterns
    * Exercise
    * Loud noises
    * Missed meals
    * Physical or emotional stress
    * Smoking or exposure to smoke
    Certain foods and preservatives in foods may trigger migraines in some people…
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Posted by on June 28, 2010 in Uncategorized


links for 2010-06-25

  • Developments within India’s outsourcing industry have also contributed to making the country a more compelling destination for legal work. Although still dominated by low-value process outsourcing, such as call-centres, the fastest growth is in companies offering highly skilled work, from medicine to engineering and information technology (IT). A growing number of newly qualified lawyers, trained in a legal system based on Britain’s and often educated at British or American universities, are drawn to the higher salaries and international experience now being offered. Such lawyers are capable of doing more complex work than the document review and proofreading that currently forms the bulk of legal outsourcing.
  • Respecting privacy doesn’t come naturally to Indians. After all, we are the people who can’t go through a train journey without ferreting out intimate details of our co-passengers’ life. We are upholders of the joint family system and believed in community living long before the hippies. Since bank officials are products of the same society, they are unable to leave this cultural baggage behind, even if they are now part of the new corporate India.
    In the West, where privacy is a fiercely guarded right, the confidentiality clause between lawyer-client, psychiatrist-patient or banker-customer is sacrosanct. In a litigious society such as the US, more so for fear of getting sued…
    The traditional Indian disregard for privacy is only one problem. The other is that the concept has become unworkable in India due to sheer numbers. The customer base of Indian private banks has grown in such a monstrous way that the branch banking network can no longer look at the softer aspects of service.
  • very few months you suddenly see an advertisement by a company stating that, after a rigorous research exercise conducted by a survey company of virginal virtue, the company is now officially…(something!)
    Such triumph usually leads to two things…
    I don’t think anyone, except maybe the company itself, takes these rankings seriously…
    What reiterates this futility nicely is the other thing that happens after such announcements.
    Soon after the results of the survey are announced, news websites and blogs post reports. And then all hell breaks loose.
    Disgruntled employees descend in hordes. And leave comments…
    So given that no one takes these surveys seriously, how do you really, accurately measure up an employer?
    Most career advice websites indicate that you should be talking to employees themselves. Anything else, including Googling or surveys, are poor short cuts. Also, someone once told me that the state of a company’s lobby itself could tell plenty.
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Posted by on June 25, 2010 in Uncategorized


links for 2010-06-24

  • Dunning-Kruger Effect — our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence. But just how prevalent is this effect?…
    If I were given carte blanche to write about any topic I could, it would be about how much our ignorance, in general, shapes our lives in ways we do not know about. Put simply, people tend to do what they know and fail to do that which they have no conception of. In that way, ignorance profoundly channels the course we take in life. And unknown unknowns constitute a grand swath of everybody’s field of ignorance…
    Unknown unknown solutions haunt the mediocre without their knowledge…People fail to reach their potential as professionals, lovers, parents and people simply because they are not aware of the possible…
    One could argue that evolution suggests we’re not idiots, but I would say, “Well, no. Evolution just makes sure we’re not blithering idiots. But, we could be idiots in a lot of different ways and still make it through the day.”
  • Despite all attempts of mankind to annihilate each other symbolically and literally, we have not yet succeeded. That we have succeeded with each other was sometimes because of our smarts, and just as often despite our smarts. At the end of the day there is still love left.
    The late analyst Hyman Spotnitz, used to say, (perhaps paraphrasing Winston Churchill): "…Never, ever, ever, ever give up"
  • There is an older Hindu nationalist obsession with Hitler. Leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have at various times praised Hitler’s nationalism, though to be fair, some have also decried Hitler’s anti-Semitism…Hitler’s quest for Aryan supremacy makes some Hindu nationalists nostalgic; his usurping of the swastika makes some feel a vague kinship…
    Such fascination is subliminal, and except for the Hollywood films, there is little to counter it…
    But here’s the irony: on the one hand, some Hindu nationalists want to admire Hitler’s “virtues”. On the other, they see themselves as Israel’s best friends in India, united in a common struggle against Islamic terror. They want closer relations with the Jewish state—while being in awe of the man who attempted to eliminate all Jews…
    I've sometimes procrastinated for years on a step that I've known all along I should take. When I finally take it, miracles start to happen. What would my life look like today, if I'd lived even more courageously and had had more faith in life, my instincts, and myself? I will never know. You, on the other hand, can start finding out, right now. Take that first step, and the next step. You know what they are. Don't wait.
  • * “Few men are able to know all the ill they do.”
    * “We are never made so ridiculous by the qualities we have, as by those we affect to have.”
    * “In misfortunes we often mistake dejection for constancy; we bear them without daring to look on them, as cowards suffer themselves to be killed without resistance.”
    * “We want strength to act up to our reason.”
    * “We easily forget crimes that are known only to ourselves.”
    * “We are sometimes less unhappy in being deceived than in being undeceived by those we love.”
    And “Those who apply themselves too much to little things commonly become incapable of great ones.”
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Posted by on June 24, 2010 in Uncategorized


links for 2010-06-23

  • Hitler's popularity…points to…less tangible factors. For one, despite discarding socialism and autarky two decades ago, India remains largely inward looking. Homegrown movie stars and sportsmen dominate celebrity culture. Whether in politics or economics, Indians tend to benchmark their country against its own past rather than against its Asian neighbors or the West. Insensitivity to the emotions Hitler evokes in New York or London shows a country too busy having a conversation with itself to pay much attention to what others think.
    Many urban Indians also long for order. The Hitler fan sees him, simple-mindedly, as a strongman capable of producing order out of chaos. In a country where the smallest act…can be fraught with uncertainty, and where democracy serves up an unending stream of crooks and dynasts, it's easy to see the allure of the dictator who delivers.
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Posted by on June 23, 2010 in Uncategorized


links for 2010-06-22

  • There are some other basic numbers about the ULIP scam that you will never discover…One crucial number is the lapse rate of ULIPs…regulations are so arranged that ULIPs don't lapse, they just go into a 'premium-awaited' limbo. This immortality bestowed upon ULIPs by insurance rules is facilitated by the fact that insurance company can keep cancelling units to recover the basic charges, instead of being forced to recognise that the customer has abandoned its product…
    Realistically, there was probably never any chance that the government would allow meaningful reform of ULIPs. To do so would mean implicitly admitting that there was something seriously wrong in the way things have been done so far. Now, the regulatory die is cast, once and for all. Next time…a ULIP pitch…consider the fact that these people now have the full backing of the government and the regulations to cause as much harm to your personal finances as they'd like to. As an investor, it's your own battle now.
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

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