It’s always a cow’s opinion

If this post is bad, send me money

I’m plowing through a class on ‘Global Economics’ at Business School nowadays. A euphemism for a class on Macro-economics for Managers, aka How to interpret complicated Economic Times / Financial Times / Economist articles and make sense of really. really, really, smart guys. I am being uncharitable of course, the class is a lot more than that; but the immediate marginal benefit (see what I mean) is being able to make sense of the economic-goings-on in the world and no longer have a ‘whaaat?’ expression on one’s face when reading Mankiw.

Of course, macro-economics cannot be complete without some Cow jokes. They proliferate like randy heifers in mating season, with nary a thought towards political correctness, good taste and most certainly not the vaguest political sense. This latest wave of cow’s opinions (to channel the Joey gene, present in us all) instigated this post, a collection of the higher epic-hilarity rated cows jokes I’ve come across.

To begin, the latest are some gems from a link I received recently:

You have two cows. Syria claims ownership over them. You take them abroad and start successful cattle farms in Africa, Australia, and Latin America. You send the proceeds back home so your relatives can afford cosmetic surgery and Mercedes-Benzes.

Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt
You have 10 cows. Neglect to tend to them, but prevent them from fighting Israel in order to get milk from America.

Post-Mubarak Egypt
You have 10 cows who think they now own the farm. There’s still no milk.

You have two bulls. Pretend they are helpless calves.

The next set are a series of jokes / images authored by the Economic Times, which I am unfortunately unable to find on the first page of Google (the marginal cost of checking page 2 tends to infinity). These went viral on corporate emails and other places a few years ago, and now appear to have proliferated everywhere. Except at the Economic Times website itself. Of course. Anymoo, with no further udder:

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My personal favorites are Citigroup and our beloved Tatagroup. 🙂

Of course, the nature of a virus is to mutate. This is another hilarious take on the cow idea, but with dishwashing courtesy ThePaperWall: (clickage for FULL size)

Whats your ism?

Thats all folks.

Football, Quants and Black Swans

I’ve been reading Nicholas Nassim Talleb’s (the ever-effervescent NNT) Black Swan for the 2nd time recently, and the timing couldn’t be better with FIFA 2010 in full swing.

For those unfortunates yet to be enlightened by the unknowledge of NNT, a ‘black swan’ is an ‘unknown unknown’ with potentially enormous effect on the future course of events. The very nature of human cognition and memory makes us especially prone to forgetting the existence of Black Swans. I lack the requisite articulation to teach you more than that, so go read the book. It’s brilliant. Completely.

If I may be so bold as to attempt to apply his ideas to sport, I would say that football generates multiple black swans a minute, bearing more similarity to a barbarian melee than to a sport in the sheer dynamism and complex nature of the interactions of 22 wiry-muscled athletes, a sphere and very complicated physics.

Continue reading

A.I.G should pay out their bonuses

I agree with the New York Times, especially this point:

“So as unpalatable as it seems, taxpayers need to keep some of these brainiacs in their seats,”

Because the bottom line is that these guys are just that, brainiacs. Amidst all the derision that the financial industry is facing, people seem to forget that the financial industry did do a lot of work. The models, the theories, the ideas, i think have not yet been found wanting. Only a collective sense of judgement and caution. Nothing’s wrong

So. these brainiacs need to get paid. Earlier they got paid to take huge risks and make proportionately large profits. Now they need to be paid to do it again.

Cheers to Marginal Revolution for the link.

Harvard 2007 Circumvention Landscape Report

Almost everyone today deals with the frustration of ‘blocked’ internet sites. From corporate firewalls all the way up to The Great Firewall of China, the Powers-that-want-to-be continue to take it upon themselves to judge the internets on the behalf of other people and censor the word of the masses.

I am a staunch advocate of free, universal and unbiased access to information and knowledge . People should be allowed to absorb all that their reality can throw at them and use their own mental faculties (limited as they too often are) to come to conclusions, make informed decisions, and generally live smarter lives. Moreover, any form of internet censorship is far too heavily reliant on some form of subjective judgment of the ‘worthiness’ of a website to be accessed, makes certain excessively rude assumptions on the moral and intellectual fibre of the audience and with respect to knowledge, attempts to play god. Organizations that I’ve interacted with on this topic have little to no justification for blocking any site. Almost everything is blocked under the catch-all Holy Trinity of justifications – a)distraction to employees b)source of malicious software (viruses, malware, etc) and c) bandwidth hog. Considering the expectations placed on corporates to be accessible and ready-to-work 24/7 with the advent of the blackberry and other remote-working technologies, the argument that time at work should be exclusively used for work just is not worth a response. National level censoring, well, thats just malarkey.

I need to add a caveat here to my rant, while I do not support any form of internet-browsing censorship, I do agree, at the organizational level, with some amount of prevention of the use of P2P software. The lack of intelligence and awareness displayed by most P2P users make the softwares a risk to an organization’s data assets. Coupled with the complete (current) lack of use of P2P for corporate work, blocking P2P has few cons, imho.

My rant was rather inspired by the 2007 Circumvention Landscape Report. 2 years in the making, the report profiles all the major circumvention systems and implementing tools currently available.

As the Internet has exploded over the past fifteen years, recently reaching over a billion users, dozens of national governments from China to Saudi Arabia have tried to control the network by filtering out content objectionable to the countries for any of a number of reasons. A large variety of different projects have developed tools that can be used to circumvent this filtering, allowing people in filtered countries access to otherwise filtered content. In this report, we describe the mechanisms of filtering and circumvention and evaluate ten projects that develop tools that can be used to circumvent filtering: Anonymizer, Ultrareach, DynaWeb Freegate, Circumventor/CGIProxy, Psiphon, Tor, JAP, Coral, and Hamachi. We evaluated these tools in 2007 — using both tests from within filtered countries and tests within a lab environment — for their utility, usability, security, promotion, sustainability, and openness. We find that all of the tools use the same basic mechanisms of proxying and encryption but that they differ in their models of hosting proxies. Some tools use proxies that are centrally hosted, others use proxies that are peer hosted, and others use re-routing methods that use a combination of the two. We find that, in general, the tools work in the sense that they allow users to access pages that are otherwise blocked by filtering countries but that performance of the tools is generally poor and that many tools have significant, unreported security vulnerabilities.

The report was completed in 2007 and released to a group of private sponsors. Many of the findings of the report are now out of date, but we present them now, as is, because we think that the broad conclusions of the report about these tools remain valid and because we hope that other researchers will benefit from access to the methods used to test the tools.

Responses from developers of the tools in question are included in the report.

The report itself (almost 100 pages) makes some excellent points on the social factors in internet censorship. This is a good post on the same than I could write.

Deloitte Football Money League 2009

Get it here. (Note: 2+ MB file and requires registration (a quick one).)

Real Madrid retains top spot. As a Real Madrid supporter, this is good.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the world’s 2 ‘richest’ clubs – Chelsea and Manchester City are not the world’s richest clubs. Their owners are the world’s 2 richest football club owners. The 110 million GBP that chelsea ‘spent’ in a summer? They didn’t spend it. Roman Abramovich did. Chelsea owe Roman that money.

The top 10 in revenue:

  1. Real Madrid
  2. Manure
  3. Barca
  4. Bayern Munich (not a surprise considering Bundesliga’s high attendances)
  5. Chelski
  6. Arse
  7. ‘Pool
  8. Milan
  9. Roma
  10. Inter

of autorickshaws, millionaires and freakonomics – Part 2

Carrying on with the question Dubner asked on Freakonomics last week.

I’m going to take a rather different view to Abhishek Rawat. In essence, Abhishek states that the differences between autod drivers in Mumbai and Delhi are down to the greater numbers of autos and thus greater competition for fares in Mumbai. While this is true to some extent, I don’t think its the key reason for the differences between the 2 cities.

I currently live in Mumbai, grew up in Bangalore and have visited Delhi several times. Bangalore was a good case study since about 15 years ago, Bangalore’s autos were very similar in nature to Mumbai’s autos today. They were friendly, safe cooperative and went strictly by the meter. Now they are probably as bad if not worse than Delhi’s. Today it is near impossible to get an auto (or ‘ric as we refer to them) to a) go where you want to and b) go by the meter.

If I were to compare Bangalore today with Bangalore of 1990, the major difference is population and accompanying traffic. It is just a lot harder to get around by road in Bangalore than it used to be.

Anyway, enough rambling on Bangalore. The reason for the difference between Mumbai and Delhi’s ‘rics today and Bangalore’s ‘rics over time is this:

1. Competition among autos: As Abhishek said, Mumbai has the highest density of autos in an equivalent area of all three cities. Walk to any intersection and there are between 5 and 10 ‘rics, atleast, competing for you to ride with them.

2. Alternatives: I think Abhishek has got this point reversed. In Mumbai, modes of Public transport are:

a. taxi – the Central Business District to the northern suburbs and further on, essentially the entire city

b. auto – only the suburbs, about half the city. After specific points, autos can’t go south into the city.

c. local trains – the most heavily used option which connects the entire city together and very much the one thing that keeps Mumbai going.

d. local bus: a massive network that goes everywhere and integrates with inter-city bus lines.

All these alternatives have been around for decades. In Delhi, there are buses and now a metro, both of which are, compared to Mumbai, more recent options. Bangalore has no viable alternative to autos today.

So the result of that is a person is much more dependent on autos in Delhi and especially Bangalore than in Mumbai. If an auto driver were to ‘put up their price’ in Mumbai, commuters would just walk by and use something else, like the bus or train. Also, road transport, due to traffic jams is not as fast or as reliably on time as the trains in Mumbai. So these competitors have inequalities other than price.

3. City culture: Culturally, Mumbai is like New York. Delhi is like Washington DC. Bangalore is like a cross between a Florida beach and silicon valley. People are a lot less tolerant of time-wasting-haggling in Mumbai and will show their displeasure.

4. Economic demographics: This, I think is an important point and one which is bound to be quite controversial. Mumbai is a lot, lot more crowded than Delhi and Bangalore. People from the corporatized (and equivalent) middle / upper-middle class (in terms of buying power) form a far larger section of the population in Delhi and Bangalore than they do in Mumbai. So the market for autos in Delhi and Bangalore is a lot more tolerant of paying 10-20% over and above the meter.

So there you have it, as an auto driver in Mumbai, you are facing a potential customer who is financially and culturally much more reluctant to bargain than in other cities, competing with alternatives which on a speed aspect are superior, are limited geographically and you also have a lot more ‘colleagues’ driving their own autos around looking for a fare.