December 23, 2011

The Age of Turbulence

Warning: Geeky post ahead, though this is what makes more than half of my life (which just means its part of my job :P).

A few years after ordering the book, I finally read Alan Greenspan's autobiography titled 'The Age of Turbulence'. Greenspan has, without a doubt been one of the most powerful people to have shaped the financial world, for good or bad, over the past couple of decades. Hailed by few as a genius who turned USA into the great stabilizing force it is today, and blamed by others for the financial crisis, people view him at extremes. 




Alan Geenspan: The man who knew everything, or nothing?




During one of my corporate training programs, one instructor mentioned about Greenspan, and spoke very highly of him (that was before the financial crisis). To him, here was the greatest fed chief ever, and to look at history, he didn't do bad either. During his time, US grew in strength, the economy expanded, and inflation was under control. However, soon after he left, the world economy just fell off a cliff - and for which he must share a part of the blame. However, throughout human history, we have had bubbles and bust, and there is only much we can do before it actually happened. Its like a gold rush, when people have to go, they have to go. No amount of persuasion from anyone, least of them the fed chairman, would convince them otherwise. 

For all those interested in recent history of world economics, right from the early 70s, till the early past of 21st century, its a great read. He describes his time under different presidents, the economy then, and most importantly, the mood/thinking of the powerful men then. Greenspan describes his time with all the presidents who assumed office, and how each one differed from others in terms of policies and priorities. Towards the end, he briefly touches upon his vision for the future of different economies, though much of it is useless now given post the recession things have changed. He sees very bright future for the Asian emerging countries, notably China, and to a much smaller extent India and Russia (whats so different you may wonder, this is exactly what every media has been preaching. But there is a difference, and he has clearly separated India from China, who in reality too are not comparable, at least at this point of time). 

The book may change my views on economics a little bit, and shattered a few of my long held beliefs:

1. USA didn't have prosperity since a long long time. Only over last couple of decades they have had a great run in economy. I had always assumed they had a good life for last several decades. 

2. The low interest rates in USA haven't been always that way, and they too had double digit inflation in 70s. Gives me some hope about state of things in India as well. 

3. People have completely mis read the financial markets in proclaiming equities beat bonds over the long run. 80s and 90s were great period of growth for US, and very low interest rates. It was only during this period that much of financial theory was developed, and hence its quite flawed. A great many factors came together for that to happen, not the least the once in a lifetime event of globalization (which moved low skilled jobs offshore, hence containing any significant wage rise, leading to low inflation and high corporate profits). 

4. Inflation is the biggest enemy of a nation, and if the central bank can rein it, rest all will fall in place. Greenspan has stated this time and again, and history has proved him right. To some extent, even our current RBI chief, holds a similar view, and is doing everything possible to keep inflation in check. 


December 7, 2011

The Science of Moviemaking

Like all the office going people, I too have plenty of time to kill on the weekends. And very much like most of them, on most weekends I end up watching at least one movie. We don't plan too much before choosing one, usually just download the latest ones for the week.

The whole freedom on internet debate made me think along these lines. Are these public figures really so dumb, or there is something we are missing here. I mean, inspite of all the allegations, most of the current ministers would get re-elected as well. There is a similar parallel in movie making business as well. Almost all the directors, with just a possible exception of Raju Hirani, make movies to cater to just a few segments of the population. Given the diversity of our country, its really difficult to make movies which would be received well by everyone (the reason why I excluded Raju Hirani). Karan Johar and Yashraj movies cater to a particular class, Farhan Akhtar and Aamir Khan to another class. Which brings me to Salman Khan.

Most of his movies are senseless, and have more holes in the plot than roads in India. And yet, nowadays each of his movies are crossing the 100 crore mark. And inspite of what the sane film goer or the critic says, the small town mass just love him (also true for other similar movies like Golmaal, no Entry, etc). So while on surface it may seem to be an undercooked movie completed in a 15-day shoot, in reality it may be a calculated and rational move. May be the public just doesn't care, and don't want a sleek and better product. To them, movie where Salman kicks 20 villains in the climax i the definition of pure entertainment and paisa-vasool.

So next time you see a mindless an leave-your-brains-behind comedy, just don't assume that the producer and director really don't get it. May be they do, and perhaps better than all of us.

December 6, 2011

The World Around Us...

I have been pretty lazy with posts here - its usually once a month or so. In reality, its more about the confusion - how much of my real life should I be writing about here. Before social networking came along, not many people were reading stuff online. But now, the number has just exploded and now everything you do is instantaneously visible to half the world. This thing just scares me away - there are people on my FB friend list with whom I might not have spoken to in more than a decade. And some of them I would conveniently ignore if I saw them in a mall or in a restaurant. So, its quite scary as well as disturbing to think all those people may have access to what I think, or about my plans. And to make matters worse, google has been merging all their products under a single account name - taking away the small comfort that I had. 

Otherwise, life has been moving along smoothly, in a strictly relative sense. Anyone not living in mars for past few years would know times aren't really rosy for people working in financial markets. Though I can safely assume the conditions aren't very much different in other parts of the society as well. The world as we know it is transforming - and people are questioning the very basics of modern finance, and even the basics of democracy. I think the world would emerge a much better and balanced place out of this crisis - with slightly lesser inequality (between nations, as well as within nations). 

Read a few of books recently - three in total: (a) Made in America by Sam Walton, (b) The Monochrome Madonna by Kalpana Swaminathan, and (c) Cross Fire by James Patterson. The first one was the planned reading, and the other two were more like fillers before I wanted to start with another biography. Would recommend Sam Walton's book to anyone looking to read a great biography, or looking to understand 'starting a business', or purely for inspiration. Unlike Steve Jobs, who had a great vision for the future, Sam's goal in the beginning were just the run the most efficient store in the locality. He didn't have a 'great idea' to change the world, but it was more about old world virtues of hard work and perseverance. One of my friends gifted my the Steve Jobs book on my birthday, and should get started on that soon. 

Have been watching a lot of TV shows recently, and have finished almost all the aired episodes of BBT, HIMYM and even Gossip Girl. Looking to find another couple of good shows - mostly along the same lines. Planning for a trip also some time around end-January or early February, either a meeting-with-friends-seeing-citylife trip of Singapore and Malaysia, or a beach-holiday thing in Thailand. Depends on the number of holidays we can take, and also on the weather around that time. On a similar note, think blogger should have a photo album integration - just like FB has (I know there is Picassa, but its not the same thing). 



October 6, 2011

Remembering Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs finally lost his battle to cancer, but not before achieving almost everything he set out to achieve - the computer revolution. I just read his 1985 interview, at the onset of computer era, how he perceived the future for the devices. He was dead sure about it being the future, and talked about how everyone would have it in their homes - though acknowledging he didn't know what use it would have, but he said he knew there would be something big coming - like a giant national network connecting every one together for communication. 


I am another one of those Apple fans who own most of its products - iPod, iPhone, and MacBook (I don't have an iPad yet, mostly because I think the best of it is yet to come). For me, there are two big lessons from the life of Jobs:

1. Winners never make excuses or run down competition: Even though Jobs never failed to mock Microsoft and IBM, Apple never tried to play the game by their rules. It was always very clear in its mind how to go about it. Even when it seemed like MS won the game hands down, and Bill Gates would go down as the father of the computer revolution, Jobs stuck to what he believed was right - the bundled pack of software and hardware, and not adopting anything else. Its more like competing against yourself - if you lost, its because you were not perfect, and has nothing to do with the competition. Similar to the ways sachin never resorts to sledging, and Federer never breaks his racquets. Somedays you win, somedays you lose - but the battle is always within. 

Apple created new product categories, and re-defined consumer electronics. If it was competing with MS or IBM only, world would have never seen an iPod, or an iPhone. In his own words, to succeed, one should 'Stay hungry, Stay Foolish'. 

2. Nothing Succeeds Like Success: Jobs was written off by most people when he was fired from Apple. And now he's hailed as the best CEO we may have seen in the last century. Nothing much changed about the person - he was the same guy with similar beliefs before. Only, he had more success later in his 2nd stint with Apple. In the 90s, everyone believed Apple was an also-ran in the PC market, and Bill Gates was the real visionary behind the revolution. In most interviews, Gates was the role model for most people. And just when it looked like Gates had won the battle, Jobs emerged from nowhere to take the whole industry by storm. And now the world acknowledges his vision for the future. His success is what made Jobs great, and if he had failed, no one would have credited him for being the visionary behind the information revolution. So, if you want the world to take notice, nothing works better than success. And as Zuckerberg has already shown, in the end it doesn't matter if you made a few enemies on the way up - as long as you can keep going up. 



October 4, 2011

Lost In Translation

The movie released in 2003, and was one of the contenders for the Best Movie awards - sadly it lost out of LOTR - ROTK. I saw it today, and really loved the movie. 

<Possible Spoilers>

On the story front, there is nothing much to the plot - an American actor past his prime, and a newly wed girl on a trip with her husband meet in a foreign land. The movie is all about just the three characters - the actor, the girl and Japan. Its been beautifully shot, and anyone who sees the movie would fall in love with Tokyo - the neon lights, the big signboards, and everything else. In the initial part, the movie shows the struggle of westerners in trying to adapt to the Asian place, and tries subtly to mock it as well. However, as the movie progresses, we see the characters getting more and more comfortable in their surroundings, and from there on its more about the people. 







Most of the actors are perfectly cast, and the cinematography in the movie is a real treat. There are some really great shots, and I really liked the look and feel of the movie. 

August 28, 2011

Changes All Around

A lot of water has flown under the bridges all over since I last posted anything. My work has gotten hectic, and with the markets all around the world showing signs of 2008 all over again, we are back to not-so-good times. 

I had been to Shenzhen last weekend, and really liked the place. We went to a couple of theme parks over the weekend - Windows of the World and Splendid China. Windows of the World has miniature replicas of most of the famous buildings around the world - Eiffel Tower, Tower of Pisa, White House, Buckingham Palace, Taj Mahal, etc. Its really a must visit for anyone visiting the place. Splendid China is on similar themes, and has miniature replicas of famous places in China. 

Almost whole of the year has passed, and we are waiting eagerly for the last four months of the year to pass. This hasn't been the most stable of years, with wife moving to HK, and trying to settling in a new place. However, things are finally settling down, and by the end of this year we would be moving to a new apartment as well. Weekends are fun in Hong Kong with indoor games, and sometimes trip to some beach or other place. Its relatively quieter here compared to all the drama happening in India currently. Being so away from there, so feel sort of cut off from the event, as well as its outcome. 

June 18, 2011

Busy June

Its been a hectic last few weeks for me - mostly its the new job. New job brings you new challenges, and you have to start things all over again. In my profession, I have to rebuild all my excel sheets, and data store from scratch, and it takes a long long time. Now after a few weeks, things have come close to stabilizing. 

Wife has finally moved to Hong Kong permanently, and she is still adjusting to the place. Its not a very inconvenient place to live in (in fact, just the opposite), but the very fact its very different than Mumbai will need some time for adjustment. The biggest issue here would be the language, and the food. Though she would have much lesser food issues than I had (being a vegetarian is not the best of things in Hong Kong). She has all the time in the world to herself now, and I just hope it doesn't get boring here. I haven't seen a bollywood movie in a long time now, and will try to watch something this weekend. 

There has been a dearth of weekend-activities recently, and hopefully we would be visiting plenty of places in the months to come. New Zealand and/or China is on the cards, and depending on the leave we can manage, will have a vacation soon. On a different topic, Sale season has just started here, and my credit card bill is about to explode soon. 

May 25, 2011

Why Facebook Is A Short At 50 Billion!

Remember that period of one month before joining the B-School? When you are just lazying around in your home and some kind senior sends an invite to your batch's yahoo or google or FB group (depending upon number of grey hairs on your scalp). And the flood of emails that flow following a few awkward introductions in the beginning. And people asking all sorts of doubts ranging from need of mosquito net, to quality of mess food. If you don't believe me, just check out your group history, and you would be laughing your ass off now connecting the mails to real persons and friends you know.

Facebook lagrely is quite similar in nature, and we are currently in the period of initial hyperactivity. There is a new platform, and people are keen to explore it, projecting their best and active side. However, as we get used to the socially networked world, this initial euphoria would die down. People would stop informing the whole world when they visit a dentist, and when they go out for jog. And when that happens, the time spent on FB would come down gradually. So valuing a company on the basis of this period of super normal growth may not be the smartest thing to do. Thats where you need to apply everything real you learnt after you actually joined the B-School.

May 17, 2011

Moving to HK

I am moving to Hong Kong (Finally and hopefully ;)) on 25th of May. As would happen with everybody who is moving or settling in a new place, I am a mixed bag of emotions right now . I am happy that i will be finally settling down and having a house to call of my own. Sad also because all my friends, family is here, I liked my job, had a good team to work with, but unfortunately i had to quit in-order to move to HK. A lot more anxious because now that i have quit my job i will have a lot of time on my hand so i really hope i make good use of it. I already have a to do list on my mind, hope i execute it, unless the scary monster of laziness decides to creep over (which unfortunately he always does).

For starters i want to hit the gym, i have been eating my way to glory just thinking that i will make it up in HK. Parents i have a way of stuffing their kids with food; so mine right now is "Kha le, wahan kahan milega yeh sab khaane" and where otherwise i don't really heed to my parents advise, this time i have jumped on it. So lets hope some burning of calories happen there.

I want to read a lot, novels i used to read here, i am actually looking forward to reading more work related stuff, so it hopefully helps me in my job search as well. So there is a job to search too..  

I really want to go out there and explore HK on my own, i am not really an adventurous kind, so i wont hop on to a random bus and just move around. But i really want to do something like that this time (i hope my husband will come to my rescue if i get lost somewhere; i can already see him nodding his head in a big NOWAYS). I want to just get up, move around, take good photographs (so there is photography to learn as well) and know in and out of HK.

I am not much of cook so i was hoping to catch up on that front as well. Not the normal food for survival but the chef , exotic food kind, so even if it gets spoiled i will have the recipe to blame for it! Plus there are lot of movies and serials to catch up, but i hope that will be the last resort to do away with my boredom.

The thing that i don't want to do is be logged on to facebook all the time playing games and uploading stupid links, i think that is the best way to waste your time and i really want to avoid that.
So i have the list ready and all i have to do is do it. I have been to Hong Kong and i really like that place, i hope it stays that way this time also!!

May 10, 2011

May & A New Beginning

Another couple of weeks have passed, and this time lots of things have changed. I finally joined my new company, and have completed my first week in office. Change is always nice, more so if it comes after an year or so of sub-standard work. I had joined my previous employer with great hopes, against the advice of most of my friends and colleagues (for which my reason was pretty simple - I wanted to learn from my own mistakes, and not from others). However, within a few months I had realized it wasn't a great decision. So, more than one and a half years later, I have corrected the mistake and moved on. A lot more wiser than before. 

Wife would be joining me in another couple of weeks time, and my place, which is nice with a great sea view (both from the living room as well as bed room), would fall small for 2 people. So, I would soon have to start looking for a new place. Its another 4 months till my lease expires, and unlike in Mumbai where all you have to do is give a month's notice, here the leases are valid for the full period. So, I can't move out of lease in the middle. The good part though is the brokerage - here you pay half a month's rent as compared with a full month's rent in Mumbai (which is still on the higher side compared with what I have heard about the rates in say London). The brokers though help you with quite a few things - gas connections, water connections, etc.

Another couple from our batch in B-school got married last week. So, that would make at least 6 couples which I can remember right now (and am sure there are a few more). 

On a side note, I learnt the use of tripods while taking pictures, and tried with taking a night snap of a bridge visible from my living room. This was the first time I actually got to experiment with different shutter speeds, and was quite impressed with the results and the possibilities. Hopefully would get a few nice snaps on the weekend, and post them here. 

April 28, 2011

The Week In Words # April End

This is my last week of the four month break, and I guess I need to finish my last set of movies this weekend. The thing about movie series is, you need a lot of time to watch them all in one go - else you don't get the plot. Like the X-Men series, or the Batman series. You could always watch them one by one, spread in time and space, but the best way is to watch them in a single session (by session I mean a weekend, or at best, two weekends). 

My life revolves around very few things - cricket, movies, stock markets, and a little bit of politics (the dirty Indian one, to be specific). Like many of my generation, I too believe in cribbing over the state of our state over facebook and twitter, and even put on badges to support the causes. I even supported Anna Hazaare on his fast, and didn't remove the badge till the government budged from its position, and granted the wishes. I also criticize DMK over the corruption charges against virtually all its members. For all the criticisms against it, I still feel I should have been based out of Tamil Nadu. Before every election, I would have got a color TV, or something of similar or higher value. Thats more than what people in Bihar will get from its government over a 100 year period (and assuming the corruption level is same, if not more). 

We are having an over dose of cricket right now - its like the Golmaal movies. First one was good, second one ok, third was bad, and there is no need for the fourth. And yet, its the goose giving the golden egg, and now the only viable source for Pawar to keep adding to his swiss bank balance. The only way to keep track of IPL is now the match numbers, as no one remembers who is playing whom, or which player plays for which side. Thanks to the colored jerseys, at least I can give a shot to trying to remember the team name of players. Kochi has got it right, and once you see its player in Orange and Purple, you are unlikely to get the haunted image of the player off your mind for a long time to come. So, I may confuse whether Dravid plays for Deccan or Royals, but I can never forget that Sreesanth is with Kochi - not in this lifetime. 

Last week had its share of bad bollywood movies (not exactly last week releases, but I saw them last week). F.A.L.T.U lived up to its name, and 'Thank You' was perhaps the producer saying to the audience for enduring the movie. Its amazing how likes of Sonam Kapoor (and this is a long list, including Imran Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, etc) keeps getting movie, and yet show no improvement in their acting levels. Even Katrina Kaif show more emotions which she lip-syncs her hindi dialogues without having a clue about their meanings. Sonam Kapoor has giggled her way through 5-6 movies now, and I really think she will end up making a career spanning 50+ movies, giggling through all of them, all the while carrying her Prada and Louis Vuitton bags. Next time I see a movie made by Anees Bazmee, or featuring Akshay Kumar or Sonam Kapoor, I will stay away from it. Unless I have plenty of time to kill, and don't have to spend a single cent of it. 

Markets globally are in bubble zone, and I have lost all my credibility at home (among the relatives). I had asked them to get out of markets way back in 2007, and had developed a great fan base by the end of 2008. However, I had even suggested them against investing in Gold (when it was 12k), and Silver - citing that all of these were bubbles, and very soon we would see the prices crashing. After two years, Gold and Silver are going great guns (I still think silently in my heart that these are big big bubbles, and about to burst soon), and I have lost all my credibility. I was even negative on the Mumbai Real Estate, and I don't even need to write what happened there. So, as things stand, the world is rosy, and blind monkeys' darts are hitting the jackpots every time. Anyone who investment their money anywhere has made good returns, and this doesn't seems right (well, too good to be right). Anyways, I would have to live with 'Gold and Property never go down in value' for another year of my life. 

And next year is 2012 - so it doesn't even matter beyond that. 

April 27, 2011

Where is Argentina anyways?

There is a recent ad on 7 Up where an avid football follower gets really worked up when his friend passes some comments about Argentina losing the match and the protagonist questions the guy's passion and affiliation for the country when he doesn't even know where it is located on the world map, leave alone having visited it even once. To think of it, its quite interesting to see the passion that we all have for things that don't really affect us in our real life. 

Our affinity towards cricket, football teams; actors, clubs, i mean to think of it what difference (and i am committing a big sacrilege by saying this) does it make to me if India wins the World Cup or not,nothing changes in my life. But no i was glued to the television set watching each and every match of India, getting angry for all runs not scored and wickets gone, cheering on all 6s and 4s and wickets taken as if my whole life depended on India winning the World Cup. (Well to let out a secret, another reason i wanted India to win was just to avoid seeing my husband sulk in depression for at-least 10 days had India lost the match). The loyalty by the way is not constant, the moment you divide the same Indian cricket team into KKR, DD, Mumbai Indians, in an IPL match, i cheer the same Malinga for taking wickets when i wished Dhoni to hit him for a six during the world cup match.

Not only cricket, the way we frantically send smses just to make sure that our favorite contestants win xyz dance, singing or farting competition is really strange because the bottom line is "Its not going to make any difference to my life". There is a quote by Oscar Wilde stating" Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation" which is true for most of us, but as another person rightly says “Passion, it lies in all of us, sleeping... waiting... and though unwanted... unbidden... it will stir... open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us... guides us... passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love... the clarity of hatred... and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we'd know some kind of peace... but we would be hollow... Empty rooms shuttered and dank. Without passion we'd be truly dead.”  And it is in all these things Cricket, Football, Country, Region, Gali, Nukkad that we search for our passion because without it our life will be hollow.

P.S: There is a KKR match tomorrow, just keeping my fingers crossed for them to win it!!

April 25, 2011

Movies in College

We spend so much time in reviewing and analyzing movies. However, more often than not, our view is also based on our movie watching experience. And unlike the old days, now we have different ways in which we can watch movies - at home on TV, Laptops, or at a Multiplex. 

Before the computer era, we used to watch all the movies in either television or theaters. When I had just joined engineering (that was a decade back in 2001), we didn't have computers in each room or campus wide LAN. Every friday, we had a movie screening inside the campus, and all the first years used to go on friday evening show. It was great fun - a batch of 600-700 students watching movies in a 'private' hall. We watched some of the classics in the first year of our college - Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan, Gadar, etc. We didn't realize it then how much fun it was - by the time we reached second year, we had LAN in our rooms, and no one bothered to go to the hall. 

This is one of the things one miss about being in college - you always had plenty of friends around. Even when I stayed back for my summer project after first year, I had a decent group of friends staying back with me. We had so much fun - there was a set routine for everyday, from breakfast to dinner. And even though the summers are killing in those parts of country, we had an awesome time. To some extent, I'm happy our college was not in a developed town/city - it enabled us to enjoy whatever facilities we had inside the campus, and we all grew up to be fond of them. 

April 23, 2011

Around the World in 80 days!

Around the World in 80 days is a classic novel by Jules Verne and according to Wikipedia it was first published in 1873. The reason i read this novel 120 years after it was published (discounting the time when i couldn't have read it...either because i wasn't born or was incapable of reading) was because i had seen the movie adaptation of the novel around 15 years back.

I still vividly remember Pierce Brosnan travelling in a train in India and bravely saving a woman from the customs of Sati, widely practiced in India during that time. It was a part of this childhood memory that made me read this book, the first amongst all the classic novels that "we" have recently ordered.


The novel based in 1872 is a story of an English gentleman Mr. Phileas Fogg and his newly employed servant/valet Passepartout and their journey around the world. Mr. Phileas Fogg in a bid to win a bet against his friends takes up this humongous task of proving that it is possible to circumnavigate the world in 80 days. The novel in essence is a story of his journey in these 80 days. It is a very interesting read especially since it is based in those times when sea was the only mode of long distance travel in a "shorter" period of time. Imagine taking 22 days going from Japan to San Fransisco in a sea voyage, when nowadays we fret over a minutes delay in flights. Well as they say the world and so has man's patience become shorter over the period of time. Without sounding like a critic, the story has excellent characterization, narration and a perfectly subtle comic timing to it as well. At times it may still fail to connect you with the turmoil and the anxiety that a man might feel when he has almost his entire fortune at stake proving a point. This may be because i had already seen the movie or because the character of Mr. Phileas Fogg is defined as such.

I neways had a good time reading the novel and will be soon watching the movie again.



The book that i have is a combination of 2 novels by the author the other being "20,000 leagues under the sea". I am not sure if i will read this one in the same zest as i had read the other novel. Especially since i am not a sea person,i don't like novels based on sea journeys, one of the main reasons i couldn't complete the book "Life of a PI" as well. I have parked this book for some days and am now going to start with "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", the complete collection. Lets see how that one turns out to be for me.

April 20, 2011

Holiday Ending

Like all trips, my India Trip is coming to an end. I'm currently at the Mumbai airport, and would be catching my flight back to Hong Kong in a couple of hours. Its been a nice an relaxing few weeks, and I just stayed at home for the most parts.

We went to watch the IPL match between Pune and Delhi at DY Patil on the last weekend, and it was fun. We missed out watching Mumbai's match though. Saw a few movies as well - Game and Rio in the movie hall. I miss movie halls in Mumbai veru much, as back in HK we don't have quality multiplexes showing Hindi movies. Plus, the crowd as well as food courts are missing as well.

Back in Hong Kong, life would get slightly better and I shall be joining my new job in a week. Also, I have to start preparing for my CFA Level 3 examinations. They are now quite close, and I haven't yet started preparing for them. I had prepared nicely for Level 1, but since then, its been a last few days dash always (both for Level 2 as well as the FRM exams).

I'm really happy to be joining a new company pretty soon, as I didn't have a great experience in earlier job. Professionally, it wasn't the best of decisions for me when I had moved there. However, it gave me ample time to try a few things, and move ahead in my personal life. Now, married and wife moving to HK soon, its the perfect time to start a new job.

March 30, 2011

2011: First Quarter

We are almost at the end of first quarter of 2011, and this hasn't been the best of starts to a year to say the least. However, I don't believe in being sad about things which are out of my control, and instead prefer to focus on the future. 

I have another month of vacation left before I join my job. I will be spending most of the time in Mumbai, and a week at my home. Also, I want to plan for a short trip to one of the nice destinations - Kerela/Shimla/Rajasthan/Leh. However, not sure about the weather and suitability of these locations at this time. Will need to check on the tour guides - Rajasthan doesn't seem to be a wise choice in April, and so does Goa. 

My flight got postponed last week, and now I will be flying tomorrow. I haven't still started packing, and am sure will forget a thing or two. This may be the first time I haven't bought a lot of stuff before a trip back home, and am sure all my siblings would be greatly disappointed. However, I can't think of anything to buy now. On my earlier trips, I used to buy lots of t-shirts as well as electronics from here. But now I have run out of things to buy - and if only they had introduced iPad2 in HK by now. 

India play Pakistan today in the World Cup semifinal, and to say it very mildly, this is the biggest match in this season. Media has gone complete nuts about it over the past few days, and all the advertisers would be laughing all their way back to the bank. Finally, their investments would be reaping fruit (in terms of TRP ratings), and am sure the number of people watching would be close to an all-time high (given the increase in population, and penetration of television). Not to mention the importance of the match as well. If we win the toss, and post anything over 260, we will have more than half the match won. 

March 26, 2011

The Quarter Finals, and The Trip

Cricket is the flavor of the season, and the World Cup is now at its very best. We have the quarter finals going on, and in a few days we will have a new champion. Only, this time it would be a new champion, after Australia dominated it for more than a decade. India, Pakistan and New Zealand have already made it to the last four, and one of Sri Lanka and England would join them soon. 

India's quarter final match was simply amazing - it had everything which the contest was awaited for. Ponting finally finding back his form, and for half the innings the whole of India feared the repeat of 2003 finals. However, he was slow this time, and overall they finished a 100 run short of the then target. Sachin was masterful, as he has been all through the WC. Ashwin and Zaheer bowled beautifully, making one wonder why did we persist with Chawla/Nehra/Munaf combination for so long. Ashwin looked like the second best bowler in the side by a huge margin. And now the attention moves to the Semi final clash on wednesday. 

My India trip got postponed by another week, and am not too happy about it. I am in between jobs, and I have to apply for renewal of my work visa with the new employer. However, I didn't know I would need to submit my passport for it as well - as we don't need the passport for fresh visa applications. Anyways, out of some error of judgement at my end, and lack of planning from the HR's end, my trip is delayed by a week. I still need to decide on what I would be doing over the next 6 days. 

I'm reading a book on Cricket titled 'The Gamechangers', and its based on the fakeiplplayer blog which was the talking point during the IPL 2. Hopefully will be finishing the book in a couple of days, as it an easy read, and will be able to start with another book as well before my trip. I still have 2 cartons full of books which I haven't touched as yet :)

March 24, 2011

Science Fiction: Isaac Asimov

I am usually not much into books under normal circumstances - as its difficult to finish them within a few days, and the long delays make me lose the context. However, I do try to read different books, from a different set of authors, just to get an idea about their style of writing. So that, whenever there are any intellectual discussions (real or show-off), I'm not at sea, and can appreciate the same (or call the bluff). 

There are a lot of writers about whom I have heard a lot of praises, and one of them is Isaac Asimov. The science fiction writer is a must-read, as per a lot of my friends. And finally, I did get to finish my first Asimov novel. In fact, this was my first science fiction, and even though have passed the age, liked it. It was part of the robotics series by the author, and book was named 'Robots and Empire'.

The story revolved around the tussle between earthmen and spacers (an advanced breed of earthmen settled in far off planets, who had longer life span). It involves space travel, deals with inter-galactic wars, and robots - everything that a science fiction deems to have. I am really amazed at how writers can imagine a consistent world (very much like Harry Potter as well) - whenever you are writing about fantasy world, you start by imagining a whole new world, with different set of rules. And it has to be a consistent world, and you define the boundaries of possibilities. In case of Asimov, he decided on the state of universe, the advancement in science, the time period, and what would be the limitations in that age. 

I have ordered another set of his books - the Foundation series. Its the most famous of his set of books, and its a trilogy (originally a trilogy, which was later extended to 7 books). Hopefully will get to read it some time soon.

March 23, 2011

Favorite Places

I guess everyone has their dream destinations and favorite places. Dream destinations are usually the places which we have seen in movies, or some friend's facebook album. For me, there are the places I have never been to, but want to visit at least once - Italy, France, New Zealand. There is something associated with these places which is hard to describe, and I sincerely hope that when I actually visit any of them, they don't turn out disappointing. 

There are a separate set of places which are our Favorite Places - where we have been earlier, and would love to visit back on the first opportunity. These are the places where we have had some memorable moments, and we find ourselves comfortable in. I haven't seen too many places round the world as yet, in fact not too many in India either. Goa would be one such place, and another for me would be Hong Kong. Even though I have been living in HK for some time now, I still like the place very much - for all the reasons why a Mumbai fan would like the city in spite of all its shortcomings. Hong Kong is lively, is comfortable to set in, and has a place of almost everyone in the world (culturally). There is no one big over-bearing culture in the main area, and it contributes to ease with expats can settle in. 

I'm going to India this week, and would be spending at least a couple of weeks there. Not much planning done as yet on things to do, and places to visit, but guess once I'm there things would fall into place. Hopefully would get to meet a lot of people this time - something which I always plan but never end up doing. 

March 18, 2011

Habits

We are all very strange in terms of how we get used to things, and then move on to other things. 

When I was small, we used to play cricket. Almost on every alternate days, if not daily. We used to play in the big grounds, as well as in the small places near our house. We played even at the rooftop (chat, as we used to call it), and had all sorts of weird rules. Then, all of a sudden, after school life ended I never played it. Once in a while we played it during our final year in engineering, and a couple of times in the B-School. But never on a regular basis since my school days. 

Another strange habit which comes and goes is the choice of drinks (not liquor, but general drinks). In my engineering days, it was always Ice Tea. We had a lot of small stalls outside the academic complex where we got Ice Tea and Veggie Pattice. So, it was almost always that for me - between and after the classes. During my MBA days, I got used to hot tea (made from tea bags), and even though it tasted real bad the first time, over time I got so used to it that I preferred it over freshly made tea as well. I came to HK for my job, and as there was no tea available, discovered a really nice coffee pack. During my two months in Manila, I got used to Hot Chocolate (as I disliked both the tea and coffee there). The thing is, at different points of time, I developed different hobbies, and then moved out of it as soon as my surroundings changed. 

Currently am on a 3 months leave, and am now getting used to it as well. In my first job, I was used to working long hours, first to come to office, and last to leave. In my last job, I was never in office for long times, and was always moving around. I had never imagined what life would be when you do not go to office, and have full time to your self. Or how it would be to spend you time deciding on which movies or serials to watch next. As days pass, I got used to it as well. May be, this is the longest break I may get for a good part of my working life. All my life, I always woke up early in the mornings - and now its never before 10 AM these days. And am sure when I re-start my job, I would be back to the schedule of getting up at 6 AM. 

March 17, 2011

Kafka On The Shore: Book Review

Finally laid my hands on a novel after ages, and finished it within a week. 'Kafka On The Shore' is a 2002 novel by the famous Japanese author Haruki Murakami. This was my Murakami novel, having heard a lot about the author from a few friends. 


The plot is very confusing and mysterious, with two seemingly unrelated parallel stories running - very much Tarantino style (I guess one of these guys may be inspired by the other). All the odd-numbered chapters tells the story about a boy named Kafka (which is not the real name of the boy) who runs away from his home to escape his 'curse'. He undertakes a journey from Tokyo to Takamatsu in search of his mother and sister, who left home when he was 4. After stopping at a few unlikely places, he finally finds a job and home at an obscure library. He spends his time in the library reading all sorts of books, and develops some fascination for the head librarian, Miss Saeki. 

There is another parallel story running on the even-numbered chapters about an unusual fellow named Nakata. He is a weird way of talking to people, and has an ability of being able to talk to cats. He met an accident when he was a kid, and could never become normal again. He lives on the state subsidy, and in his free time tracks lost cats to generate some extra income. It was during one of his searches that he gets into trouble, and expected events unfold. 

I would stop here, as anything more might be a spoiler (there are already a few). The novel deals with metaphysical world, and is full of surreal events. The book is open to interpretation, and leaves a lot of unanswered questions. When Murakami asked public to ask him about the questions, he got 8000 questions from people. He later said that one needs to read the book more than once to grasp it fully - and might need to make some assumption (and hence a linked set of assumptions as there are many loose ends). And different people might reach at different conclusions using their assumptions. The book reminded me of the Matrix Trilogy, and its ending - which was to a large extent an open ending. Different people could end up with different conclusions about the whole trilogy, and the director made no effort to clarify the same. 

Overall, its one of the best books I have read - not so much in their final treatment of conclusion, but the overall plot and how it develops. The writing style is amazing, and there are times when you can imagine being at the scene. 

March 15, 2011

Power

(A random, uninteresting post on geo politics) 

A couple of days back one survey confirmed what world had come to recognize slowly - that it is not the US President who is the most powerful person in the world, but the Chinese Premier Hu Jintao (newspaper link). This is one of the after effects of the global financial crisis. Some people jokingly mention that soon history would be divided not by B.C. and A.D., but by pre 9/11 and post 9/11. And just to make the point clear, the crisis was just a manifestation of the fact that US economy had lost a lot in 9/11 (in the incident, as well as in wars which followed). The treasury had to raise the rates when deficit got out of control, and all hell broke loose. So, in a stroke, US lost its status as the biggest super power and US President no longer ruled the world. 


Slowly and slowly, the world is coming to acknowledge the fact that soon there would be a change in status. Soon China would be almost the same size as US, and then go past it. Lets keep it serious, and not unnecessarily put India in the equation (we are miles behind in all the parameters, and I still can't find the reason as to why we are put in the same bracket as China. They must fume at the mention a similar way we get angry over clubbing of India and Pakistan over any issue). The point is, China is already past Japan in GDP size (and post the quake the differential would grow), and US is next. 


My only concern is, power transfer are seldom peaceful. If you are an aging tiger, and a young wolf is getting stronger every day, what do you do? Do you peacefully wait for it to grow stronger than you, and one day defeat/kill you? Or you make some pre-emptive strikes against it and leave it much weaker? We are entering a very dangerous period, and I think we may have some BIG geo-political events in the coming decade. 

March 13, 2011

The Japanese Miracle

First things first - this post is not about me offering my well wishes and thoughts to the people of Japan. Or how much I wish they would all come out of it soon. I do feel against all  these tragedies, but I'm against forwarding/tweeting/blogging about them. And lets be real, my writing 50 words about something happening over a thousand miles away won't help even an ant living there. So, lets stop uselessly caring and pretending, and unless we really want to do something, lets move on with our life. (I was inundated with all the #prayforjapan tagged messages on my twitter time line, and I'm sure more than half of those guys haven't ever helped a living soul on this planet). 

Japan has always been a miracle, and am sure it would come out of this crisis pretty soon. I have always wondered about such a small country, which was devastated post the World War, with so little natural resources, small land size and even population, could become world's second largest economy. Japan has never been the most stable region - geographically, and suffers earth quakes every now and then. And yet, its perhaps the most advanced region in the world, with amongst the highest per capita GDP. Everyone with dreams goes to USA or UK, but in my view, the Japanese miracle exceeds both of them. For the past couple of decades, Japanese economy has been stagnant, and its stock market Index (Nikkei) has dropped by almost 75% of its peak levels. The future looks bleak for the country, and it has had two decades of zero to negative growth. However, its still one of the most prosperous country on the planet. And I have a feeling that some of the recent events might actually work in its favor. Like the post-war economy provided plenty of opportunities of growth, similarly, the post earthquake economy may see replacement demand from industries and household. Lets see how this pans out. 

I plan to visit the country some time this year. I have heard lot of good things about the place - from almost everyone who has visited it. The people are really wonderful, and one always wants to come back to this place. Also, I have seen some of the snaps, and they are awesome. So hopefully I will be able to plan something around middle of the year, and see the miracle first hand. 

March 11, 2011

About Subways and McDonalds

A couple of days back I was reading the news about Subway lapping past McDonald in terms of number of stores. So, its official now - a simple sandwich store has more stores globally than the mighty McDonald. It does seem hard to believe, that something as simple as Subway is now the leading fast food chain in the world. 

(Its a different matter that I still do not see them succeeding in India - compared to other economies where McD or Subway are cheap food options, in India they are not so cheap. With one getting a meaty 'Grilled Sandwich' or Vada-Pav in every corner of Mumbai (and similar stuff in other cities), am not sure of the appeal of these outlets. Apart from the hygiene and cool quotient, they don't offer any substantial improvements). 

It got me thinking about how Twitter and Facebook might shape up in coming years. Or for that matter the other Social Networking sites which might come up. Facebook is very much like the McDonald in this comparison, and Twitter is very much like Subway (the comparison has to be back dated by a few years, when McD was much larger). Facebook has the universal appeal, but has much more of media attention (and hence scrutiny as well). And perhaps the most serious concern is the target segment - its mostly used by school and college going kids to share some random snaps or indulge into harmless and useless banter. But as they grow up, they would use it less and less - its addictive, and they know it. Much like the fast food, they like it - at the same time knowing that its not good for health, and hence would very much like to limit it. And may be in five years time, some of the most heavy users of Facebook would out grow it. 

Twitter on the other hand has endorsements from a whole lot of celebrities (and that too for free, now try to beat that!!!). Almost everyone whom people would like to 'follow' are on Twitter, and as long as there are celebrities in the world, a 'twitter like' service may have its appeal. People from all age are using it (very much like Subway), and they don't intend to leave the habit one day. So, most of the users here may be sticky, and continue to use it years later. A few things would necessarily change, but the essence may remain. And it has lesser privacy concerns as well - and one-way communication ensures you are not obliged to respond immediately. 

Well, these are just how I feel they will evolve over time. However, as with most internet and tech companies, its very very difficult to predict the changes - until they happen. However, given the current valuations (with FB almost valued at 10 times the valuation of Twitter), I would put my money on Twitter over the long term. Even though I admire FB as a company, and am a big fan of its interface and design. 

March 6, 2011

The Coalition Dra(r)ma

It was bound to happen - you cannot make 170,000 Cr without making a few enemies. DMK is humiliated and hurt, and rightly so. It was their man who masterminded the loot, and when everything was secured, Madamji and MMS got him arrested, and declared there was no money to share. Overnight, 170,000 Cr changed to 0, all thanks to one Mr. Sibal. It must have been a deadly combination of Italian Hawala and Oxford Economics which accounted for such a large sum of money. I can hear a Katrina Kaif's alter ego shout - 'Humne Bofors ka paisa nahi khaya hai, those agents didn't pass the promised commissions to us. But this time, we ensured there was no middlemen, and saari dealings humare PMO se hi ho.' MMS is the Dhritrastra of this age, and all his ministers are looting the helpless country. Every now and then, he keeps asking - 'yeh kya ho raha hai, but goes silent again until there is a large uproar.'

With the state assembly elections approaching, there is palpable tension all around. With the money now gone, DMK is fighting hard to run all its companies - now it somehow needs to secure working capital. Its hoping it can get more than 150 seats in the assembly, and at an average of 100 Cr per seat, can still reach its target of 15000 Cr for this fiscal. Madamji on the other hand is still pissed with the Finance Minister - he forgot to add her share in the budget and by mistake announced the fiscal deficit as 4.6% for the next year. Now she has to choose between a castle in Italy, and a sea-facing house in Mumbai. Earlier she was planning for both, the castle for herself and the sea-facing apartment for Rahul baba. Rahul Baba wants to see the poverty in India (after he missed out seeing it due to his stay abroad for almost 99% of his life), and who better than the sea to advise him, which has seen it all. A clueless imported prince in the waiting, and a blind man about to be retired - state of affairs in the next wanna be superpower. 

March 1, 2011

Movie Fest

I have re-started my movie marathon sessions, and am now watching a couple of movies per day. As I might have mentioned earlier, back in my college days I had planned to watch the complete IMDB Top 250 movies. But like so many dreams from the college days, this one too remained just a thought. This year, I plan to give it another shot, and hopefully will be watching a lot more from it. 

Saw quite a few movies recently, and here are my mini-reviews:

Gangajal - Had heard a lot about the national award winning movie, and the performance by Ajay Devgan. And I wasn't disappointed either. I'm not a great fan of Ajay Devgan (specially in a comedy movie), but this was one of the movie where perhaps no one could have played the role better - just like Company, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, etc. Certainly worth a watch. 

Patiala House - I had expected this to be trash, just like the other AK movies in recent times. And I was happy to be proved wrong. This was a Yash Raj/K Jo formula movie, and after zillions of years AK did a sensible film. However, it fared badly as I guess he fell pray to 'Bhediya Aaya' syndrome - and no one expected a nice movie from him. 

7 Khoon Maaf - If its Vishal Bhardwaj, anything is Maaf. Not many people have 'really' liked it (5-star level), and its not a classic in the same league as his earlier works. However, its still a very nicely made movie, and Priyanka is certainly one of the best actress today (not that she has much competition with industry filled with Sonam Kapoors, who can't even act to save her life). 

Black Swan - Not a typical movie, in fact may not even qualify as being a movie. It could very well be a personal diary of Nina (the lead character). Natalie Portman is awesome in her role, and portrays the character wonderfully well. Not many people will like the movie, but its powerful, and meaningful cinema. If you are a Cinema lover (and not just 'movie fan'), then you may like it. 

February 28, 2011

Interesting Blogs

I have been reading quite a few interesting blogs over the past few days, and it leaves me completely amazed. Some people have wonderful writing styles, and/or a sense of humor. I'm always in awe of people who could write pretty well, and think about varied topics to write about. I have never quite been able to get out of 'myself' mode - I do have my views on the world, but can be written in a line. I like cricket, I love movies, I hate XYZ, etc. I can't analyze things in details over a few paragraphs - life is very black and white for me. And thankfully my profession doesn't need me to think in anything other than digital options. 

Of perhaps all the blog I know, I find mine the least interesting (from a 3rd person's view). Coz it has nothing for anyone - I hardly write anything with anyone else in my mind. Most of the time, its me talking to myself. And its not even like me writing about my life and experiences - its almost always incomplete. I know about the context, and I end up writing about a sub-part of it. Most of the stuff is written so that I could read back after say 10 years, and realize how different I was earlier. So that I could understand how I felt at an earlier stage of my life, and how events unfolded. So, I write about my experiences when I started learning driving, or bought my first car, or got married. One can capture the moments in pictures, but one can't capture their feelings and thinkings that way. 

February 25, 2011

World Cup: First Impressions

World Cup has started, and most of the teams have played their first matches. This time the schedule is much better than most of the earlier times, and with more matches in the league stages, the possibility of shock-exit are much lower. With each team playing 6 matches in the first round, best 4 (out of 7) in each group move to the next round. If any team fails to clear the league, than it would be because of bad preparation and not because it had one bad day. 

By the first looks, South Africa, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka appear to be the teams to beat. Not England, and not India as well. India has a middle order which is prone to collapse, and fast bowlers prone to be taken to cleaners. However, the other four teams had matches against much lesser opponents than India and England (Bangladesh and Netherlands are certainly the better teams among the associates), and hence one can't draw a really clear comparison. But I still like the looks of those four teams - they have their plans clear, and strategy in place. If you want to beat the Aussies, beat them now - they would raise the bar in the next round. 

February 20, 2011

Pop-Ups

I believe in simplicity and perfection, and hence quickly get frustrated with some shabbily designed websites. One of my favorite website to read India related news is the TOI (and ET). I like their content - they are a proper masala paper and both of them cover most of the stuff I want to read about - Business and Markets, Sports, Bollywood and Politics. However, the most annoying thing about their site is the pop-ups which blocks the whole page for a good 6-8 seconds before you can read the news. And to make things worse, if you open multiple news item in different tabs (which I end up doing - opening all the news items which I want to read), they end up opening as many pop-ups. 

I guess someone at the company needs to make changes quickly. I know its all about making revenues and meeting the quarterly targets. However, they need to think big - they are the biggest newspaper in the country, and could well end up being the most visited web site here. And given our population and growth rate, I think that would be some opportunity. But that would be possible only if they get out of their cash-cow mentality, and go the google/Facebook way. Both of them have consciously avoided glaring pop-ups over their products, and allow only subtle advertisement. And mind you, these two are perhaps the most successful story in online advertisement and revenue generation. I would love to see a TOI (and ET) designed in the same perfect manner as a Facebook site (take a look at careers page in Facebook, its simply awesome. I was looking at it for completely different reasons, but realized I didn't fit in). Users would love to have a similar clutter free experience. 

I don't know how difficult it is to make such websites and designs. And if it is not, then why aren't others doing it? God knows, may be the same reasons why Sreesanth can't behave like Sachin. 

February 19, 2011

The Social Network: Movie

Today I finally saw the movie - The Social Network. And this totally does justice to the phenomenon of Social Network. The best part about the movie is that its timely, and not a decade late - like its case for most of them. 

(Spoiler Alert)

Its a chronicle of the making of Facebook, and while not sure how credible and accurate the events are, the movie surely makes for one gripping watch. Its a story about its founder, and his years at Harvard where he accidentally stumbles upon a few ideas leading to Facebook. Dumped by girls for his geeky and arrogant ways, he finds a way to get back at them. He hacks into the university network, and gets the pictures of all the girls. He creates a webpage where users could rank the hottest girls, comparing two girls at a time. This leads to the servers crashing, and makes gives birth to the idea of Social Network. 

Poster: The Social Network


From there, the movie takes some more time detailing the journey, and how he may have been inspired by few others along the way. It talks about some of the underlying ideologies of the company - no flashing ads, let users decide what to use it for. These are essentially the same principles which made Google what it is today. It also touches upon the dilemma for an entrepreneur about when to sell the venture - the timing is seldom right, and you are either too early or too late. 

My only wish is the movie were a little longer - it didn't touch upon the personal lives of any of the protagonists. So, we do not know anything about the background and family life of the people. It seems to be intentional - and the movie only focuses on the company and its growth. Its a good watch for anyone hooked on the Facebook, or any other network for that matter. 

Breakfast Skills

I have long wanted to learn making breakfast for myself. I have lived alone for most part of my last decade - six years in college and four years in work life. We had our canteen in the college days where I could just walk in, and get lovely Dosas and Idlis. Currently, my maid comes in the afternoon, and that too only on the weekdays. So, on the weekends, I am left all to myself to arrange for my food. 

I guess I need to learn a few light breakfast items - like making Poha, or Upma. There are readymade combinations available in the markets, but I somehow don't like the taste of them (and am sure they are not much on the healthy side as well). I wanted to give it a try today itself, but I do not have the necessary ingredients now. Need to make a list and order everything today. 

World Cup begins today, and I'm quite excited. I don't have to worry about entertainment sources for the next few weeks - as long as India survives in the competition. And given the structure of the tournament this time, its highly unlikely they will be knocked out in the first stage itself (with 4 teams from each group progressing to the next round). We play Bangladesh in the opener today, and I am hoping for a revenge.