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).