Tuesday, November 16, 2010

China Leads World In High-Speed Rail Tracks : NPR

Something is seriously wrong with this picture. Look at the two stories. One about how China is investing heavily in rail infrastructure. And the other how our elected leaders are REJECTING Federal money to build just the same infrastructure!

This from NPR...
China Leads World In High-Speed Rail Tracks : NPR: "China already has thousands of miles of railroads — including the world's longest network of high-speed rail, which is 4,000 miles long. That total is set to double within two years, giving China more high-speed rail tracks than the rest of the world put together."

And this one too..
The governors-elect of Wisconsin and Ohio say they will reject hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding intended to start up new high-speed passenger rail service in their states, even though the projects require their states to pay nothing upfront. Florida's governor-elect may do the same.

That train is dead," announced Republican John Kasich at his first press conference as Ohio's governor-elect. "I said it during the campaign: It is dead. We are not gonna have it." Kasich has said he will reject $400 million in federal funds meant to establish passenger rail service from Cleveland to Columbus and Cincinnati.

In Florida, Republican Gov.-elect Rick Scott suggests he might not take $2 billion for high-speed rails linking Tampa to Orlando and Miami.

Fiscal responsibility is important, but so is building the infrastructure for the future. These high speed rail lines are not pork barrel political expenditures, these are investments in our future.

The Chinese sure seem to know this.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mumbai: The Plot Unfolds, Lashkar Strikes and Investigators Scramble - ProPublica

ProPublica has published a detailed account of Mumbai terrorist attack. The bone chilling details of this investigation leave little doubt of the involvement of ISI - the Pakistani intelligence agency, which has been at the center of the Punjab terrorism in 70s and 80s, Kashmiri terrorism that continues to this day, and their Taliban linked terrorism in Afghanistan. The ISI has hijacked the Pakistani foreign policy to the extent that unless ISI is de-fanged the specter of violence will alway hover over Afghanistan and India. What is more, ever since US started to push Pakistan to rein-in the ISI, violence in Pakistan has grown dramatically, no doubt supported by those within ISI who believe that the Pakistani Government is caving to the US pressure.

ISI must be disbanded, and Pakistan government must be asked to hand over to India, those responsible responsible for the Mumbai attacks so that justice can be done to hundreds of innocents who died on Nov 26th.

Read the story to see how this deadly attack was meticulously planned and executed, killing innocent civilians of many nations including the United States.
Mumbai: The Plot Unfolds, Lashkar Strikes and Investigators Scramble - ProPublica: "Mir’s ally in the plot was a man known to Headley only as Maj. Iqbal, who investigators suspect was an officer of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and a liaison to the Lashkar terrorist group. Iqbal is a common Pakistani last name, and investigators have not been able to fully identify him. Maj. Iqbal and Mir worked as handlers for Headley, their lead scout, during his missions in India, according to investigators and court documents."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How buyers decide what to pay for your business

John Warrilow has written an article to explain very simply how buyers value a business they are interested in buying.

Google Reader (1000+): "The price buyers are willing to pay for your business depends on a lot of factors, but one of the most important is the return they expect to get and the risk associated with achieving that return."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

China vs India - Which model is better?

Michael Schuman raises an interesting question in his Time Magazine column. Which is the best role model for developing world, India or China? Schuman cites some of the reasons why Indian model might be better than the Chinese model - namely, the fact that Indian growth is more balanced between exports and domestic consumption, more independence of private sector and the market, and democracy. True, Indian model has not produced the same results as the Chinese model, but the difference has been seen mainly in the last twenty years. If India puts its head together, there is no reason why this gap cannot be bridged.

What is worrisome about the Chinese model is the corruption associated with the current model, despite central control. China's Dilemma | Foreign Affairs points to a growing problem in China, namely income inequality.

"China’s wealth gaps have also grown; according to Chinese media, the country’s GINI coefficient, a measure of income inequality, has risen to about 0.47. This level rivals those seen in Latin America, one of the most unequal regions in the world. The reality may be even worse than the data suggest. Wang Xiaolu, the deputy director of the National Economic Research Institute at the China Reform Foundation, estimates that every year about $1.3 trillion in income -- equivalent to 30 percent of China’s GDP -- goes unreported. More than 60 percent of the hidden income belongs to the wealthiest ten percent of China’s population, mostly CCP members and their families."

Income inequality and corruption are equally big problems in India. While China has been able to keep the income inequality under wraps through strict control over free speech, such a social control is not possible under Indian democracy. Already the issue of income inequality is raising their ugly head in the form of Naxalite violence in the north and north east prompting me to believe that India needs to do more to increase the participation of the poor in the growth of the economy. This is the only way to prove to the world that the Indian model is worth following.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Study of Chinese workers links BPA to sperm problems

Scientists have long suspected that BPA causes hormonal imbalance in children, especially girls, but this study just published suggests that BPA has much wider impact than previously thought. Action item for us - eliminate any plasitcs suspected of containing BPA from our homes.

Study of Chinese workers links BPA to sperm problems: "The study of more than 200 Chinese factory workers found that those who were exposed to bisphenol A, or BPA, were more likely to have lower sperm counts and poorer sperm quality. The study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, is the first to produce evidence that the chemical could adversely affect sperm quality in humans."

Monday, October 25, 2010

WSJ Online has the electronic version of McKinsey report on Indian Pharma Sector growth to 2020. You can dowload it from a link in this blog article

Or, you can download it here

India's pharma industry set to quadruple by 2020

BIG opportunities await for those interested in the Indian Pharma Market

India's pharma industry set to quadruple by 2020: "The Indian pharmaceuticals market looks poised to grow to $55 billion in 2020, according to a new McKinsey & Company report — “India Pharma 2020: Propelling access and acceptance, realising true potential”. This will be a quadrupling of the market from the $12.6 billion the industry made in 2009. The report states that the pharma market has the further potential to reach $70 billion by 2020 if aggressive growth efforts are embraced."

Investing in Emerging Markets: The Chinese Stock Market's Secret Past

On the other hand, a very insightful column about the history of Chinese stock market points to the pitfalls of investing in a market which one doesn't understand very well. This is quite an insightful article that points to the need for caution as one considers investing in emerging markets, not just in China.
The Intelligent Investor: The Chinese Stock Market's Secret Past - WSJ.com: "Stocks began trading in Shanghai in the 1860s. The first 'share mania' struck in 1871, when shipping stocks rose by as much as 70%. In 1882, there was another bubble, this time in mining stocks launched by provincial governments. From 1889 to 1891, Shanghai was gripped by a mania for real-estate development companies. In 1910 came a boom in rubber plantations.

Each time, officially sponsored banks flooded the market with cheap credit—much as their successors have done recently. Each time, investors were swept up with enthusiasm, and the boom ended up in an inevitable bust."

Emerging-Market Stocks: How Much Is Too Much? - BusinessWeek

A lot of pundits are recommending investing a greater share of the portfolio in Emerging Markets. The article below debates the crucial issue of how much of your portfolio should be in EMs.

Emerging-Market Stocks: How Much Is Too Much? - BusinessWeek: "Financial advisers say the past year has made it clear that emerging-market stocks are actually much less risky than once feared. Keith Amburgey, chief investment officer at Rutherford Asset Planning in Cresskill, N.J., says he has doubled his typical portfolio's emerging-market exposure in the past year, from 5 percent to 10 percent.

'A lot of the emerging markets have emerged,' he says. Amburgey notes that many emerging economies have better economic fundamentals—especially lower debt levels and faster economic growth—than developed economies."

India Malaria Deaths Are Underestimated by WHO, Researchers Say - Bloomberg

India Malaria Deaths Are Underestimated by WHO, Researchers Say - Bloomberg: "More than 200,000 people may be dying in India each year because of malaria, 13 times more than the World Health Organization estimates, a study found.

Researchers based their estimate on interviews with family members of more than 122,000 people who died between 2001 and 2003. The numbers “greatly exceed” the WHO estimates of 15,000 malaria deaths in India each year, the researchers wrote in the study, published today in the journal The Lancet."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What is wrong with Mukesh Ambani?

How big a home do you need to make a lasting contribution to humanity?

On the left is the home in which Albert Einstein lived from 1936 until his death in 1955. On the right is the new monstrosity created by Mukesh Ambani, to house his family of five! The home cost over a Billion dollars to construct, and will reportedly need 600 servants to run and support. The man who will live in the glass and steel palace on the right will never be able to live up to the contributions of the man who lived in the modest home on the left.

This sort of crass exhibition of wealth is unimaginably tasteless, especially in a country where, to quote wikipedia,
42% of India falls below the international poverty line of US$ 1.25 a day

Granted the wealthy deserve the right to use their wealth as they see fit. However, at least the wealthy of yester years, while enjoying their wealth, gave back to the society in a visible manner. For instance, the wealthy Parsis of old Bombay, celebrated their wealth by building public hospitals and music halls and libraries that helped the Mumbai society at large; Mumbai is studded with such jewels. The Birla's splattered the country with temples (some say that spending wealth on temples smacks of religious bigotry, and I agree with that) and created hospitals and teaching institutions to benefit the poor.

But the wealthy of new India build bigger and bigger mansions for themselves - the society can go to hell. The country infrastructure is in dire need of repair, especially the infrastructure that caters to the poor. One has to just step into KEM or any other public hospitals in Mumbai to see the dire state of public health facilities. Instead of stepping up and contributing to the welfare of the society they live in, the neuvo rich spend the money on themselves, leaving large swaths of society struggling to meet their daily needs.

Utterly dissappointing.

Read more about Albert Einstein and his life in Princeton here and here.

Read more about Mukesh Ambani's glass and steel palace here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Interactive Infographic of the World's Best Countries - Newsweek

If you ever wondered where your country stacked up on the parameters of Education, Health, Quality of Life and other such parameters, this interactive webpage should be very instructional. What surprised me was the rank of India - high on economic dynamism and political environment, but very low on quality of life, education and health. That it is low didn't surprise me - just how low it is was the surprise.

Interestingly, US ranks second in Economic dynamism, right behind Singapore!

And I thought that the action was in BRIC countries!

Interactive Infographic of the World's Best Countries - Newsweek

8 Bad Habits that Crush Your Creativity and Stifle Your Success | Randy Kepple Photographs Blog

We are often our own worst critics. Mired in self doubt, we sabotage ourselves into mediocrity. Randy Keppel has a great article on this topic, worth reading.

8 Bad Habits that Crush Your Creativity and Stifle Your Success | Randy Kepple Photographs Blog: "Here are eight of the very worst bad habits that could be holding you back every day:

1. Creating and evaluating at the same time
You can’t drive a car in first gear and reverse at the same time. Likewise, you shouldn’t try to use different types of thinking simultaneously. You’ll strip your mental gears.

Creating means generating new ideas, visualizing, looking ahead, considering the possibilities. Evaluating means analyzing and judging, picking apart ideas and sorting them into piles of good and bad, useful and useless.

Most people evaluate too soon and too often, and therefore create less. In order to create more and better ideas, you must separate creation from evaluation, coming up with lots of ideas first, then judging their worth later.

2. The Expert Syndrome
This a big problem in any field where there are lots of gurus who tell you their secrets of success. It’s wise to listen, but unwise to follow without question.

Some of the most successful people in the world did what others told them would never work. They knew something about their own idea that even the gurus didn’t know.

Every path to success is different."

Read more here..

you’re already perfect | zen habits

you’re already perfect | zen habits: "A powerful realization that has helped me is simply this: You’re already good enough, you already have more than enough, and you’re already perfect."

Why are we always chasing the next best thing? more perfection? This post makes a lot of sense.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Low interest rates were NOT the cause of the financial crisis

I came across this quote recently...
Government intervention was the main cause of the global financial crisis, John Taylor, a Stanford University economics professor, said Wednesday. Interest rates stayed too low for too long in 2003, 2004 and 2005, exacerbating a boom in housing and pushing investors to stretch too far for extra yield, John Taylor said.

John Taylor, the Stanford Economist, was commenting on the research published recently. While recently it has become quite fashionable to cite data and blame Government for collapse of the financial system, the emphasis here seems to be misplaced. The paper draws conclusions blaming low interest rates when in fact it was lax regulation led to development of highly risky investment instruments that nobody could understand.

If anything, low interest rates were responsible for expansion of the economy that ushered in unprecendented prosperity for common man. I myself am a beneficiary of these policies, having purchased a small (and affordable) home in early 2000, which otherwise would have been almost impossible. If the financial industry had not fought tooth and nail against regulations to govern securitization of mortgages, we perhaps may never have had the melt down that happened.

It was the greed of investment bankers who were making money hand over fist selling these esoteric financial instruments that led to the melt down. But there is no metric to measure greed, so economics will never give us the right answer for the meltdown.

Mine Rescue Drill Reaches Chilean Miners

I'm reading about 'Breakthrough in Chile mine rescue'. Here is the link: http://fluentnews.com/s/25988089

For a claustrophobe like me just following the plight of Chilean miners has been difficult. Their survival for 65 days is nothing short of a miracle. Can't wait until the poor souls are brought back to the surface.

Big day for the miners and their families!

Sunil Joshi

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Excellent resource on India

For a student of India, and those interested in the ongoing developments in India, the opportunities they present a wonderful primer is the India section of McKinsey's website".

Tonnes of great information - very valuable for investors too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Indian Academics Making Their Mark Globally

Professor Dipak Jain, ex-Dean of Kellogg Business School, has been appointed the Dean of INSEAD. Prof. Jain is not the only one to head a top level globally acclaimed business school. Other academics of Indian origin who have recently made their mark on the global academia in business are, Nitin Noharia, Dean of Harvard Business School, and Sunil Kumar, Dean of Chicago's Booth School of Business.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Apple clears up the antenna issue - Every one has the problem!

The pundits will of course claim that Apple had a mea culpa, but Steve Jobs cleared up the antenna issue demonstrating quite convincingly that iPhone 4 is not alone in this problem.  Of course, iPhone 4 is the market leader and media loves to take potshots at the market leader so iPhone 4 has become the poster child for this problem.  So I don't think media is going to let up on this till they find some other juicy morsel.  But the consumers have spoken - they love iPhone 4 and are buying it in spades.  Apple's announcement to give away the bumper or case for iPhone 4 will only drive more consumers towards Apple.  In fact I myself was in the ATT store today where I learned that the wait time for iPhone 4 is 2 weeks!!  

Obviously there will be a cost to Apple, but in the end the increased publicity and free case will translate into greater sales for Apple and a positive bump to the stock.  

With this announcement, Apple has once again demonstrated how to serve its customers.  What ever the critics might say, I bet the Apple customers will once again rate Apple above and beyond its competitors in customer service.

Jiyaji after mundan

Apple Knew of iPhone Antenna Risks - WSJ.com

Apple Knew of iPhone Antenna Risks - WSJ.com: "The mounting iPhone 4 controversy has hit a receptive ear in Washington, as Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) Thursday wrote to Mr. Jobs urging Apple to come up with a 'permanent fix' to the problem at no cost to customers."

This is just plain funny! If any one cares about finding a solution to this problem quickly, it is Apple!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

F.D.A. Panel Votes to Restrict Avandia - Prescriptions Blog - NYTimes.com

F.D.A. Panel Votes to Restrict Avandia - Prescriptions Blog - NYTimes.com: "A majority of the advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration voted today to restrict the sales of Avandia, a controversial diabetes drug, because of its potential risk for causing heart attacks. The 33-member advisory committee was deeply divided. Twelve voted to remove Avandia from the market altogether; 10 for continued sale but with new label revisions and possible restrictions; 7 to add more warnings and 3 for no change at all.
But the votes can also be viewed as a decision by a majority, 21, to continue allowing sales of Avandia, with more restrictions. A final decision will be made by the F.D.A. at a later date."

Debate rages on the net about the value of today's ODAC. It will be interesting to see how the market place reacts to today's news. All this adverse publicity has already damaged Avandia, but after all this if the drug does stay on the market will it get any use at all.

Why Morning People Rule the World

"'When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards,' Randler told the Harvard Business Review of his research' [T]hey tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges, which then leads to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them. They're proactive.' (Not that evening people are life's losers: They're smarter and more creative, and have a better sense of humor, other studies have shown.)"
I N T E R E S T I N G !!!!!

I have no sense of humor, but have little bit of creativity. However, I did not get into "better" college even though I did get better grades - just not better enough! What does that make me!

Open letter to Mr. Manmohan Singh about litter on Indian streets

My daughter who is currently visiting her grand parents in India has something to say to the Prime Minister of India.  This is the first time she is visiting after she started understanding things, and the amount of litter on the streets in India really bothered her.  So she dictated a letter to the Prime Minister of India (she wanted to send to the President, but I told her that the Prime Minister is the most powerful person in India and could do something about it).  Below is the text of her letter.

Dear Mr. Manmohan Singh,
Why is there so much litter in India?  It seems no one takes care of the earth here - and everybody throws litter without thinking.  If one person throws litter, other person watching this thinks it is ok to litter and everybody starts to litter.  So, can you tell people not to litter?

I learned in school that littering polutes the air and the environment, and people can get sick.  So my teacher told us not to litter.  So please ask people not to litter.

 I like India very much - its just that I don't like so much litter on the streets.  It makes India look dirty, and no one should it make it look dirty and ugly.  It makes the beaches look dirty and people cannot enjoy the beach.

From Jaya Joshi (and Sunil Joshi who typed it up).

Little children often tell it as it is, as Jaya is doing here.  In a few years Jaya will learn that it is considered in impolite to say such things and learn to be politically correct.  But although the truth may be uncomfortable to us, it is listening to such unvarnished truth that can help us become better.

I doubt Mr. Singh will ever read this letter, but if at least one person is motivated to throw one less thing on the streets of India, Jaya will have made some difference.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jiya in summer outfit

Summer is a great time to take pictures of kids.  Colorful outfits with equally colorful background - just makes it so easy to take nice pictures!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Currency Risk in Business

Fred Wilson on avc.com has a nice blog post explaining currency risk in business that is worth a read. For those involved in the US business, currency fluctuations plays little role in day to day business (i.e. sales) so this notion of impact of currency fluctuations is at first a little difficult to understand. But gaining an understanding of the impact of currency fluctuations on your bottom line is critical in International business.

As FW's post says, even if nothing real changes in your business, the change in exchange rate over which you agree to convert the local sales into US dollars can have a significant impact on your profits. So, as it happend last year with the Latin currencies (which experienced significant depreciation over the year), while you might be "making your numbers" in local currency in fact in US dollars you may have under performed - simply because the local currency is not worth as much in US dollars any more.

One can only imagine the demotivating effect this would have on people working in markets where currency is depreciating rapidly - one month you are a top performer for delivering the results, the next month you are not even making your numbers!  Even though you are still selling the same number of widgets the sales are not worth as much in US dollars.

For example - you can see from the two year Indian Rupee/USD currency exchange rate chart below - the havoc this degree of fluctuation must have played in US companies doing a lot of business with India. Let's say you are a US company selling a $1 widget in India for Rs. 50 per widget.

Based on the chart above, in US dollars you made $1 only in December 2009. Before December, you earned 84 cents per widget as the exchange rate at that time was Rs. 42 to a dollar. On the other hand in March you made little more (3 cents to be precise) than $1 per widget because the exchange rate had climbed to Rs 51.6. Since that time the rate has come down steadily to below Rs.45 last April costing company money in USD.

This can't be motivating to sales people in India - they may be underperforming in US dollar terms even though their sales in local currency are just fine.

The way companies manage this exchange rate fluctuations internally is to adopt a certain "budget exchange rate" which is used to calculate the current performance. In this instance, the company may decide that they will convert Indian Rupee sales in to US dollars at a standard rate of Rs. 45 for the entire year to be adjusted up or down for the next year depending on the prevailing market circumstances. This would then take away the uncertainty associated with exchange rate fluctuations.

Of course all this does it help you manage the internal expectations. But it does little to help you protect your bottom line.  For instance, if you report your earnings in US dollars, the real impact on your bottom line is still there, to be found reported in the annual report in the form of favorable or unfavorable currency impact.  In today's interconnected global economy this is unavoidable. However finance gurus do have hedging strategies they can use to minimize the currency impact.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Times are exciting in Indian Pharma sector

The drumbeat of negative news around the US Pharma continues unabated. The latest piece of bad news that Merck is laying off 15% of employees, comes on the heals of Pfizer announcement laying off ~20,000 employees after the Wyeth merger. According to a report published by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in the first half of this year alone drug makers announced that they planned to cut about 35,000 jobs. Bad news like this is enough to strike fear in the hearts of the most courageous pharma executives!

Except, perhaps if you are in the Indian pharma industry.

While the US pharma industry is buffeted by one bad news after the other, times seem to be downright giddy in India. In fact, all this bad news here in the US seems to be translating into significant opportunity for the Indian pharma industry. An article in NY Times seems to indicate that the Indian pharmaceutical industry will grow 13% this year, reminding me of excitement I felt in late eighties when the US pharma sector was growing dramatically on the shoulders of new scientific discoveries in both BIG pharma and the nascent biotechnology industry. India today seems to be poised for significant growth leveraging its low costs high value scientific talent into a strategic advantage aimed towards making the pharma sector the center piece of the future global pharma industry.

A report published by the Organization of Pharmaceutical Producers of India seems to confirm these ambitions.
In drug discovery and development services, India is emerging as a hot spot, growing at ~ 65%, i.e. more than three and half times the global growth rate driven by strong chemistry capabilities, skilled manpower and cost value proposition.
This new maturity of Indian drug industry has already generated significant excitement in the sector with multi-nationals increasingly coming to India to buy into the low cost development capabilities exemplified by the Sanofi Aventis acquisition of Shanta Biotech and the low cost manufacturing capabilities demonstrated by the the $3.7B acquisition of Piramal Healthcare by Abbott. In fact, the Piramal acquisition goes beyond the low cost manufacturing capability acquisition strategy; it acts as a strategic foothold in a market place that is about to enter the explosive growth phase. Not only does this acquisition make Abbott the largest pharmaceutical company in India today, it also creates unparalleled growth opportunity for the future; Abbott expects to grow its business to $2.5B by year 2020, putting India at the centerpiece of Abbott's growth strategy.

So what does it mean for the Pharma hands of the United States? Two things...

1) If you are young and are looking for an adventure, it might be worth exploring opportunities in India. If the computer software industry is any guide, this sort of growth in Pharma industry is going to create significant opportunities for the adventurous. Not only will there be great opportunities to develop skills and learn business, professionally it might be an opportunity to grow at a much faster rate than here in the US. After all, high growth companies creates great many opportunities for promotions compared to low growth rate companies - just ask the Googlers and Pfizer employees!

2) Second, for the experienced and talented hands who have developed their skills in the US, there will be unprecedented opportunities for you too. Explosive growth has to be managed or else it can become destructive like the flooding of the river caused by torrential rain. Seasoned and mature hands are needed to man the controls and guide the industry through its early growth years creating opportunity for top level and mid level management. So, if you are looking at a stagnant career in the US and potentially a "sword of damocles" hanging over your job, India might just give you the opportunity for a second career before you are ready to hang up your spurs.

Of course it is important to remember that India is not the US and working in India is not like working in the US. Inefficiencies abound and challenges present themselves at every corner. If you are faint of heart who shrivels at the first sign of bureaucratic hurdles of a developing country, the India opportunity may not be for you. But if you are the adventurous type, looking for a new challenge, India presents an unprecedented opportunity to get involved at the "ground floor" and contribute into building some thing more substantial than just pushing the next visual aid past the scrunched up eyes of the internal review team scrutinizing your promotional piece to ensure that you don't miss the apostrophe in the fine print at the bottom of the page.

Heart Break in South America

The South American heart break continued today with Uruguay losing to Germany 3-2. But the spirit and guts shown by the Uruguayans made the usually forgettable game a very memorable one. Up until the last minute, the Uruguayans played as if they were playing in the world cup finals showing grit and determination that has made them the talk of the 2010 World cup. The Germans won, but Uruguayans showed the spirit of winners. One can only imagine how the game would have ended if Diego Forlan's amazing kick at the last second had bounced in to the net rather than out of the net.

Of course, none of this means that Germany played poorly. Rather the Germans displayed their superb mastery through out the game with sharp passing and accurate kicks to the goal. Still, the team did not control the game as they have controlled the games until now, and in the end won but just barely.

Tomorrow we await the big game.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

India Looks To World Universities To Educate Its Youth

India faces a crisis in the education system.
88 out of every 100 Indian students who graduate from high school don't go on to higher education.
To solve this problem,
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government has proposed legislation, which the Indian Parliament is expected to enact into law, paving the way for foreign universities to set up branches in India.
Read more here

Frontline Report on Carbon Credits in Brazil

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Gradual decay of Western civilization?

Pronouncements of Asia's ascendancy abound the net. What is less clear is what role will Europe & North America play in the new world order about to emerge over the next 50 years. The quote below seems to pronounce a dire future for Europe.
...We already would have forgotten any pretense of the UK as a great power if not for its involvement in Iraq. The UK, along with much of Western Europe is one of those strange nations that exist as they do, in spite of what has happened in the last 70 years, not as a result. They have internal stability and modest detterence capabilities, but nothing really secures their futures. Without the strategic power of the US, Russia, or China, the economic dynamism of the developed pacific rim, or even the strong demographic and geographical base of India or Brazil, they seem to exist in a bubble. They are at no risk of anything instant like invasion or civil war, but their gradual decay and subjugation simply seems inevitable at some point. Im not predicting any immenent collapse or anything. Im not afraid to visit Europe, but my Great-grandkids probably will be.

What ever the future, the Greece debt crisis seems to be the harbinger of other similar dominos to fall in Europe. Which one will be next, Spain or Italy or UK?

Which ever country it is, it is foolish to predict the demise of European and Western power just yet. What is more likely is a balancing of US by another super power China, with a few more regional powers emerging.

On the other hand, UK will probably slowly decay, as the author seems to indicate.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Holi Poster

One of the joys of being of Indian origin are the colorful festivals we get to celebrate. This year, Divya Mahajan informed us of there was a Holi festival being organized by ISKON in Edison. Knowing the reputation of Hare Krishna devotees we expected to see a very colorful Holi celebration. Unfortunately, when we arrived a rather sedate religious ceremony was going on, which was terribly disappointing to Jaya.

Being the Joshi girl that she is, Jaya expressed her dissatisfaction about the ceremony to one of the organizers and demanded colors. Fortunately, the organizers had anticipated that there might be a demand for colors, and soon enough a tray full of colors was produced. What ensued thereafter was a riot of colors, more along the lines of how Holi is celebrated in India. Here is one of the pictures, which I sized up to 20x30 size and printed as a poster. I am thinking that perhaps I should hang this poster on my office wall. What do you think?

Responding to Washington Post Blog Post on NPR and Economist

Ezra Klein over at Washington Post wrote this article about the market share growth of NPR shown in the chart below and then tries to draw some conclusions about the growth of NPR and Economists, reported in two separate articles.

Graph courtesy Jon Peltier Reading this simplistic analysis I was struck by the irony that this was happening in a post analyzing the reasons behind the decline of American media!

First let us just talk about the way Ezra's article quotes the NPR numbers. He takes the graph from a blog post, which is taken from another blog post, which is a post about data presentation in an article published in Fast company. Ezra doesn't even bother to attribute the graph to Jon Peltier who was making an entirely different point with this graph (shown in this article)

Then, Ezra decides to compare growth of NPR with growth of Economist, which was written up in another blog doing a small bit piece on the original article published in Folio. Looking carefully at the Folio article, one realizes that this is nothing but a fluff "interview" piece touting Economist's circulation and profits- clearly a PR piece hardly to be called objective.

I have a big problem with people trying to draw general conclusions about anything put together from two different sources let alone data collected at two different time points under two entirely different experimental conditions. One cannot draw conclusions from such comparisons because of introduction of bias.

But Ezra commits another faux pas - quoting other bloggers and not the original articles. I understand why bloggers dispense with this sort of discipline, but when one is blogging for a reputed journal like Washington Post, one ought to set better standards.

Finally, I am disappointed by the overall content of the post itself. Instead of analysis, what we get is 'opinion' masquarading as 'analysis'. I have my own opinion about why NPR has sustained itself so well in these terrible times or why Economist might be more successful than let's say, the other US magazines. One word - competition or lack there of.

Let's take the example of NPR. While the subscriber read newspaper business has seen intense competition from internet, when it comes to passively imbibed news, i.e. via the channel of radio, the competition in the US is almost non-existent. There are some news radio channels mainly on AM radio, but other than that most radio channels tend to focus more on music than news.

BBC exists as an independent news radio only in England and other ex-US markets. In the US, NPR has co-opted BBC quite nicely by entering into a non-competitive partnerships of sorts, so that NPR and BBC can both offer programming to the local public radio channels. But while the internet based sources of news have dramatically increased over last year, due to miserable failure of satellite radio, on-air radio is the only medium available to captive population that listens to NPR - the car driving public.

There are 10 other reasons for success of NPR - one just has to read the original article to understand them.

As for Economist, despite the intense competition in US magazine business, news analysis is perhaps BIG reason for their success for while most US magazines offer a US centric point of view, Economist offers a "different" non-US centric point of view which is refreshingly welcome in many educated circles.

WSJ has also grown in circulation after recent change in management. But their strategy has been different. Circulation growth has come as a result of shrewd pricing strategy. I am myself an example of this. For instance, when they charged 0.75 per copy I was reading WSJ regularly as long as the paper was provided by my employer. When my employer balked, WSJ lost me. Since the change in mgmt at WSJ, they offered me a subscription for $99 for both online and print. I immediately signed up because I think it is a worthwhile investment.

Unfortunately, Ezra's blog post covers none of these issues.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Making rounds of Internet

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners. Read them carefully. Each is an artificial word with only one letter altered from a real word. Some are terrifically innovative:
1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax return, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
2. Reintardation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people, that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The Bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
7. Inoculatte: To take coffe intraveneously when you are running late.
8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.
9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (this one got extra credit)
10: Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And, then, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
11. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
12. Glibido: All talk and no action.
13. Dopeler Effect: the tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
14. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): the frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
16. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.
17. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Incredible Mindmap of Web Based Collaboration Tools

Browsing the web I stumbled upon www.mindmeister.com a mind mapping webware. While I am myself fond of using Xmind an open source mindmapping software for its beautiful interface and nice formatting tools, I think mindmeister is certainly worth trying, especially given that mindmeister has an iPhone app available. The other mindmapping software I have often used is another opensource software called Freemind. Unfortunately, Freemind is falling way behind competition as it doesn't offer a web based interface (certainly not a easy way to create or publish maps online), nor does it offer formatting tools like Xmind.

However, tooling around the website I stumbled upon a mindmap created by Robin Good that outlines a large number of collaboration available on the web. This map is an incredible resource for any one interested.

Immediately, I started checking out some of the new webware I hadn't explored earlier. One syncronizing webware I am going to try out is LiveMesh. I have been a big fan of Dropbox, but Dropbox has some trouble connecting through firewall that I haven't been able to over come. I am hoping LiveMesh will be able to do this easily. Previously I had tried LiveSync, another Microsoft app, but unfortunately, LiveSync creates multiple copies of the same file - which is quite onerous and not really syncronization. Prior to that I had used FolderShare which had similar issues.

LiveMesh still only has a Mac version is still a development version, so we'll have to see if it really works for me. Now if Dropbox were to just fix the firewall issues, it would be so much simpler to just use their service.