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This is why I love the Internet. From a thread on Google Finance about why Apple's stock price will hit $300 by January:

"I know it is hard for a lot of you to believe but I did mean 300 by
January. We are going to see a christmas season like never before.
Also, The iPhone is going to reach an international epidemic, meaning
that eveyone thats not homeless will go as far as taking out a loan to
get one.
People in the US think the iPone is pretty cool.
Internationally the iPhone is seen as a product God, everything they
could ever want.
A lot of them have no bought ipods and such only to
wait for the iPhone. You have to understand how people think
an iPhone does it all, its everything in one product,
it makes complete sense to hold out and purchase one for them. Its
just another way of thinking that the rich United States does does not
do. Ok let me paint a picture, say an individual in the UK buys an
iphone. He or she feels that they have just saved hundreds and
hundreds of dollars by buying an all in one product. They will go as
far as to cancle there at home internet access to make this iPhone do
EVERYTHING they want.
The iPhone is their chance to save a lot of
money wile being capable of doing everything they want it to. Once
again, APPLE will hit 300 by January hands down. "

I know young 'uns are crazy about gadgets, but come on!! "cancel home internet access because they bought an iPhone"?!! "International epidemic"??

Folk like these are what probably made Fool.com author Seth Jayson to write in an article, "Around the office, we often debate which shareholders are the scariest. The Sirius Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI) crowd is a doozy. Ditto the thick glasses, basement-dwelling multimeter-wielding mob that adores AMD (NYSE: AMD). However, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) fans usually top the list: Even when you compliment the company, you get hate mail from select iNutsos for not being adequately worshipful."

Another rant about education and employment

Quote about education excerpted from a book; found it here:
"Mass education taught basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, a bit of history and other subjects. This was the ‘overt curriculum.’ But beneath it lay an invisible or ‘covert curriculum’ that was far more basic. It consisted - and still does in most industrial nations - of three courses: one in punctuality, one in obedience, and one in rote, repetitive work. Factory labor demanded workers who showed up on time, especially assembly-line hands. It demanded workers who would take orders from a management hierarchy without questioning. And it demanded men and women prepared to slave away at machines or in offices, performing brutally repetitious operations."

Indeed, education beyond the 12th grade has degenerated to a combination of two things:
a) the brand behind the degree : what you learned is less important compared to where you got that degree from
b) the fact that it conveys that you are willing to jump through whatever hoops are placed in front of you

b) is a result of demand-supply imbalance in most professions. Most employees today are overqualified for their role, and will hardly get to use even one-fourth of their subject on their job. In fact, it is blasphemous to say this, but the typical office worker's job can be done much better by any 12th grader, who not only has the same skills but probably has a sharper mind and is more amenable to training at that age. Given this, doing that part-time MBA, M.S. or whatever shite is just symbolic, a part of the education arms race among employees : "If I do this MBA, I will get promoted instead of X because he did only an M.S. while I would have done an M.S. and MBA". And the fact that I did that MBA while working shows my "time-management skills", i.e.,
1) how much of a donkey I am
2) how unquestioning is my acquisence to take on tasks that are remotely correlated to our company's bottomline, but are clear demonstrations of donkeyness, loyalty, and that I am willing to readily sacrifice my spouse and family's need for quality time in preference to advancement at the firm.

Consequently, the world's "top cities" are filled with robotic cocksuckers who are caught in a mutually destructive race. They earn more than ever before, but that's because everyone else is earning more, too, so there's not much of a choice but to keep advancing. What's worse, they procreate and teach their children to do the same. At the same time, everyone apparently wants "a good life".

Contrast this fucked-up thinking with this clarity:

If a man thinks that his happiness is due to external causes
and his possessions, it is reasonable to conclude that
his happiness must increase with the increase of possessions
and diminish in proportion to their diminution.
Therefore, if he is devoid of possessions,
his happiness should be nil.
What is the real experience of man?
Does it conform to this view?

In deep sleep, man is devoid of all possessions
including his own body. Instead of being unhappy,
he is quite happy. Everyone desires to be happy,
and sleep soundly. The conclusion is that happiness
is inherent in man and is not due to external causes.
One must realise his Self in order to open the store
to unalloyed happiness.

-- Sri Ramana Maharshi.

This guy basically owned a loincloth, and that's about it, but was probably N times more content with his existence than the entire population of Banglaore.
On the ferry trip to Macau:

please fasten seatbeltsCollapse )

I guess it's appropriate if you're destination is Macau.

Gambled and lost around $120.

Sands and Wynn were interesting. Very James Bond-ish ambience inside. I guess that's why the folk keep returning, despite losing ALL the freaking time. Why anyone would gamble is beyond me. Where's the thrill in a 99.9+% guaranteed loss? For example, there was this lady noting down all the series of numbers on the roulette wheel and trying to do some sort of analysis on the series. Uh, no, ma'am. Each turn of the wheel is independent.

All the security guards, and I mean each and every one of them, at the Babylon casino were Telugu folk !

tentative write-up

(I need to be articulate about this):

Extended top-down hierarchies, whether at work or in politics, lead to
- the worst, the politically savvy, the aggressive, the glib exploiters with the big neurosis of being important, to rise to the top
- promotion-by-affinity : which pollutes the rest of the hiearchy with ballless, affable cock suckers, a.k.a. "middle managers", "regional representative", etc;
- the primary job of the middle manager is "execution", i.e., to be a yes-man whose acquisence, neurotic need to be important, moral flexibility and willingness to exploit those under him determine his/her "performance" rating by the one above him
- the majority to be forced into monotonous labour. The labourers unwillingly participate in the politics. The resultant psychological dissonance ("I am inherently a good person, but I need to behave politically to keep my job", "I am competent, but I need to focus on my sales skills more") is why the world feels like it sucks.
- the distance between the hiring-and-firing decision makers and the actual person being hired/fired is increased. It is easier for the decision makes to abstract away the real people below as "Human Resources", replacable Lego blocks who must be quantified and dealt with based on The Numbers.

The majority of the middle class keeps slaving away at robotic tasks, their creativity and freedom stolen by invisible overlords who benefit from the perpetuation of the current structure of work and political practices.

A recent gem from "The millionaire inside" on CNBC
"Your salary is the average of 5 people around you. To be rich, to go further, you need to find better friends. You need to hang out with better folks. Success is all about The Man, the people you know, the networking skills. So dump your poor friends and find rich ones. All of you need to dump everyone you know and make new friends"

The solution : Keep it small. Prevent it from getting big.
No more than x people in a firm.
No more than x million per person in private wealth.
No huge countries, only small states.
No politician or leader who is untouchable. Each person of power must know the people whose happiness and fate he controls. Each person must have access to the people whom he/she has elected.
A cultural focus on the satisfaction-with-life of the majority, not on the neurotic pursuit of importance.

somafm.com : internet radio at it's best

The only proper way to compliment SomaFM would be to sing a love song to it! I've been delighted to discover many new artists via somafm.com. My favourite station is Groove Salad. Described as "A nicely chilled plate of ambient beats and grooves", it's a continuous stream of relaxing loungey stuff.

In India, most people and most pubs listen/play a common set of artists. Not that there's anything wrong with this : there's a certain timelessness to Pink Floyd and Led Zep. But if you wanted to discover more artists, taste more genres, the only way used to be to meet someone interesting and different. When I was working at D.E. Shaw, that was mainly colleagues. My boss introduced me to David Gray & Propellerheads, and shared my love for Radiohead. birdonthewire used to listen to a lot of fairly different genres : Irish songs were one that I remember. From other colleagues, I learned of L. Subramaniam.

Now with pandora, somafm and the other Internet Radio services, I've found another gold mine. As I listen to these exciting new sounds, I keep wondering how on earth I've never heard about any of these bands/artists before! That's what the 'Net has made possible, I guess...

Some of my favourite number from Groove Salad:
Yulara - Ho Doi.
FXU - Vastes Ombres
Naom- Girlfriend
Album Lead - Red Eye
Thievery Corporation - Weightless
Loscil - Cloister

I made a remix of the last one in which I mixed in baby sounds, cooing, trying to speak etc; ....makes it more soothing... :)

After a hard day's work, I often listen to these tracks to chill out.

Update: I just heard a track by an artist called "All India Radio" on Groove Salad. Huh?! It seems that, "All India Radio began life in 1999 after founding member Martin Kennedy heard a friends badly recorded tape of Indian street noises and decided it contained some of the most evocative sounds he had ever heard. Taking his inspiration from the KLFs classic 1988 album Chill Out, Martin fused the lo-fi cassette recordings together with KLF-inspired ambient soundscapes and All India Radio was born." :)

Can't disagree with that! One of the things I really miss about India is the sounds of my neighbourhood in the morning mixed with the sounds of nature...There was a jamun tree and a coconut tree in our backyard, near the well, and a I was lucky to be woken up on most summer mornings by a koel's cooing. Apparently, the koel liked the coconut tree and used to perch on it in the mornings. This was mixed with the sound of kids being hauled away by autos to school, and the kela wala shouting "Maaaaaaaaaaaaauzz" (I think mauz is what bananas are called in Urdu). Ah, Hyderbad!
Though I speak from experience limited to big firms the financial industry, I presume that the situation is quite similar in other fields and in medium-sized firms in the financial industry:

1. A manager is as successful as his staff is dispensible.

In particular, a manager seeks to ensure, consciously or unconsciously, that a candidate from Infosys can pick up your job in a month's time.
When someone leaves and they bravely, solemnly state "The show must go on...", they forget to leave out the last part : "...in Bangalore".

(This is the kind of Lowest-Common-Denominator thinking that makes Java so popular. But that is a whole new direction of this conversation which we can have in private.)

Even as Infosys and other Indian IT firms struggle to control attrition & salaries, yet hire smart, experienced folk, the number of Indians who are good at IT keeps increasing each year.

2. The only way to keep a $100K job is to get a $150K one.
(I use 100 and 150 only as reference numbers, but you get the point.)

If you're in a job developing typical IT applications, please plan for it to be outsourced soon. Indians are at least that capable, and the best IIT-ian who has chosen to stay back in India will probably cost no more than 50% of a comparable candidate. At the same time, the maturity and stability of Java, .NET, their class libraries and 3rd party libraries continues to mean a lot of productivity and less time spent on pesky debugging. The barrier to entry in IT is decreasing every day.

At the same time, an increasing number of candidates with Ph.D.s and additional Masters' degrees are joining the financial industry today. These folks are bringing in a new wave of applied quantitative finance and Artificial Intelligence techniques to the art of making money and controlling risk.  The big banks continue to scream and shout that they cannot increase salaries but the fact is : there's a lot more money being invested in the markets today than ever before. If you have something to contribute, you can definitely think of attracting it to your pocket.

The only way to survive in IT is to move up the skill or management ladder : if you're a Java or C++ programmer, become a quant programmer or a manager of a team.

Given this situation, there is a simple thumb rule to decide what to focus your attention on:

3. What doesn't make you stronger will kill you.
Get your ass off YouTube and pick up that challenging book about petri nets, calculus, statistics, machine learning, or whatever you've been meaning to (re-)learn. It's a good sign if the going is tough. Or go find a successful manager in your hierarchy to suck up to. I hate that path to success in the rate race, but it's the easier one and I've seen it work. You choose mate.
If I'm not wrong, calling Russia a failure of Communism, or China a Communist success, or calling America a Capitalist success, is quite besides the point. It's like tasting 3 soups each of which is made from *many* ingredients, and attributing their bad/good taste to say, only the pepper. At the same time, it is true that an excess of one ingredient can spoil *any* dish, as anyone who encounters a ball of salt in their food knows!

Let's take a core problem in the world today, a ball of salt in your mouth, if you will : the worst people are our leaders. What is difficult to digest is that somehow, supposedly, we elected them. Or maybe it is the system that brings out the worst in anyone elected to The Top? Maybe, by the time you get there, you have lost a piece of your soul so many times that you are left empty, incapable of doing nothing good from the heart, always reacting politically, not as a genuine person?

I conjecture that any system where power is organized in a hierarchy, with each level more powerful than the one below, is a core feature of the problem.

In general, if you notice, given any group, the most politicking, ass-licking bastard becomes The Manager. Repeat that process at each level and you have The System. Except, this is our world we are talking about.

This is what I also sometimes call the Hierarchy of Incompetence. In it's watered-down version, one is supposed to understand that "Managers must be generalists". This statement would be true in the sense that managers are functionally not as competent as their staff, except for the fact that managers *are* specialists in a different sense: Their specialized skill is to suck up to their Manager. If one accepts the hierarchical organization of the world, then yes, we need a hierarchy, and "managers" at each level to manage the level below. (The keyword being "If"). Now consider that hierarchies, whether organizational hierarchies, or political ones, are set up by the people on top. Now think : What are the implications of that fact on what is required of the managers at various levels of the hierarchy?

For example, in the Indian context, the news that they put up Rahul Gandhi's photo up next to Rajiv Gandhi's in the Congress headquarters in Delhi, indicating who is to come in next as The Leader, tore my heart...What about all those poor suckers who've been working their ass off for the Party hoping to become something one day? Clearly, only those closest to the Gandhi family will amount to anything in The Party. Similarly, in The Organization, only those who serve The Company (represented competently by The Manager) will amount to anything.

This is how The System works : because it is by design a top-down system. It serves to make the rich richer, the politically strong even more powerful, and the Designated Hero's son the Designated Hero. The Masters live. The people in the middle suck up and keep their lives cozy. The people at the bottom die labouring to keep the world turning. That, of course, would be YOU.

What we need to do is to design a system where the worst people, those interested in power, those interested in ego masturbation, CANNOT, or at least do not want to, make it to the top. This system will not be top-down, but bottom-up. I realize that Communism was probably *meant* to be like this. But certainly, it's implementations have gone the same way as capitalism w.r.t. this aspect of hierarchical organization of power.

This is why I recognize the corporate word Leadership as doublespeak for Followership. "Leadership training" is a euphemism for "how to be a well-dressed cock sucker".
This is why, to me, voting for this party or that party don't make any sense. It's just choosing the lesser evil. What we need to change is the system of electing, the whole concept of leadergiri itself. Composition of large amounts of power and concentration of large amounts of wealth should be impossible by design.

Unless we change this, the current state of world affairs can only seem natural...The invasions of privacy, the feeling of living in George Orwell's 1984, shameless wars like Iraq...these are but natural consequence of continuing to serve The Masters blindly.

I heart HK

My tax rate for last year is approximately 10%.

I have no clue why the fuck I used to pay 33% to India. I'm pretty sure there are N layers of corrupt jackasses eating up that money instead of actually developing infrastructure or healthcare.

I've observed that colleagues from Australia (40% tax) and the U.K. (something equally ridiculous) don't resent paying up their tax as much because they can *see* where their government is putting that money. If I'm not wrong, healthcare in the U.K. is mostly/completely free. Hong Kong's deal is pretty fair, too: not that much of free healthcare, but the taxes are low, and are used to improve infrastructure and enforce the law.

India, oh, India....

There was time when I used to argue fervently with NRIs who said negative things about India. It was a knee-jerk reaction. With time, I can see where some are coming from...They want to have a good life for themselves and their family, and want a fair life, and to be free from frustration and tension...Who doesn't?

Just Thinking Aloud: I suspect a EU model would work better for governance in India due to the size of our country : break up each state into a country and let India be a Union of independent States. By "work better", I mean : increase visibility of governance and reduce tolerance towards corruption. Basically, your Chief Minister is now a Prime Minister! You wouldn't tolerate that much crap from them at that point.

View from the hotel (Guam):

ThoughtBinder, Guam

Please welcome Mr. thought-binder : thought_binder. I really tried to write a few words about the man, but damn, it's difficult to talk about college buddies without using "lanja" or "munda"!! :-))

Well, since he is articulate, I guess his LJ will speak for itself.

O==== Guam ===O
Was in Guam, U.S. territory, for a week.
Try finding that place in Google maps! No wonder it's called "Micronesia".
The weather is incredible, the beaches are beautiful, and it's a lovely place for vacation, just 4 hours from Hong Kong.

Interesting stuff:

  • Many signs are in 4 or 5 languages: English, Chamorro (the local language), Japanese (because tourism is the main industry, and 80% of tourists are Japanese), Chinese, and Korean (because the rest of the toursits are mostly Chinese and Korean).

  • The local TV channels advertise the usual American stuff, but all in Japanese! Here's a K-Mart ad in Japanese. After the ad is a local ad about how to pronounce "Hafa Adai", which means Hello in the local language. I quite like the tune in the background of that clip! It's got that tropical island, vacation feel to it. :-)

  • There was also a Chamorro version of "Hotel California" playing on the local FM radio! I tried recording it but faced technical difficulties with my camera. :-( I think the best local FM channel was the one playing Chamorro music! This is probably because it's such relaxed stuff in comparison to the other songs (especially that rap song that goes "Smack That" all the time).

  • People are relaxed and friendly. Most taxi drivers are tuned to FM stations that play golden oldie American love songs :-)

  • Some locals are FAT! I was kinda happy to find a people that actually consume more oil than Indians (No, it's not the Big Macs).

  • Japanese everywhere. I got a quick revision of my very basic Japanese skills just listening to the folks. Most locals in the tourism industry can speak Japanese! It seems many hotels on the island are owned by Japanese, too.

    I noticed that Japanese tourists don't speak to each other. They seem to prefer doing their own thing. I was contrasting this to Indians : let's say two Indian families find each other in the same hotel in the same foreign land. It's quite likely that they will start talking. Indians like being social : it's more fun when there are more people. Also, the increased numbers mean a savings on taxi fares, etc; and more bargaining power when talking to tour operators. Note that I'm not at all saying that one is better or that one is worse. For example, sometimes I don't like my private time being disturbed by the excessive familiarity and friendliness assumed by a stranger because we're both from the same country. I was just wondering why ...

Tai Chi to Christmas Carols

Two videos taken in a park near home the evening before Christmas:



With some imagination, you can feel the Tai Chi happening to the tune of "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" :-)

I love the dedication to Tai Chi one sees in HK! Makes me wish I would took more interest in Yoga. What's in the above videos, evening practice, is a muted, weekend version of daily morning practice. Daily, I'm treated to a wonderful sight in the morning as I leave for office : nearly a hundred people all doing Tai Chi in sync to Chinese string music, often with colorful accompaniments like a traditional red-coloured hand fan or a flashy sword. The sound of around a hundred fans unfurled simultaneously with a flourish produces, like a bird flapping it's wings, echoes in the park and cuts through my half-asleep morning ritual of last minute hurry as I rush to catch my 8:05 a.m. bus.

Will take pics/video of that one of these days. :-)