- That if they decide that they prefer Girl A to Girl B and in turn prefer Girl B to Girl C, they ought to prefer Girl A to Girl C (where A, B and C are of course hypothetical)
- That their preference of Girl A over Girl B should not change if they come to the conclusion that Girl B is after all a better choice than that other girl D
- That if everyone whose opinion seems to matter prefers Girl A to Girl B (say), then collectively they ought to state that preference; And finally,
- That the final choice should take into account everyone's preferences and should not be imposed on the basis of one person's opinions
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Friday, 3 September 2010
If bookmakers are stupid enough to take spot bets that are fixed, and players are corruptible, then the result will be that the bookmakers will be stung often enough to refuse taking such bets. If the Pakistan players are corrupt all or most of the time, the market would have become a sham and would have ceased to exist. The fact that the market does exist tells us one thing: most of the time, the players are trying their hardest. When they are not, they are choosing their moments selectively. Otherwise there would be no bookies left to fool.Now before I get into what I had to say proper, there's something that Malcolm doesn't get exactly right (which was also pointed out by one of the commenters on his blog): bookmakers don't usually get on the other side of a bet. They're supposed to set up a market by setting the odds of a particular result and finding two entities who are willing to take either side of a bet, with the bookie usually earning a decent fee from both, and the winner of the bet taking the money. (Note:In a way this is not unlike an investment bank helping to set up a securitization deal by putting together say a bunch of mortgage-backed securities from one set of lenders and getting a rating agency to assign a rating, like a set of odds, that define how risky the resulting CDO's tranches are, and then selling said CDO tranches to some other chump and taking a hefty fee in the process, thus getting a fixed payoff while leaving the buyer to face any risks involved in the deal. Of course, the last few years saw the i-bankers believe their own spiel and holding on to said CDOs, eventually bankrupting their parent companies and more. Sadly, bookmakers seem to be more aware of the risks involved in their bets than i-bankers.) (Note: the previous note was drafted just to show that I've recently read Michael Lewis' 'The Big Short' and now feel like dissing a few i-bankers).
Monday, 26 July 2010
- Memento: Having just seen the end of the relationship, the male protagonist (henceforth MP) is filled with anger at the world at large, generally withdraws into himself and his memories of the relationship he had, and is so caught up in the past that he is hardly aware of the present.
- Insomnia: Haven't seen the movie, but the title fits.
- Batman Begins: The MP decides that he must try to get back together with the woman by attempting to become a better person. He picks up a few new hobbies, spends time with a few male friends (mainly Michael Caine), tries to feel better by working out, eating right, and asserting his alpha-male-ness
- The Prestige: MP is still troubled by the end of the relationship, although it's been a while since it ended. He is desperate to find a clear reason, and someone other than himself to blame for the collapse. He throws himself into his work (mainly with Michael Caine), has a dalliance on the side, but deep down is still really pissed-off
- The Dark Knight: Much time has passed, and although the MP still has a thing for the woman and is hoping his new hobbies will prove that he's the guy for her, he sees that she's moved on. He decides to be the better man, supporting her and the new beau (of course by the end of the movie, the new beau is at the Memento stage) (And yes, the mentoring from Michael Caine continues)
- Inception: Although the woman is no longer part of his life, MP still has memories of their relationship, and realizes that deep down he blames himself for the fact that it ended. The only way to move on is to forgive himself, which he eventually does, and thus finds peace. And, need I say it, there's more Michael Caine here, although fittingly, since the MP realizes that he needs to look within for peace, he needs less of Caine's mentoring at this point.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
Saturday, 29 May 2010
First, watch this:
Now, grab a pen and paper, and watch the whole thing again, and write down what you thought was funny about it.
Here's my (incomplete) list:
- The phirangi women dancing - brings up the Indian fascination for white skin, but at the same time it's also funny to see that these particular women are almost dowdy and behenji-esque in their dress - one of them's even wearing a kurti! - and dancing style
- The dark-skinned Uday Chopra lookalike's moves
- The silly hat the main guy wears to off-set his bushy Mallu moustache
- The fact that it's a Mallu song but the refrain is in (slightly messed up) Hindi
- All the disheveled guys in the group dance scenes who look like they've had a bit too much of Old Monk and Hercules the previous night and couldn't be bothered to take a bath
- The credits - Babydoll Productions, Writer's Forum Alappuzha etc
- The fact that they're absolutely sincere about the whole thing - there's something tragicomic about people trying their best to do something and yet appearing as complete losers
- The comments - if you're Mallu and have a decent grasp of Mallu abuses, the comments are quite something
Putting on my pseudo-Hansonian (and maybe even pseudo-Han-san-ian) hat, let me try to put together some of the reasons why I think this might be funny (again, an incomplete and possibly not completely thought-through list) :
- The sense of superiority that comes from looking at people who are trying their best and whose best is not very good, whereas one ('I') could obviously do better if one were to just put in a little effort - case in point: the Hindi pronunciation, the sucky production values, the jerky music
- The 'there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I' aspect, where one ('I') knows that one may not have done a much better job and is glad that the camera was trained on them and not on oneself, which lends a sense of relief and hilarity (this combines with the earlier point, since one can say, 'what losers for allowing themselves to be caught on camera'). Case in point: the dance steps. I am ever-thankful that back when I was in college there weren't too many camera-phones around to record me dancing at 'Do Re Mi'.
- The incongruities - Bushy moustache-meets-funky hat, dowdy phirangi women dancing, Mallus singing in Hindi (do not bother bringing up Yesudas, you know what I'm talking about here), Babydoll productions and the Writer's Forum being thanked - it's quite a mind-meld
- Contextual humour - knowing Malayalam helps to really understand the depth of feeling in the comments, and anyone who's come in contact with Mallus would probably get the humour in the hatted guy's facial hair. I wonder how funny non-Mallus, or for that matter non-Indians would find this video
So what do you think? What were you laughing at? Leave a comment, please.
And if you want homework, analyze this.
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
1. Godel Escher Bach, by Douglas Hofstader - Just as something of a geek-culture touchstone this would have been worthwhile to read and subsequently name-check (note: especially useful when having slightly tipsy Econ PhD-applicants explain computability problems to you), and it also seemed to cover a lot of things that I've never been able to get a real handle on - music, math and art, but also deeper stuff about logic and so on which I only get a peripheral idea about through Wiki-trawling. I haven't read it yet so what little I know about the book too is from Wikipedia and by word-of-mouth, so maybe I'm building it up to be bigger than it is, but given its sheer size itself, it'll probably be a while before I work up the nerve to read it.
2. The Return of Depression Economics, by Paul Krugman - Krugman came out with the first edition of this book way back around the time when I was in college, so it was a little silly of me in hindsight to wait until 2009 to read the updated edition. It wouldn't have transformed me into an economics wunderkind, but I guess it would have helped relate what I learnt in class to the real world, which, hopefully, would have made me pay a wee bit more attention. Instead I did the Delhi Times crossword, doodled or wrote atrocious schoolboy poetry and eventually had to relearn economics via pop-econ books and blogs. And of course Wikipedia.
3. The Story of Philosophy, by Will Durant - I had a copy of this when I got to college way back in 2000 and tried manfully to read through it before getting lost somewhere in the discussions about Kantian thought. I did pick it up again in my 3rd year to refer to for an assignment on Hegel and Dialectical Materialism, which I must admit was probably the best tute I ever wrote, but after that I let the book go again. Maybe I should have started with 'Sophie's World' instead...
4. The Argumentative Indian, by Amartya Sen - This started off as an OK read, but every time I picked it up it reminded me of the absolute mind-numbing horror that was my Social Choice Theory paper at D-School, and the thought that our primary reading material for the course was Amartya Sen's drier theoretical work was enough to prejudice me against him forever. Someday, perhaps, I might be able to get over it and give him a fair chance.
5. Basic Econometrics, by Damodar Gujarati - considering that I've been working in analytics for almost 5 years now, I have to admit that my knowledge of 'trics and stats is a little shakier than I'd like it to be. 'Gujarati' is something of a ready reckoner for most people working in the analytics sector in India, and although I bought myself a copy in a fit of work-related enthusiasm many moons ago, I'll admit to having opened it only sparingly since then.
So that's my list. Murthy, Han and Kanishka, consider yourself tagged. Anybody else want to talk about the books they wish they'd read, feel free to blog about it and leave a link in the comments below.
Monday, 12 April 2010
I think that part of the reason that I self-identify as a Catholic is simply that since my parents are staunch Catholics and brought me up as one, I choose to stick to the label and explore the more personal aspects of my faith within it, rather than trying to make a clean break from it. I'll admit that if they had been part of some other religion or denomination I would probably have accepted that label willingly too. At the same time, one aspect of Catholicism (as I've experienced it) that I think helps make it easier for people to stay within the fold is that it does not require or expect followers to know or read the Bible in much detail (some of the more evangelical types do make the effort, of course). Other denominations (and a few other religions) require greater knowledge of their sacred texts and consequently a stricter, possibly more literal-minded adherence to them. There is a lot more focus on rituals and symbolism in Catholicism, and I feel that they allow for more individual interpretation - for example, some followers may have a favourite saint whom they hope will intercede on their behalf.
Along the same lines, I find going to mass an interesting contemplative experience, where I can follow my own train of thought while participating in the overall proceedings. Being a creature of habit, I find it easier to be contemplative in church than in most other environs, especially when thinking about my own limitations and errors. At the same time, participating in the service along with the congregation is also something of a soothing experience, making you feel that you are part of a greater entity than just yourself. I think a similar feeling of belonging would also arise from jagrans, retreats or Buddhist chanting. The need to belong is, after all, part of the human essence.
In terms of my personal faith independent of the church, I will admit that I've found it difficult over the last few years to think of a way to properly engage with God,especially since I broke up with someone I was very close to. It called into question what I would consider the standard approach, where we as humans expect something like a quid pro quo relationship, exchanging prayer and supplication for specific outcomes that we desire - 'Not on our deeds, but on your grace, O Lord, though if you could help me out on this small matter, I would be eternally grateful and will light a candle to symbolize this'. Insofar as I do get around to praying these days, it usually revolves around expressing gratitude, and rephrasing what is essentially the Serenity prayer to fit the minor hassles of life- 'God grant me the wisdom to know that there is very little that is entirely under my control, and grant me the serenity to accept that; and perhaps you could grant courage to those who would use it better than me'.
I know the above is neither comprehensive nor entirely convincing, but that's because I've never really contemplated my faith in too much detail either. Deep down, I suspect my spiritual beliefs do get captured by the following lines which appear at the beginning of Vonnegut's 'Cat's Cradle':
'Live by the foma that make you brave and kind
and healthy and happy.'
-The Books of Bokonon 1:5
Did I mention that I sometimes think that God has a sly sense of humour?
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Now on to the topic at hand. I guess when talking about my religious beliefs, I can split the narrative into two posts detailing firstly, how I think about God at a broader rational(izing) level and, secondly, how that relates to my day-to-day life. Let me admit now itself that the links there are tenuous and the arguments inconclusive, and it all eventually comes down to belief and force of habit, so if you're hoping for a cogently argued piece on why everybody should go to church on Sunday, you may as well quit reading now. Consdier yourself warned.
When I was in school in Cochin, we used to have a weekly class on the Gita, taught by the Biology teacher who, incidentally, was an Ottamthullal dancer in his spare time (true story, though I'm a little hazy on whether it was Ottamthullal or Kathakali). One of the few things I remember from that class was that, during a discourse about God's existence, he said that the only people who have a complete definition of God are atheists, because only if you have a complete definition can you put it to the test and then say for sure that God does not exist. That's not entirely true, but I think it is a good way to start thinking about how the way we think about God is constrained by the limits of human comprehension.
Consider this: let's say you have a whole bunch of ants sealed up in an ant farm so you can observe them, but they are pretty much oblivious to the existence of the world outside of the farm. Assuming those ants were developed enough to think about these things, how would they think about a god in this case? Being at the top of the food chain within the farm, they'd probably assume that god was very much like themselves. The funny thing is, as the owner of the ant farm, you could pretty much play god with them if you felt like it, but they'd still think of you in ant terms - perhaps as a deity with six legs and magical pincers or something, until you revealed yourself as a human, at which point they probably would not even be able to comprehend your existence in non-ant terms.
Now that's not a great thought experiment, but what I wanted to bring out was that we as humans are far too vested in trying to think of god in strictly human terms, with broadly human motives and human emotions. Remaking god in our own image, as it were. And yet, if god as an entity really exists, it seems to me that he/she/it would be far too complex a being for us to wrap our minds around, far more complex than the idea of a human being would be to an ant. When we do prove that our earlier beliefs are wrong, that only demonstrates our own small-mindedness and ignorance. This doesn't prove that God clearly does nor does not exist, it's just saying that thinking about Him/Her in terms of human logic may not provide a sufficient answer. It then comes down to a question of belief or faith.
However, if god really is so complex, it does make it tougher to assign emotions or motives. We would like to believe he has a soft spot for us, but the ants in our hypothetical ant farm might also believe the same thing about the humans who own the farm. This is one of the things I definitely haven't figured out completely yet - how to engage with this idea of God. After all, if I don't know if there's a plan or what that plan might be, I may as well live my life assuming that there's no plan, or at best, that I'll play just an incidental role in any larger plan.
At this point, things get really murky, so I'm going to stop for now, and in my next post I'll try to cover how I try to engage with my religious beliefs on a day-to-day basis.
Right now I need to go get a haircut.
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Instead, to spur myself into writing something and to see if anybody still bothers to read the blog, I am going to steal an idea from Tyler Cowen and invite regular readers to nominate topics they would like me write about. Obviously, since I am nowhere near being the sort of stud that Cowen is, I hope the topics will revolve around stuff where it makes sense to have me write something original, rather than pasting stuff from Wikipedia or something. Also, since I'm typing on my phone, stuff that doesn't require me to type out long essays would be preferable.
So far I haven't really established any particular tone or style for this blog, so hopefully this will give me an idea about what sticks with the regular readers, and what aspect of my writing sucks. Let me know what you think.
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Now those mailing lists weren't perfect, but they had some redeeming features-they were strictly opt-in, there was a clear reason for their formation (better than, say, being defaulted the 'India' network on Fb), they were reasonably simple to figure out if you knew how to use e-mail and the rules for posting and moderation within the network could be tweaked by the users themselves. Set against that was the pain of having loads of unread mails cluttering your inbox, including flame-wars, personal mails because people replied to the group instead of the sender and even the odd out-of-office auto-reply. Even today, most of the mails in my Gmail account in the last 6 months seem to be from members of a particular mailing list that I'm part of.
So now that Google's come out with Buzz and the initial enthusiasm has worn off, I find myself wondering why they didn't try integrating Buzz with Google Groups. Instead of opting users into one universal social network they could have provided a platform for multiple overlapping networks. People could choose which networks they wanted to join, what permission levels they wanted to set for the group, and they'd only need to share something once to the group. Instead of receiving 10 emails from members of a group with the same attachment being forwarded around with new comments, you could have just one instance of the item, with comments tacked on. Want to keep your work contacts different from your other friends? Set up different networks. With opt-in, there'd be less chances of twitter-style bots. And instead of those irritating messages on fb about '1 new survey for you to answer' etc, Google could simply show some discreet adwords on the side tailored for the network, similar to the ads shown within Gmail (maybe network members could even choose to some extent what types of ads they want to see=> more targeted ads =>happier marketers and customers).
It wouldn't necessarily be as flashy as facebook, but it could lead to more communicative networks, with more useful information.
Not to mention, it would reduce the chances of my being woken up at 1.00 AM because a new mail hit my phone, informing the mailing list that _______ is not in office right now and will be out on vacation with limited access to his e-mail, but we can contact his colleague _______ for any urgent matter.
Friday, 12 February 2010
However, if I had waited long enough I probably never would have written anything at all since there is a tendency when you really begin to learn something about a thing not to want to write about it but rather to keep on learning about it always and at no time, unless you are very egotistical, which, of course, accounts for many books, will you be able to say: now I know all about this and will write about it.I think that 'tendency' is also partly why I blog a lot less these days - as I've gotten more aware about the world in general and about the skill involved in writing, I end up spending more time reading others (and sharing a lot of what I read online through Google Reader) while discarding most of my own output as being not very good.
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
- Firstly, the proprietor of this blog has gone and bought a flat in Bangalore and is now slowly coming to terms with his debt profile and the intricacies of plumbing. Once that is done, more regular blogging
- Secondly, and more importantly, this blogger has been informed that he will become an uncle sometime this year. Yay me! Or rather, yay my sister and brother-in-law.