Saturday, January 26

What does it mean to be British?

I was laughing my head off reading this. Why do people want to define what it means to be British, I dont understand. I am quite happy to be just British, thank you very much. I quote:

What does it mean to be British? How do you express it in a country that believes self-promotion to be embarrassing? And how do you deal with a defining trait of the people you are trying to define: their habit of making fun of worthy government proposals?

The readers’ suggestions included “Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Asbo, Tesco” (Asbo stands for “anti-social behavior order,” a law-enforcement tool, while Tesco is a ubiquitous supermarket chain); “Once Mighty Empire, Slightly Used”; “At Least We’re Not French”; and “We Apologize for the Inconvenience.” The winner, favored by 20.9 percent of the readers, was “No Motto Please, We’re British.”

“The point I was making is, this idea of a statement of Britishness; I cannot think of anything less British than that,” said 25-year-old David Bishop, author of the winning motto.

I dont think we can define what Britishness is, it will defeat the purpose. Where do you start? the history? the culture? the language? everything is so diffuse but still goes to make up something that is brilliant. Best I can explain is by reference to something.

Define atmosphere. Well, you can define it by the percentage of oxygen, nitrogen, other gases, etc. But the air we breathe is one of the causes of life taking form on earth. And does the definition help? no. Similarly why do you want to define being British? Just say we are and that's it! :)

Malaysia heading for breakdown in inter-ethnic relations

Whenever there is a mixed legal code (civil and criminal), it causes issues. Whether you are talking about Saudi Arabia, India, United Kingdom, Canada, or Israel, one has problems. Specially with the minorities. See here for my previous essay on Sons of Soil. and was reminded of it after reading this news story today.

But Malaysia is heading for trouble if it keeps on doing stuff like this to the Buddhist Chinese minority, the Christian minority (although this got resolved), and the Indian minority. The only way to resolve this to a certain extent is via secularism but till your majority religion allows for space and respect for other religions, this problem will keep on raising its head. Heck, look at India and UK, firmly secular but still having problems.

Photo Essay: A Dastarkhan in Lucknow

A Dastarkhan is the name of the white sheet which is spread out on the floor of a room and then food served on top of it. You can find the usage of this word from Iran to Afghanistan to Pakistan to India, and I bumped into this in Lucknow. So it can be called as a the place where very fragrant food dishes are served and so it turned out in Lucknow.

Lucknow is famous for its cuisine. Specially its kebabs which are so soft that they melt in your mouth and there are a variety of Kebabs in Lucknow. Kakori Kebabs, Tunde Kebabs, Skek Kebabs, Hariyali Kebabs, Galawat Kebabs etc. etc. (also try Shreemal) (Also see here for a good overview of Kebabs in India). There are two reasons why they are so soft that they would melt in their mouth.

The first is that the Nawabs of Lucknow were so indolent that they did not want to even chew. The second reason given is that because they were so spoilt, by the time they hit their twenties, their teeth had rotted away due to drug usage and over-indulgence in the Lucknow desserts and sweets.

Be that as it may, I have all my teeth and boyo, the kebabs were brilliant. But I do not like the food served in the big restaurants and given that my-laws are vegetarian, it means that we have to order in. So I decided to go buy some good meat stuff and what I wanted was from the road-side stalls.

And my father-in-law pointed me into this direction. It was a short street, hardly 50 meters long, with about 6 shops on the left and 2 on the right.


We went to dastarkhan which was the second shop on the right.

And the cooks were busy cooking. Notice the sign in the background, only refined oil is used. What is India coming to???? refined oil? what happened to engine oil?

It was quite crowded with people queued out outside

people eating inside quickly, this was in December, it was cold, but still was heaving outside

There were people wanting take away as well.

Here's your menu. I personally thought it was a bit expensive. Compared to other places that I have eaten, that is. A full chicken for 150 rupees? That's expensive. But then, the aroma was brilliant.

The order for the kebabs and biryani was taking some time, so I went walkabout. This was the shop opposite Dastarkhan

Famous Fish Fry. It wont be India without spelling mistakes on shop front. Would Sir like to have some Chiken Rosted?

This place was also heaving.

Some of the other shops were a bit emptier.

Quite a crowd, eh? including the doggie!

the making of a rumali roti

the first shop on the right which makes fried stuff, you can see chicken and fish pieces hanging up around the thela.

And the crowd around the thela. Can you see the building behind the shops? the tall one? That's Gemini Intercontinental Hotel and we got a biryani from there as well.

I am not sure that the Biryani corner was that good, so I avoided it as well. Needless to say, the food was brilliant. I did a blind comparison test of the biryani from Gemini Intercontinental Hotel and from Dastarkhan. I am afraid Dastarkhan won hands down! (my daughter preferred the other one, but I pulled rank and weight and overruled her for the next time, she WILL learn who's the daddy!)

But again, if you are ever in Lucknow, do make it a point to visit Dastarkhan and enjoy!

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TV Commentator Captured on film himself

On the day that the news about the Soc-Gen fraud story broke, I captured this TV commentator being interviewed on Bishopsgate, with a background of the city obviously! Click on thumbnail to get a bigger better picture picture.


The British Sense of Humour on the backside of a truck


I was driving around in pouring rain in London when I got stuck behind this Waitrose truck.


So manoeuvred closer to the truck and noticed the writing on the bottom.

I noticed the writing on the bottom. It says, I'm a veggie van. I drink biodiesel


And on the other panel, it says, I dont like fast food so I am speed limited.

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant understated humour. Loved it.


I took this photo early in the morning. You can see the platform lights, a very bright moon and the lights of a tube train. All moving at different speeds! :)

Islamic Finance and Credit Rating

For what it is worth, I agree with this. Credit Rating agencies have to take into account all material information while rating bonds. So why on earth can they say that they are rating everything except for whether they are sharia compliant or not? Well, if somebody withdraws the sharia fatwa, then the bondholders are sunk, so this evaluation by the credit rating agencies is crucial! If nothing else, it will force standardisation on the market and make the credit rating transparent.

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Some work from Banksys. Specially the ones which made me go hmmm. Do check out his gallery.













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Mother sacrificed her life by refusing cancer treatment so her premature baby would live

This took courage!.

Four months into her pregnancy, Lorraine Allard was devastated to learn she was in the advanced stages of cancer.

Doctors advised her to have an abortion and start chemotherapy straight away.

Instead, with steadfast courage, she insisted on waiting long enough to give her unborn son a chance to survive, telling her husband Martyn: "If I am going to die, my baby is going to live."

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Thursday, January 24

Eastern Europe, FDI and outsourcing

1. Ozlem Onaran and Engelbert Stockhammer, The effect of FDI and foreign trade on wages in the Central and Eastern European Countries in the post-transition era: A sectoral analysis for the manufacturing industry, Structural Change and Economic Dynamics Volume 19, Issue 1, , March 2008, Pages 66-80.
The aim of this paper is to estimate the effect of FDI and trade openness on average sectoral wages in the manufacturing industry in the CEECs in the post-transition era. We utilize a cross-country sector-specific econometric analysis based on one-digit level panel data for manufacturing industry in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia for the period of 2000-2004. The results suggest that in the short run, productivity has a weak effect on wages, unemployment a strong one, FDI a positive one that is driven mostly by the capital intensive and skilled sectors, and international trade none. In capital-intensive sectors the effect of productivity seems stronger than in labor intensive ones, and the effect of unemployment seems stronger in unskilled sectors then in skilled ones. In the medium-run, the effects of productivity remain modest and that of unemployment stronger. Interestingly, the effect of FDI turns negative. Exports have a negative effect on wages and imports a positive one. However this negative effect can also be an indicator of inverse causality, and should be interpreted cautiously.
Keywords: Openness; European integration; Wage bargaining; CEECs

2. Matija Rojec and Joze P. Damijan, Relocation via foreign direct investment from old to new EU member states: Scale and structural dimension of the process, Structural Change and Economic Dynamics Volume 19, Issue 1, , March 2008, Pages 53-65.
The paper analyzes two issues related to the relocation via FDI from old to new EU member states. The first is the nature and scale of the relocation via FDI, i.e. the existing and future potential for relocations. The second is structural characteristics of the relocation process, i.e. which industries are in the heart of the process. We apply the so-called flying geese model (FGM) framework to analyze the structural trends in inward FDI to the new member states. We claim that it is mostly efficiency-seeking FDI in manufacturing, which is the bearer of the relocation process. The existing stock of efficiency-seeking FDI in the new member states is very small in terms of overall EU-15 outward FDI, but at the same time results in rather high level of foreign penetration in the new member states. These limit the existing and future scale of relocation to the new member states. In terms of the structural aspect of relocation, efficiency-seeking FDI in the new member states is increasingly in medium tech and in lower end segments of high tech industries, while the attractiveness of these countries for low tech labor intensive production is gradually vanishing. Low tech industries will be increasingly relocated outside EU-25.
Keywords: Foreign direct investment (FDI); Relocation process; Low tech industries

3. Martin Falk and Yvonne Wolfmayr, Services and materials outsourcing to low-wage countries and employment: Empirical evidence from EU countries, Structural Change and Economic Dynamics Volume 19, Issue 1, , March 2008, Pages 38-52.

This paper presents further insights into the employment effects of the international outsourcing of services to low-wage countries based on a sample of manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries for five EU countries. For the non-manufacturing sector, our results indicate that while the total of internationally purchased services is not important, purchased services from low-wage countries have a statistically significant but rather small negative impact on employment. In terms of the magnitude of its impact, the results suggest that outsourcing of services to low-wage countries has decreased employment by 0.2 percentage points per year from 1995 to 2000. However, we do not find any negative effect of the change of internationally purchased business services from low-wage countries on the demand for labour, suggesting in turn that other types of purchased services are responsible for the negative employment effects. For the manufacturing sector, while purchased services from low-wage countries is not significant, the outsourcing of intermediate materials to low-wage countries appears to have a relatively small negative impact on the demand for labour. The effect is more pronounced for intermediate materials from China and the East Asian countries than for those from Central and East European countries.
Keywords: International outsourcing of materials and services; Trade in intermediate inputs; Labour demand; Cross-country analysis

4. Wilfried Altzinger and Michael Landesmann, Relocation of production and jobs to Central and Eastern Europe--Who gains and who loses, Structural Change and Economic Dynamics Volume 19, Issue 1, , March 2008, Pages 1-3.

Keywords: Relocation of jobs; Central and Eastern Europe; Foreign direct investment; European integration

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Some more Web 2.0 thoughts

You know what scares me? The sheer ignorance of most of senior management in financial institutions about what is out there in terms of technology and clients. Here are some questions that you might want to ask your MD next time you bump into him:

Say we talk about Wikipedia. As Wikipedia is the second most credible source for business information, when was the last time you read about your firm on Wikipedia? What does the entry say? What is your policy for updating information on Wikipedia?

Do you know what your customer age group 18-25 are doing online? And how does that relate to your business model?

Do you know what your customers are saying online? and do you know that what they are saying online about you will stay online and permanent and forever in the public eye for infinity? How do you plan to manage that?

Or what about recruitment? The fact that recruitment is happening online? in Second Life?

Do you know what your children are up to on the internet?


Photo Essay: The making of a dosa

We went to the Taj, an upper class hotel in Lucknow, India for lunch.

Lovely hotel

with a great pool but it was too cold!!

But the entrance showed a very very amusing board, it says, "Arms and Ammunition not allowed" We are not allowed to hunt for our food? I cannot carry my pet howitzer in with me? I cannot wear my machine gun ammo necklace? what kind of a hotel is this?

Anyway, we went off to the restaurant which had a buffet as well. My eye caught some amazing pumpkin carvings.

This is supposed to be an urdu word which I wrote down on a napkin and then my little munchkin decided to use it to blow her nose. In all that excitement, I forgot about it.

If somebody can make it out, that would be great. This is a profile view.

Here's a sun burst. Amazing work, can you imagine the delicacy of carving and the patience? Amazing indeed.

Anyway, I made a beeline for the Dosa place. The cook was looking very anxious till I told him to relax!

so you pour the dough from a small cup and then spread it out thinly on the hot plate. He put some oil on the hot plate first.

Then while the dosa was being cooked, he put some dry potato curry on the side to heat it up.

then he diced the potatoes thinly

And then the veggies landed in the middle of the dosa

Then using the spatula to lift it around the edges to make sure it is not sticking.

Then folding it into a triangle

Getting the plate

Then adding the chutney.

And there's your masala dosa.

And this one is a plain dosa with no filling of the dry potato curry.

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