Saturday, April 9

This week’s update

Bit of a mixed bag this week. While one of the charities is going through some serious funding issues, that means that I as the interim treasurer is having to pour over financials and making the usual mess of it. Its so important in this day and age to make sure that your funding and your expenses are matched, otherwise we end up in severe trouble and then the basic existence of the charity itself is threatened. Specially the fact that your funding is very lumpy and not so certain while your outflow is smooth and very certain. The basic difference between your fixed and variable costs. Not good. The more I learn about this and the fascinating links with the public funding the more astonished I am.

On the SIFE front, went to hear the LSE team present to the business advisors. They did a fantastic job, I was so proud of what they have achieved, very professional and slick. I like!. My boys and girls, very nice. I do think they will do brilliantly at the national competition. We also need to print off their Annual Report. Will try to get a copy online.

On the IT4CH front, got the 1000 PC units from the bank, now the challenge is where to put them all, usually we get them in dribs and drabs, but now we got the full lot. So we need to worry about it a bit, but Pat is on the case.

This time when I am in India, I will try to pop into Disha to see how they are getting along. Long time no talk to them. I wonder how they are getting along. Ma and Baba are not getting a bit old to go check them out so have to go there myself.

Designed for failure: A critique of the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union

You might wonder why a banker is talking about fish? Well, there are many reasons, not least that I am a Bengali and fish is in my blood or fishy blood or bloody fish, but anyway, you get what I mean. Fish is integral to my culture :). But that’s the jokey reason, i am interested in fish because it is a crucial part of the world’s economic, political and environmental system. If you do not manage your fish stocks properly, you WILL get into trouble because unemployment in a vital sector will plunge, nutrition across the wider population will be impacted, the upstream and downstream impacts of lack of fish is huge, and so on and so forth. Being in a bank unfortunately guarantees that every problem will ultimately impact the banking system in some shape or form. Whether its to do with corporate funding, interest rates, bankruptcies, you name it, a bank has to handle it.

One would have expected that a supranational body like the EU, which was original designed for making sure that the Coal and Steel production in the core European Union countries was coordinated, could have handled something like the fish stocks in the EU? After all, the Europeans have been fishing for thousands of years, much longer than they have been making steel. But no. This paper bluntly puts in clear terms, the reasons why the European Union has spectacularly failed in managing its fish stocks via the Common Fisheries Policy and has inexorably lead to overfishing, massive unemployment in so many fishing communities around Europe, huge subsidy bills and basically screwed up the sea environment. So what were the issues?

1. Biological Issues: Every year, the scientists propose a sustainable level of fish stocks based upon a rather clear mathematical model based upon unexploited stock size, the maximum economic yield, the maximum sustainable yield and a precautionary lower biomass limit. Based upon this model, you know how much fish to catch. There are other factors such as when do juvenile fish become adults and start spawning, how many times do you want the fish to spawn before being caught, etc. Guess what? the European Commission and the Council of Ministers usually agree a limit circa 50% higher than what the scientists propose. Hmmm, that really helps guys.

2. Economic Issues: Fish stocks suffer from the problem of common goods, everybody owns fish and nobody owns them at the same time. Its like common pasture grounds where everybody can graze their cows but nobody has to take responsibility for the pasture. So individual motivation is to overfish and thus have overcapacity. If you provide fishing quotas to fishermen, which is comparatively economically efficient (even if you consider the 50% over permissioning from above), it still doesnt work efficiently as monopolies can form, quotas dont really address the issue of the catch size itself and finally this doesnt apply to fishermen from outside the political structure. Not much can be done about Japanese fishermen fishing off the economic zones in Europe, can you? And who will validate once the fishing boat lands up in a Japanese port? not the EU authorities anyway. In the EU’s case, subsidies have been given for developing boats, subsidising fuel, and so on and so forth. Totally distorted economic market in Europe.

3. Legal Issues: You have to have ONE regulatory / legal body to handle issues such as this. But no, the whole panoply of rules, regulations, decrees, courts, councils, and and and is just complex, non transparent, riddled with inefficiencies, cannot enforce suitably, and so on and so forth.

4. Political Issues: The fisheries ministers in the respective EU nations are not judged on the basis of how well they manage fish stocks on an European wide basis but on how much quota they manage to get for their own constituents. There is no minister representing the poor fish, see? So everybody goes about raping the fish and devil take the hindmost. Also because this is a slow decline, politicians do not take responsibility as they will be long gone by the time the populations actually collapse. Due to different election timelines, there is no consistent policy making either. Consequently, the European Fisheries policy frequently reduces to the lowest common denominator.

These are just few of the issues that we are facing. Looking at how the EU actually handled something that was huge and crucial such as the Bosnian Crisis, the Kosovo Crisis or even the Greek Debt Crisis, I am not sanguine how it will handle a situation like this with the fish stocks, but still, some attempts need to be made to address this problem from a multi disciplinary perspective.

Friday, April 8

Cannibalism in Pakistan

I have never heard of cannibalism in Pakistan. But this news story was quite interesting. I quote:

LAHORE: Police on Sunday have arrested two corpse-eaters from the Darya Khan area of Bhakkar, Punjab.

The arrested men claimed that they have been feeding on dead bodies of humans since the past 10 years.

According to details, a 24-year-old girl, Saira of Kahawarh Kallan died last night and was buried in a graveyard nearby. When Saira’s relatives went to her grave to offer prayers, they found the grave opened and realised that the body was not there anymore. They reported the matter to the police.

The police immediately tried to trace the responsible by studying and following the footprints left near the grave and arrested Arif and Farman. Police also seized coffins and parts of other corpses from their home.

The arrested men admitted that they had been eating the flesh of dead humans and dogs since a decade.

Does this have anything to do with Hindu tantrik rituals? The names of the chaps sound Muslim to me so that doesnt make sense. Just gone quietly mad? or wanting a high protein diet? Or members of some kind of a zombie worshipping cult? what?

Wednesday, April 6

Dieters are cranky gits–and that turns women off

I am trying to reduce my weight as the whole world knows. Also to look good (although I think that ship has sailed, i have a face that my mum doesn't like either)  But I thought I am not cranky, but this article shows otherwise. I quote

A bad mood is no different. When we push our mind too hard, asking it to refrain from carbs and cigarettes, we struggle to avoid the negative thoughts and emotions that lead to sour moods. Consider this 2007 study: The scientists told subjects to refrain from eating a tempting chocolate donut for a few minutes. Then, they insulted these poor (and probably hungry) experimental volunteers. Not surprisingly, those who had successfully resisted the donut were more likely to get aggressive in response to the insult. Or look at the medical literature, in which people on diets are typically “irritable and aggressive.” (This is the so-called cranky dieter effect.) Although we’d like to be happy and polite, those positive moods take cognitive work, and our brain is too tired to care. We lose our temper because we lack the willpower to swallow our angry words.

heh, so i now have a good excuse to be a grumpy old sod. Victor Bhaskar Meldrew in person. Crotchety old git.

But here is the problem, grumpy old gits are not attractive to women for some strange reason. I quote:

Producing humor might function as a fitness indicator associated with greater desirability during dating selection. A male confederate in a bar was instructed to tell (or not tell) funny jokes to two other male confederates. A few minutes later, when the second of two male confederates left, the first male confederate asked a female who was near his table and who had heard the funny jokes for her phone number. The previous expression of humor was associated with greater compliance with the male confederate's request and with a higher positive evaluation. The possible effects of humor are discussed from an evolutionary perspective.

Eh? I thought dieting would make me more attractive to other human beings. So all I have to do is to crack jokes? Damn this diet, sod it, i am going to go bake brownies now.

btw, another research from the same site, it tickled my sapiosexual bone (no pun intended, oh! who am I kidding, the bone was a pun!):

To explain the pervasive role of humor in human social interaction and among mating partner preferences, Miller (2000a) proposed that intentional humor evolved as an indicator of intelligence. To test this, we looked at the relationships among rater-judged humor, general intelligence, and the Big Five personality traits in a sample of 185 college- age students (115 women, 70 men). General intelligence positively predicted rater-judged humor, independent of the Big Five personality traits. Extraversion also predicted rater- judged humor, although to a lesser extent than general intelligence. General intelligence did not interact with the sex of the participant in predicting rating scores on the humor production tasks. The current study lends support to the prediction that effective humor production acts as an honest indicator of intelligence in humans. In addition, extraversion, and to a lesser extent, openness, may reflect motivational traits that encourage humor production.

Tuesday, April 5

Deficits in the USA, an interesting view

Something to worry about. Got this in an email

My Troubled Relative

I need your advice. I have a relative in financial trouble. He makes $50,000 a year, but he spent $74,591 last year, and his prospects of making $50,000 this year look kind of bad. There's a good chance he will get a pay cut.

Unfortunately, he's been overspending for quite a while and has charged $295,632 on credit cards. He's been lucky enough to get low teaser rates, and when those expired, he's been able to transfer the balances to other low rate cards.   So he keeps charging $24,591 per year beyond his income. If he can't keep rolling over his debt at super low rates the interest will quickly eat him up.

But, that's not his worst problem . He convinced his family he was a great investor. His parents gave him a portion of their income for many years, and he promised he would make regular payments to them, and cover their medical care, when they got too old to work. The problem is, he spent all the money. He also has dependents who are poor, and he promised to help them out too. He needs $2,372,953 sitting in a bank account earning an interest rate that keeps up with inflation. But the money is all gone.

So what should he do? Well, his Republican friends, who say they are responsible with money, have decided he must really cut spending to get things under control. There are lots of things he can live without, so he should reduce spending by $1,292 per year. His Democrat friends say that's too much. It would be a great hardship to cut spending that drastically, and $137 should be about right.

So here's the picture:

  • $50,000: Income
  • $74,591: Expenses
  • $24,591: Deficit
  • $295,632: Short-term revolving debt at artificially low rates
  • $2,372,632: Unfunded promises
  • $1,292: Republican friends budget cuts
  • $137: Democrat friends budget cuts

So, what does the future look like for my Uncle Sam? Do you think he can keep going like this much longer? What about his family that's counting on the promises he made to them? Do you see any possible solution?

Multiply the above numbers by 47,620,000 and you get the fiscal picture for the United States Government in 2010:

  • $2.381 Trillion: Revenue
  • $3.552 Trillion: Budget
  • $1.171 Trillion: Deficit
  • $14.078 Trillion: Debt
  • $113 Trillion: Unfunded Liabilities (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid)
  • $0.0615 Trillion ($61.5 Billion): Republican proposed budget cuts
  • $0.0065 Trillion ($6.5 Billion): Democrat  proposed budget cuts



US National Debt Clock:


Indian Famine Sufferers 1880’s

From this site.

And you know what the tragedy is? This was avoidable. Britain has much to answer for.

Monday, April 4

The death of a cosmonaut

This was one of the saddest things I read. Once upon a time, I dreamt of being an astronaut. Had tons of books on space and the stars and the moon mission and Soyuz. Even had a poster of Yuri Gagarin. Knew about Laika the dog and Valentina Tereshkova. The space race. On certain summer days, while sleeping in the garden, we could lie and see up observing the satellites with my mum.

Those days came back when i read this story. such a sad story.

A cosmonaut knowingly going to his death and then crying with rage at the bloody politicians and engineers who sent him to his death. See the charred remains? that’s all that was left of him once the capsule met the earth in a fiery end.

And willingly going to his death so that his friend, Gagarin (on the left), who was the backup pilot, would survive.

Go to the link, you can actually listen to his last words. You can also buy this recording. The capsule is overheating. Felt very very sad. How lonely can you be? utterly, up there in space, raging against the bastards.

Sunday, April 3

Challenges galore with funding

As you might know, I have recently joined Home Start as a trustee and was asked to help out temporarily as a treasurer as well. This organisation with its local chapters helps out families in trouble, whether drugs, lack of jobs, immigration problems, domestic violence, mental disability, you name it. So the charity trains volunteers to go to these families and speaks to them. Helps to put in a plan to remediate the issue, whether getting a job or to get medical assistance or simply escape domestic violence.

Anyway, the entire Home Start organisation is in trouble. This is pretty much almost fully funded by the government, the central government and local council. And the charities, with their fairly high fixed costs, is really susceptible to funding cuts or even delays.

Here’s a good article on a similar charity (SureStart) and how the funding changes are impacting this charity. Quoting large chunks of it.

Daycare Trust research suggests up to 86% of centres are facing budget cuts and that up to 250 may close in 2011. But ministers say there is enough money in the system to retain the centres. They want to refocus the centres to help more disadvantaged families with health visitors picking up some of their early intervention work.Sure Start Children's Centres are being cut in some places because the grant which funds them was cut by 11% in the emergency budget, and again in the comprehensive spending review by almost the same percentage.

Then the government removed the protection from the Sure Start budget. This has left them vulnerable as councils sought to make up losses to their central government grants overall. As local authorities have set out their plans to reduce budgets local campaigns have sprung up from parents anxious about losing the services and help they offer to them and their children.

One of the reasons why I have joined is that I am firmly of the belief that we can switch this idea of funding for families in our neighbourhood from sucking on the government’s tit to getting money from local businesses and other families. We need to make things more efficient and make this sustainable. I am going to speak to the ex treasurer of another charity which has gone bankrupt to find out why they did so. Well, we know why they went bust, they ran out of money from the government and were not able to replace it with private or alternative funding.

by the way, if you know of anybody who wishes to be a trustee and lives in and around Harrow, Ruislip, Hillingdon, and has experience of managing organisations or public sector units, happy to hear from them. In particular, very happy to hear from people who have HR experience of any sort.


In other news:

1. Sustainability news, I am working to introduce a system of getting some actual revenue raising ideas on the table from our chaps. Sustainable cost savings is all right and good but the real challenge is to find something that raises revenues. Now THAT is a good challenge for me : )

2. On the IT4CH front, we are getting more properties across the country to store IT equipment and we are looking to find a deputy for Pat, we need some assistance on a part time basis. I spoke at couple of dinners to raise money for the charity. The first one was on cloud computing and the second was on asset management. Just shows that people are willing to pay me for the nothing that I know about and just regurgitate, lol.

3. We are moving ahead on the books for schools idea in India, still in the formative stage, but the bank has a relationship with a local school where we are contributing some stuff. So introduced couple of people together and seems like its working, we might have a bit of a movement on it.

4. On the academic front, am hoping to engage couple of MBA students and get them working on couple of projects, they get a business project and we get some high quality research out of them

5. Also meeting another university’s academic business coordinator to see what we can do to improve the liaison between the firm and the university.

6. Am hoping to join a corporate sustainability organisation, i need to understand more about this malarkey. Lets see.

7. I am going to go next week to the LSE SIFE unit’s presentations on the national competitions, I hope they win, they are my boys and girls :)

What we see and what kids see

That’s what I want to make sure, stay as a child and see what they see..

How much do you see? :) Except perhaps for the first one Smile