Saturday, July 30

It doesnt cost you a dime to attend Uni

We were invited to a concert at the O2 by The Transformation Trust. Lets not talk about the music, ok? But first the pics


We had some speeches at the Sky Bar while I was taking pics.


I am trying out my hipsmatic iphone app. Weird pics, or what?

Anyway, then went to the seats.


There were 16000 kids in the hall.


On the left and on the right, its filling up.


Where we were sitting. Kannu and his friend went off backstage to see the acts. I couldnt even pronounce some of them, let alone know them


More people flooding in.


Then it starts.

A panorama.

Then Martin Lewis came on and talked about how important and easy it is to go to Uni. See here for his report. Its quite important. Basically he said the following points in his slide:




Very good, we need more information out there about education. I have now found a person inside the bank who can speak about this link with the transformation trust. So hopefully something will move on that. Very creditable of the Trust.

Do I suffer from these phobias?

From here


Here's a list of 13 of the most common phobias bankers have.

1. Atychiphobia – fear of failure. A bit yet. Hate failing. Used to fail regularly at school but then I had extenuating circumstances (girls)

2. Autophobia – fear of loneliness (billy banker no mates). Not, happy to be alone.

3. Coulrophobia – fear of clowns (boss related). Nope, most certainly not, usually I am the clown.

4. Decidophobia – fear of making decisions. lol, no, dont think so, love to make decisions

5. Ergophobia – fear of work or functioning (another boss related phobia). nope, dont think so.

6. Gelotophobia – fear of being laughed at (bonus related). nah, dont really care about what people think of me anyway.

7. Gerascophobia – fear of growing old or aging (career related). well, i am already an old fart anyway.

8. Halitophobia - fear of bad breath (usually boss related). yes, this is a bit of a fear, when I used to smoke, sometimes it felt that something had crawled inside my mouth and died there. Smoker breath. Disgusting now, specially when it makes me wish to smoke as well.

9. Nomophobia – fear of being out of mobile / cell phone contact. well, i do have a horror of being without my iphone. heh.

10. Sociophobia – fear of people or social situations (client related). nope, happy to meet people.

11. Scopophobia – fear of being looked at or stared at (layoff related). look away to your hearts content, lol

12. Telephone phobia – fear or reluctance of taking phone calls (layoff related). some people specially lol but no, i am usually on the phone.

13. Tokophobia – fear of childbirth (maternity leave related). most certainly not, i actually would love being pregnant.

Thursday, July 28

Kosher or Animal Cruelty?

Well, i am afraid I am on the side of the animal cruelty people. Yes, we have spoken about this many times, at end of the day, we are killing the animal so drawing the line on how you kill the animal is hypocrisy, but then the idea is that you do need protein and please do not get me started on the vegetarian argument, but you do not need to needlessly torture or cause pain to the animals. And yes, many animal farms are bad but that’s not what the usual laws state. The law states, in countries like UK and USA and EU and and and that you are not to do cruelty to animals and there is a pretty good state of history and precedent in defining what cruelty is.

See what the Dutch are doing. I quote:

The bill sponsored by the tiny Animal Rights Party, the first such group in Europe to win seats in a national parliament, passed the lower house of parliament and must be approved by the upper house before becoming law. It stipulates that livestock must be stunned before being slaughtered, contrary to the Jewish kashrut laws and Muslim halal laws that specify that animals killed for their meat must be unwounded at the time of slaughtering. Stunning damages the nervous system.
“This way of killing causes unnecessary pain to animals. Religious freedom cannot be unlimited,” Marianne Thieme, head of Animal Rights Party, said before the vote. “For us religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins.”

So what are the Jews saying?

“Has the freedom of religion already been ritually slaughtered?” wondered a tweeter named ‘Bozoc.’ The Netherlands’ Muslim and Jewish communities – about 1 million and 40,000, respectively, in a total population of 16 million – have condemned the proposed ban as a violation of their religious freedom. But as Jacobs pointed out on Tuesday, “only the most observant Muslims – some 30 percent of the total – are against stunning animals.”

But this isnt a question of freedom of religion. You have the right to practise whatever religion you wish as long as your rights do not interfere with other people’s rights. And as it turns out, animals have a right not to have a cruel death. Mind you, the animals do not have a right to life (that’s an interesting conundrum) but there you go.

Incidentally, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland ban ritual slaughter already. So there is precedent. And yes, male circumcision is as bad as FGM. Let the kid grow up, when he is an adult, he can make the decision to lop off the tip of his todger or to put in a ring.

Incidentally, check this situation out about dogs who get their tails docked.

"MPs have rightly signalled that it is unacceptable in a civilised society to amputate a puppy's tail purely because some people think that it is aesthetically pleasing to disable a dog in this way," he said.

Well said, the idea that for cosmetic or silly sod religions reasons you will go about inflicting cruelty to animals is frankly Neanderthal.

Wednesday, July 27

I dont see the sense of exempting religions from taxes

This idea that religions or even charities should be exempt from taxes is not very clear in my mind. Tax exemptions are basically subsidies. In which somebody foregoes benefits and/or pays more in tax so that the recipient of these subsidies can presumably do something that the government thinks would not be possible without.

So when we give tax exemptions to temples or charities or churches, we are basically saying that their work is beneficial to society. But if that is indeed the case, how do we judge that benefit? Transparently? there is great difficulty in doing so but I tend to disagree, take these benefits away. They benefit from all the other bits that the taxes bring like security, water, electricity, etc.

See this story from Greece. I quote:

The Greek Orthodox Church owns more land than anyone except the state, employs thousands on the public payroll, has a stake in the nation's biggest bank, but campaigners say its tax payments are derisory.

The Greek Orthodox Church has long enjoyed a privileged, some would say cosy, status when it comes to taxes in a country where it is responsible for the sole official religion, with one critic calling its complex finances at best opaque.

But the sovereign debt crisis that has rocked the Greek state, thrown hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and forced painful cuts in salaries, pensions and benefits, has raised fresh questions about the Church's tax position.

More than 100,000 people have joined a Greek Facebook page "Tax The Church", and 29,000 have so far signed an online petition urging the state to harness "the huge fortune of churches" to reduce Greece's crushing budget deficit.

More importantly:

The government is now under intense pressure from the IMF and the EU to sell off public assets, including real estate.

Part of the problem is no one knows how much property the Church has. Greece has no central land registry and the Church's decentralised structure means it does not know what it owns.

"The Greek Church is paying almost nothing in taxes to the Greek state for the total assets that it controls", one senior tax expert, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

From the smallest village in northern Greece, where farmers pay rent to the Church, to the smart suburbs of Athens, where the Church owns prime real estate in the seafront millionaires' neighbourhood of Vouliagmeni, the land holdings are enormous.


Tuesday, July 26

Evidence on Caste-Based Discrimination

The author carried out a survey which is quite common in the UK and USA to test for situations like discrimination and racism. Basically what you do is to take the same cv, duplicate it, change the name to say something that is "white race" sounding and something that is black race sounding or asian sounding, send to employers, see what the response is, and then try to show that the difference in the reaction to those applications is because of that variable (race, sex, region, location, etc.) being different. So this lady did this to Chennai based entry level white collar jobs and on websites between march and dec 2006. She found that a high caste applicant had to send out 6.2 cv's versus 7.4 for a low caste applicant, a difference of 20%. Male recruiters, Hindu recruiters and large firms showed the biggest difference on these 523 applications. But only 2 resumes were sent out, which is interesting, why didnt they send out 4 to correspond with the 4 categories? (other castes, Other backward castes, SC and ST)? in this study, because of this, the results are interesting but hardly surprising.

Now the difference between these is given by these stats: 2004-05 median per capita consumer expenditure bracket (in Rupees), within urban areas of India, was [580,675] for the SC, [675,790] for the ST, [675,790] for the OBC and [1100,1380] for the Other category. Interesting or what? Given the wide variety, it would have been interesting to see the response rate. Anyway. Some interesting bits. Lower caste Women get lower callbacks. And also for both customer services and front office/administration jobs. Now this is the interesting bit, they saw the recruiter bit from the name given in the advertisement. I am not really sure that the contact person in the advertisement is the actual manager. So this has to be taken with a grain of salt. For all you know, the contact name on the advertisement is the name of the junior most person whose responsibility is to handle advertisements in the HR department. But even without that, makes sense that male and Hindu recruiters would show this discrimination.

Firms without multiple domestic offices and foreign offices favour high caste applicants. makes sense, they are parochial firms but firms with multiple domestic and foreign offices prefer low caste applicants. I am not sure if the reverse explanation works. Bigger firms are, by definition, more amorphous and more bureaucratic. Thus they will end up hiring more low caste employees simply because of the probability distribution rather than any explicit liberal positive discrimination. The author suggests its due to political pressures in Tamil Nadu, the state where Chennai is based. Not clear, sorry. Other researchers seems to have found that there is no difference between high or low caste workers in IT but do find in call centre work. But all these points show up fascinating points on how caste is still in place but one positive thing that i take away from here is that i think this gap is reducing as more urbanisation happens and more firms become big and more education happens etc. etc. Would be good to confirm this with a repeated experiment in say 10 years time.

Here's the abstract.

Caste-based quotas in hiring have existed in the public sector in India for decades. Recently there has been debate about introducing similar quotas in private sector jobs. This paper uses a correspondence study to determine the extent of caste-based discrimination in the Indian private sector. On average low-caste applicants need to send 20 percent more resumes than high-caste applicants to get the same callback. Differences in callback which favor high-caste applicants are particularly large when hiring is done by male recruiters or by Hindu recruiters. This finding provides evidence that differences in callback between high and low-caste applicants are not entirely due to statistical discrimination. High-caste applicants are also differentially favored by firms with a smaller scale of operations, while low-caste applicants are favored by firms with a larger scale of operations. This finding is consistent with taste-based theories of discrimination and with commitments made by large firms to hire actively from among low-caste groups

Monday, July 25

Sangeeta’s interview at Asian Star Radio Station

Click here. Run the MP3 file and start from 9:30 minutes onwards for about 10 minutes.

Or else use this.

7 Tips from an Avid Photographer Traveling with Kids

Nice post here. My comments on each point.

1. Get up early, I agree with this one. Last year we went to Lake District and on one day, I woke up at 6AM and then went off to take pics of the Ambleside Waterfall. Its nice, I had it all quiet for me and spend couple of hours up the mountain next to the stream.

2. Give your kids point and shoot cameras, This is a good idea, I will try it

3. Include your children in the pictures. Completely agree. I dont seem to get into the habit of posing the kids in front of the monuments but prefer to take them in their natural habitat. Like this one of Diya observing a diorama at Beatrix Potter with magical eyes.

4. Work fast. Oh! yes, you have to work fast, otherwise you constantly hear, DADEEEEEEE!!!, lol

5. Kids can be a great ice breaker when you want to do people or street photography. Yep, agreed, great way to get people talking.

6. If you are traveling with your children and your spouse or significant other, plan for a day just for yourself. Yep, one day off for you out of 7, surely that makes sense? But then thankfully the family is good enough to accompany me on my perambulations.

7. Don’t set your expectations too high and be willing to make some compromise. I agree but then I am also a kid Smile with tongue out

Sunday, July 24

An inconvenient truth about USA Debt

Did you know this?

  • Not one penny of US debt has been repaid for 51 years: the last time US government funded debt actually decreased on a year-over-year basis was 1960
  • 97% of today's funded debt has been accumulated since August 1971 - the end of the Bretton Woods era by Nixon, and the terminal delinking of all fiat currencies from any and all hard assets, ushered in the era of modern-day hyper-debt insolvency
  • Obama projects 2.5% Fed Funds rate in budget calculations through 2020. Average Fed Funds rate since 1980: 5.7%; Since 2008: 0.00%, If average 5.7% rate was used, projected US deficit would increase by another $4.9 trillion by 2020
  • Obama projects 4.2% growth rate over next 3 years. If a normal growth rate of 2.5% is used, deficits would increase by another $4 trillion by 2020
  • The US government borrows 40-50 cents for every dollar it spends. A balanced budget would mean cutting government spending in half.
  • Implementing a balanced budget would not reduce current debt outstanding. It would merely stop it from growing.
  • Over the past three fiscal years US debt grew by over $1.5 trillion per year: this is more than three times the record annual debt increase in any previous year in US history
  • Last night deficit reduction targets were cut from $4 trillion to $2 trillion over the next decade, in exchange for a $2.4 trillion debt ceiling hike, which will last the Treasury until the next presidential election. Said otherwise, the Treasury needs to fund a $2.4 trillion hold over the next 15 months. Over a decade this come to $20 trillion: ten times more than the proposed deficit reduction.

I did not. I realise that there are many exclusions and debates but at the end of the day, the debt is going up remorselessly so what the bloody hell is going on? How long can you live by borrowing from the Chinese? Esphoks. For the Americans who are scared of this debt ceiling, read this and weep. What exactly are you guys doing to yourself? I am dumbfounded at your behaviour. Bloody hell guys.

Tim Harford from the FT wrote this brilliant piece on the debt ceiling situation. Its about a kid asking their mum and dad (democrats and republicans) on why are they fighting over the debt ceiling. There is Mr. Foss-Smythe involved as well who is the “banker” (i guess this is the general public and China and you and I and anybody who is buying federal debt). Let me know if you want to read it, its hilarious.