Sunday, August 12, 2007

Magic of UPS

Some time back I had an emergency and needed to send something back home in a hurry. Time was really short and I was really worried how the logistics would pan out. In fact I was almost certain I was not going to make it on time.

It was just a fluke that I wandered to a UPS store near my place. I explained my problem and they assured me that if I was to use UPS it would guarantee that the shipment would reach its destination within the short time. I was skeptical yet not having run out of options decided to throw my money at it.

Well UPS delivered big time on the promise. It delivered a package half way across the globe in just 60 hours on a weekend. And all the time I could track the progress online. It was very reassuring and I'm still in the awe of technology as it demystifield the logistics behind UPS magical delivery system.

Freakonomics Steve Levitt

Makes an interesting read. Challenges conventional wisdom and explores some very interesting questions ranging from explaining reasons for crime rate drop in the US to corruption in Sumo wrestling in Japan. Though my personal favorite is age old debate nature vs nurture. IQ thats gentic vs nurture, something parents can influence.

Though, he constantly argues that the kid's wiring is done in the womb and there is little that parents can do to change it. There is evidence that parents and help make best of the limited abilities the child may have. The fact that adopted children could settle down well(better that un-udopted kids) in life because of their parents' efforts brings out the impact of nurture on kids and how important parents could be.

Correlation is one thing and its quite mathematical. Causality is a completely different ball game. That requires deeper understanding of the issues and the insights to peel off the mask and identify the true cause of any phenomenon.

Refernce to Unabomber vs. Ronald Fryer is presented in a shocking way. This led me to check out some things about the UnaBomber and as usual Wiki describes the events in the life of UnaBomber that clearly bring out the social maladjustment that he suffers right through his life. Thats the reason why perhaps people talk of EQ being an important factor in shaping one's life. While its true that parents can't help much with a person's IQ, I'm sure if parents try, they could help build EQ of a child to help him make it through the vagaries of life.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

World is Flat Silent Crisis (page 200-300)

Crawled past page 300. It took me a week to get there from page 200. It talks about the silent crises in the US triggered by lack of interest in Science and Technology fields amongst the American youth. I don't quite agree unless they insist on home grown talent. But then in a flat, world one would argue, why do you insist of indigenous production of an expensive product, here a math- science graduate, when you can source it from a flat world? Well, what works for the US is that it can import IQ just like textile and toys. Really, at the post graduate level they have the best education system.

Any country can import teachers for their primary schools and train them to teach well, but how do you create a community of capable professors that stimulate innovation and invention through constantly challenging and shaping the minds of the bright and the talented? US to me provides the most creative educational ecosystem. It attracts the best of both worlds by providing a meeting point for the best academic minds and the best pool of talented students around the world.

One could argue that internet has allowed the teachers and students of the world to collaborate and therefore universities do not matter. But I disagree. There is only so much one can achieve through bits and bytes. Universities are important because they create an atmosphere of learning which can't be replicated in a virtual world, yet...

A society when on top of its success breeds complacence and decadence which finally leads to its fall. Good thing about capitalism is that it breeds paranoia and competition amongst its practitioners. This I guess is good for US. In a flat world no one including US has the luxury of taking it easy and US knows it.

So much for now... Another 150 pages to go...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Rain cripples New York City transit - Yahoo! News

Rain cripples New York City transit - Yahoo! News

So just 3 inches of rain can do this to New York! Mumbai received 30 inches in a day and we cried out about how bad Indian infrastructure is. So 3 years later, this is the moment of truth. Come on stop cribbing about what's bad here. Things can get bad any where but we curse ,swear and blame it on our country as if our country is no good.

The other day a bridge in minneapolis fell with cars driving bumper to bumper and a few months ago a part of I-80 flyover crashed All of this makes me feel that disasters happen, things turn bad and even the most powerful nation isn't immune to all this.

Lets give ourselves a break. Lets not pick on our city. I did that some time back in one of my posts, but this has been an eye opener.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

How To Make Black Money Work For Govt

How bad is this idea? The only way to tell is to ask the people with Black Money if they would put their money behind this concept.

The basic idea behind this is to bring that money into main stream economy without punitive action against the investor for hoarding/not paying taxes on it. Here is how it works.

Allow Mutual Funds companies to launch such funds that would channelize black money into the economy. Any one can put money in these specially designated funds without having to declare the source for those funds. The underlying theory is that by bringing this money to the mainstream we can ensure we put this capital to best use i.e. create wealth.

There are various alternatives to tax investment flow in and out of these funds depending on following question. In what time the govt thinks money can change its color to white. Also, if the money spends enough time in the system, can we forego so of the tax liability associated with it.

Here is how a typical fund terms would look like.

- Entry Load of 10% on all capital inflows. (proceeds to flow to the govt)
- Exit load of 25% if you exit in the first year of investment. Proceeds to flow to the govt.
- Exit load 20% between year 1 and year 5.
- Exit load 10% between year 5 and year 10.
- Exit load 5% between year 10 and 20. (if at all)
- No exit load beyond 20 years.

Govt makes immediate 10% when black money enters the market and taxes money going out purely based on how long it stays within system. Unlike other small savings schemes, govt does not have to ensure a fixed return. Based on any given fund's performance people can choose between various options.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The n-deal: US' Dhritarashtra's embrace?

The n-deal: US' Dhritarashtra's embrace?
Well this is good because
- India has come out of nuclear wilderness after 30+ years
- India breaks away from the past of being spoken of in the same breath as Pakistan. In fact it is now being associated as credible balance for China's growing might(economic and political) in the region
- India needs all the power is can get. I hear, France gets 75-80% of its power through nuclear energy. Japan about 30%.

- US has not built a Nuclear power plant in decades as US does not consider that a safe mode of generating power. Also, waste disposal has its own sets of problems. Considering above, it's surprising that it should encourage India to go that route and offer help to set up Nuclear Power Plants / provide fuel.

This to me is a clear indication that this deal is not so much about Nuclear Power. Its about Balance of Power and India is US's best bet against China Threat.

- India not being able to test /create more nuclear weapons. I think we already have enough nuclear war heads as "credible deterrent". Work in recent decades is more around delivery of these war heads and I guess we have successfully shown that we can strike deep into enemy territory with what we have(Agni-II et al). We may not be able to reach Beijing but reaching Shanghai / Islamabad is enough to maintain peace with our neighbours.

- Installing Nuclear Power Plants. Its always very expensive to build a nuclear power plant as its capital intensive. On the other hand per-unit cost of electricity generation is relatively less. At the same time maintaining requisite level of safety, discharging waste and closing the power plant if need be are all fairly expensive. Us usual there are pros and cons. Personally I'm not convinced with idea of nuclear power given the risks involved.

All in all this is a historic milestone. It establishes India as a responsible Nuclear power state while providing us an alternate source of energy.