Tag Archives: good chance

The Ticket

My grandfather claims to have invented this concept, though there is some evidence that it belongs to much older vintage. The “ticket” in question here is short for “ticket to heaven”. It refers to the practice of visiting ailing relatives and friends who you know are not going to last too long. However, you believe that they would want to see you once before they die, and then believe that they may not die unless you go visit them. So, you decide to put them out of their misery, and go “give them the ticket”, or in other words, you play God by giving them permission to die.

That’s all there is to this. It’s quite a simple concept. Unfortunately, it lacks wider appeal, hence this appeal to you to increase its appeal. Be careful, though, sometimes if you say “I’m going to give XXX a ticket”, there is a good chance that people might think it’s insulting, or disrespectful, or that you’re being too arrogant. But yes, otherwise, I think the ticket is a rocking concept.

PS: I’m beginning to see some sketches of a movie script in here. If you want to further develop it, contact me.

The Second Hand Goods Market

Every time we clean up our house, which is quite frequent I must say, there is a bunch of stuff that we want to throw or give away. Being rational beings, each time we look to maximize the returns we get out of whatever we don’t need, and hence go around looking for people who will buy them. The problem here, though, is that the second hand market doesn’t really exist, and even if it does it’s so illiquid that it’s not worth the effort to locate them and sell our goods there.

For example, for a long time we’ve been wanting to get rid of our dining table. The question is how do we dispose of it in order to maximize returns. I don’t know of any shops that buy used furniture, and there are search costs involved there. And then there is the cost of actually transporting the dining table (you realize it can’t be done by my car, right?) to the location of sale. And then haggling over the price. Given that it’s not made of particularly good wood (we know where to sell stuff made out of “good wood”) I don’t even know if what get by selling even covers the cost of selling it!

Worse, we got a bunch of new electric appliances (microwave, mixie, gas stove) as wedding gifts. The “normal” way of getting rid of old mixies or gas stoves is to give it “in exchange” so that we get a small discount for the new appliance we’re buying. When we get appliances as a gift, though, this avenue is lost. The old mixie and stove (and a couple of ancient table fans) decorated our attics and bred rats until we sold all of them for a grand total of five hundred rupees while buying a new saucepan! (I’d located that store and carried the stuff there with such great difficulty that I was willing to sell at any price).

Now there’s this ancient vacuum cleaner and old RO water filter out for disposal (the latter was disposed due to exorbitant maintenance costs). There’s a good chance that we’ll dispose of them by just dumping them on the road somewhere. Seriously. The selling costs are way too high. I know that in New York there’s this whole “industry”, where people leave old furniture and appliances on the roads in the middle of the night, and some other people take them away and salvage whatever profit they can get.

I thought of a business plan that gets unnecessary appliances and furniture from people (for a nominal fee; and by paying transport costs) and then sells it on to people who are actually willing to buy these things. The problem is that a lot of people actually dispose stuff as part of “exchange offers” so I don’t know how much volume this new business can get. But if someone manages to pull it off, I promise to donate all my useless stuff to them. Else, you’ll soon start finding unnecessary furniture and appliances scattered along KR Road in Bangalore.

Live Music at Wedding Receptions

The problem with live music at wedding receptions is with the volume. If you keep the volume too low, the musicians find it offensive. If you keep the volume high, on the other hand, people can’t hear each other talk and get irritated. And I’ve never really attended a wedding reception where the live music has had the “right volume”.

Hence, at my wedding reception, we dispensed with live music and instead carefully put together a set of trance numbers which were to be played over a CD-speaker system. And two hours before the reception is to begin, we find that there was no music player in the hall, and no one had bothered arranging for one. Thankfully the photographer, who I’d fought with for the duration of the wedding, agreed to arrange for a music system at quick notice. And then, when the reception was about to begin, it turned out that the uncle who had the CDs had gone home to get dressed.

Ultimately, I think they played the music that we’d carefully put together. I don’t know really because it wasn’t audible on stage, but we’re told by a few people it was quite good (they even asked for and “borrowed” the CDs). If you attended my wedding reception, please to be telling me how the music was.

So before my wedding, when I sent the invite to Mammo, he replied asking who was performing at the reception. When I told him my reasons for not having live music at the reception, he explained that performing at a wedding was a good chance for musicians to experiment, and in some ways it was a “paid rehearsal”. And that it really helps in the development of musicians.

On the other hand, I remember, some fifteen years back, my violin teacher being furious that he’d been called to play at a wedding, and there was no one listening to him, and his volume was turned out to be quite low, and he had a really bad experience.

So I don’t know. I still think the best thing to do would be to put recorded instrumental music that isn’t too intrusive. What do you think?

Ranji Reform

Perhaps the best thing that the BCCI has done in recent times is to hike the match fees given to players in First Class and List A matches. If i’m not wrong, first class players now get Rs. 2 lakh per game as match fees, and 1 lakh for List A games. Thus, if a player is a regular in his state team, he is assured of at least Rs. 15 lakh per annum, thus ensuring he can remain professional and not have to do a “day job”.

This is excellent in terms of option value for high school students who are good at cricket who are undecided if they should concentrate on their cricket career or if they should go to college and concentrate on studies. And this in turn leads to better quality of cricketers in the pool available for first class games.

For a fringe player, selection to the national team is a lottery. It is also a big step up from the Ranji game. And when you are an under 19 cricketer (unless you are Tendulkar of course; let’s talk about normal people here) there is little that indicates if you are going to be an international regular. However, your performances in school/college level and age group tournaments are an extremely good indicator of how well you are likely to do on the domestic circuit.

Now, the income that the domestic circuit offers means that it might be more profitable for you to concentrate on cricket and try and make it big, rather than giving up cricket and going to college. Even if you fail to make it big, you won’t end up doing too badly in life. So if you think you have a good chance of making the state team, you would rather go for it than playing safe and going to college.

And this means that several players who would have otherwise left the game (in the absence of reasonable income from playing domestic cricket) are available in the pool which makes it more competitive and raises the overall quality of cricket in the country, and consequently that of the national team.

At least the BCCI gets some things right.

The Value of Fatwas

With random ulemas here, there, everywhere (and maybe nowhere) issuing fatwas left, right and centre, I wonder if the value of the fatwa hasn’t gone down.

The thing with religion is anyone who is mildly religious will try to follow as much of the traditions and customs are possible. However, if one puts way too many restrictions, there is the chance that the follower might “do a ramanamurthy” * and just snap and decide to not any of the customs. AS long as you keep things reasonable, though, there is a good chance that the follower will continue to follow.

Now that the context has been set, I reiterate my question as to whether there isn’t a law of diminishing returns for fatwas. Things I suppose were fine when the fatwa was a rare entity. For example, twenty years ago when someone issued a fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie, it was a rare event (the fatwa) and hence got taken seriously and Rushdie has to go into hiding.

But look at the kind of fatwas that are being issued nowadays and I would be really surprised if these are getting taken seroiusly. For example, read this article (HT: Nitin Pai). There is a fatwa against buying insurance. There is a fatwa against working in banks. There is a fatwa against families accepting income earned by female members. And so forth.

Don’t the ulema understand that there exists a law of diminishing returns, and so people are not likely to take fatwas seriously if too many of them are put in place? Ok I suppose they don’t teach economics in Madrassas. Or is it that Islamic society is still in the part of the curve where slope is significantly positive ? (imagine a curve with the total “degree of acceptance” on the y axis and “number of religious restrictions” on the X axis. You would expect that the curve initially rises and then flattens out, and if you stretch things too far maybe even bend downwards).

All religions and all sects of all religions have their share of loonies. People who come up with random fundaes and then claim it’s part of the teaching of that particular religion and everyone should follow it. But I suppose that most other religions are decentralized enough that loonies are treated as just that, and people go on leading their lives without taking cognizance of the loonies.

PS: Check out this hilarious essay from The Dawn about this bunch of guys who tried to take along a Maulvi to Afghanistan to fight Russians.

Uniform Civil Code

I intended to blog this on Sunday, which was the 17th anniversary of the Babri Masjid Demolition (I remember that because it was also my 27th birthday – yes, I’m really old now) . Due to certain other activities, I couldn’t find the time to blog then so doing it today. I also want to apologize to my readers for not being regular enough at blogging of late. I hope to be more regular henceforth, but there are other things which are taking up a lot of my time.

So the other day I was thinking of the concept of the Uniform Civil Code and how the lack of one such is causing “religious arbitrage” (the most famous example being Dharmendra converting to Islam so as to marry Hema Malini). I was thinking of the BJP which is trying to establish one such code, but all parties that have a significant number of Muslim voters being opposed to it since monogamy is against the tenets of Islam. So I was thinking about this issue from a completely libertarian perspective, and this is what I have.I think I best do it in bullet points.

  • Any pair of consenting adults can have sex with each other and the state has no business bothering with it. The only excuse for the state to get involved in this is if one of the “pair” accuses the adults of rape.
  • Children in the backseat can cause accidents and accidents in the backseat cause children. Despite condoms and i-pills, there is a good chance that a random pair of consenting adults might produce kids.
  • Any man or woman can have as many sexual partners (long or short term) as he wishes. The state has no business interfering in this.
  • A pair of sexual partners might choose to live together, and make babies together. Society might impose conditions on them that they be “married” but the state need not know. The state is not supposed to bother about the fact that this pair is living together, apart from recognizing the same postal address for both of them
  • A citizen might choose to live along with several of his/her sexual partners, assuming all of them consent to the arrangement. Again, the state has no business interfering.
  • So when should the state be concerned about this institution called marriage? I argue that the only reason the state should be bothered about “marriage” is because of property inheritance principles
  • From the point of view of property inheritance, multiple “married partners” can be messy stuff. It can lead to extremely complicated cases, especially when the graph involves cycles. Hence, I suggest that without loss of generality, for the sake of easy legal redressal, any person cannot have more than one legally wedded spouse
  • This, mind you, doesn’t stop people from having illegally wedded spouses. For example, it is well known that M Karunanidhi has 3 wives, but I’m sure that he’s legally wedded to only one of them. When he dies, his property will naturally go to only his legally wedded wife and his children with them. The rest will get nothing. Nada.
  • However, clever financial structuring can be used to overcome this discrepancy. For example, a man might offer to pay a woman extra pocket money so that she become his illegally wedded wife rather than his legally wedded wife. I think concepts of CDS (credit default swaps) pricing can be used here in order to figure how much more the illegally wedded spouse and resultant children should get as “illegality premium”.
  • Given this framework, people of no religion need to fear the loss of practice. If Muslim society allows a Muslim to have four wives, he can as well go ahead and marry four women, except that in the eyes of the state, only one of them will be legally wedded to him. The rest will need to negotiate appropriate premia on pocket money
  • This “maximum of one legally wedded spouse person” can be used to legalize gay/lesbian marriages also. All that it takes is for the law to not specificallly mention that the spouses should belong to different genders.
  • Not having a uniform civil code can give room for religious arbitrage which needs to be discouraged
  • Hence, having a uniform civil code makes eminent sense. It wont have much impact on most people’s lives. And it will simplify a lot of laws and just make implementation better.

Let me know your thoughts on this.

Relationships and Prisoner’s Dilemma

So I ws thinking about this car analogy for relationships. I was thinking about how when you start your car, you will need to drive in first gear, with full engine power, slowly releasing the clutch, using a lot of fuel. However, after you have gathered certain speed, it is wasteful and unstable to go on in first gear. It is time for you to take your foot off the gas pedal, hold down the clutch and change gears, and shift the car to lower engine power.

I think it is similar with romantic relationships. Once you’ve reached a certain level and gotten past the initial phase, it is wasteful to continue in the same full throttle. Once both of you understand that the other is firmly in the basket, there is no need to waste much time just assuring and reassuring each other of the other’s presence. It is simply a wastage of fuel. Also, if there is too much torque at too much speed, there is a good chance that the car will spin out of control, so that needs to be avoided.

A relationship is like a car with two control systems. It is important that both of you coordinate the gear change, else there is a danger that the axle might snap. Let us move out of the analogy for the rest of the post.

So there are two of you and both of you have the choice of whether to change gear or not. Now, the ideal thing to do would be to change gears together, since that will ensure the relationship is at the same level but you’ll both be spending lesser energy on it. The worst case is if exactly one of you changes gears. If one of you suddenly slows down while the other is still at full throttle, it is likely that the other will suddenly feel insecure that the one has stopped responding, and this is likely to lead to some sort of breakdown in the relationship, even if temporary. And in order to get things back on track, you’ll need to go full throttle, thus leading to wastage of energy.

So basically, exactly one party deciding to scale down can prove to be disastrous for both of them, because of which the dominant strategy is to stay where you are – at full power. Let me draw the 2 by 2.

———————————————————————

|                        |    Scale down           |  Remain at full blast     |

———————————————————————

| Scale down|    0                               |  -100                                  |

———————————————————————

|Remain at   |  – 100                         |  -50 |

| full blast     |                                      |                                              |

——————————————————————–

You will notice that the players start off at a Nash equilibrium! Of both of them remaining at full blast. And thus neither has the incentive to scale down, unless he/she is sure that the other will also scale down simultaneously! And if the couple is not communicative enough, they will continue in this suboptimal state for too long, and end up burning way too much energy and willpower, which could’ve been otherwise put to good use.

Hence it is important that the couple communicates about matters such as these, and coordinates the shift in gears, and saves valuable energy!