New York food recommendations

So I’m in New York for the next 2 weeks (6-18), and like last time want to do this sampling of high-quality cuisine from around the world. Meals are expense-able so cost isn’t so much of an issue, but given that I’ll be eating 13 dinners  there I want to choose the places carefully.

Off the cuff, this is what I broadly want to eat. So plis to be recommending where to go:

  • high-quality thin crust pizza
  • pasta
  • hummus-falafel-…
  • mexican stuff – i’ll go to chipotle at least once for sure. any other places?
  • thai – something I missed out on on my last trip there.
  • ethiopian – considering I don’t get to eat this in India I want to eat this at least twice
  • french
  • Korean – I’m going to Hangawi once again for sure. Sheer awesomeness it is

Ok I’m sure there are other cuisines whose existence I’m not even aware of, so if you think there’s something I might like plis to be recommending. And if you live in NYC and want to meet for a meal, let me know. We’ll plan something.

And here is the list of places I went to during my last visit.

Update: I’ll be staying at the Hilton Millennium, next to the WTC site.

Loos in America

Ok I’ve spent quite a few (>1) blog posts after coming here on input so let me write one on output. In fact for a long time I’ve intended to write a post on loos in India but have never got the time. Hopefully I’ll sit down to write it some day. Today, you’ll have to make do with American shyte.

The last time I found facilities in a loo for washing the arse (or thoLyin the thika) was at the Dubai airport on my way here where there was a health faucet. As has been well documented Islamic cultures place a lot of emphasis of keeping the arse clean and hence the ubiquity of this contraption in all Islamic countries (and of late in India also). As has also been well documented, western cultures prefer to keep the loos clean and hence use paper to wipe the arse after the process.

In my serviced apartment I’ve been doing one of the usual Indian things – I’ve kept a drinking glass in the bathroom and use it as a mug. Yeah its volume is quite low but that’s the best I can manage. Thankfully the taps aren’t too far away so I can manage. My biggest fear, however, is that I’ll drop this glass in the bathroom and might injure my feet. Office, however, offers no such luxuries so I’ve to make do with paper. When in Amreeka, do your ass like the Amreekans do.

My apartment and my office have two contrasting flushing systems, both of which seem superior to the system we have in India (the flush in my apartment in Bangalore is especially inefficient, especially when I download large volumes). At home, water starts swirling around in the WC as soon as I pull the trigger, slowly and steadily. Soon the pace picks up and the water level starts going down, pulling the crap along with it. And in a few seconds the pot is clean, and new water comes in so the level of water in the pot is restored. Actually I’ve noticed that the normal level of water in the pot in my apartment is much higher than it normally is in western loos. I think it’s similar to a football defence playing with a high offside line!

Office is a new building so has even more sophisticated loo. First of all the flush is automated – as soon as you get up and start buttoning up your pants the thing goes, though there’s a  button which you can push in case the automatic thing fails. This is the first time ever that I’ve seen automatic flush in a pottystation. I’d earlier seen it only in urinals.

So the flush operates with a vacuum mechanism, much like the flushes on flights. So some pump gets into operation and sucks in all the shit and the paper and everything else in one smooth motion. And then there is a water jet to clean up any remnants, and that gets sucked in too. Finally, there is some fresh water ready to take shit.

The best thing I’ve found about my office loo, however, is the seat paper. So in this special compartment in the potty station you get paper that’s shaped in the plan of the commode (plan as in top view; I hope you can picturize). So when you go in, you pull out one such paper and put it on to the seat, and then take your seat and do your business. And once business is done, send this paper also packing into the WC!

Excellent idea, I think, because the biggest crib that people have about commodes is that they have to rest bare arse on the same space that hosted some other bare arse and this may not be healthy. Providing this facility allows you to take insurance about that, and you need not put your ass-to-risk*. I hope this starts getting implemented soon enough in India also, especially in public facilities.

Some links:

1. Vikram Doctor’s excellent take on toilets
2. One earlier time when I had blogged about toilets at work
3. An earlier post of mine, on washing your arse in the Thames
4. A post on loos and sacred threads. One of those one-liner posts I stopped posting after I started tweeting. This post would become significant later in my life in a most unusual manner

Betting as a hedge

Today’s Business Standard reports that ESPNStar and their advertisers stand to lose significantly following India’s early exit from the T20 World Cup. However, the situation now is significantly better off than in the 2007 World Cup where India didn’t even enter the super8. Back then, India had played a grand total of 3 matches out of a maximum possible 11 before they got knocked out. And thanks to India’s exit, interest in the rest of the tournament had also waned, leading to significant losses for SETMax, etc.

The situation this time round is significantly better than the last time – since India has gone out only after the second stage. Given that after today’s games the only games are the semis and the finals, I don’t expect the channel and the advertisers to lose as much.

Nevertheless, my mind goes back to a post that I had written back when India went out of the 2007 World Cup following its loss to Bangladesh. I had suggested the following as an “immoral solution”.

It is clear that Ireland is in the super eight, so nothing can be done about that. However, there is still a ray of hope in group B (india?s group). I know it is illegal, but wouldn?t it make sense for a consortium of say SET, Tata SKY, LG and maybe tourism departments of West Indian governments to offer money to Bangladesh and ask them to lose to Bermuda? ?you have done a fantastic job so far in the world cup. You?ve beaten India. Must be a very proud moment for your country. Can you please take this money now and leave, so that the rest of the world cup can go on? We would be better off without you!?

However, the chance to implement the immoral solution is past us this time around. So let me come to the “one legal solution” that I’d suggested:

By buying broadcast rights for a major tournament such as a world cup, you are unwittingly betting on the results of a few matches. Betting that the country where you’ll broadcast will do well. Betting that there aren’t too many major upsets. Betting that results will follow a certain pattern. You know you can’t affect the results, so the next best thing is to hedge!

Go to Ladbrokes, and take the opposite position. Bet, and bet well so as to limit your losses in case some results don’t go according to plan. Maybe you’re not very good at betting, and after all it?s not your core competence. Not to worry. I’m sure some good investment banker would come up with a product with returns linked to the results of a few matches. He will provide you a product with which all the implicit bets you’ve taken will be hedged. And he will go to Ladbrokes and hedge his position by taking positions there. And charge you a small premium for it. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Betting on sport is not a purely speculative activity. Of course there are a lot of people who speculate on sports, but these people also speculate by buying and selling stocks and bonds. Betting can also be an extremely useful hedging tool. If only it were to be made legal in India, I’m sure a lot of our corporates will end up being better off. And typically taxes on betting are high, and so the government will also have its share.

Can someone please convince the people in the finance ministry, or whatever is the concerned ministry, about this, and to legalize betting? I’m sure there is significant value to be unlocked.

Work Etc.

There are these days when you wake up and start wondering what the fuck you are upto. You start asking yourself why you are where you are, doing what you are doing. You ask yourself why you are not on that monthlong roadtrip of rural Karnataka, with the hope of maybe producing a shelf of books at the end of it. You ask yourself why you haven’t been doing stuff that you had promised yourself that you would do.

That new guitar has already started rusting, and the left index finger that you had cut the last time you played has long healed. The car mileage grows only in small increments – which approximately represents the distance you go to work. Half the days you cook rice, and mix it with copious quantities of Mother Dairy Dahi, and some pickle that has been sent from home. The other days you go to the same restaurant, sit at the same table and order the same set of items.

You are doing it for the sake of your career, you tell yourself. Career. Tha FUBAR thing. Which you are trying to marginally resurrect and repair by doing what you are doing, and trying to bring back to it some vague sense of recognition. You meet your friends. You hear them shag about their jobs. You hear about all the cool things that they are doing, and about how they are fast moving up the corporate ladder. About how you are a failure in life if you don’t work hard at this stage of life, and if you can’t win the rat race.

You meet friends’ friends. The first thing they ask you is what you do – and you are likely to get judged on that. So you need to make sure that you have a good story to tell about your job, which makes you sound cool. Coming up with formulae to price the movement of sacks of rice is not cool, as I found out. Financial services is usually met with a question asking you to predict the direction of the index. Sales is usually met with “the sun is very hot nowadays, no?”. And IT is met with “are you a Java coder or a C# coder?”.

Occasionally you want to get away from all this. These are the times when you accept that you are doing what you are doing because of the increments it produces in your bank balance. Sometimes you realize that the monthly increments in your bank balance are not enough; and some of those times you console yourself saying that you are doing this in expectation of larger inflows in the future. You consider your job to be an investment – that the dough you are not getting now will get more than compensated for later in your life. 

So when on certain days you wake up and ask yourself why the fuck you are where you are and doing what you are doing, you usually don’t have an answer. In those states of mind, “career”, “development”, “investment”, “corporate” etc. all don’t matter at all. Neither does “net present value of expected future earnings”. Your total costs look inflated. Your benefits look deflated. Every line of thought that runs in your head then tells you that you should go off into the Himalayas. You go to office instead. 

I’ll stop this essay here. In a forthcoming essay I’ll explain about how a job is essentially about costs and benefits, and why they use the word “compensation” to describe your salary. I have occasionally argued in the other direction, but thinking about it again, I think the word “compensation” with reference to salary package does make a lot of sense.

Search Keywords for April

As you might have figured out by now, this is a monthly feature on my blog – I collect the most interesting set of search key-phrases that lead to my blog and put them here. Here is this month’s list:

  • neha jain skimpy
  • skimpy vijaya atulya jackasses
  • arranged market opinion 2009
  • arushi nehra petromax
  • cory doctorow terrorist statistical argument
  • films on dream and daydream
  • history of south indian breakfast
  • influence of dutch on south indian food
  • isb chutiya
  • savita bhabhi in tamil
  • siddharth tata part of the tata family?
  • south indian restaurants norwich
  • the defference between english medium and hindi medium schools
  • vimax pills india gurgaon

Yede thumbi haaduvenu format is unfair

A month or so back, I had blogged about yede thumbi haaduvenu, a talent hunt show for young singers on ETV Kannada. I was full of praise for the event. About the format. About the way SPB comperes it. About the judging. Organization. And all that. I think I had written that post towards the end of last season. The new season has just begun. And I have a crib. It is not a minor one.

The format has changed. Last time around, it was a “normal knockout”, with round of 16, quarters, semis, final, etc. Each round would have four contestants of which two would progress to the next round and two would get eliminated. It was a nice and clean system – considering that any non-knockout format for a TV show isn’t a good idea.

Now, they have some sort of a serial knockout. Each episode has four kids, of which two get knocked out. The two who survive compete the following week, with two new people. Two out of these four qualify further. And so on.

This might have been an excellent format – if only the players were robots. If only the players didn’t have that human element called “form”. The format as it is right now is heavily biased in favour of kids who join the program in later rounds. Maybe they have been seeded there based on qualification placings. Nevertheless, it is wrong, and puts the kids who join early at too much of a disadvantage.

Kids who join early need to be at their top form for a larger number of episodes than those that join later. Sustaining an above-average performance over a larger stretch of time takes much more effort. You will also need to keep in mind that the pressure to perform in such events is huge. For the kids who join later, however, all it takes is for them to get lucky and produce terrific form for  a handful of episodes and they are through.

I suppose the producers of this event simply didnt’ realize that there is something called uncertainty. They would’ve looked at the format and said “this seems simpler for spectators and anyways the best will have to beat everyone else so this is ok”. I’m sure it the people who came up with this format are a bunch of fools who have no clue about either mathematics or about human tendency. I go back to one of my recent posts and call for the so-called “creative” or “qualitative” industry to cash in on the ibanking bust and take in some quants.

I’m reminded of one of the world chess championship (FIDE) cycles in the late 90s. They had a strenuous knockout tournament for a month to decide the challenger. And the winner of this tournament (Anand) then played the reigning champion Karpov who had been directly “seeded into the finals”. Anand got walloped by Karpov. And he had said something like “this is not fair. I have run the full marathon and in the last 100 meters this guy joins the race. what sort of a contest is this”

The current format of yede thumbi haaduvenu is no different. Now, if only the producers were to have some sense.