Disconnected Life

The last forty eight hours were spent without internet connection, perhaps the first time I’ve spent an extended period of time at home without being connected. At first, it was incredibly peaceful, as without distractions it gave me enough time to finish off in 2 days all the 3 books (none of them very heavy, mind you, and all were “funda books”) that I’d brought home from the British Library. What was incredible was the amount of time I had in general, for everything. With the internet on, there are way too many distractions. Tweetdeck buzzes every minute. You are keen to “unbold” every mail as soon as it arrives in your inbox. Out of sheer habit, you periodically check out facebook and cricinfo. Lots of time gets wasted, no doubt.

I’d be lying, however, if I were to seay that I didn’t miss the net at all. Foremost was the need to check email, which I did though my phone periodically. I didn’t bother, however, unbolding all the stuff that was there. I only checked the mails that I thought were important, and the rest were “cleared” after I got back my connection this morning (the outage was because I’d applied for a new data plan, and the worthies at BSNL (bless them) decided I should go through some pain for having put them though the pain of changing the plan).

Then, there was some research I was trying to do yesterday, and I was looking for some data, which I wasn’t able to get since there was no internet. I went out of touch with my usual gtalk/twitter friends, but since it was only for a day I don’t really mind that. Most importantly, I missed regular updates of Ranji trophy scores, since those weren’t available anywhere else. It was too much of a hassle to be only via the phone (I don’t have 3G) for extended periods of time. There was also a lot of writing I did in the period, and all those blog posts are now sitting on my hard disk. I’ll upload them one by one with sufficient gaps so that I don’t flood you.

The worst part of no internet was the loss of the “option value” to stay connected. The best part was that it gave me a lot of time to do whatever I else really wanted to do without all the distractions the internet brings. I hope to go on an “internet break” for some time every day, switching off my modem for a few hours. Hopefully that’ll help me make better use of my time. For now, I’m glad to have the 4Mbps connection!

It’s been a year, almost

A couple of hours back, I renewed my account. It’s been a year since I purchased the noenthuda.com domain, and it definitely feels like it’s been much longer. This blog, however, is yet to celebrate its first birthday – it will do so on the 22nd, on the same day when there will be a Total Solar Eclipse in Central India. We’ll have more elaborate birthday celebrations then. Actually, if you have any good ideas as to how to celebrate the first birthday of noenthuda.com , please mail in.

So it was on the 7th of July last year that I registered noenthuda.com. It took about 15 days after that to decide on my host (I settled on totalchoicehosting), figure out how to organize the site, etc. As you might have noticed, the homepage (noenthuda.com) redirects to this blog (noenthuda.com/blog). The main reason behind this is that I’ve been too lazy to figure out what to do with my main site. I don’t really fancy turning this into a professional site – LinkedIn are there for that. All my writing is here on this blog, so no separate place needed for that.

There is another blog attached to this, called Twisted Shout. You can see a link to this from the right hand column of this site. You might notice that the site is defunct. The last post on that was several months ago. I had been using that site for discussing stuff such as the Petromax Theory, the Goalkeeper Theory and other similarly strong fundaes. Aadisht and Kodhi, my co-authors on that blog, had also planned to script our sitcom “rash driving” on that. Again, there was only a single episode of that and then NED happened.

Some of you might also know that NED is also the name of a quiz team, featuring Kodhi, Aadisht and me. It’s a subset of the erstwhile Sumo Yet So Far, which also featured Swami. It’s been a while since NED quizzed together, the last occasion being the QFI Open quiz in Chennai last summer. Our next collective performance will be at the Landmark Quiz in Chennai next month. Maybe I could have a section of the site dedicated to our quiz team. Maybe I’ll do that once our CV expands.

Then there are the NED talks, which I had announced a few weeks back. These talks will be held as planned, in October this year in Bangalore. I hope to make this a day-long event, in an auditorium. So basically it will be a series of lectures. We are looking for speakers, and listeners. We will also have 1-2 open house sessions so taht everyone can put CP (class participation).

I hereby call for speakers for the inaugural NED talks. The date is not fixed but it will be on some Sunday this October in Bangalore. You will have to give a talk in less than 18 minutes on any topic that remotely relates to NED. For example, I plan to speak on the Studs and Fighters Theory, and how it might impact NED. So if you are interested in speaking, write a short write up on yourself, and what you want to talk about and send it to me at skthewimp AT yahoo DOT com. I think we will need a total of TEN speakers.

In other news, I’ve got proper net access now in Bangalore (BSNL Broadband). So immense peace are there. Normal services should resume shortly.

Arranged Scissors 3 – Due Diligence

One of the most important parts of the arranged marriage process is due diligence. This is done at various levels.  First there is the parental due diligence – and the first thing that is done is to check if the counterparty’s parents and other close relatives are financially sound. Then there is a check run on the counterparty’s siblings and cousins – to make sure that moral fibre is of the highest quality. And last but not the least, there is personal DD, which is the most interesting.

Of particular interest is the counterparty’s past affairs. This wasn’t much in the limelight till about 10 years back when there was a case where a girl got her arranged fiance murdered since she wanted to marry her boyfriend. After that, people who had so far been in denial regarding people’s boyfriends and girlfriends woke up to the fact that they needed to check if the other party was single as claimed. Nowadays, people go great lengths in order to check this.

Last month I received a call from my friend who told me that one of his friends was “in the market” and was in the process of checking out an acquaintance of mine. So this friend asked me to do a background check on this acquaintance. And I called up one friend who called up another friend who confirmed that this girl was indeed very “decent” (at least that was the message I got- considering that there were two channels of communication before me, I don’t know what the actual message was) and I propagaed it (I promise I didn’t distort it).

Then, there is this uncle who is well-connected. Ok I’m digressing a bit – this is not about arranged marriage, but since we are on the topic of due diligence, this example deserves merit. So this uncle who is well connected wanted to do a background check on his daughter’s boyfriend. Not knowing any other common link, he did what he knew well – pulled strings. The boy used to work for a fairly large IT company and my uncle managed to get in touch with the boy’s HR director and got confidential character files pulled out in order to confirm that his daughter had indeed chosen a decent guy.

One other reason why due diligence may have in fact become easier is because now people post considerable amount of information online. A combination of orkut, facebook, linked-in, blog and twitter profiles is enough to determine enough about a person’s character, I think. And most people (at least in the market segment that I’m in) will have at least one of these. So all you need to do is to find someone who has access to this person’s orkut/facebook profiles and you are through. In fact, I’m planning to add my facebook, twitter, blog and linkedin links to my email signature when I write “expression of interest”/”expression of contact” mails (more about those mails in another post), thus saving the counterparty valuable time and money she might have otherwise spent on due diligence.

The problem with such widespread due diligence is that you need to keep people who you don’t like in your good books. Becauase due diligence works on a “no second chance” principle. Most people collect data from a number of sources. And if at least one of those sources says “indecent” then jai only. Death only are there for inherently unpopular people like me (i’ve recently discovered that I’m a hard person to like; and it takes people considerable effort to start liking me). The fact that I’ve one time or the other ended up pissing off at least half my extended family makes me wonder if I should exit this market and go back to the old-fashioned way of trying to find someone for myself by myself. That much said, I think I’ve applied enough maska on extended family members who I think are well-connected.

I think if this whole due diligence process gets documented well, then it could make for some interesting social network analysis. How does someone try to find someone who might know you? What is the average number of steps that one needs to follow in order to find someone who knows this counterparty? What kind of people are likely to be more involved in writing due diligence reports – people who are very well connected or the quiet types? Does an increased online presence have any effect on the amount of due diligence that various counterparties do?

I don’t know how one can find good data for this.


Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme

Arranged Scissors 2

Lazy Post – Statistical Analysis

I call this a lazy post since I didn’t originally write it as a blog post. I had written this as an email to a mailing list, and now thought it might make sense as a blog post. The reference to context: a prominent and well-respected member of the group had written a fairly lengthy argument, and ended it by saying “Maybe this calls for a good regression analysis….” . My reply is here.

I need to mention here that this mail to the group wasn’t responded to (apart from one tangential remark by  Udupa). I don’t know if it simply got lost in the flood of mails on the list today, or if people on the group (in general, a very intelligent lot) don’t care for this kind of stuff, or if, for some reason, this caused discomfort of some sort. Anyway, I begin:

I think I had raised this point before in a similar context. it is about the use and misuse of statistical analysis. i think one lesson that ought to be learnt from the ongoing financial crisis and the events leading up to this is that statistical analysis, when misused, can have dangerous consequences, and this is not just for the people who are misusing the analyses.

there is this popular view that if there is data, then one ought to do statistical analysis, and draw conclusions from that, and make decisions based on these conclusions. unfortunately, in a large number of cases, the analysis ends up being done by someone who is not very proficient with statistics and who is basically applying formulae rather than using a concept. as long as you are using statistics as concepts, and not as formulae, I think you are fine. but you get into the “ok i see a time series here. let me put regression. never mind the significance levels or stationarity or any other such blah blah but i’ll take decisions based on my regression” then you are likely to get into trouble.

i think this is broadly the kind of point that is made by people like Paul Wilmott. that the problem is not with statistical analysis, but  with the way people use statistical analysis.

ok, now that i’m done with my rant, I’m very sceptical about regression yielding any kind of conclusive results here. i think the number of data points we have here is too small to produce any meaningful results. of course i’m saying this without really looking at all the data that you want to might want to include. and i won’t be surprised if a few tens of papers get published on this topic. all based on statistical analyses. and the results all being orthogonal to one another.

Year Ending Post

Last december 31, I wrote a this day that year post. Two years back, I had published a short story. The year before, I had written about the events of the day, and one year prior I was mugging for what was going to be a disastrous marketing exam. As I am writing this, I’m playing scrabble on facebook, and bridge with my computer. I’m listening to music, and am planning to hit the sack soon.

This afternoon I received a mail from my boss, which he said is a standard format mail he sends to friends and colleagues. It was full of pictures of him and his wife and his kids, and stories about what they did this year. About the changes and special events in each of their lives. About how the year has been from different perspectives. And so forth. I think I have received a couple of other similar mails (from US based people – this might be some american funda; my boss also lived in America till early this year) from other acquaintances (though, without pics) which I haven’t bothered to read. Since I’m clueless about what to write, I think I’ll just do a standard year-end roundup.

The most significant thing for me was my move to Gurgaon, and to this new job. That had been preceded by four months of joblessness, and more than two years of acute NED (in fact, I think it was during this period of extended NED that I actually invented the term NED).

The concept of NED also seemed to advance by leaps and bounds this year. I have heard of people who are at least three degrees away from me use it. The message of this concept seems to be spreading. I am sure that one day it will be famous, but then I’m not sure if I, as its inventor/discoverer, will get due credit.

Another significant event of the year has been the movement of this blog from livejournal to its present location. I must mention that this website has been like “glad bangles” for me. A week after I inaugurated this, I had a nice job offer, ending over a year of NED. There were a few other changes also in my life around that time, which I don’t remember now. What I do remember was classifying this website as “glad bangles”. and I like this better than Mad Angles.

On the louvvu front, it was a very quiet year, apart from one quick episode. Maybe one of the least productive years – comparable, maybe, to my years back in IIT.

Ok I think NED is happening. i just resigned my scrabble game. I had resigned my bridge game ages back, and I’d closed the program. I’m feeling sleepy now. So I’ll close it here. Happy new year. And I think this is the worst year-ending post that I’ve written in a long time. This website maybe deserved a much better new year post in the year end but it’s ok.

why is the level of English in North India so low?

I had sent this mail to a mailing list of 60-odd super-intelligent people. unfortunately, in their fondness for Savita Bhabhi, Vidarbhan farmers and child-eating, they weren’t able to come up with any convincing explanation for this. So I thought you super-intelligent readers of my blog might be able to help. I begin.

Three months back I moved to Gurgaon from Bangalore. And one thing I’ve noticed is that here practically no one can speak English. I’m referring to service providers here, people who are typically from the lower middle class. Taxi driver. Electrician. Waiter. Accountant. etc.

None of them can speak a word of English, and  I mean that almost literally. In Bangalore and Madras, we can see that people in these professions at least make an effort to speak English, and even if you don’t know their local tongue you will be able to communicate with them and get your work done. Here, unless you know Hindi, it is impossible. There is only so much you can communicate in Dumb Charades, right?

I suppose one argument will be that people in the North would have never had the need to learn English since most people they come across can speak Hindi. And that since linguistic regions are much smaller in the South, there is greater incentive for people to pick up and learn new languages. And since they know that a knowledge of English helps get them more business, they make an effort to pick it up.

But again – even if you exclude those who haven’t gone to school, the knowledge of English here is horrible. Isn’t it aspirational in North India to send kids to English medium schools? If not, I wonder why this is the case – given that in the South practically everyone want to send their kids to English medium schools.

Ok here is my hypothesis – remember that it is a hypothesis and not an argument. I wonder if people who are native of regions where the same language prevails over a large geographical area are linguistically challenged. because everyone they need to interact with know their language and there is no need for them to learn any new language. and this affects their ability to pick up new languages. on the other hand, people from linguistically diverse regions will tend to find it easier to pick up new languages.

extending this, it might actually help if the medium of instruction in your school is not your native tongue. having learnt a new language early, you will find it easier to pick up new languages as you go along.

sometime last month I was at a high-end restaurant with a couple of friends. spoke to the waiter in English and he didn’t understand. one of my friends who was with me said “don’t bother talking to these guys in English. if they knew some english, they’d’ve been working for Genpact and not become waiters”