Tag Archives: proportion

Why I can never be a great lone wolf quizzer

I admit that of late one of the unifying themes of this blog has been “correlation”. So what does that have to do with quizzing? Thing is that while I absolutely enjoy qualitative logical reasoning (which is why I still quiz actively), there is very little in common in terms of areas of interest between me and a lot of other quizzers. Specifically, unlike most other good quizzers, I have absolutely no patience for reading fiction (or “literature”), watching movies or indulging in generic American “pop culture”.

Now, it is known that a quizmaster tends to be biased in favour of the topics that he himself is good at. For example, I’ve personally found that the questions I set have more than a “fair share” of questions with a background in Economics or European Football, and nothing related to fiction, or movies. So, given that most good quizzers are good at the topics I mentioned earlier (literature, movies, pop culture), it’s likely that most quizzes will have a healthy dose of these topics. And since I know little about them, and don’t have the required levels of interest to know more about them, it’s unlikely I’ll do well in an individual quiz. Essentially, I’m at so much of a disadvantage in these heavily represented topics that it’s very tough to make up the deficit in the remainder of the quiz.

On a related note, I wonder if fashionable-ness of topics is static or dymanic. I wonder, if twenty years down the line, we’ll still find quizzes being as heavily dominated by the subjects that are in fashion today, or if there will be a new set of subjects that will be in fashion. It’s hard to say because there is positive reinforcement that is at play here. If, for example, a certain set of subjects constitutes a large portions of questions today, today’s “good quizzers” will necessarily be those that are good at these subjects. And given that the pool of quizmasters is usually drawn out of the pool of “good quizzers”, you will have more quizzes that have a large proportion of these fashionable topics. And so forth.

Again, I’m assuming here that a lot of people (unlike certain Chennai quizzers) don’t prepare for quizzes, and that they don’t try to develop interest in certain topics for the sole purpose of being good at quizzes.

Life Update And Other Stories

So I got married. Oh, we made a wedding website also. Wanted to have a dating game at the wedding where people try chat up each other on the chat box in the website before they came for the wedding, but unfortunately the box wasn’t widely used and the wedding party (yeah, we did have a dance party after the “vara pooje”) went off “peacefully” without any one pairing up (as far as we could see).

The biggest pain point at the wedding was immediately after I had tied the thaaLi around Pinky’s neck. The stage of the hall (not very big, mind you – the stage that is, the hall was pretty big) was invaded by all and sundry. Random uncles tried to ensure some discipline and make people queue up, but to no avail. We were assaulted from several directions by people wanting to shake our hand and get introduced to the one of us that they didn’t know. I’m not sure if either Pinky or I actually got to know anyone during that process.

Then, despite a lot of thought and prior planning (a long time back), the inevitable happened. There was a long queue at the reception. Thankfully, there were large groups of people so the queue cleared out fairly quickly. But it was still painful looking at so many people wasting time there when they could have spent their time at the wedding more usefully, scouting, networking, flirting, eating and the works.

A large proportion of the guests have given us gifts. It seems like we’ll have a very festive 2011. Ganesha Chaturthi will be grand at our house, given the number of Ganesha idols (in various positions) that we’ve received. Dasara (navaratri) will also be grand, given the number of other sundry dolls we’ve got. And a large number of (mostly really pretty) candle stands means that Deepavali will also be grand next year.

One thing we fail to understand is why someone cares to give us something when they don’t put their name on it. I mean, what is the use of gifting if the gifted doesn’t know who the gifter is? Is the gratitude for the wonderful gift to be directed to the general public that attended the wedding? Why would someone want to let go of the good karma that they get by giving some nice gift?

During our honeymoon at Sri Lanka, we realized that both of us are package-tour kids. That when we were young, most of our vacations were “package tours” where you were made to wake up early in the morning and taken to a thousand different places with a really busy schedule. We realized this when we kinda got bored halfway into our day-and-half stay at a beach resort in Bentota. I think the most boring part of staying at a resort is that you get bored of the food! How many times can you eat out of the same buffet, irrespective of how large it is?

I take this opportunity to apologise to my readers for not writing in the last one month. I hope to be more prolific in the future. Given that my wife and I met because of this blog (technically, due to it’s predecessor on livejournal), she quite appreciates my blogging and is very encouraging and supportive. And as I’ve been writing this for the last ten minutes, she’s been busy in the kitchen making what I think will be delicious sambar.

Keeping Transaction Costs Low

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike’s coffers aren’t Bruhat, it seems. For the up-coming road widening project, for which considerable amounts of land need to be acquired, it seems like the BBMP can’t afford to pay in cash. Hence, it has been proposed that compensation will be paid in terms of Transferable Development Rights (TDRs). The basic funda is that when your land gets acquired, you get rights to construct more in some other existing site, or on the remaining part of your site, or some such.

Quoting

According to a BBMP official, TDR is an instrument through which the Palike facilitates landlosers to construct additional floor or building in the remaining portion of the property or anywhere in the City.

The BBMP would issue a Development Rights Certificate (DRC), which can be either be utilised for personal need or can be sold to anyone who wants to construct an extra floor. The owner gets the right to construct a built up area 1.5 times over and above of that the property acquired for development. For instance, if 600 sq ft built-up area is given up to the BBMP, the property owner will receive a DRC for 900 sq ft built-up area.

This is interesting on several counts. Firstly, do you realize that what the BBMP is paying for the land is effectively an option? A TDR is nothing but an OPTION to construct more than what would normally have been permitted. The valuation of this option hinges upon the fact that current building laws are highly restrictive (in terms of the built up area as a proportion of the site area) and so the option of constructing more will actually be valuable.

It would be interesting to see how these options get valued. You can trust that there will be a lot of litigation concerning this since you can expect most people to have problem with the valuation. First of all valuation of financial options is itself so tough, you can imagine how hard valuing these TDRs can be.

Then, there is the whole supply aspect. The whole model of these TDRs will hinge upon the unwritten promise that more such rights will not be given away any time in the near future, since that will cause the value of existing TDRs to drop sharply. Given that there is one single agency (the BBMP) that controls the supply of such rights, and that the potential supply of such rights is infinite, there is a chance that valuation of these rights might be depressed.

One important thing the BBMP needs to take into account while issuing these rights is to make sure there are no transaction costs for trading these rights. The “transferable” bit needs to be emphasized in order for the value of these rights to be truly unlocked. I can see a large number of individuals who will be compensated with these rights who will want to trade them away, since they are unlikely to possess another site to utilize them. And given the number of big buildings coming up on small sites, I can foresee there being a decent demand for it.

I do hope that investment banks (or their equivalent) come forward in order to make markets in these rights. I’m sure banks won’t miss opportunity to step in here, but the important thing is for regulation that will enable such intermediation. It is in the interests of the BBMP to keep these transaction costs low, since that is going to have a positive impact on the valuation of these rights, and eventually less such rights can be given.

Postscript: It would be interesting to study the impact of these rights on bribery rates of BBMP officials. I’m sure that currently a lot of money is made in illegally granting rights for buildings that don’t conform to regulations. Since there will now be a legal way of getting similar favours (I’m told that the Akrama-Sakrama scheme has similar intentions) it would be useful to see if bribes do drop.

Dal Fry

Have you noticed – about how most Indian fried snacks are protein rich?

Vada – check (urad dal)
Maddur Vade – check (besan)
Boondi – check (besan)
Pakoda – check (besan)
Bajji – check (besan)
Sev – check (besan)
Papad – check (urad dal)
(you have several varieties of papad, and most are heavy in some dal or the other)

Even Chakkli and kODbaLe which are thought to be rice-based have a major proportion of Urad Dal flour in them. Go on and make a list. List out any popular traditional Indian fried snack, and you will find that it is protein rich!

Wonder what it is about protein and fat that they so commonly enter the stomach together!

Teaching Music in Schools

How many of you actually enjoyed your “songs”/music lessons in school? Not too many, I suppose. Actually I don’t think more than a tenth of the students would have ever enjoyed these lessons. And I don’t think there is too much surprise in this given the kind of stuff that is taught in schools.

At some point of time during my schooling, we used to have three (!!) “songs” classes during a week, each handled by a different teacher who would teach songs in different languages. The greying guitar-wielding fag-smelling Samson was a fixture, while the other two classes were handled by different people each year, none of whom I remember. One thing that connected all of them, irrespective of the differences in the nature of songs, was that most of the songs they taught were easily classified by us as “uncool” (back then, and even now I’d consider them uncool).

So earlier today I was trying to remember the different songs that had been taught to me in the “songs periods” in school, and the common thread was religion – irrespective of language. A disproportionately large proportion (yeah I love that phrase) of songs that were taught to us were about God, or doing good, or some such thing which could be approximated to a prayer. I remember that Samson also taught us some Christmas carols, but I would argue that even those can be classified as religious music.

There was no wonder that most of us dreaded the music lessons, and the only way we could look forward to them was to replace every significant word in a song with its opposite, or to simply replace it with moTTe (egg). No offence to any of the Gods in whose praise we were supposed to sing those songs but this was the only way we could make the lessons even remotely interesting.

I’m sure most of you would have also gone through similar experiences. And now consider this, courtesy askingfortreble:

Yeah that’s a bunch of schoolkids singing O Fortuna by Carl Orff. If you are done listening to that, then look at this – again being performed by students of the same school.

You heard right! They were singing Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters! Don’t you wish they had taught that to you in school? And made you sing it during the annual day? And if not anything else the bragging rights that would’ve given you later when you went to college? Or the coolness?

Thinking about it, Samson did teach us a couple of songs that were, in hindsight, cool. Ok we did enjoy them when he taught them to us also but they got lost in the midst of so many uncool songs that we never realized we knew such cool stuff. Harry Belafonte’s Jamaican Farewell and Dylan’s Blowing in the wind. Yeah, we learnt them in school but nobody told us they were cool.

Looking back, I wish we were taught many more such songs back then rather than having to substitute words of other songs with “motte”. For all you know, I might have actually taken up singing (ok that might be a stretch; even though I’ve learnt to play the classical violin for 6 years I hardly play it nowadays – ok that also maybe because most of the songs i know are uncool). Yeah I’m such a wannabe.

The TDS Scam

Tax Deducted at Source. TDS. A wonderful measure by the government to hide from us what they are taking away from us. The concept that there is a substantial difference between your “cost to company” and your “take home pay” has been ingrained in all off us, and so we don’t question the diffference. This way, it makes it easy for the government to take away large amounts of money as tax, without really making the taxpayers feel it.

I’ve messed up. Due to a combination of reasons I haven’t yet filed my tax returns for last year (2008-09) and now my tax advisor tells me I have two weeks to do it. And calculating the tax payable for the umpteenth time, I now notice that there has been an error in all my previous calculations. And the additional tax that I need to pay (has to be paid along with a fine for paying late) is not insubstantial.

TDS is a necessary system in order to enforce compliance and putting in checks and balances into the system. It helps the government get its finances on time and save a large part of trouble in revenue collection. What it does, however, is to obscure the amount of tax that is being deducted. A clever method, I think, devised by governments to take away a large part of your money from you without you noticing it!

Of course this is accompanied by this ritual called filing tax returns when you do get a chance to see how much the government has taken away from you, but considering that for most people most of their taxes would’ve been accurately deducted, most people would just go through the process mechanically and few would actually look carefully at the numbers!

The next time you are doing your returns, I strongly urge you to look at the numbers carefully. Look at how much you have actually earned, and how much of it is being taken away by the government without you really noticing it! Open the calculator in your mobile phone and calculate the proportion of time you work every year for someone else – for someone called the sarkaar. There’s a good chance you’ll start demanding more from the government after that.