Being a non-descript quizzer

All regular quizzers, I know, will be able to recognize me if they see me. But what if I’ve to call up one of them on the phone and tell them who I am? I’m not sure too many people in the quizzing circles know me by name. Even if they do, there are several Karthiks wherever you go. I don’t think too many quizzers even know me as Wimpy/SKimpy.

The basic thing is there is no “handle” that I can use to describe myself in the quizzing circles. I’m generally low-profile when seen from outside my team. I’m not my usual mad self during quizzes. I’ve never answered a question so spectacular that everyone knows you by that one answer. The last time I did a quiz was over two and a half years ago. And I haven’t usually had very spectacular or high-profile teammates. Not on a regular basis at least.

Due to perennial time constraints and assumptions that everyone knows everyone else, the “introduction” part of quizzes has been mostly done away with. Even when it is there I say stuff like “I am War” or some such random thing – though not random enough for everyone to take note. In effect, I’m what can be described as a “non-descript” quizzer.

Now I begin to wonder whether I face this problem because I overestimate my own long-term memory, and thus, underestimate everyone else’s long term memory and assume that people don’t know me. Nevertheless the question remains as to what I can do to overcome this nondescriptness (don’t ask me to start dancing at the next quiz) and how I can communicate to people who have only seen me as to who I am.

Russian Mags

Long ago, Soviet Russia decided that a good way for them to propagate propaganda in India would be to distribute magazines at subsidized rates. My father had taken the bait and subscribed to all such magazines available – Soviet Union, Soviet Woman and Misha. All of them were available at dirt-cheap rates (don’t exactly remember them). It was so cheap that buying the magazines and giving them to the raddiwala was almost a profitable business.

This is the extent to which the Russians went to propagate their propaganda. And sadly, in those days, the world was yet to hear about anti-dumping duties.

For some reason, I never liked these magazines. My father would sit with me and make me read Misha. He would help me set up and play some of the games mentioned in that. Even then, I never managed to appreciate the magazine, and most of it went straight into the raddiwala’s hands. However, given the extremely low cost, my father didn’t particularly mind.

It was a jobless summer afternoon – as jobless as you would expect a seven-year-old kid without siblings during summer vacations would be. The postman had just dropped off the post – two fairly heavy books. The latest editions of “Soviet Union” and “Soviet Woman”. I don’t clearly remember, but looking back, it seems like I wasn’t in a terribly good mood that afternoon. And so I set to work.

I decided to tear the two magazines to pieces. Each and every page of them. I tore it out carefully from the book, and using my hands, tore each page into innumerable shreds. I must have either had tremendous determination, or tremendous patience, or both, for these books were fairly big. However, I diligently sat down and did my job. And I wouldn’t budge until I was done with each and every page.

I think seven (or maybe I was eight then, but I tend to believe I was seven. Even my super-strong long-term memory can’t? give me a clue on this) years is an early age to display your political leanings. However, watching me having diligently and efficiently torn down the Soviet Union and Soviet Woman to pieces, I think my parents were convinced that I’d grow up to be a right winger.

Shortly after this incident, I was taken to a field near my house and enrolled into the RSS.

The difference between Taleb and McKenzie

A few minutes back I finished reading Richard McKenzie’s Why popcorn costs so much at the movies and other pricing puzzles. Since the book is not available in India, I managed to procure an online pirated version through a friend. And since the book isn’t released in India, I didn’t feel guilty about reading the pirated version.

Continue reading “The difference between Taleb and McKenzie”

My Dear Brothers and Sisters of America

I have a proposal to make. If you are visiting Bangalore soon that is. As you might have figured out from reading my blog, a large number of books that I want to read aren’t available in India. I can ask a bookshop here to import it from the US but that would make the books prohibitively expensive, much more than my willingness to pay.

I notice on Amazon that there are “used and new” books also available for sale, at a cheaper price. Something like a second hand market. And I notice that a number of books are priced very reasonably in that. Unfortunately, delivery for these is only within the US. This is where I need your help.

I will order the books and give your address. You will need to ferry these books to India for me. Of course I know that you usually come back with your suitcases loaded, with gifts and chocolates for cousins up to four steps removed. In the middle of that if you can squeeze in two or three books, please let me know.

The ideal case for me would be to burden each of you with exactly one book. However, the free shipping of Amazon kicks in only when I’m buying a few books. Hence, you’ll be saddled with more than one book. Actually, I wonder if we could work out a mechanism where my books and your books can be ordered together, so as to get the free shipping, and then you can ship my books to India.

As for payment, well, I don’t know how well this will work but I have this mechanism. I’ll order the books much before you leave the shores of the US. Even otherwise, you have a long plane journey to endure on the way here. By carrying my book, you will get the opportunity to read it. I don’t know if I’m a good recommender of books. Nevertheless, I think you should find some useful stuff in these books.

If you can’t leave a comment here, mail me at skthewimp [at] yahoo [dot] com

the hybrid pen

Back when I was in school, my father brought me two “Hero” pens. One brown and one green. Soon enough, the barrel of the brown pen was broken, and the nib of the green pen followed presently. I put made use of what was later to be called as ‘Genetic Algorithms’ and continued working. I don’t know what I did with the spare cap though. The cap was once shiny gold in colour, but through constant biting and chewing, it’s become quite dull now.

Two years later, I decided to classify this pen as my “lucky pen”, based on one data point. I had used it to write my IIT JEE. Everything I did that day became lucky. The navy blue shirt. MES College. The breakfast (onion upma). The car in which I traveled to the venue. The Sankey tank route to Malleswaram. All based on just one data point. It was some eight years before I read Taleb.

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Ranting and cribbing

Ok i’ve talked about this before. When you rant, you do so mostly to feel better. Get things out of your system. Just get rid of some trash so that you can structure the rest of your thoughts. And so all you need is a listener. A counterparty. A good listener. And it’s done. I’m not saying it’s easy to find a good listener. Those types are hard to come by. But it’s mostlty a generalist’s job. Whether you are pissed about your job or with your girlfriend or with the Prime Minister, and you want to rant, you need not find a different person for each!

Cribbing, as I’d mentioned earlier, is much harder. You need to find the right people to crib to. You need to organize your thoughts. You need to be able to ask the right questions. And you need to interpret people’s vague answers and figure out the component of their answer along the direction of your question. And then fit it back into the larger question.

Cribbing is also an art. First you need to find the right counterparty. Next, you need to make it clear to the other person that you are cribbing and not ranting, and so you need a solution. Then, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, you need to give the crib a good structure. And you should be able to objectively ask those right questions without letting your emotions and feelings come in the way. You should get over all those “I don’t want to pain this person with my rant” kind of feelings and think you’re just asking the other person for some specific help.

From a macro perspective, you need to keep separate accounts of rants and cribs. People are more likely to get cheesed of if you rant to them (unless of course they are close to you etc.) but not so much if you crib – I’m mostly talking about bad listeners (which is most of the people) here. If you are cribbing, the structure in your questions and statements helps the other person and it won’t be too heavy on them. also, they have something to do in the whole buisness -? to think of a solution, rather than to just sit and listen, so it’s more enjoyable for them.

Sometimes when I feel like cribbing to someone I feel “ok i’ve been cribbing to this person a lot nowadays and he/she may not like it”. I need to figure out if I’m going to rant or crib, and also filter the historical data on this parameter. And then apply the rule I put above. It’s going to lead to a much more optimal solution.

Asking for help

Sometimes I’m a bit hesitant to get back in touch with old acquaintances when I need a favour from them. I begin to wonder if they’ll think of me as one of those “duhkh mein sumiran sab karein… ” types. And sometimes I think ten times before mailing or calling them.

But then, I remember that I too keep getting lots of similar calls or emails. From old acquaintances who I haven’t kept in touch with for ages. And every time, if I’m in a position to help out the other person, I do so. When I think about this, just like it is supposed to happen with Gandhiji’s talisman, my doubts and myself melt away.

This reminds me of this batchmate at IIMB. Occasionally, you would get letters from her. Stuff like

Hi Wimpy!
How are you? How are you doing?
Hope you did yesterday’s exam well.
What did you have for dinner?


And it is an indication that she wants some help from you. For I had noticed that otherwise she would be very direct and to the point!

And in my experience so far, if you are trying to get in touch with someone after a long time (to ask for a favour of course), you shouldn’t apologize for not keeping touch or any such naatak. Just get to the point. Actually a subject line of “need help” is even better.

Let me know what you think of this.

Choosing my SIP Dates

Having decided that I’m exceptionally poor at picking stocks, for the last year or so I’ve been investing mostly in Mutual Funds. I invest a total of Rs. 12000 every month in three different mutual funds. The three SIPs take the money out on 2nd, 9th and 27th of each month, I think.

On a number occasions in the recent past, to my bad luck, the stock markets have chosen to move up heavily on the day that my SIP is due. For example, the markets hit a trough two days back, and chose to go up by 700 odd points yesterday – when my SIP was due. Of course, I understand that the concept of investing on a fixed day each month is to average out these daily movements and ensure that I buy on an average at the average market rate. Nevertheless, so far the luck has mostly gone against me.

I’m wondering if it would be a good idea for me to lock in the previous day’s prices in case I get the feeling that the market may go against me on the deduction day. For example, two days back I had a good idea that there was a good chance that the markets might shoot up yesterday, and I would’ve been quite happy investing at the July 1st levels. I wonder if it would’ve been a good idea to go short long on a market index “stock” such as Nifty Bees on July 1st evening. I would clear out this position on the evening of the 2nd which was when the level at which my SIP investment would be made would be decided.

Most of the MFs I invest in invest mostly in blue chip stocks, so I don’t think there’s too much of a basis risk by hedging using a market index. The only problem i have is that Nifty Bees aren’t very liquid, and don’t get traded too much. Also, I don’t know if short selling is allowed in this (can someone let me know?) “stock”. If not, can you suggest some kind of an alternative investment that I can make one day before my SIP day (I mean I need to sell short) which is more liquid? ( actually the short position thing in nifty bees doesn’t matter. I own a significant amount of that stock so I can sell some of it and buy it back without actually being short)

Let me know if this kind of a strategy is sound.

(if you aren’t able to leave a comment here, mail me at skthewimp [at] yahoo [dot] com)


Oops. What I meant was I go long in the market on the eve of my SIP and clear out the position when my SIP actually kicks in. I don’t know how but I got confused between long and short. It reminds me of this story in Hull where he talks about a trader who wanted to close out a long position in cattle and instead went longer, and had to go somewhere in the rural US to actually take delivery of cattle.

When two heads collide

Yesterday, after watching Radoi and Rat headbutting each other, I messaged Baada saying that it’s too funny when people from the same team get involved in an accident, despite it being very painful for the players. A moment later, I realized that I had no right to laugh about these things after I got into major trouble following this accident with


And Baada was right – on an average, same-team collisions have resulted in more serious injury than different-team collision. Remember Waugh-Gillespie? Now i hear Radoi needs eye surgery and has a broken nose. And I remember a couple of such incidents in the English Premier League also, last season, where injuries were fairly serious (warranting substitution at least).

The Romanians have this peculiar character that looks like a T with a tail, and is pronounced as “ts” or “tz”. So Rat is pronounced as Ratz. The coach is Pitzurca. The Czech, instead of inventing a character for this sound, use the otherwise redundant C for these purposes. So it is Rositsky and Tsech.

Death Markets

I wrote this in a mail to the Satin group. This was in response to a mail by Amit Varma talking about priests in Haridwar who conduct the pre-ashes-dunking ceremony, and their fees, and the bargaining, and what could be a decent solution for the problem. I thought it might make sense as a standalone post, so I’m reproducing it here.

Continue reading “Death Markets”