Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Soul of a New Machine

The Soul of a New Machine arrived last Saturday. The story of how some of Data General's smart engineers became disillusioned and quit the company after a pet project of theirs got cancelled reminded me of Cringely's latest essay. Just a coincidence, I thought, until I came to this, at the beginning of Chapter 4:
A young computer engineer, known to be one of the most skillful in Westborough's basement, said he had a fantasy about a better job than his. In it, he goes to work as a janitor for a computer company whose designs leave much to be desired. There, at night, disguised by mop and broom, he sneaks into the offices of the company's engineers and corrects the designs on their blackboards and desks.
Hmmm, I could swear that I've heard this story before.

Looks like a lot of folks drew -- ahem -- inspiration from this classic.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Accountants' Green Belt

From The Undercover Economist:
Other professionals, like doctors, actuaries, accountants and lawyers manage to maintain high wages through other means than unionisation, erecting virtual 'green belts' to make it harder for potential competitors to set up shop. Typical virtual green belts will include very long qualification periods and professional bodies that give their approval only to a certain number of candidates per year.
Add to this the foiled attempt to restrict their members from acquiring additional qualifications:
The Supreme Court has quashed a notification issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) imposing restrictions on its members on the use of the diploma or designation of `CFA' awarded by the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Enough is enough

Notwithstanding all the negative things I've said about Kalam, I'm all for giving him a second term. The way things are going, I'll not be surprised if someone from the DMK is nominated for the presidency (or, heaven forfend, someone from -- shudder -- the PMK).

Monday, May 14, 2007

You know you are living in India

... when it's the 21st century and a paper called The Hindu publishes this on its front page:
The caste composition of the Cabinet is: three Brahmins, one Muslim, one Thakur, one Bhumihar, one Vaishya, four Scheduled Castes and eight OBCs.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Don't let the door

...hit your ass on your way out.

The Undercover Economist

I picked up The Undercover Economist at the same time I got Freakonomics, and while I was not that greatly impressed with the latter, I still didn't think The Undercover Economist would actually turn out to be the better book.

My first impression was that it was a wannabe, trying to cash in on the fame of Levitt's bestseller, but I was quickly dispelled of this notion. Tim Hartford does a great job of laying out the fundamentals of demand and supply, with lucid prose and a good storytelling technique. The book is still a very enjoyable read in spite of most of the stuff not being new for someone who devoured Paul Samuelson's classic with a vengeance and topped the single Economics course he took in college (I am talking about *ahem* moi, of course).

One slightly jarring note was Hartford's contempt for Cameroon and its corrupt ways. I'm sure he has travelled to all kinds of third-world hellholes, so he must have had a really bad experience there to stick it to it so much.

Oh, by the way, the Freakonomics Blog's brief stay in my Bloglines feed list is over. Turns out the blog is not even half as interesting as the book.

Had Columbus never come to America...

Pat Buchanan on the Virginia Tech massacre:
Almost no attention has been paid to the fact that Cho Seung-Hui was not an American at all, but an immigrant, an alien. Had this deranged young man who secretly hated us never come here, 32 people would heading home from Blacksburg for summer vacation.
The rest of the article builds up on this, and lays the blame for the massacre squarely on the immigration policy of the American government.

I have always wondered why people disliked Pat Buchanan. Now I know the reason.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Movie Review: Night at the Museum

Ben Stiller:Good as usual
Robin Williams:Can't blame him, role not weighty enough for him
Overall impression:Good enough for a few laughs on a Saturday evening if you don't have anything better to do

I must really stop these movie reviews unless I have something specific or compelling enough to say. Only problem is that till I do them there is a nagging feeling at the back of my mind, like I've forgotten to zip my fly or something.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Couldn't agree more

From a Squeak blog via James Robertson:
The Smalltalk community, while small, is one of the most intelligent, kind, supportive, and fun communities I have ever been involved in.
Staying on the subject of Smalltalk, the VisualWorks JSON implementation is done. Don't know whether it is worthwhile (or good enough) to submit to the public repository.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


How has my life changed after reading Freakonomics (I am through with the book; reading the bonus material now)? Let me count the number of ways:
  1. I have gotten to spend a pleasant three hours or so -- the time I took to finish the book

  2. My wallet is lighter by Rs 273

  3. I have added the Freakonomics blog to Bloglines

  4. I am wondering what's the reason for the shortage of Aavin ghee in Chennai

On a more serious note, some of my opinions with regard to gun control, money winning elections and so on have changed. But without the data and the tools and techniques available to a trained economist, I see no way for a layman to find answers to whatever novel questions he can come up with.