Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17, 2011

Simi Garewal's "India's Most Desirable" is my least favourite program on TV, even beating the likes of the 1876th rerun of the documentary "Hum Apke Hain Kaun". Sixty minutes of mindnumbing prattle from celebrities, interspersed with coy, pretending-to-be-hard-hitting questions from Simi (she must be, what, 98? Pity she wasn't born three thousand years ago in Egypt; she would have made a killing licensing the formula for her embalming potion to the pharaohs).

Not content with just Indian celebrities, there are plans to rope in Lady Gaga as well. That ought to be fun to watch: Queen Tut vs Lady Tut Tut...

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12, 2011

I recently finished reading The Black Swan (well, I've yet to start the extended essay that has been added to the second edition, but still). A moderately interesting read, with a few intriguing and insightful ideas, but there is no satisfaction at the end, the satisfaction that comes from reading a book that puts its key messages in a tight-knit, coherent form and packs a good punch, so to speak. The book would also have benefited from a better editing process -- the language doesn't flow that easily in quite a few places. A good thing I got this book as a gift and didn't have to spend money out of my pocket.

The author's contempt for CEOs, Frenchmen, and academics (economists in particular) also comes through too strongly and bitterly -- this is probably his F*** You Money talking. Somewhat ironical, considering that there is a quote from a trader in the book along the lines of "Be nice to people on your way up, since you'll meet them on your way down". He could also have gone a bit easy on the frequent attempts at cheap titillation through mentions of prostitutes, how many lovers did Catherine the Great have, and so on.

With respect to the meat of the book, can't really disagree with the author's contention: we do not know what we're doing half the time, unknown forces are lining up against us as we speak, it's no use trying to do long-term (maybe even short-term) predictions, and our brains are hardwired to see patterns where none exist and are prone to all kinds of cognitive biases (on a side note, this paper does a more thorough job of this). Scalability is a theme that runs through the book -- be it scalable/non-scalable professions (the relation between the amount of money one makes and the physical number of hours put in -- e.g., doctors/plumbers vs hedge fund managers) or scalable odds (Gaussian vs Mandelbrotian).

While on the subject of scalability and the medical profession, today I learned that one can get an *ahem* discount of Rs 5000 on an MRI scan bill of Rs 8000 if the doctor is kind enough to not ask for his commission from the diagnostics center.