22 Jun 2007

The Great Corporate Dope Trick

Posted by Oblivion in General | 3:15pm

It's that time of the year again when one is subjected to the grind of filling the appraisal forms. A process no sane person would devise and an exercise no sane person would enjoy doing. I didn't enjoy doing it, and I'm not sane. When I finished the ordeal, I felt whoever had invented copy/paste/edit option ought be awarded a Nobel.

Not all people dislike it. As it is designed to be, many people indeed find it the best chance to summarize their past year's perfomance to the management so to effect in a promotion or a hike. They believe that the bell curve - that Great Intellectual Fraud, according to Taleb - is a fair mapping of correct and absolute judgment. They have their reasons to take it seriously, so I don't intend to dismiss them.

What interests is the vagueness and absurdity of its design. There's this section that asks the user to rate his performance in different competencies against his expectations. First, these competencies are not measurable. These are rather 'perceived' - whether subjectively or objectively. Second, the rating is meant to be cumulative, spanning one year, but the options are appropriate only for events/instances. Thus, the 'above average' rating is ridiculous. Yes, the ratings are meant to be against your expectation at the beginning of the year in consideration, so higher ratings than average don't appear to be flawed options, after all. But careful examination reveals that it is indeed incongruous with labour profiles (well-defined roles, repeatable tasks, limited power, functions with accountability), which most in the MNCs are. They don't outsource ideas profiles yet. The profiles don't deal with much uncertainty, either, as those of, say, hijack negotiators, extreme weather photographers, etc that rely on above-ordinary levels of anticipation and demand sharp decision-making ability.  

Your expectation varies depending on every performance. As you do better, you tend to expect more from yourself. Besides, with time, everyone becomes better at what he has been doing. In effect, expectation goes up incrementally. Expectation is nothing but a projection based on the inference of the past. It is inductive. As the sample size increases, your expectation would be according as your average scores. As the average goes up, so too your expectation. Performance in a single outing can be more or less than your expectation, and this, in turn, contributes to the 'average'. So, above-average ratings (exceeds expectations, outstanding, etc) fit only for instances rather than their collection. When one refers to cumulative rating and claims it is above average, it implies that he failed at assessing his capabilities realistically. Statistically, though, an above-average rating suggests brilliant performance!

Rating oneself is always a tricky business. The interpretation depends on various factors - how generous he is in defining what an achievement is, how encompassing his criteria are, and, importantly, how stupid the management is. The more 'above average' these factors are, the more favorable the interpretation would be of above-average ratings. Although the skill - or the lack of it - of the managment remains a constant factor for all subjects, the other factors vary. Eventually, the final rating turns out to be almost independent of the subject's projection.

All that impressive management bunk notwithstanding, it's just a game of instincts and biases. So there will be favorites and scapegoats. Scapegoats will, however, be very few, so the exercise works fine for majority and they are led to believe that the rating is an absolute mathematical equivalent of their performance. As a result, it stays. Ergo, no escape yet from those few minutes in the management cabin listening to flattery or abuse!

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21 Jun 2007

Selective Amnesia

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:18pm

There was a time, not many years ago, when life was simple. Then all friends, cousins, and all objects of affection grew to marriageable age. And everything changed. Well, at least for me. With the addition of spouses and, within a few years, babies, I began to realize I've a terrible head for names.

I seem to have no problems with the first level, though. As the levels increase, the recall value slides in inverse proportion. Ready availability of secondary memories - yes, the damn gadgets - doesn't seem to be helping much. Being genuinely fond of nephews, nieces and babies doesn't seem to be helping, either. A quick check revealed that I don't remember the names of spouses of almost 70% of the contacts. Remembering the sex of the babies and their names is proving to be an enormous task.

I play it safe by asking "How is hubby?", "How is bhabhi/she?" and "How is the baby?" Thankfully, it works because of their strong associations for "he", "she" and "the baby". But then all situations cannot be so favorable - there will be times when one has to mention names. When the babies grow up - which they seem to be doing quite good and fast - I need to refer to the baby in terms of boy/girl. As I show no signs of improvement, I'm sure I've to live through many embarrassing situations. May friends and kin be blessed with more forgiveness!

It can't be a problem with the memory, though, for it does fine - just like an average chap's would - with most information that matters. It's probably to do with my loathing for the institution of marriage and family as an entity. If this is true, I don't need a fix. Else, I do.

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7 Jun 2007

2012 - De Sign

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:05pm

Olympics 2012, London logo

The logo for Olympics 2012, London was released Monday, June 4. The spend was

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25 May 2007

The Doors

Posted by Oblivion in General | 5:44pm

"If you wanted further proof that astrology is perhaps the biggest hoax perpetrated on the Indian public, take a look at some of the predictions made about the cricket World Cup. Not a single Bombay astrologer predicted that India would crash out before reaching the Super Eights. That charming fraud, Bejan Daruwala, said India had a "strong chance" of winning the World Cup and that either Rahul Dravid or Munaf Patel would be "player of the tournament". Who would score the maximum runs, Ma Prem Rithambara was asked. Dhoni or Tendulkar, she replied. And take the most wickets? Irfan Pathan. Sanjay Jumaani, who calls himself a numerologist, after giving some mumbo jumbo on how 2007 adds up to the number 9

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2 May 2007

The Tao of Love

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:37pm

He who loves not
isses the beloved for ever

He who loves best
Ruminates or dreams never

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8 Apr 2007

Faux Pas

Posted by Oblivion in General | 5:53pm

20 per cent of people are chronically poor spellers, due to a neurological glitch. A good part of the remaining population goof up with spelling (I'm not referring to typos. Typos are tolerable) because they don't, to my mind, study words properly enough. This extends to names too. If the newspaper vendor gets your name wrong, it isn't much of a bother. His job doesn't demand him to be good at spelling. But if you are a copy editor with a leading newsmagazine, you are expected to be meticulous.

Names - like spelling - are partially dependent on geography, so the naming conventions differ among regions and cultures. There's no such thing as misspelling in Italy, Spain, Portugal and other countries, for they have a more straightforward orthography. English is more prone to misspelling because it has an irregular spelling structure and has about 1,120 letter combinations to make 44 sounds. In comparison, Italian has 33 letter combinations to spell 25 sounds.

With names, it gets more tricky. Besides the usual challenge of getting the sequence of letters in the name correct, one has to get the sequence of the complete name (first-name-middle-name-last-name) correct. When one has no information of the convention that a person's name has been derived from, it's better to go by what that person himself mentions than rely on guesswork. I'd like to believe this should be among the important rules that people in media should be taught.

Outlook newsmagazine, its deserving credibility and smart team notwithstanding, never ceases to surprise me. I mention first-name last-name-initial with the letter, and the guy changes it to first-name-initial last-name in the published version. He expanded the last name when all I mentioned was the initial! And, obviously, he got it wrong (next time, I'll try Vito Corleone and see how he mindhandles it). Not for the first time. Not a critical mistake, but it is, nonetheless, an avoidable one. The chap must be either dumb or overconfident, and neither of these is a desirable attribute of an editor with a newsmagazine.

If it was The Economist, such a goof would be unthinkable. Although Outlook matches The Economist in values, yet it lags much behind as regards standards. And I'd like to see at least one magazine from India to be as good as The Economist is. A dream!

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7 Apr 2007

Brake Fail

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:24pm

To maximize the probability of finding one's best match, he has to date thirty-seven people. The next person who's better than those thirty-seven is, with reasonable certainty, the best match. Whoever thought Math is not romantic!

If Mr Y, an Indian, is taking a flight from Place X to Place Y on a Saturday evening, what is the probability of his chancing upon a girl who has finished with dating thirty-seven guys? Better yet, what is the probability that this girl will occupy the seat next to his? In a conservative culture like that of India where most people don't even date, it tends to zero! Let's take Mr Y to a more liberal culture (as regards dating), and he gets lucky.

While at it, I wonder which culture is most liberal with man-woman relationships. French? Irish? Italian? Mexican? By most liberal, I mean - you like each other, you live together; you feel it's not working, you break up; no ritual, no vows, no lawyer, no fucken bullshit.

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30 Mar 2007

Yes, Off with Sachin!

Posted by Oblivion in General | 2:02am

People have been asking for his head for years now. Let's finish with it. Let's pull Sachin out of the team. Every time he fails to score and the team loses, media decide he's past his prime. I'm just tired of this non-stop nonsense. The Times of India, India's no.1 entertainment daily (The Times of India of the 80s and that of now - what a tragic transition!), keeps asking "Is this Sachin's last ODI innings?" It gets as irritating as Mandira Bedi's analysis of Australia's victory does.

Sachin will be 34 in April, and every goddamn newschannel cribs as if he is 45 and has been rendered, by age, ineligible to play any more cricket. He has better record in 2006 than most players, but he is given only a below par rating because India's record doesn't match up. Is it one man's fault if the team fares bad? Nobody asks what the ten other idiots were doing when Sachin fails.

India have won 29 out of 41 times when Sachin scored a century in ODIs. Even Bradman would certify that it's an incredible record. He has the highest number of runs in World Cup and topped the charts two times. No Ponting or Lara or Jayasuriya or Inzamam has managed that. If not for his superior performance in the 2003 outing, India wouldn't have even made it to the finals. He failed to fire in the final and everybody nailed him! "Sachin is finished", they said! It is indeed the mark of a great batsman to come good in crucial matches, but no batsman in the world can do it every time.

Yes, his performance has dipped in the past couple of years, but he is not so woefully out of form as Sehwag is. If record is the criterion and sacking is the solution, then the team will have only debutants! Even with a string of unusual number of low scores, Sachin's record during this period is not very bad in comparison with that of Dravid.

Comparison with Ponting comes up every time. Ponting has the advantage of belonging to a great team and a less celebrity-obsessed culture. Australian team's confidence level is high and it's not as dependent on individual performances as India's is. Check the number of times Australia lost when Ponting had failed and that India lost when Sachin had failed. It tells the story.

Expectations don't get as high with Ponting, or any batsman else for that matter, as they do with Sachin. And the 24x7 channels make it all the more difficult. Everything is hyped up and the weight of expectation grows. Any great batsman in his thirties will get mindfucked if he is expected by millions to score a century every time he walks out to bat. Even younger chaps fine it tough to cope up with such pressure - Pathan and Dhoni are good examples. Sachin has the grit to not let that effect in nervous breakdown - that he has been playing for almost two decades proves it. It'd be good if media go slow and realise how important it is for the game to have such players. If a writer wins the Man Booker with his debut novel, and you expect him to win it with every book hence, writing will become a nightmare for him.

He gets hit on the helmet and they say he can't read pace any more! It does good to remember that he was hit, on occasion, even in the early days of his career. And it's stupid to relate an occasional lapse to a slip in ability or agression. On his day, he can be the most destructive batsman in the world. McGrath lamented that Sachin treated him like a club bowler in the '96 world cup. Warne's nightmares are all too well-known. Akram, Waqar, Ambrose, Walsh, Donald, Shoaib - everyone will tell you of Sachin's exploits. The only contemporary batsman who troubled bowlers as much is Lara. McGrath, Pollock, Vaas dismissed Sachin more frequently than Waqar, Lee, Shoaib did. So, the talk about his dip in ability to read pace is bullshit.

If we sack Sachin, whom do we bank on? Young blood and Dravid? Dravid is undoubtedly among the all-time best, but his strength is consolidation. Very rarely has one seen Dravid pull off a victory with just a tailender for company. Check the rareguard exploits of Sachin, Lara and Inzamam for comparison. And who are these mysterious young chaps that media refer to? Get 11 chaps in their late teens or early twenties and you get a great team? Haven't we experimented with n number of those young chaps already, only to find a couple of promising players? Young chaps who play cricket are million in number in this country, but to find a replacement for Sachin is an altogether different business.

Dealing with hypotheses is damn easy, and media thrive on this practice. Opt for experience and lose, and they will say "low on adrenaline. You should've tried young blood". Opt for youth and lose, and they will say "audacious, insensible experiment. You should've banked on experience and wisdom". Since the promise of hypothesis beats the harshness of reality, there are always millions of takers for these. Get a few of those, make them yell, spice it up with your own articulation and silly analysis, and you get a great story to reflect, as they claim, national mood. The TRPs go up, number of advertisers go up, you get a hike, and the business objectives are met. How do you care how the team does? Reality comes with so many open endings that you can play with hypotheses for eternity.

Let appreciation of sport go to the dogs, media just want stories to up their audience and advertising revenue. I really want to see Sachin out of the team. Then, I'd absolutely enjoy watching the newsreader on Times Now referring to the absence of Sachin as the reason for India's failure, watching a few cranks on one of the NDTV's debate shows questioning the selection committee's decision to drop Sachin, and watching Rajdeep Sardesai indicate an SMS poll result that suggests 86% feel Sachin should be retained.

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24 Mar 2007

UG Krishnamurti - The End

Posted by Oblivion in General | 2:20pm

March 22, 2007. 2.30 pm. Vallecrosia, Italy.

UG was eighty-nine years old. As per his advice, with no rituals or funeral rites, the cremation was carried out the next day at 2.45 pm, in Vallecrosia.

Confined to bed for seven weeks after a fall, his consumption of food and water became infrequent and then ceased altogether. "It's time to go," he declared, joined his palms in namaste, thanked his friends and advised them to return to their places. Only his longtime friends, the filmmaker, Mahesh Bhatt, Larry and Susan Morris, and few other friends stayed back to guard his body and do whatever was necessary when the end came.

UG did not leave any specific instructions as to how to dispose of his dead body. "You can throw it on the garbage heap, as far as I am concerned," he often would say.

- (Source: K Study Circle)

UG, as Osho had said, "missed JK" in spite of being with him for 12 years. What a miss, indeed!

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20 Mar 2007

The Right Master

Posted by Oblivion in General | 7:52pm

The sun had set on the western margin of the river among the tangle of the forest.

The hermit boys had brought the cattle home, and sat round the fire to listen to the master, Guatama, when a strange boy came, and greeted him with fruits and flowers, and, bowing low at his feet, spoke in a bird-like voice--"Lord, I have come to thee to be taken into the path of the supreme Truth.

"My name is Satyak

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13 Mar 2007

Life - A Short Story

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:37am

If Mr X lives for 100 years and meets one person every second, he will meet 3155760000 (assuming 25 leap years) people in his lifetime.
If he meets two persons every second, he will meet 6311520000 people.

World population (as of March 13, 2007; courtesy ibiblio.org) - 6695921452.

...just a random mapping. Purposeless and accidental. As life is, I suppose. 

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11 Mar 2007


Posted by Oblivion in General | 6:27pm

Thanks to MV, the discussion on astrology is still active and I like to note a few more points.

1.Science is not biased against astrology. Science is sceptical about imagination and insists on verification. More so when theories are based on flawed concepts. There are still some primitive communities that believe anaesthetics are bad because they interfere with God's decree. Although logically you cannot prove the belief wrong, yet you dismiss it as unreasonable for it's based on ridiculous assumptions. 

2.Science doesn't claim it knows everything and its findings are final. On the contrary. Many theories - be they Einstein's or Freud's or Newton's - were dumped when they proved inconsistent with results of experiments and further studies. Science doesn't deny mystery; only, it refuses to explain it away with mere assumptions.

3.If you are an immigration officer, you don't go by trust. You insist on the documents even if a chap is giving you genuine information but has no documents. If the region is known for liars and fake documents, you will be even more meticulous. Even though it appears arrogant, it is a fairly sensible approach. If you go by trust, you have to take a chance with a thousand guys (for there's no reason why you should believe one and doubt another) and that's not the best way to go about doing your job. Science does just what you do as that officer. And given that man has the propensity to believe in wrong things than right, it is all the more strict with scrutiny.

"Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones."
- Russell

4.To assume a point and then go back and connect the dots is not the best approach to understand anything. It's easy and flawed. It's very easy to suspect or even frame a guy and gather evidence to convict him. If you want to see God, you can see God by doing all that mental circus for a few weeks. If you believe in prayer, you can relate the consequences to God's preferences for you. Start imagining the world is scheming against you and you'll become paranoid in two months. Your perception will be absolutely true for you, and nothing in this world can persuade you to doubt it. It fits despots, fundamentalists and Bush.

5.Science doesn't dismiss "interconnection" in universe. But as regards "influence" among the objects, it relies on studies rather than appearances. If imagination would suffice, there's no flaw in Douglas Adams' take - "Since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation -- every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history -- from, say, one small piece of fairy cake."

6.If X is Y's friend or mentor, X influences Y's psyche, not the color or texture of his hair. Imagine a celestial object influencing the personality of Mr.Z, living on an island in the Atlantic! Variations in temperature or light can affect your mood, but it's always the state of the world that affects your psyche. You react differently to the hit of a meteor from that of war even though the devastation is same in both cases. A quake might render you homeless and compel you to contemplate the cause or the precautionary measures you should take next time, but it's the care and help that the world extends that will shatter or reinforce your faith in humanity. Drop a nuclear bomb and no planetary configuration can help man to survive.

7.Predicting is not a tough business, as long as accuracy is not demanded for. Contemporary events suggest where the world is moving to. The effects of global warming, the dominance of machines, the advent of gadgets, the kind of diseases, political unrests and wars, whether a pair will marry, etc are being fairly predicted without referring to any arrangement in the skies. Problem is, accuracy is mapped only in retrospect. Predictions of astrologers are no better than this. If your firm has restructured staff the last two times when it made an acquisition, you can also predict that a lay-off circus is in store if you chance upon the news of the latest acquisition. Predicting the result of games is a big business. Stock movements are predicted. But no scientist or Nostradamus can tell me the exact rise of a stock or the result of an interview or the time of my death. Astrolgers do no better. So, what's the deal with stars, et al, except as a fancy exercise?

8.Our feelings or orientations follow templates. The differences in these among us is just in degree, not in form. So, if you take 100 people, you will certainly notice a pattern among groups. Horoscopes do no better than this chance data.

Rachleff tells of a very interesting experiment in which an identical horoscope was mailed to over 100 persons who had given their natal information to a post office box number. The recipients had 12 different birth periods represented by their birth dates, and their varieties were as opposite as could be expected, through Leo and Cancer. Each person was told that the horoscope sent out pertained only to that one person, and basically they accepted it as such. He tells us that "many admired its pertinence and exactitude". The fact is, if enough information is given, we are able to find ways in which it fits our own experiences. (Clifford Wilson and John Weldon, Occult Shock and Psychic Forces)

And as Time magazine observed, "There are so many variables and options to play with that the astrologer is always right. Break a leg when your astrologer told you the signs were good, and he can congratulate you on escaping what might have happened had the signs been bad. Conversely, if you go against the signs and nothing happens, the astrologer can insist that you were subconsciously careful because you were forewarned."

How credible, then, is this horoscope business?

9.That a belief system's origins date back a few millennia to Babylon or Egypt or Vedas doesn't mean it is infallible. With all due respect to their attempts to comprehend the universe and its ways, if an idea is based on flawed assumptions, it's wrong. Not up to appreciate the discovery that geocentric theory is wrong, the adherents of astrology must've prevailed and passed on the belief system to the next generation. Belief is a luxury. Belief is redundant.

10.If a girl, who you have a crush on, smiles at you, you'd like to believe that it's a sign of approval rather than an innocent gesture. Signs are open to interpretation. If you stop at that, it's nothing better than imagination. People find it boring if they are told the planets and stars exist just like that and affect them no more than a pebble on a beach hundred miles away. So they play with fancy ideas. Imagination is a matchless tool for penning poetry, not for comprehending and explaining the workings of the universe. 

11.Astrology is paranoia.

A man said to the universe, "Sir, I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation." - Stephen Crane

(P.S. MV, thanks and sorry :-) ) 

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9 Mar 2007


Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:32am

Over the relic of Lord Buddha King Bimbis

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4 Mar 2007

Passing Clouds

Posted by Oblivion in General | 3:01pm

This would infuriate a few friends further, but here it goes...

1.Astrology is geocentric and anthropocentric. Everything is interpreted according as our interests and considers Earth as the static frame of reference. It's a fallout of the primitive belief systems that considered Earth as the centre of the universe and associated divine or evil attributes (again, according as our conventions) to celestial objects and phenomena.

2.Lot of theories refer to the magnetic and gravitational fields of objects. The strengths of these fields - as regards their effect - are inversely proportional to the square of the distance. So, although Jupiter is many times bigger than Earth, yet its magnetic field is about a trillion times weaker than the Earth�s. One would experience a far stronger field from the lights and washing machine in his room. Mars has no intrinsic magentic field at all.  

3.A planet can have only two effects - simple gravity and tidal pull. Gravity drops with the square of the distance. Tidal force is even weaker; it drops with the cube of the distance. The total pull of all the planets combined is 0.017, which is not even 2% of the Moon's pull. The force of the Moon itself on us is only about 0.000003 times the Earth's. The effect, by a most generous estimate, is negligible. So, there!

4.Talking of stars, the nearest to us is the Sun. Earth's magnetic field acts as a shield and deflects the solar wind, for if Earth was exposed to Sun's radiation, it will become a dead planet, unable to support life. Hardly anything is known about other stars; besides, they are much much farther away. So, what kind of effect can they have?

5.With such negligible effects that stars and planets can possibly have, how can their configuration and chance alignments have any effect? So, all that talk about the effects when Jupiter is in Virgo, Mars in Taurus, Moon in Gemini, etc is nonsense. And why is there no information on their effects on animals? Why are there no forecasts for dogs, whales, rats and pandas? Are the celestial objects selective about their targets? Are we some superior species to be the chosen ones? Is the effect on animals implicit, instead?  

6.Genetics, sociology, psychology and evolutionary psychology explain almost everything about our psyches and behaviour. A small injury to a certain part of the brain of an introverted chap can change him to an extrovert. So, where does astrology figure? And what exactly does it explain that these cannot? And what is the "effect" that it talks about? Is astrology talking about some magical force that mysteriously penetrates all the obstacles, defies all laws of matter and energy, and finally reaches Earth to influence our personalities and events?

7.Does astrology mistake our change of moods for the result of a decisive influence from stellar objects? A hot, sunny day makes one feel restless and uneasy, a full-moon night makes one expansive and exuberant, a pleasant day with an easy breeze flowing inflicts delight. Nevertheless, it's nothing mysterious. Indigestion can upset your day. A beclouded evening with thunder and lightning makes even animals gloomy and scared. To attribute these to cosmic influence is ridiculous.

8.Theories proposed by astrology are based on primitive assumptions and are inconsistent with those that have been validated by science. So, it has no validity except in the form of a belief. To say, "It is true because I believe in it, and so do millions" is a dead-end. Belief itself is a dead-end. If my neighbour tells me he has seen God, I cannot refute him in any way. Does the fact that millions believe in heaven and hell imply that they are indeed real? Does the fact that astrology has a billion takers imply that it is a sound discipline, after all? It is a discipline fueled by superstition and driven by emotion. As regards evidence, it offers nothing.

9.Geniuses like Russell and Freud dismissed astrology. Stephen Hawking opined it is rubbish. JK would not even talk about it. And these chaps obviously know more about it all than we do. Saying, "Those guys are wrong, and I'll get a million people who agree" is very easy, but proving them wrong is another point altogether. And it is the latter that matters.

We have too much of ourselves in our brains and we comprehend everything with us as the centre. Else, there's no reason to hold such beliefs in earnest.  

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2 Mar 2007

Lethal Weapon

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:36pm

Copy of an ad for a Medical clinic in Haryana, where female foeticide is on the up: "better 500 rupees now [for an abortion] rather than 50,000 rupees later [for a dowry]".

Brilliant? Disgusting? Creative? Irresponsible?

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