Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Counterfactual Thinking

Kahneman and Tversky offered the following scenario to a number of people:

"Mr. Crane and Mr. Tees were scheduled to leave the airport on different flights, at the same time. They traveled from town in the same limousine, were caught in a traffic jam, and arrived at the airport 30 minutes after scheduled departure time of their flights.
Mr. Crane is told that his flight left on time. Mr. Tees is told that his flight was delayed, and just left five minutes ago.
Who is more upset, Mr. Crane or Mr. Tees?"

96% of participants felt that Mr. Tees would be more upset. Just missing the flight would increase the chance of him generating the counterfactual thoughts of having caught it.

Silver medal winners do it all the time. The closeness to winning causes much regret and they need to excuse themselves for their 'failure'. In a reverse effect, Bronze medal winners often feel lucky to get a medal, as they were very close to not getting a medal at all.

Monday, March 30, 2009

wildcard bookmark

I don't know how well-know it is, but basically you make a bookmark with a keyword for the address bar and a wildcard in the URL.

For example, if you make a bookmark with the keyword 'map' and the address 'http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&q=%s' (note the '%s' wildcard) you can then type 'map cleveland street london' straight into the address bar just as the summary suggests. All that they seem to be suggesting is having it come up in a 'floating' context box like the AwesomeBar rather than actually open in the tab.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Danke Schoen

High school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) decides to skip school on a spring day by faking an illness, and then encourages his girlfriend Sloane and his pessimistic best friend Cameron to spend the day in Chicago as one of their last flings before they head off to different colleges. Ferris manages to convince Cameron to let them use his father's restored 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California to travel into the city. The only two people who are not convinced of Ferris' deception are his younger sister Jeanie, outraged at Ferris' ability to easily defy authority, and the school Dean of Students Edward Rooney, believing Ferris to be truant.

Danke Schoen

rational agent

To the economist utility is a stand-in for usefulness. In fact, it is often interpreted as a subjective measure with reference to the consumer. In this sense it cannot be used to distinguish between wants and needs. The distinction is left up to the consumer. And, according to rational agent theory humans (Homo economicus) act with perfect rationality in making choices based on their subjective utility assignments for various options. There are two basic flaws in this approach to building economic theories and models. First, humans are by no means rational, in the pure sense, but are strongly influenced by emotional factors, often subconsciously, that bias their decisions toward that which 'feels' good and away from that which 'feels' bad. Second, the formation of emotional linkage to things out in the world is strongly influenced by perceptions of linkage to deep biological needs even when there is no real connection. This is the job of advertising — make that premium object have sex appeal always works!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

FedEx May Cancel Jet Orders

Congress is currently debating a bill that would move FedEx to the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, an organization that generally covers trucking companies.

FedEx was formed as an airline and thus is able to enjoy the benefits of the RLA, which has provisions that complicate union organizing.  This is seen as a key advantage over rival UPS (UPS 47.24) which was formed as a trucking company and is governed by the National Labor Relations Act, which allows for easier union organization.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

intelligent layoffs in India

Infosys to offer NGO work to staff at half pay

Left without as much work for all its employees, Infosys is offering some of them an option to work with a non-profit organisation for a year and get paid half their salary by the IT major, its co-founder Nandan Nilekani has said.

"We've also launched a program where an employee can go work with a non-profit organisation for a year and we'll pay him half the salary for the duration," Nilekani told US publication Forbes in an interview published online.

Heard about this about 2 months back from insiders, but no news at that time. I think there will be layoffs in IT this year. There maybe bank auctions on flats, I think a lot of these IT people would have taken huge loans to buy flats. Their plan is to show a flat, shoot for higher dowry. It seems AP CM, YSR told the banks to not auction till elections are over.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Don't Forget About Inflation

Gold fell to roughly $700 an ounce last year, but is now near $950. This is an early signal of excessive monetary ease. And oil is now above $53 a barrel after falling into the mid-$30s-per-barrel range last year. This is a sign of both easy money and a return in velocity.


Our goal is to make the best arguments on all sides of any public debate freely available to all and continuously open to challenge and improvement by all.

In pursuit of this goal, Debategraph is:

(1) A wiki debate visualization tool that lets you:
  • present the strongest case on any debate that matters to you;
  • openly engage the opposing arguments;
  • create and reshape debates, make new points, rate and filter the arguments;
  • monitor the evolution of debates via RSS feeds; and,
  • share and reuse the debates on and offline;
(2) A web-based, creative commons project to increase the transparency and rigor of public debate everywhere—by making the collective insight and intelligence of the global community freely available to all and filtering out the noise.
  • Every debate map is provisional and open to iterative improvement by anyone who participates.
  • Over time, the debate maps will mature into the definitive articulations of each debate.
  • Every change you make—whether correcting a text, adding a new argument, or starting a new debate—contributes towards the fulfilment of this social promise.
  • So be bold as a first time visitor—and safe in the knowledge that a full editing history provides a safety net.
(3) A global graph of all the debates that enables us to visualise and deepen our understanding of the ways in which different debates are semantically interrelated, and ways in which these interrelated debates shape, and are shaped by, each other.

Monday, March 23, 2009

backup in cloud

The danger of storing your data in the cloud, part n. VC-backed online backup and storage provider Carbonite has lost data of 7,500+ customers who relied on the company to keep their files safe, The Boston Globe unveiled over the weekend.

Amazon S3

I believe data stores in S3 auto-replicates across multiple data centers so theoretically you should not encounter a data loss like this one - unless all of amazons data centers get nuked.

S3 is a VERY expensive form of backup and is a poor use of their technology.

Jungledisk is an interface on top of Amazon S3. Jungledisk workgroup is nifty for sharing drives between multiple PCs, multiple users. The trade-off: risk of viruses, etc.


Do you know there are over 10 million cell phone plan and add-on combinations? Or that every credit card has over 100 meaningful variables? We're obsessed with monitoring all those details - so you don't have to!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Interface First

Design the interface before you start programming

Too many apps start with a program-first mentality. That's a bad idea. Programming is the heaviest component of building an app, meaning it's the most expensive and hardest to change. Instead, start by designing first.

Design is relatively light. A paper sketch is cheap and easy to change. html designs are still relatively simple to modify (or throw out). That's not true of programming. Designing first keeps you flexible. Programming first fences you in and sets you up for additional costs.

Another reason to design first is that the interface is your product. What people see is what you're selling. If you just slap an interface on at the end, the gaps will show.

We start with the interface so we can see how the app looks and feels from the beginning. It's constantly being revised throughout the process. Does it make sense? Is it easy to use? Does it solve the problem at hand? These are questions you can only truly answer when you're dealing with real screens. Designing first keeps you flexible and gets you to those answers sooner in the process rather than later.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

celebrates diversity, imperfectability, and faults

There has been, of course, an eternal tension between that part of humanity which celebrates our diversity, imperfectability, and faults, as part of the rich tapestry of the human condition and that part which seeks to perfect itself, to control, to build complex codes and rules for conduct which if zealously adhered to, guarantee an orderly process.

This talk is about this conflict as it relates to computing on the Internet. This talk is also a polemic in support of KISS. As such it is unfair, opinionated, and perhaps even unconscionable. Indeed, at times it will verge on a jeremiad.

It is an ironic truth that those who seek to create systems which most assume the perfectibility of humans end up building the systems which are most soul destroying and most rigid, systems that rot from within until like great creaking rotten oak trees they collapse on top of themselves leaving a sour smell and decay. We saw it happen in 1989 with the astonishing fall of the USSR. Conversely, those systems which best take into account the complex, frail, brilliance of human nature and build in flexibility, checks and balances, and tolerance tend to survive beyond all hopes.

So it goes with software. That software which is flexible, simple, sloppy, tolerant, and altogether forgiving of human foibles and weaknesses turns out to be actually the most steel cored, able to survive and grow while that software which is demanding, abstract, rich but systematized, turns out to collapse in on itself in a slow and grim implosion.

Adam Bosworth



I remember about 9 years ago when IBM bought out Sequent Computer Systems [wikipedia.org]. My employer at the time was a Sequent customer and I knew people who worked at Sequent's corporate office. They were at first all gung ho about joining IBM, but the reality that set in wasn't pretty. As often happens in business, a big company buys a competitor simply to shut the competitor down. Click on the Wikipedia link provided to get some more info on the deal and alternative explanations for the decision to close down Sequent. If I worked for Sun, I wouldn't hold my breath that this would be a good deal for me, but the stock holders and upper management at Sun may come out well from this.

An alternative view of IBM's actions, born out of the belief that corporations maintain consistent strategies over the short and medium term despite executive changes, is that IBM acquired Sequent not to nurture it but simply to keep it out of Sun's clutches. Through its acquisition of what became the Enterprise 10000 server line from Cray, Sun had done so much financial damage to IBM's server market share, that IBM was very reluctant to see this disaster repeated. Even if it generated zero revenue for IBM, the net present value of Sequent from IBM's viewpoint was higher inside IBM than inside Sun.


Dabbleboard is an online collaboration application that’s centered around the whiteboard. With a new type of drawing interface that's actually easy and fun to use, Dabbleboard gets out of your way and just lets you draw. Finally the whiteboard enters the digital age!

Haram and Halal Meat

I sat puzzled. I was aware that there was a debate amongst scholars, but there was supposedly a strong view amongst the Arabs in particular that the meat available in the market was halal. I called a friend – Ahmad Attar, a black American revert to Islam – who always shared in my thinking. We discussed the verses of the Qur’an and were convinced that we had to find a way to acquire halal meat at least for ourselves, even if we had to go to NY to buy it.

A few days later, it was Eid day, and at the annual Eid dinner, I read out the verses of the Qur’an and invited all Muslims to join our halal meat club. Ahmad and I volunteered to go to NY every other weekend to bring the halal meat for all members of our club. Around 20 of them joined us, starting a halal meat service in the Boston area for the first time. Within months, one of the local mosques decided to take up our project, leading to a regular supply within the city. Indeed Allah is Great, Who guides us to the Straight Path.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama administration believes small businesses ..

70% job growth is rewarded by 1% of stimulus money. 

The programs being announced on Monday build on the $730 million for small businesses included in the $787 billion economic stimulus package approved by Congress last month.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

development sustainability

Globalisation began with colonialism. In the 16th century Europe was overpopulated and the people began to migrate from Europe to other continents as if they were discovering new places. It ended up with conquering other places and people. The Sword and the Cross went together. They forcefully enslaved and converted natives and indigenous peoples. They conquered lands, exploited the resources and accumulated wealth.

In the 20th century, the world witnessed the uprising of peoples for political freedom. However, economic exploitation continued through multinational corporations (MNCS) and transnational corporations (TNCs). But the rich and the ruling class of the newly freed Third World countries generally sided with the MNCs for their own advantage, against the interest of the common people.

Again the natives and the indigenous peoples were the worst hit. As a result, according to a UN study, the 20% Northern minority of humankind has: 82.7% of world gross national product, 81.2% of world trade, 94.6% of all commercial ]ending, 80.5% of all domestic investment, 80.6% of all domestic savings, 94.0% of all research and development.

It is in this context that we should understand 'globalisation' today.

Those who have more are bound to get more. This means more accumulation and centralisation. The twenty percent of people in the North are better placed to take away even the 10-20% of the wealth in the hands of 80% people in the South. The real Centre is G-8 countries and of course the USA is the real, centre of the centre.

They are wielding the power of wealth and arms. They are placed in a better position for quick profit at the expense of the vast majority of people and the environment. All the rest are in the periphery. Thus, the peripheralisation of the vast majority is the other side of globalisation.

In the period following de-colonisation and political independence of the Third World (South) countries particularly after World War II, the international relationships among the countries at bilateral and multilateral levels were considered very important and viewed as mutually beneficial. This language and practice seems to be in the wane today.

Northern MNCs want to take over the control of the UN. If the UN does not dance according to their tune they will not give it their share. They are more interested in strengthening the WTO than the UN. They talk of democracy and human rights but they have no concern for the people of the South. The market economy determines everything, there is no other value in life. Money has more value than people of the South.

The UN has become a weak instrument. Globalisation is beneficial to those who have. But all the have-nots are the victims. Globalisation is a mechanistic process (and therefore most easily manipulable by the wielders of power) in the face of which there is no choice and alternative. This is the most insidious aspect of this ideology: that it could present itself as the only possible way of being. It creates a certain sense of inevitability and absoluteness. Outside globalisation and the market economy, there is no salvation.

Let me show how this is true as regards the fisheries sector. In the 1990s fishing reached the point of diminishing returns. Many fish populations have fallen to levels from which they can no longer recover without significant reductions in the catches or a moratorium on fishing. There are simply too many boats catching too many fish.

The first surge in numbers of fishing vessels occurred during the industrial revolution. This upswell tapered off during the two World Wars, but boomed again in the 1950s through the 1970s. The world's fishing fleet doubled between 1970 and 1990. More than 100 million people in developing countries (South) are dependent on fisheries for our livelihoods. For us fishing is a way of life, not just a source of income. The Sea is our mother.

Traditionally, small-scale or artisanal fishers have provided fish for local consumption; but as fish becomes scarce and its value increases, it enters the global market and becomes unaffordable for common people.

In the process we are displaced and the MNCs take over completely. Most governments, particularly those of the North, are trying to prop up an unsustainable fishery. According to the FAO, every year governments world-wide spend $116 billion to catch just $70 billion worth of fish.

Developed nations, which have overfished their own waters, have headed into the waters of the developing nations. The European Union (EU) has around 40% more vessels than necessary to catch fish on a sustainable basis.

Volatile 'fish wars' are commonplace. There are more than one million large industrial fleets in the world. They have depleted all the oceans in the world. They have become a threat to the 100 million fisherpeople in the world. Further, these have organic links with the coastal mono-shrimp culture.

Fresh fish caught by the industrial vessels are converted into fishmeal for the production of shrimp. Ten thousand tons of fish that would have been available for common people are converted into fishmeal to produce 1,000 tons of shrimp that only the rich can afford to buy.

Further, the coastal shrimp industry depletes fishing grounds, salinates drinking water, destroys mangroves and displaces fisherpeople and agriculturists who depend on these resources for their livelihood. In addition, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has shifted polluting industries to the coastal belts of the developing nations, threatening the very lives of small fishing communities who are totally dependent on fishing and fishing alone.

All over the world the victims of globalisation - the small fishing communities - are realising the need of coming together to establish our right to life. We want to establish our right as persons. The World Forum of Fish-harvesters and Fishworkers is the result of this realisation. The Forum is involved in a campaign to establish the right of the fishing communities to own the water-bodies, including seas and rivers, fishing implements and distribution of the catch.

Management of the distribution of the catch should be done by the fisherwomen. We have declared November 21 as World Fisheries Day to claim and to campaign for this right. We wish to establish our right by exercising our duty, even through struggles and sacrifices.

India's 10 million fisherpeople were able to change the government policy of joint ventures and lease fishing through long-standing struggles. Canadian fisherpeople have been fighting against huge fishing vessels. The Gloucester fisherpeople in the USA, particularly the wives of fishermen, have succeeded in banning factory trawlers through legislation.

In Senegal, fisherpeople are on a war path against destructive fishing. In Brazil the fisherpeople are involved in a struggle against predatory fishing. In Pakistan and in South Africa the fishing communities are struggling to establish their right to life. Thus the fisherpeople in both the North and South, who are victims of globalisation, are involved in establishing a new paradigm of development and politics.

We, the fisherpeople in India, are part of a larger alliance - the National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM) - all of whom are victims of globalisation. There are over 150 peoples' movements in this alliance, not only struggling to survive, but searching for alternatives to the present form of development which in the long run is destructive for all.

It is through these struggles that the whole of humanity is going to be saved. True development is not by conquering and enslaving, not by accumulating and centralising, not by displacing peoples and destroying cultures. True development is only by integrating and working together, through distributive justice and
decentralisation by nurturing and including native and indigenous peoples.

It is here that the struggles of the victims of mega-dams in India can be understood. There are 3,600 mega-dams in India. These have displaced 50 million natives, tribals and fisherpeople and have proved to be mass destruction rather than development. These victims are involved in a long-standing struggle to create a new paradigm of development, where native skills and technologies are enhanced, small is accepted as beautiful and sustainable and simplicity has become a way of life with due ... respect to native cultures.

We have gone to the extent of jal-samati - sacrificing ourselves in the rising reservoirs - rather than inflicting violence upon others, for the creation of this new paradigm. Right now, about 400 leaders, representing different movements in India - farmers, fishworkers, people displaced by the Narmada project and others -
are in Europe campaigning against MNCs, TNCs and the WTO.

For the first time such a mass campaign is taking place. The victims of globalisation are asserting their rightful place in this planet. We feel an urgent need to create a new paradigm of development and politics, a paradigm in which all human beings have the right to live, with equal access to the resources and opportunities.

Development cannot be measured solely by the quantity of production, but by its sustainability, by its capacity to protect the livelihood of all human beings. Production should be coupled with distributive justice. There is no development for the sake of development.

True globalisation should make free movement of labour unhindered by national boundaries. Let the year 2000 be a real Jubilee Year; let the debts of the developing countries be wiped out; and let all nations experience true freedom and equality.

The life of the planet and the dependent health and welfare of humanity must not be sacrificed to the greed of the few.

[*Thomas Kocherry, an Indian priest, lawyer and trade union leader, is a prominent leader of the traditional fisherpeople's movement in India, and one of the moving forces behind the World Forum of Fish-harvesters and Fishworkers. The above is adapted from his acceptance speech while receiving, along with US economist Herman Daly, the Sophie prize in Oslo, Norway in June. The prize is awarded by the Sophie foundation, set up by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder, who wrote a best seller Sophie's World, and donated a large sum of his fortune from book sales to the cause of environment and development.]

Is sustainable development possible? Any development displaces people. People have to change occupation. Agriculture displaced hunting communities. Modern/industrialized agriculture displaced farming communities, which at one point was the occupation of 90% or more of humanity. Walmart displaces small retail outlets. Huge autoloader backup equipment displaces tape backup operators. Efficiency displaces people - Japan and China destroyed a lot of manufacturing in US.

Displacement goes with development/efficiency. There is no balancing act. People *have to* be prepared to change occupations. New markets will be created while the old industries are destroyed. For eg, this current crisis, new sectors could create jobs - alternative energy, green processes. Creation of new sectors requires a lot of intellectual resources. Newer sectors are far more intellectually demanding than old sectors. First, education needs to be overhauled to constantly come up with new sectors. Fed govt spending a lot here may work out better in the long run than giving failed companies money. These industries need to be let go.

In US, people moved from manfacturing to service jobs. Earlier, the rate of development was slow, several generations or one generation could stick with the same occupation. The rate of change is increasing. People need to be prepared to change occupations over their lifetime. This is a hard task. I don't think humans are geared to do that. I see a lot of people will remain jobless due to productivity gains and intellectual requirements of new jobs.

Monday, March 09, 2009

housewives demand pay from govt

The daily grind of looking after their children and families, albeit with no remuneration, has led housewives in Kerala to form a trade union, demanding that the government pay them a fixed salary and old-age pension for the services being rendered.

Celebrating international Women's Day on Sunday, they said a registered union would be formed by the month-end.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Gender Issues: Communication Differences in Interpersonal Relationships

Women tend to be the relationship specialists and men tend to be task specialists. Women are typically the experts in "rapport talk" which refers to the types of communication that build, maintain, and strengthen relationships. Rapport talk reflects skills of talking, nurturing, emotional expression, empathy, and support. Men are typically the experts in task accomplishment and addressing questions about facts. They are experts in "report talk," which refers to the types of communication that analyzes issues and solves problems. Report talk reflects skills of being competitive, lacking sentimentality, analyzing, and focusing aggressively on task accomplishment.

It is more common for women to show affection through talking, but it is more common for men to show affection by doing things—either doing things together or doing separate things within the same physical space. Sometimes not talking—not having to talk—is a sign of trust and intimacy for men.

So, the next time you feel surprised, disappointed, or angry with someone's response to something you have said, ask yourself if he or she may have "misheard" you. Is the other responding to your problems with a solution, when you wanted to receive sympathy? Is the other responding to your message of affection with a message of status? If so, you will be able to help the other to understand the source of your miscommunication, and avoid the hurt feelings and conflicts that sometimes follow.