Thursday, December 15, 2005

Babua Khiladi Dadua Anadi

Yes, that is the name of Bhojpuri version of "Namak halal"

1000% profit is what is drawing some of the bollywood talent in Bhojpuri Phillum Industry.

Read this BBC Article

Some interesting tidbits:

Made on a modest budget of $65,000, Sasura Bada Paisawela took in over $3m at the box office. Daroga Babu mopped up nearly $900,000 on a similar budget.
Rani Chatterji - originally Sabiha Sheikh and renamed after Bollywood actress Rani Mukherjee - is the most popular actress.
To exploit the industry's potential, there is also a rush now to dub 40 Bollywood hits, including films like Sholay and Deewar, into Bhojpuri.

Imagine Sholay in Bhojpuri:

Arrey O sasur ka nati, kitney aadmi they?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Identity 2.0 presentation by Dick Hardt

I have been very busy getting my essays in order to apply for Round 2 for MBA at various colleges, so haven't been able to write, or read, in a while.

Someone forwarded this presentation on Identity 2.0. It is extremely well done and uses powerpoint in a completely new way.
(Disclaimer: 15 min clip)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Where do IBonds fit in your portfolio?

I was a little surprised to see the real interest rates were actually at the most 1% if not less. Most banks have savings rate of 3.5% but the inflation is around 3%. Currently the rate of I Bonds is 6.73%. You can read more about I Bonds at I am sure this gives no way even close to the ROI results you get when investing in the market over a long run, but this is certainly lot better than the savings account.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of IBonds that make it better than savings but little less liquid. In my
previous post I mention what role do savings account play.


  • Liquid asset. It is the closest to cash/savings compared to any other investment vehicle.
  • Guaranteed rate of return. This has fixed rate of return + variable rate based on semi annual inflation based on CPI.
  • Inflation protected, thus you don't have to worry about inflation at all.
  • Local and State tax exempt.
  • You never lose money as these are U.S. govt. backed.


  • Withdrawal limits. One cannot withdraw within one year of ownership. You need to own them for at least one year. If money is withdrawn within 5 years there is a 3 month most recent 3 months interest penalty.

I think these bonds are great place to keep most of your savings after 5 years but you can't keep all your savings in IBonds as there is a 3 month interest penalty if you withdraw before 5 years. So, in case of emergency before 5 years, you might loose some money but the difference in ROI still makes it worthwhile keeping 80% of your savings after 15 months. Thus, start with keeping some of your savings in IBonds and after a year start moving funds slowly. This is almost like a CD except that the rate is inflation protected in IBonds and there is absolutely no penalty to withdraw anytime after 5 years.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Sony's Chutzpah

The news that Sony's music CDs install rootkit app when you play them on your Windows PC, without your permission, has created an outpouring of outrage in the blogsphere. Rootkits are these apps which are hidden from windows apis and users, so non-windows expert have no way of finding out what is on their computer. You can read more about what rootkits are here and download this utility by windows expert Mark Russinovich, who accidently found this problem, to reveal rootkits.

I think it is very brazen of Sony to do this for Digital Rights Management. No one wants anyone to have some invisible utility installed on the computer to keep you from copying a music CD. This basically hits directly those users who have no intention of p2p-ing these music files anyway. I will certainly not buy Sony music CDs till they publicly declare that they don't do this anymore. I think in the short run, it can only damage Sony's music sales since in today's networked world, this kind of news spreads like wildfire. I agree with BBC's Bill Thompson that in the long run Sony will find a way to make this happen, but in the short run, they are not getting my business. Besides, the hard core copiers who actually do the harm will find a way around this anyway.

Radio Shark is cool

Tried GriffinTechnology's Radio Shark. Its rad. Its a TiVo for Radio and very easy to use on mac or PC. It has looks of latest mac gizmos. I got it as part of my pledge to

Friday, October 07, 2005

Moral Policing by GOI

GOI = Government of India

Have you followed the passing of law to outlaw the dance bars from Mumbai and now to close the dance clubs in Bangalore? Well, I was in Mumbai when the dance bar closure issue was in the limelight and now, I am reading this article about Bangalore.

First let me differentiate between regular "Dance Clubs" and exotic "Dance Bars". I think I need to do this based on the comments I read after this article. Regular Dance Clubs are where people go to have a drink or two, dance with friends, meet friends and have fun. Some even go to meet someone new. Why would someone go to meet someone at a dance club, I don't know, but perhaps the full bar and alcohol brings the defences down and people are little more open to talking once they have some alcohol in their system. Music could be aother major factor as some people, including me, love dancing to good music. Dance Bars, on the contrary, have just girls of questionable character dancing. I say questionable because not all, I believe, are there for exploiting and wringing money by selling flesh, they might be there because of circumstances, desperate need for money, or other such reasons. These Dance Bars, are sometimes used as a door way to prostitution. I hope there is no more confusion in understanding a lounge or restaurant or a discotheque.

Now, should a govt. pass a law to outlaw Dance Bars? Perhaps, based on what kind of a society people living in that place want. I would say pass a law to outlaw prostitution and use the police force to enforce this law. Considering the social stigma people have for people with questionable character in India, I think the barrier to do such activities is already very high. If someone can convince me that enforcing a law like this is one of the most important issues plaguing the police department, then I wouldn't mind them spending their time enforcing such a law.

What about Dance Clubs, Lounges, Restaurants with bars/dance floors and Discotheques? They are there for very clean entertainment and even I wouldn't mind my kids going to such places. People go to such places to meet up with friends, eat, drink, talk, dance and have fun. There is nothing wrong about that. Why should then a government, which I believe has many more important things to do, pass a law regulating such places? Don't the police have other work like stopping illegal drug activities, improving the security of the place, not letting the son of that commissioner or that minister to not abuse his Dad's/Mom's power? Besides, do such activities stop after passing such a law?

People say, we should be proud of our own culture and not get influenced with western culture. Completely BS. You want your kids to talk in English, study in English medium schools, go to a "phoren" country to be better off, but when it comes to having fun in a place with good booze and music, you feel insecure? Is dancing to good music with friends while having a little booze such a bad thing and such a foreign thing to us? I don't think so. Is our culture so fragile and our values so weak that we will forget them by dancing to western music, which by the way has many Indian sounds/instruments nowadays? I have one thing to say to people who oppose these places, will your kids change to become someone you want them to be if they do not go to clubs or lounges?

With regards to making alcohol illegal, all I have to say is, it doesn't work. Alcohol is illegal in Gujarat, the western state of India, but people have easy access to alcohol by illegal markets. Tons of alcohol is smuggled in the state by road from Rajasthan and other states. I would rather that government illegalize consumption of alcohol before certain age, say 21 and then spend the energy to enforce such a law rather than making alcohol illegal. Agreed that easy access to alcohol will make even those few people drink who are on the borderline. But, will it be so bad if those borderline people drink a little in moderation? Every person has a right to enjoy life in his or her own way as far as it is not spoiling other's freedom, liberty and choice to do things. Please let the adults decide on their own what is good for them. They should have that much sense right? Let us not impose our ideologies and ways of life on other people.

Bangalore has grown so much despite the fact that its infrastructure is not able to keep pace with the growth. Shouldn't government there be busy to take this opportunity to change the face of bangalore, improve the governance and make services extremely streamlined and efficient? They have this golden opportunity to make use of the current preference of the tech industry to locate there and what are they busy doing? Creating a moral police. Sigh.

In a democracy, I believe sometimes we have to put up with something that we don't completely approve of. As far as it is not interfering with your way of life, let others do what they want. Live and let live.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Salman Rushdie's autographed book

Salman Rushdie was on SF Forum on Oct 3rd. Michael Krasny interviewed him and they talked about his new novel "Shalimar, The Clown". They announced that he would be at Books Inc. in Mountain View at 7:30 PM. It perfectly worked out for us, and Stuthi and I met him and got two of his books autographed. Midnight's children and Shalimar the clown. Unfortunately, it was a small bookstore and it was full by the time we got there, so we had to wait outside while he talked and answered questions inside.

Well, I have not read him but have heard from almost everyone who has read his stuff that he is one of the best novelist of our times. I will post my reviews later once I am done.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Quadrant2: Retirement - Start early

My friend, Sai, just wrote about how you can achieve your retirement goals if you start little but start early. In his post, Quadrant2: Retirement - Start early, he also has a link to his presentation which contains links to more resources. I have read about this at many other places too and completely believe in this. Time, is that rare resource which if not used wisely, can never be returned.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Writing to explore

I found this article corroborating what I have believed, that to explore an idea, a thought or a concept, writing is the best tool. If you put down your thoughts, you have a chance of not only explaining it to others, but also to make your beliefs clearer. You wouldn't discard stupid ideas or wouldn't even try to classify your thoughts or judge your thoughts, but when you write them down, you will be the first critic of your thoughts before anyone else, and that acts as a nice filter. What comes down is better than whats in your head. In this article Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at Cornell University has developed a nice economics 101 course to explain all the odd things in life. In the class students explore odd observations by writing about them. E.g. Why do drive through ATMs have instructions in braile? Why do women buy their wedding gowns and men rent the tux? Simple answer, "Its the economics stupid".

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Financial prudence

Over the last few months, I have read about and discussed various financial management topics with my friends. I used to think I was lost in terms of knowing where I was heading in managing my finances. Since then, I have actively organized my finances and have set some goals. I am pretty comfortable now about which direction I am going with my finances and would like to share with you about what I have learned. You can comment, correct me or give me your frank opinion as I think gaining knowledge about personal financial management is a long continuous process. This is but a beginning of an exciting journey of self realization, self exploration, gaining knowledge about the finance world, becoming a savvy investor and keeping in mind a vague final destination of financial security. I say vague because if you set a definite target, you might feel like a looser if you don't get there, but getting somewhere there is the whole point and hence the vagueness. Its not like if you don't have a definite amount of wealth by certain age, you are not doing well. Doing well entails many dimensions in life. Financial security and contentment is one of many dimensions using which a person analyses his or her own success. Here, however, I will just focus on the financial dimension.

Everybody's risk profiles are different. Some people can play more aggressively, some people cannot bear to get in debt, some people want more safety than others, hence use your own judgment to make decisions in your own money matters. I personally do not like the idea of improved standard of living on credit. However, I am not going to talk about how much should you invest in what, I will just layout my own strategy going forward. Of course, this is subject to change with more experience about the field and my relative risk taking ability.

When it comes to money how should one think about where to put the money? How much to save? How much to invest and in what? I think the first thing that a person needs to know is where he or she is and where he or she wants to go. This starts with knowing how much does the person spend on an average in a month. This, knowing what you earn and spend, will help you in finding out how much can you save or how much you need to. It is the basic cash flow management. If the outflow is more than the inflow, clearly a change in lifestyle is in order. After knowing your in-flows and outflows make sure you set aside some money for the rainy day, and you will have your share of rainy days sooner or later, no matter how much or how little you earn. As they say, its not how much you earn, its how wisely you spend.

I like to have 3 layers of safety nets with decreasing level of liquidity. Two very important concepts which cut through all of these are Dollar cost averaging and compound interest (or just compounding).

Lets first talk about these two before going any further.

a. Compound interest (or compounding):

Its a simple formula that we have learned and used in our primary school math education yet we do not really understand the implications of this very powerful tool.

The equation is: P = C (1 + r/n)^nt


P = future value
C = initial deposit
r = interest rate (expressed as a fraction: eg. 0.06)
n = # of times per year interest is compounded
t = number of years invested

Let us assume you start with a capital of $10000, with 4% interest rate compounded twice a year (e.g. a 6 month CD) would produce a sum of $14859.47. That is a lot more than 4% per year.

Here is a better java based graphic calculator which you can play around.

If the interest is compounded everyday or more number of times, the interest you gain increases.

b. Dollar cost averaging:

This is a known way of saving yourself from market volatility. It is a strategy where you invest a fixed amount at a fixed interval in the same asset. For e.g. Stock funds, Index funds or Bond funds. This protects you from the ups and downs of the markets and you can sleep at night without worrying about how you are doing that day. When the price of the stock fund goes down, your fixed amount buys more number of stocks and when the price goes up, your fixed amount will buy less of that fund. Thus, the value of all the stocks together will be averaged out. This is more advantageous if the stock/fund is more volatile. There are couple of websites which talk about this in detail.

Let us now talk about what are those three security nets.

1. Ca$h (Savings accounts)

You need this for first line of defence against any mishap in your life. This also works as a buffer if you overshoot in spending more than you earn in a month. This happens every now and then as there are some payments which are six monthly like your car insurance or automatic saving plans or that speeding ticket, anniversary, birthday etc. Every Tom Dick and Chaudhary has an account in ING direct. It gives you the best interest rate as it doesn't have actual brick buildings like other banks and hence has lower expenses. Of course, this cannot replace the banks/ATM network which is necessary. So, splitting your savings account between the two kinds of banks, internet based higher interest paying vs. brick and mortar and lower interest paying, is prudent.

2. CDs or FDs (Certificate of deposits or Fixed deposits)

It is necessary to put some of your savings in CDs. There is no point in making all your savings earn a paltry interest in a savings account when you know you won't need this money. This is something which doesn't give you money instantly like the savings account and thus, protects you against your impulsive behaviour to blow away your savings account. This is something which you should be able to tap into if in the hour of the need, your savings run out. In my philosophy, you should have enough money to survive 1 year without any income while maintaining your current standard of living. 6 months worth of supply in saving and remaining in 6 month CDs. Of course you can do your own combo throwing in a CD ladder. I say, 1 year but this period is flexible and should be decided by the individual depending on the kind of industry that a person works in, the market conditions which can dictate how soon can you find another job and their own needs.

3. Investments (Stocks, funds, real estate etc)

After having put your house in order, then you should start thinking about making your rest of the money earn a little more than paltry interest that banks give you. If you see historically, the markets have given 8-9% returns annually over a long period of time. In my opinion investing in stocks is a gamble, you never know what is going to happen and when all the institutional investors will dump the stocks making your returns suffer. So, in my opinion first you should do indexing with automatic saving plan and sleep with peace of mind that you will earn at least 8% annually without sweating the news every minute with one finger on the sell button. I am not saying you shouldn't invest in stocks, just that even if you can analyze the company by its financial statements (balance sheet, cash flow statement, income statements and its annual report) you do not have the time to look for the latest news every minute. Even if you did this daily, you might earn good amount few years and then make terrible losses in other years bringing your rate of return the same as indexing if not worse. It is a well known fact that 85% of the active fund managers are beat by the market every year. So, if you just do indexing with automatic saving plan, you can be assured of beating 85% of the oh-so-smart fund managers.

Real estate is a separate game altogether. In my opinion, first I would like to have a roof over my head somewhere if all hell broke loose. After that, you can begin to buy your primary residence where you are working by taking out a huge loan. Keep in mind that debt to income ratio of 4-5 is as high as you should go. Anything higher than that is a huge risk. In my opinion, the bubble or inflated asset value shouldn't be a concern as far as you can take care of the loan in the worst possible increased interest rate scenario. After all, you are not going to earn the same salary all your life. But, go in for a long haul vs. a quick 3-5 year stint as any asset, even with real estate, the prices do not go up faster than other fundamentals like economy and incomes. If they do, be assured that they will come back to the real gains. According to finance professor at Univ. of Pennsylvania, Jeremy Siegel, average asset value of houses have gone up less than 1%, yes you read it correctly, less than 1% over a 100 year period. Two key things to keep in mind, it average and 100 year period.

Retirement Saving

Do not miss out of the opportunity to save for your retirement right from the beginning. The sooner you start, more money you save. It doesn't matter if you start small, but it is very important that you start early. Do not let go of any of your company's matching contribution to your 401K plan. In fact try to be as close to maximum as possible. Do not rely on social security as social security is going to be in trouble very soon. We do not know whether we will get that amount of money by the time we retire. So, actively manage your 401K investments. There are automatic funds like Fidelity freedom funds which invest very aggressively, meaning more in stocks and less in bonds, when you are young and as you get closer to your retirement age they reduce the investments in stocks and put more in safer bonds. I, at least now, like to take more control over how and where I invest my money.

I also believe that when you get older, you probably won't live in an area like downtown San Francisco and would like to live somewhere quieter. I believe in older age, you would probably need less money as you wouldn't take a season pass for snowboarding in Aspen. But this is me, make your own judgment and save for retirement but at the same time do live a little now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Growth harms environment

I am a big fan of books and want to be able to at least write good coherent essays at this point in life. So, looking for topic, I found this one and wrote something about it which I would like to share.

Anonymous Claim:
The fear is widespread among environmentalists that free trade increases economic growth and that growth harms the environment. That fear is misplaced. Growth enables governments to tax and to raise resources for a variety of objectives, including the abatement of pollution and the general protection of the environment. Without such revenues, little can be achieved, no matter how pure one's motives may be.

Gaurav: The fear of environmentalists is not misplaced. They see what is going on around them and base their decisions on partial data without considering the whole picture.

Since the early twentieth century there has been a debate about whether central planning and control of production is better or free markets and free trade is better for the society at large. One needs to only look at east and west to find out which model of economic organization has delivered the goods for the people. I, being from India, have seen it firsthand what controlled markets and central planning can do to the resources of the planet and how much effective this model of economy can be. Not only the "commanding heights" of such a government has failed in improving the quality of lives of her people, but at the same time the productivity of people and resources has been abysmally low. Contrast that to the regulated, yet free-er markets of the western countries. Not only the quality of lives has been improved dramatically but utilization of resources has been great.

When left to the government, the economic growth gets stifled making people extremely poor. When you don't have means to earn your next meal, environmental issues don't really matter much. Ask a beggar in the slums of mumbai whether he cares about the pollution more or the fact that he can earn by cleaning the automobiles on the road? Chances are that he will favour food over environment, survival of his own and his family's over sustenance of natural resources.

If free markets are left alone, however, they will deplete the earth of its resources and constantly harm the environment making major climate changes, the effect of which we are already seeing in global warming. One of the extreme examples is United States. Due to free markets and free trade with lots of its partners, the quality of life has improved but at the cost of making US of A the most polluting country in the world. So much so that it is now finding it prohibitively expensive to ratify the Kyoto protocol which was authored by US itself. Thus, due to this market failure, the world is suffering.

Thus, the environmentalists' fears are not un-founded, the solution however lies in co-operation between governments and free markets.

Friday, July 01, 2005

End of the rainbow

I often read Thomas I. Friedman's articles on economics in the NYT. In one of his latest articles titled The end of the rainbow, he talks about how Ireland went on to become the second richest nation of europe. I really like the article as it is terse and shows what changes has worked for Ireland.

Here is a small excerpt I would like to emphasize upon:

Ireland's advice is very simple: Make high school and college education free; make your corporate taxes low, simple and transparent; actively seek out global companies; open your economy to competition; speak English; keep your fiscal house in order; and build a consensus around the whole package with labor and management - then hang in there, because there will be bumps in the road - and you, too, can become one of the richest countries in Europe.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Honeymoon in Maldives was amazing. (More pics on flickr) Posted by Hello