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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Constitution as a creature of Parliament – ‘India in the Shadows of Empire’

"The relatively easy process of amendment to the Constitution also reveals that the Congress did not see the Constitution as a permanent sovereign text that would endure through the ages. 'No Supreme Court and no judiciary,' declared Nehru 'can stand in judgment over the sovereign will of the Parliament, representing the will of the entire community… Ultimately the whole Constitution is a creature of Parliament.' By designating the Constitution as 'a creature of Parliament' what Nehru did in effect was to put the Parliament both above the Supreme Court and the Constitution itself. This understanding effectively abolished any notion of the sovereignty of the Constitution as a unique document that anchored the entire polity, and reduced it to the status of a regular act of legislation. For the text of the Constitution to acquire the aura of sovereignty – and by implication for the Supreme Court to acquire autonomy as its final interpreter – it was essential that the moment of constitution framing be symbolised as an extraordinary moment, distinct from routine acts of legislation. For example, the American Constitution, coming in the train of the revolutionary struggle for independence, became a sovereign document marking not just the independent existence of America as a nation separate from the British Empire, but also a fundamentally new relationship between the people and the state. This fact is also borne out by the rarity of amendments to the United States Constitution."

(Mithi Mukerjee in 'India in the Shadows of Empire,' p. 197 OUP)

Co-creation on steroids – ‘Leadershift’

"My guess is that we have all experienced what Harvard Law School Professor Yochai Benkler describes when he talks about the mobile phone having abolished the need to plan. As soon as you got your first mobile phone you started to say things like 'I tell you what, how about I call you when I'm done here and then we can see what we'll do.' Prior to mobile communication you would have had to make a plan and aim to stick to it. 'I tell you what, I will meet you tonight at the station by the newspaper stand at half past six when I come out of the office' would have been the exchange you had in the morning prior to setting off for work. If a deadline had emerged, the plan would have evaporated and with it the goodwill of the person you were supposed to meet and had not been able to contact. This kind of flexibility in business is priceless. This lack of 'need to plan' also means that you need less managerial time to coordinate. The requirements for a leader to complete the coordination task start to look a bit shaky. The talent, managerial and structure costs suddenly disappear almost as fast as the opportunities appear."

"Today's technology is putting the world of co-creation on steroids. What has become known as 'distributed co-creation' – the bringing together of talent from numerous sources outside the organisational boundaries – is only in its infancy but growing at an exponential rate."

(Emmanuel Gobillot in 'Leadershift,' p. 35 Viva)

Shempa Logic - ‘Buddha: 9 to 5’

"As intelligent, capable, accomplished leaders, why do we get so stuck? How do we create our own misery? We usually design our own roadblocks to happiness and success through attachment to an identity, such as the title or position we hold, or to our attachment to a specific outcome. In Buddhism, this attachment is referred to as 'Shempa.'"

"When we experience Shempa, we generally will tighten around a thought or concept and eventually we are hooked to that idea. We are stuck. The attachment paralyses us from seeing issues in any context that is different from our own view of the situation at hand. We are unable to act from a perspective that is open to the creativity of a new approach. As we continue to push the envelope and fixate on the outcome, we are actually building momentum toward attachment. This very inflexible mind is referred to as 'Shempa Logic.'"

(Nancy Spears in 'Buddha: 9 to 5,' p. 73 Viva)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Microsoft Silverlight 3: A beginner’s guide

"As the Web has evolved over the years, businesses and developers have adopted the Web as a primary development platform. A term was coined to describe the new era of web applications: Web 2.0. Web 2.0 specifies that web applications should be composed of original developer efforts and should consume services offered by other companies and developers. Web 2.0 applications are partially designed on the publisher-subscriber paradigm and integrate media and animation."

"Over the years, web developers began to look at ways to improve web application performance. The Web is composed of millions of interlinked computers, again, with the bulk of processing occurring on servers. Web 2.0 indicates that networks, including the Internet, should be powered by a conglomeration of distributed computing power. The vast majority of computers on the Web, client computers, have been acting as dumb terminals for years. Developers have looked at methods for utilising the untapped computing power available in client computers attached to the Web. Several methods, such as ASP.NET AJAX, have been developed that perform more processing on the client's computer than standard web applications. ASP.NET AJAX uses JavaScript to asynchronously pass data to a server in XML format, thus delivering a user-perceived improvement in performance and a better user experience. Web applications that work to improve performance to deliver a better user experience are referred to as rich interactive applications (RIAs)."

"The downside to standard RIA solutions is that they perform client-side processing using JavaScript. JavaScript is powerful but is executed directly by the user's browser and is therefore at the mercy of the browser's capacity to correctly execute the script."

"Microsoft began experimenting to extend ASP.NET AJAX to further gain control over the client-side computing environment to improve the technology…"

(Shannon Horn in 'Microsoft Silverlight 3: A beginner's guide,' p. 43 TMH)

Agricultural Growth in India: Role of technology, incentives, and institutions

"Given wide variations in climate, soil characteristics, and in the extent and quality of irrigation facilities available, 'area' is a rather poor indicator of the productivity of land. We know that, other things being the same, regions with higher rainfall tend to have higher productivity. There is evidence that soil quality as well access to irrigation varies, with smaller holdings in general having better quality land and a higher proportion of their area under irrigation. Why should there be a systematic inverse relation between land quality and holding size is an interesting and as yet an unresolved question."

"The incidence of tenancy – measured both by the proportion of households which lease in land and that of operated area which is leased in – is very low. Tenancy clearly is not playing much of a role in correcting the mismatch between the distribution of land and that of labour power across households. Because of this, and the high proportion of those who do not operate any land on their own, wage labour plays a significant role in agriculture. According to the 2001 Census, nearly 40 per cent of workers engaged in agriculture were wage labourers."

"Dependence on wage labour is widespread: there are few purely wage labour-dependent farmers or wholly family labour-dependent farms. Large landowners depend more on wage labour; but even small cultivators use some wage labour even as they contribute a sizeable part of the wage labour supply for agriculture. The relative importance of the two sources of labour is a function of holding size, the caste composition of the population and of landowners; incidence of wage labour tends to be higher in regions with relatively high proportion of scheduled castes which have traditionally been excluded from land ownership."

"These features of Indian agrarian organisation stand in sharp contrast to those of other heavily populated, land-scarce countries of East Asia such as China and Japan. Pre-war Japan and pre-revolutionary China had low land-man ratios and unequal distribution of land ownership…"

(A. Vaidyanathan in 'Agricultural Growth in India: Role of technology, incentives, and institutions,' p. 140 OUP)

Hotel Front Office: Operations and management

"A night auditor is the person who audits the hotel accounts daily at night or at a time when the business is relatively slow. The audit team generally comprises members of the accounts department. The number of people in the audit team depends upon the size, location, and products of the hotel. Since most of the activities of the night auditor are concentrated in the front office, the front office manager (FOM) may provide the necessary inputs for the night audit process. So the members of the night audit team generally report to the accounts department as well as the FOM. As a night auditor has to work in the night, the position doesn't find many takers, so most of the hotels do not have a permanent team of night auditors."

"A night auditor should be a skilled bookkeeper as he is required to track all the financial transactions between the hotel and its guests and to calculate the total revenue generated during the day. A night auditor should also possess the skills of a receptionist, as in many small and medium hotels, he may be required to carry out the check-in/ check-out function at night."

"Night auditors monitor the current status of guest accounts vis-à-vis the credit limits, and verify discounts, allowances, and promotional programmes that are offered to guests. They prepare reports about the front office operation for the management. Fully automated hotels may not require a team of night auditors as most of the functions (known as system updates) that a night auditor performs are carried out automatically by the computerised system, but a person is still required to physically verify the accounts and vouchers."

(Jatashankar R. Tewari in 'Hotel Front Office: Operations and management,' p. 303 OUP)

Why My Horse Doesn’t Smile: Learn to serve your customer

"While listening to a customer's viewpoint/ complaint it is important to confirm that whatever you heard and understood was the message he/ she wanted to communicate. Besides enabling you to understand the message/ complaint correctly, it will also give you an opportunity to rephrase your answer so as to satisfy your customer. As opposed to rephrasing your own message, whenever you rephrase the customer's words you need to be cautious. The use of inappropriate words can anger the customer and aggravate the situation. For example, saying 'You do not understand me. Let me rephrase…,' may amount to disgracing the customer. This is threatening in nature as it indirectly conveys that you are trying to say that the customer is stupid. This can spoil the entire flow of the communication. Instead you may say 'I feel I am not able to communicate the point properly. Let me rephrase it for you.' This will generate a positive feeling. Instead of doubting the customer's understanding, put the blame on yourself. You will find the customer more attentive/ receptive to your second approach, and will help you to communicate your viewpoint/ message as intended."

(Vivek Mehrotra and Neelesh Kapoor in 'Why My Horse Doesn't Smile: Learn to serve your customer,' p. 74 Viva)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Paris Vendetta

"Ashby loved the chase."

"He was always amused by books and movies that depicted treasure hunters as swashbucklers. In reality, most of the time was spent poring through old writings, whether they be books, wills, correspondence, personal notes, private diaries, or public records. Bits and pieces, here and there. Never some singular piece of proof that solved the puzzle in one quick swoop. Clues were generally either barely existent or undecipherable, and there were far more disappointments than successes."

"This chase was a perfect example."

"Yet they may actually be on to something this time."

"hard to say for sure until they examined The Merovingian Kingdoms 450-751 A.D., which should be waiting for them a few metres ahead."

"Eliza Larocque had advised him that today would be a perfect opportunity to sneak into this part of the museum. No construction crews should be on the job. Likewise, the Invalides staff would be anxious to be done with the day and go home for Christmas. Tomorrow was one of the few days the museum was closed."

"Mr. Guildhall led the way through the cluttered gallery."

"The tepid air smelled of paint and turpentine, further evidence of the obvious ongoing renovations."

(Steve Berry in 'The Paris Vendetta,' p. 196 Hachette)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Roadrunner: An Indian quest in America

"Ecological problems probably also caused the Chaco people to abandon this valley. But had they survived and thrived and multiplied, would the Chacos and Hohokams and others like them have been the ancestors of today's Americans, instead of it being the immigrant nation it is today?"

"On the way out of Chaco, my rental Toyota's GPS device keeps telling me, in its metallic GPS way, to turn left here, or right there. Except that there's nowhere to turn; the instructions suggest paths that are non-existent. I mean, the contraption shows them on its display, and indicates I should turn, and says so loudly, but at those points where it urges me to do so, there is simply nothing to turn on to. Just bushes. Again, I am glad to later read People of Chaco, because Frazier explains that various aerial photography techniques have suggested that there was once a complex network of roads between the ruins and outliers in this area. Yet, he writes, it's impossible to locate some of those roads on the ground. Is this GPS thingie suffering from a similar problem, or in its case, delusions? After all, this is the only spot, through several thousand miles of driving, where it has offered me such oddball advice."

"Is it also responding to aerial views of ancient ancestral roads?"

(Dilip D'Souza in 'Roadrunner: An Indian quest in America,' p. 251 Harper)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Post-Hindu India

"Gandhi was one of the most popular and important moral philosophers that the Baniya community of India produced. Against their Baniya ethic of conducting a lie-based guptadhana business, he talked about 'truth' becoming the process of life. As against their wasteful expensive life, he preached simplicity. Borrowing from the Jain Vardhamana Mahavira, he lived in an ashram, wearing only loin-cloth and talked about eating simple food… He has come to be known as the father of the Indian nation. Yet the Baniyas of India, true to their historical nature, did not own him. Why?"

"If you visit any Baniya house in India, you will discover that Gandhi's photograph does not hang from their walls. Even in Gujarat, where he was born and brought up, Gandhi's photo is not a household symbol of heritage. He is not their revered hero as Ambedkar is the revered hero of the Dalits of India. The Baniyas did not adopt Gandhi as their hero because Gandhi stood for frugality. They worship gods like Ganapati and Kubera because both the gods stand for accumulation of wealth and gluttony. As opposed to Gandhi's frugal eating habits, the Baniyas of India are known for the heavy consumption of rich vegetarian and sweet food products… Their day-to-day lifestyles in terms of the places of residence, use of ornaments of gold and silver, clothes, cars and other movable and immovable properties point to the fact that they are totally anti-Gandhian. Having come from this caste, Gandhi talked about loving people of all castes, but in their day-to-day life many Baniyas hate people of all other castes, even after 60 years of Gandhi's death."

(Kancha Ilaiah in 'Post-Hindu India: A discourse on Dalit-Bahujan, socio-spiritual and scientific revolution,' p. 177 Sage)

Crossing the Divide

"Effective intergroup leaders make it clear that everyone belongs, regardless of individual or subgroup differences. One way to do this, and to get people to invest in each other, is for leaders to invest resources in material changes that benefit all. To stress inclusiveness, some leaders get everyone a new item or new offices. To help integrate Gillette into Procter & Gamble after it was acquired by P&G, the head of P&G moved everyone, not only former Gillette employees, to a new office. Turnaround leaders hired to heal rivalries and antagonisms at the BBC (where radio and television divisions had faced acrimonious conflict) renovated rundown buildings or refurbished dingy offices. Improvements in something tangible that people see every day reinforce the message that everyone is important."

"Such actions help reverse characteristic patterns in losing streaks: decisions made in secret behind closed doors; inequalities reflecting favouritism, not fairness; exclusionary practices. Jim Kilts of Gillette was lauded for not playing favourites, for giving everyone the same objective measures and holding everyone to the same standards. Steve Luczo of Seagate Technology removed assigned seats from top executive meetings and added new meeting rooms with round tables. The symbolism of round table works everywhere; Akin Ongor of GarantiBank in Turkey replaced rectangular tables with round ones."

(Ed: Todd L. Pittinsky in 'Crossing the Divide: Intergroup leadership in a world of difference,' 82 HBP)

Your Next Move

"To increase their odds of success in their new roles, onboarding executives need to recognise that each company has its own distinct 'immune system,' comprising the organisation's culture and political networks. Just as the function of the human immune system is to protect the body from foreign organisms, so is the organisational immune system ready to isolate and destroy outsiders who seek to introduce 'bad' ideas."

"To protect the human body, the immune system must demonstrate equal parts under- and over-reactivity. If it responds too weakly to warning signals, it may fail to mount an effective attack against a virus or may permit a damaged cell to grow into a cancerous tumour. But if the system overreacts, it will go after good things in the body, producing autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis."

"Similarly, when the culture and political networks in organisations are working well, they prevent 'bad thinking' and 'bad people' from entering the building and doing damage. If the company's immune system responds weakly to warning signs, bad leadership can infect the business and do tremendous damage. But if the system is working too well, even potentially good things coming from the outside can be destroyed."

(Michael D. Watkins in 'Your Next Move: The leader's guide to navigating major career transitions,' p. 93 HBP)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Criminology and Political Theory

"The Belgium astronomer and mathematician Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874) looked at the location and instances of crime, and undertook crime mapping for the French government. While employed as a statistician, Quetelet had the task of providing some of the information which the French state required in order to plan and develop a coherent social policy. His work focused upon government statistics and it aimed at scientific rigour. Quetelet was a positivist in that he saw human behaviour as governed by scientifically verifiable laws. His methodology was derived from the natural sciences, in which he had been trained. His observation that crime rates seemed to obey the same 'law-like' regularities that govern the natural world mark him out as a man of his time. Quetelet was engaged in work which had definite economic aspects to it, for example, measuring costs to the state."

"The French state under Napoleon wanted to normalise the 'dangerous classes' through moral rehabilitation, but this was seen as a failure by both politicians and the people. Theft and public order offences almost doubled between 1813 and 1820. There were huge numbers of poor people (les misérables) in the cities, notably Paris, who resorted to crime to make ends meet and who routinely rioted over the dreadful social conditions they had to endure. The initial response to this failure of rehabilitation policy was for the French state to commission a number of detailed studies and to build up a statistical picture of who made up the dangerous classes and why they were committing crimes against their fellow citizens… This entailed analysing such matters as parish records for births, baptisms, marriages and deaths as well as looking at data on poor relief, taxation, fire and general insurance claims and information concerning public health, especially rates of venereal disease, held at the local, regional and national level… The population was analysed as never before and particular note was made of mortality, age, occupation, disease and levels of intelligence. For the first time the prisons were analysed by a variety of researchers…"

(Anthony Amatrudo in 'Criminology and Political Theory,' p. 14 Sage)

Strategic Technologies for the Military

"Armies all over the world are interested in increasing the 'tooth-to-tail' ratio, which is, increasing combat effectiveness and reducing logistics support requirements. The biotechnological evolution of sensor technologies could enable the armed forces to chart a course towards the miniaturisation of multifunctional systems, such as the laboratory-on-a-chip, which would reduce logistics burden. Similarly, agricultural biotechnology for creating edible, digestible, nourishing food from raw materials that might be foraged on the battlefield would reduce transportation needs. Biological methods of recycling air, food and water would improve army stems that require soldiers to work in confined spaces for extended periods of time and could decrease the logistical support requirements of soldiers in the field."

"'Functional foods' show a lot of promise in the usage of biotechnology to help shorten the military-logistics demands. These foods provide something more than normal nutrition; they can contain so-called nutraceuticals that provide compounds offering both nutritional benefit and health protection. It could also be possible to bioengineer the foods with naturally occurring antimicrobials that inhibit certain pathogens known to exist in a given operational area. Even foods could be designed with vaccines in them, for quick and efficient vaccination of many troops simultaneously. Manufacturing and supplying foods that maximise digestion could be an additional way to shorten the logistics tail. Long shelf life foods could reduce refrigeration and supply requirements."

(Ajay Lele in 'Strategic Technologies for the Military: Breaking new frontiers,' p. 154 Sage)

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Idealist View of Life

"The roots of all great thinking and noble living lie deep in life itself and not in the dry light of mere reasoning. All creative work in science and philosophy, in art and life, is inspired by intuitive experience. While we all possess intuitive perception and exercise it to some extent, in exceptional minds it is well developed. Intuitive life, spiritual wisdom at its highest, is a type of achievement which belongs only to the highest range of mental life. The great scientific discoveries are due to the inventive genius of the creative thinkers and not the plodding processes of the intellect. The latter might give us more precise measurements, more detailed demonstrations of well-established theories, but they cannot by themselves yield the great discoveries which have made science so wonderful. Creative work is not blind imitation or mechanical repetition. It is synthetic insight which advances by leaps. A new truth altogether unknown, startling in its strangeness, comes into being suddenly and spontaneously owing to the intense and concentrated interest in the problem. When we light upon the controlling idea, a wealth of unco-ordinated detail falls into proper order and becomes a perfect whole. Genius is extreme sensibility to truth. Scientific discovery is more like artistic creation in its reaching out after new truth…. A new law in mathematics is just as much a bit of spontaneous intuition as is a composition in music by Mozart."

(S. Radhakrishnan in 'An Idealist View of Life,' p. 176 Harper)

An Idealist View of Life

Viral Loop

"People devote only 5 per cent of their time online on search engines. The rest is spent on social networks and browsing other sites. If marketers could follow us without actually eavesdropping, they would be able to compile comprehensive dossiers based on the types of sites we visit, the things we read, the videos we watch, the products we shop for. It sounds spooky, of course, and people claim they do care about the lack of privacy…"

"Over the course of a day the typical American is caught on camera two hundred times: at traffic lights, paying highway tolls, walking the dogs, taking money from ATMs, shopping in convenience stores, and a tiny fraction are caught committing crimes. Within a twenty-block radius of New York University, there are more than five hundred surveillance cameras, which catch students and professors doing everything from buying a falafel, racing past the iconic fountain in Washington Square Park on the way to class, or purchasing allergy medicine like Claritin-D, for which they are required by law to show their driver's licences because it contains a common substance used in meth."

(Adam L. Penenberg in 'Viral Loop: The power of pass-it-on,' p. 224 Hachette)

Hachette-Viral Loop revised

The Heart of a Leader

"Moneymaking is about what you can get; perpetual prosperity is about what you can give. Success at the money level is about what you can achieve; perpetual prosperity is about how you can serve. There are many good reasons to earn money, but some people seek money because of the power and status it will give them to control events and other people."

"While some of us never get beyond money or the things money buys, most of us know a void in our lives needs to be filled if we only pay attention to making money."

"When we reach out to help someone else, we often get more back in return. That's not why we help people; that's just how it works sometimes."

(Ken Blanchard in 'The Heart of a Leader: Insights on the art of influence,' p. 127 Jaico)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Decoding Intolerance

"Ascension of Muslims to high positions such as those of the president and vice president of India, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, or even chief of the air force, does not hold more than a symbolic value. When it comes to hard numbers, Muslims are indeed under-represented, relative to their population, in the armed forces, paramilitary forces, the police and sometimes even in corporate fields."

"The well-regarded actor Shabana Azmi, former Rajya Sabha member and a social activist, equally respected for her thespian qualities as well as her intellect, recently bemoaned the fact that builders in Mumbai, her city of residence, had refused to sell her property because she was a Muslim. This brought in a torrent of letters from similarly discriminated Muslims wishing to buy or rent property in Mumbai. Subsequent media attention to this episode brought to light the expected fact that this happens in other metro and non-metro cities with clockwork regularity."

"This underscores the social discrimination Muslims have to contend with, even when they are celebrities, in the cities and towns where they live. Such discrimination leads to the 'ghettoization' of Muslims, wherein they have to restrict themselves to certain areas in a town or city. In these areas, property is almost exclusively owned by and given out to Muslims. Its fallout can occur in terms of reverse discrimination in the sense that non-Muslims cannot find place in Muslim-dominated areas."

(Prateep K. Lahiri in 'Decoding Intolerance: Riots and the emergence of terrorism in India,' (Prateep K. Lahiri in 'Decoding Intolerance: Riots and the emergence of terrorism in India,' p. 84 Roli)

Roli-Decoding Intolerance

Nine Dragons

"The first thing that hit Bosch as he stepped up into the first level of the Chungking Mansions was the smell. Intense odors of spices and fried food invaded his nostrils as his eyes became accustomed to the dimly lit third-world farmers' market that spread before him in narrow aisles and warrens. The place was just opening for the day but was already crowded with shopkeepers and customers. Six-foot-wide shops stalls offered everything from watches and cell phones to newspapers of every language and foods of any taste. There was an edgy, gritty feel to the place that left Bosch casually checking his wake every few steps. He wanted to know who was behind him."

"He moved to the center, where he came to an elevator alcove. There was a line fifteen people deep waiting for two elevators, and Bosch noticed that one elevator was open, dark inside and obviously out of commission. There were two security guards at the front of the line, checking to make sure everybody going up had a room key or was with somebody who had a key. Above the door of the one functioning elevator was a video screen that showed its interior. It was crowded to maximum capacity, sardines in a can."

(Michael Connelly in 'Nine Dragons,' p. 211 Hachette)

Hachette-Nine Dragons

Cyberabad Days

"Sul the astrologer nodded slowly. I sat on the floor of yts observatory. Incense rose on all sides of me from perforated brass censors. At first glance the room was so simple and bare that even a sadhu would have been uncomfortable, but as my eyes grew accustomed to the shadow in which it must be kept to work as a prediction machine, I saw that every centimetre of the bare pink marble was covered in curving lines and Hindi inscriptions, so small and precise they might be the work of tiny gods. The only light came from a star-shaped hole in the domed ceiling: Sul's star chamber was in the topmost turret of the Hijra Mahal, closest to heaven. As yt worked with its palmer and made the gestures in the air of the janampatri calculations, I watched a star of dazzling sunlight crawl along an arc etched in the floor, measuring out the phases of the House of Meena. Sul caught me staring it, but I had only been curious to see what another nute looked like, close up."

(Ian McDonald in 'Cyberabad Days,' p. 55 Hachette)

Hachette-Cyberabad Days

Blocked by Caste

"31 per cent of the villages specified the form of caste discrimination in their MDMS (Mid-day Meal Scheme) and identified separate seating as the primary problem. IN these instances, Dalit children are required to sit apart from the dominant caste children – sometimes simply apart within the same space or, at other times, outside the school building while the dominant caste children sit inside; on the floor or on dirt when dominant caste children sit on mats; or on a lower level than their dominant caste peers."

"Dalit children and dominant caste children were required to eat separate meals altogether in 9.8 per cent of the villages. This was most often the case where there were two MDMS cooks for the same school – one Dalit and one dominant caste. The practice of separate meals usually implies segregated drinking water arrangements as well."

"Another 9.8 per cent reported more subtle forms of discrimination. In these villages, dominant caste teachers practised caste favouritism in serving the MDMS meals, treating the dominant caste children preferentially and reserving the smaller or less desirable portions for Dalit children."

(Ed: Sukhadeo Thorat and Katherine S. Newman in 'Blocked by Caste: Economic discrimination in modern India,' p. 295 OUP)

OUP-Blocked by Caste

Sarpanch Sahib

"Organised pressure to elect women into positions of power has not necessarily led to a society willing to accept women as political entities. Despite the fact that there are many women in positions of power at the state and central government levels in the country, it does not seem to have translated into a ready acceptance at the rural level. Traditional roles of housewives and age-old expectations of womanly submission has led to a somewhat alarming syndrome called pati-sarpanch, where it is in fact the husband of the woman elected, who actually controls affairs. In parts of Tamil Nadu, there have also been allegations where certain Dalit women panchayats have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. The 'auctioned' panchayat's role then, is to literally serve as a rubber stamp to the person who has bought her! In the face of such corruption, Lalitha says, women still have a lot to overcome within the Panchayati Raj system: the weight of bureaucracy, the restriction of mobility and non-literacy-based dependency, to name just a few."

(Ed: Manjima Bhattacharjya 'Sarpanch Sahib: Changing the face of India,' p. 49 Harper)

Harper-Sarpanch Sahib

How People Tick

"Stay open-minded, and if the persons who have been causing anxiety have shown that they do in fact deliver on time, remember that how people do what they do is very individual, and it may cramp someone's style to insist on a different approach from them. However, if it's a consistent problem, you have every right to discuss it with them and to work out other ways for 1) them to work, and 2) you to feel reassured."

"In very extreme cases, however, your expectations and their preferences might be mutually incompatible and you may need some help to be flexible. (Otherwise you could only work with people who are 'like you,' and that limits everyone's field, doesn't it?)"

(Mike Leibling in 'How People Tick,' 2e p. 109 Viva)

How People Tick

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Inspector Singh Investigates

"Alan's most recent effort had been to veto Kian Min's plans to turn the land they logged in East Malaysia into oil palm plantations. Kian Min firmly believed that the future of the business was in bio-fuels. And the company had a huge advantage muscling into the market because of the land concessions they had and could easily buy from corrupt government officials. But Alan had refused. He had asserted that Lee Timber was a timber company and he was not going to compromise on the legacy his father had left him. He had implied that he, Alan, had inherited the trade because his father had trusted him with the family business. In vain had Kian Min pointed out the advantages of diversifying and the dangers of staying hooked on a logging industry that was fast running out of trees. Alan was obdurate. Until, that is, he had needed his brother to testify at the custody hearings. Kian Min had spelt out the cost of his cooperation – setting up of the bio-fuels unit. Alan had agreed immediately."

(Shamini Flint in 'Inspector Singh Investigates: A most peculiar Malaysian murder,' p. 113 Hachette)

Hachette-Inspector Singh Investigates

Ethnic Activism and Civil Society in South Asia

"In northern Gulmi, where I conducted my PhD research, justice was rendered every day in the Mukhiya's courtyard. The Mukhiya, assisted by other big men of the locality or even from neighbouring ones, used to settle disputes related to property, inheritance, cases of incest or divorce, illegitimate children, caste rules, and even homicides. This custom was perhaps already prevalent before the 1963 code, but the retired Mukhiya of the pre-1960 period claimed that he had to follow the rules of the Muluki Ain strictly, for fear of being punished himself."

"Few cases of popular justice relating to caste affairs have been documented from this period just after it became illegal to bring them to the law courts. As a modest contribution to this gap in scholarship, I can report briefly on two cases that I was able to follow. In the first one, a Kami (a member of the blacksmith caste) who had been expelled from the village because of an affair with a Dameni (a tailor-caste woman), came back (alone) and asked to be reintegrated with his caste. The discussions lasted several days, dealing mostly with the price he would have to pay for reintegration. Once fixed, half of it went to the 'big men' who acted as arbitrators, half to his classificatory brothers. Afterwards, he was allowed to cook a meal and to feed his brothers, as a sign of reincorporation. In another case, a Kami girl had a secret romance with a married Magar man and became pregnant. She killed the baby just after the delivery and buried it, but other people in the community saw her. She was being taken towards the police station, when the group was stopped by a big man of the village who decided to settle the problem locally. The natural father of the baby was asked to pay a fine, which he did, and the Kami girl was given, as a second wife, to a Kami man who was already married to her elder sister. A third, more amusing case was settled when the authorities came to make identity cards for all the villagers. One man had no family name, because he was born to a Magar woman who had nine lovers at the time of his conception. Nonetheless, a name had to be inscribed on his card. So his mother asked all the potential fathers of her son (most of them members of the panchayat council) to settle the problem. They gathered and decided that he should be named Nauthare, a patronym that is used in the neighbouring Bhuji Khola area and which means 'nine patronyms.'"

(Marie Lecomte-Tilouine in 'Ethnic Activism and Civil Society in South Asia,' p. 305 Ed: David N. Gellner Sage)

Pathways of Dissent

"The circulation of Tamil women through the marriage market is one of the main links between the Tamil diaspora and Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka. These marriages are arranged through relatives, friendship networks or by placing advertisements in local newspapers. However, the greater number is arranged through local 'marriage consultants' (kaliyana thrakar), who run offices in Colombo and Jaffna and are predominantly male. Once the marriage is arranged, the bride travels to Colombo with family members or friends and stays with friends or relatives or in a hotel in order to obtain a visa to travel. Some of the potential husbands do not possess legal status in their adoptive countries, so the brides have to travel 'illegally' to marry them. The 'agents' involved in people trafficking to foreign countries for large sums of money have wide networks and operate all over the world. Sometimes, the women have to stay in hotels until the agents arrange the illegal documents to effect their 'migration.' The stay at this transit point may vary from weeks or months to even years. However, the trends are changing. Now, most of the bridegrooms either come to India or Sri Lanka to get married. After the marriage, the bridegroom returns home. Then the wife has to apply for a visa to join him. This process of obtaining a visa can take anything from three months to over two years. These married women have to travel to Colombo to obtain a visa. Sometimes these visits necessitate several visits to many embassies. Due to the difficulties of travelling, the woman sometimes decides to move to Colombo and take up residence there until she gets the visa."

(Sidharthan Maunaguru in 'Pathways of Dissent: Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka,' p. 63 Ed: R. Cherian Sage)

Portfolio Performance Measurement and Benchmarking

"Individual investors and institutional investors are always seeking to find active portfolio managers able to deliver abnormal excess performance – expected returns in excess of suitable benchmarks. Yet evidence that a subset of active managers can deliver consistently superior returns remains controversial. Some persistence-in-performance studies have found that the past performance of mutual funds provides some predictive value for future performance."

"In estimating abnormal excess performance for a sample of pension fund portfolio managers, Christopherson and Turner concluded that the past performance of a manager's portfolio provides little or no useful information about expected future performance. Their study, however, relied upon unconditional performance measures. Their performance measures ignore information about the changing nature of the economy… Unconditional measures will incorrectly measure expected excess returns when portfolio managers react to market information or engage in dynamic trading strategies. These well-known biases make it difficult to accurately measure alpha and beta."

"Ferson and Schadt and Ferson and Warther propose conditional performance evaluation (CPE) as a method to more accurately form expectations about excess return and risk. CPE presupposes that portfolio managers can change both their alphas and betas over time based upon the influence of publicly available information about the economy…"

"In an actively managed portfolio, time variation in the beta may occur for a variety of reasons. First, the betas of the underlying securities may change over time. Obviously, a portfolio composed of stocks with changing betas can experience a change in beta even with no turnover at all. Second, managers may change the beta of their portfolios through their pursuit of alpha. Third, a manager may experience large cash flows into the portfolio, and those cash holdings may cause the beta of the fund to fluctuate. Changing beta may or may not be an active decision by managers."

(Jon A. Christopherson, David R. Cariño and Wayne E. Ferson in 'Portfolio Performance Measurement and Benchmarking,' p. 117 TMH)

TMH-Portfolio Performance Measurement and Benchmarking

Fallen Giant

"One of the heated criticisms people have made about AIG for many years, and especially since the company confronted its accounting and related crises, is that it is too complicated. When Starr was alive there were fewer than 100 companies, many offshore. By the time Greenberg resigned, there were hundreds of companies, again many offshore. Some would argue it is not only complex, but impenetrable to an outsider, and especially to insurance regulators. That has its advantages. Good for dealing with regulators, bad for investors, especially in this age of transparency. Yet to someone familiar with the corporation, the maze really is not so complicated, and Starr clearly was not trying to make it more complicated, especially since the regulatory issues of the 1940s were not what they are today. The overriding issue is that because so many of the companies are incorporated and domiciled offshore, it makes regulators suspicious, and it is true that the elaborate corporate organisation chart could provide the means for chicanery."

(Ronald Shelp in 'Fallen Giant: The amazing story of Hank Greenberg and the history of AIG,' 2e p. 85 Wiley)

Wiley-Fallen Giant

Market Indicators

"Investment bankers employ analysts, but institutional investors ultimately pay for the analyst's work. If they feel the analyst's efforts and insights are helpful, they direct more of their trading to the brokerage firm that employs the analyst. Institutional Investor magazine polls portfolio managers every year, asking which analyst was best in each market sector. Being named best in class is a big deal. The honour gives an analyst better access to those who manage the companies they analyse, and typically boosts compensation and professional reputation as well."

"Analysts increase the possibility that they'll be named best in their sector by being available to their largest customers to discuss industry developments, and by providing specific information about a company that may not appear in its public report. For instance, an analyst might call a key client and say, 'I hear XYZ's supplier is having trouble with a key module of the new product set to launch next month. I have my doubts about them hitting their release date.' They also curry favour with their best clients by getting them one-on-one time with management, to ask their own questions and gauge the answers without other investors around. At the end of the day, portfolio managers care less about analyst's target price and earnings estimate than about access to in-depth sector knowledge and management."

"When an analyst issues a negative opinion, he or she puts that access at risk, and may encounter a significant set of headaches. Clients with big positions will likely be upset. Company managers won't be happy, either. They've spent valuable time discussing the firm's bright future with someone who didn't agree. They'll be less likely to offer that time in the future, to either the analyst or the analyst's clients. In most cases, it's easier for an analyst to stick with consensus numbers, which are typically equal or close to those that a company's management provides."

"When a respected analyst faces this prospect and submits a downgrade anyway, the market notices. Participants know that the analyst needs an airtight case for making a negative call. By the same token, it's not easy for an analyst to buck group opinion and find value in a particularly downtrodden equity. In either case, one analyst can have a huge effect on stock price."

(Richard Sipley in 'Market Indicators: The best-kept secret to more effective trading and investing,' p. 111 Bloomberg)

Market Indicators

50 Indian Film Classics

"Popular cinema in India follows a set of broadly recognisable conventions but we must allow for departures. This is especially true of the regional cinemas that do not always conform to the patterns made familiar by the Hindi film. As an illustration, a perfunctory examination of a few regional films suggests that the figure of the mother is more hallowed in Hindi cinema. The reasons for the differences are not easy to fathom but Hindi cinema, its influence extending to the entire area corresponding to the nation, is consistently engaged in addressing the issue of nationhood in a way not always pertinent to the regional film. Regional films usually address local issues and therefore display motifs that do not quite fit in with 'national' tendencies."

"The late S. R. Puttanna Kanagal, who directed Nagara Haavu, was something of an 'auteur' in the realm of regional popular cinema because of a thematic consistency in his explorations. His films take up issues like sexual anxiety, madness, adultery and even incest, which have otherwise remained taboo in popular cinema. Nagara Haavu was one of the director's biggest successes and provides insights into Kanagal's methods as a narrator and a film-maker."

(M. K. Raghavendra in '50 Indian Film Classics,' p. 148 Harper)

Harper-Delhi Noir and 50 Indian Film Classics

Delhi Noir

"I came at last to Lodhi Gardens. The sun was almost gone but inside the gardens the privileged continued their leisurely parade – ayahs with children, bored overweight mothers, joggers, sedate couples, bureaucrats, cell phone-wielding politicians, upwardly mobile businessmen. No one gave me a second glance as I slipped into the garden. They were all too interested in watching each other. The ministers and bureaucrats pretended not to see anyone. The others watched the ministers and bureaucrats. I walked amongst them till I came to a hexagonal tomb encircled by palm trees and slipped inside. There I would wait for darkness to fall, thinking about my old life and what a sad mess I'd made of it. Footsteps interrupted my thoughts. Voices, giggles."

"I looked around desperately for somewhere to hide."

"The only place I could see was between the two tombstones in the middle of the room. I had barely squeezed myself in there when the lovers arrived. She had a terrible shrill sort of giggle which was nasal and unmusical. His voice was okay…"

(Radhika Jha in 'Delhi Noir' Ed: Hirsh Sawhney, p. 61 Harper)

Harper-Delhi Noir and 50 Indian Film Classics