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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

Becoming a Successful Clinical Trial Investigator

"Inspection refers to a systematic and independent examination of trial-related activities and documents to determine whether the evaluated trial-related activities were conducted, and the data were recorded, analysed, and accurately reported according to the protocol, sponsor's Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), Good Clinical Practices (GCP) and the applicable regulatory requirements."

"Since the investigational New Drug Regulations went into effect in 1963, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has exercised oversight of the conduct of studies with regulated products. The Bioresearch Monitoring Program was established in 1977 by a task force that included representatives from the drug, biologic, devices, veterinary drug and food areas."

"Compliance programs were developed to provide uniform guidance and specific instruction for inspections of clinical investigators, sponsors, contract research organisations, biopharmaceutical laboratories (in-vivo bioequivalence), institutional review boards and non-clinical laboratories."

"The purpose of the bioresearch-monitoring program is to assure the quality and integrity of data submitted to FDA to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of regulated products, and to determine that human rights and the welfare of human and animal research subjects are adequately protected. The compliance to regulations is assessed through audit procedures."

(Dr P. K. Julka in 'Becoming a Successful Clinical Trial Investigator: A step by step guide for developing a clinical trial site,' p. 127 DNA)

DNA-Becoming a Successful Clinical Trial Investigator

Growth and Human Development in North-East India

"Industrialisation in the region is held hostage to:

1)      limited access to and availability of physical infrastructure (credit, transport, communications, power, and irrigation to name a few) including organised marketing;

2)      lack of genuine entrepreneurship culture;

3)      security deficit; and

4)      bad governance.

Now to provide for this infrastructure, governments in the region have to play a proactive role along with developmental NGOs. On the entrepreneurship front, since dearth of genuine entrepreneurs is largely because of certain existing socio-cultural value systems and arrangements in the north-eastern society (system of proxy entrepreneurship, easy money culture, risk avoidance, immobility, etc.) these need to be changed with time. The best way to get it done is to promote self-help groups movement and effective participation. To overcome the third limitation, that is, security deficit, reorientation in the value systems is a must. This is a job to be done primarily by the civil society, academia, government, and peer groups. In the same line, better governance can be provided when governance in the states in the region comes under effective scanning of the civil society, academia, NGOs, and people at large. The argument that 'we need to establish peace first to have growth as a follow up,' is gradually becoming elusive. This needs to be reformulated as 'invest first to have growth, without waiting for peace to prevail.' However, this does not exclude the possibility of working simultaneously on promotion of peace and growth in the region."

(Bhagirathi Panda in 'Growth and Human Development in North-East India' Ed: P. Nayak, p. 188 OUP)

OUP-Growth and Human Development in North-East India


 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Social and Gender Analysis in Natural Resource Management

"Although China's economic growth has been impressive, poverty remains persistent in many remote rural areas, especially in the western regions. Approximately 30 million people still live below the absolute poverty line. They are mainly small subsistence farmers in resource-constrained remote western areas, which are agro-ecologically diverse, resource poor and risk prone. Women and women-headed households represent a disproportionate share among the poor farmers in these remote regions. Women are becoming the main cultivators, food producers and on-farm income earners, but they also continue to play their traditional roles in household activities. Yet research has revealed that women are underrepresented in administrative and other roles, their importance is not recognised, and their specific needs, interests and expertise are largely neglected in agricultural and rural development… Evidence also shows that despite the significant role that women play in agricultural production, their access to basic resources and institutional services, such as credit, market information, training and extension services, has been limited. This, in turn, is having a negative impact on their livelihood security and that of their households."

(Ed: Ronnie Vernooy in 'Social and Gender Analysis in Natural Resource Management,' p. 134 IDRC)

Social and Gender Analysis in Natural Resource Management

The Glass Room

"A house without people has no dimensions. It just is. An enclosed space, a box. Wind rattles round the shutters of the building. Rain falls on the terrace and batters against the walls. Snow falls and stays and melts. Water, the death of all structures, the destroyer of mountains, the solvent of the caverns and caves of the Moravský Kras to the north of the city, insinuates itself into the walls. It freezes and expands, melts and contracts, levering apart the material. Paint and concrete flake away. Tiles loosen. Steel is brushed with autumnal rust. Dust settles in the cold spaces and draughts whisper round the wainscot like the hints of what has happened there and, perhaps, may happen again. People walking along Blackfield Road glance indifferently at the long, low form of the building. Some of them wonder what has happened to the owners. Switzerland, people say; others say, Britain; some, the United States. But they don't really care because there is little opportunity to care about anything these days other than the basic worries of survival. Where is the next meal coming from? How will this coat survive another winter? How can these shoes, already wooden-soled, already sewn and patched, survive another walk? When will the war come to an end?"

"The great plate-glass windows of the Glass Room shake and shudder in the gales. During one storm, suddenly and with a sharp crack that no one hears, the pane at the furthest end near the conservatory is fractured right across, creating a diagonal line of reflection like a cataract in a cornea."

(Simon Mawer in 'The Glass Room,' p. 308 Hachette)

The Glass Room

Street-Smart Advertising

"Using type effectively is not based on graphic tricks like WordArt. Instead, it means setting type so it clearly prioritises the information, quickly communicates the message, guides the reader through the copy, and works in harmony with the other components in the layout."

"With so many typefaces, typestyles (bold, italics, three-dimensional, drop shadow, outlined), and type effects (rotation, open and tight kerning, and leading), new creative talents often feel compelled to use too many fonts, too many styles, and too many effects. Just because there are so many choices doesn't mean you have to use them all. Using too many fonts and effects in the same layout looks as if you opened up your closet and put on everything you owned. That may be an exaggeration, but you get the point. The layout looks like a disorganised mess. When it comes to typography, less is definitely more."

"That means that if you're creating a brochure or newsletter, you should choose no more than two or three fonts. Use one font and type size for the headline, a smaller size for the subhead, a second font for the body copy, and possibly a third font for a slogan or tagline (the main message of the campaign), a caption (line of type, set under or next to image, that explains it), or any other ancillary comment that is not part of the copy."

(Margo Berman in 'Street-Smart Advertising: How to win the battle of the buzz,' p. 42 Macmillan)

Street-Smart Advertising

Authentic

"Even the introverts among us could do with others in our lives whom we can care for and know and who can know and care for us. There are proven psychological benefits from having at least one or two close relationships in our lives."

"Instead of independence it is much healthier to live interdependently. When we are interdependent we are prepared to ask people for help and to help people when they need us. We open ourselves up to others and allow others to open themselves up to us. We walk through life together rather than on our own. We build bridges to each other's islands. We learn from each other, we encourage each other, we support each other, we care for each other, we have fun together, we build memories together and we help each other to grow. We realise we are stronger and better as two or more than we are on our own."

"Interdependence isn't the same as dependence. Dependence is when we have to have someone in our lives whatever the cost. It is when we need other people to function and to feel ourselves. Just like independence, it isn't a healthy way of living. Other people will never be able to meet all our needs or desires and expecting them to do so will only leave us disappointed. The more we cling to others and demand that they love us the more likely we are to lose their respect and our connection with them."

(Sarah Abell in 'Authentic: Relationships from the inside out,' p. 87 Hachette)

Authentic

Managing Agile Projects

"Projects dealing with greater potential damage need more validation elements."

"A team of developers charged with creating a proof-of-concept system does not have to worry about the damage caused by a system malfunction in the same way that a team charged with developing a final production system to be produced in vast quantities does. Atomic power plants, automated weapons systems, even cell phones or automobiles produced in the millions have such economic consequences that it is well worthwhile spending a great deal more time locating and eliminating each additional remaining defect. This is an MFI (money-for-information) situation: It is worth spending a lot of money now to discover information about where those next defects are located."

"For a system in which remaining defects have lower economic consequences (such as ordering food online from the company cafeteria), it is not worth spending as much money to discover that information. The team will consequently find it appropriate to use fewer and lighter validation techniques on the project."

(Ed: Kevin Aguanno in 'Managing Agile Projects,' p. 95 Macmillan)

Managing Agile Projects

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Doomsday Key

"The assassin followed the fresh trail of prints in the snow. He ran in a low crouch, his blade clutched in his left hand. He hit the tree line and kept one eye on the trail and the other on his surroundings. Under the trees the way became shadowy but not so dim that he lost sight of the trail. No one had been through here since the last snowfall. Only one set of prints marred the virgin snow."

"Along with a dribbling track of blood."

"The path zigzagged through the trees. Clearly the target feared a gun and took up a defensive pattern. It was a waste of effort. The assassin cut a straight path through the forest, paralleling the crooked flight."

"Ahead, the glade opened. The trail of prints fled straight across. His prey had abandoned caution and was trying to reach the city streets beyond the park. Tightening his grip on the knife, he raced to close the distance."

"As he reached the glade's edge, a low branch of a neighbouring pine whipped around. It struck him across the shins with the force of a battering ram. His legs were knocked from under him. He flipped face-forward into the snow. Before he could move, a heavy weight landed on his back and crushed the remaining air out of him."

"He realised his mistake. The man had backtracked, hidden behind the pine, and ambushed him, hauling back the branch that had cracked across his shins."

"It was his last mistake."

"A hand shot down and gripped his chin. The other pinned his neck to the ground. A sharp yank. His neck snapped. Pain flared as if the top of his skull had blown away – then darkness."

(James Rollins in 'The Doomsday Key,' p. 160 Hachette)

The Doomsday Key

Indian Railways Turnaround: A study in management

"Although the volume of freight traffic is extremely heavy, its market share has speedily gone down, from 89 to 40 per cent, while passenger traffic has diminished from 69 to 20 per cent since 1950-51. This has necessitated adopting ways and means to increase the share of all modes of traffic movement…"

"It is said that there are two types of railways in India: freight and passenger, different in every respect. Passenger services constitute nearly 60 per cent of the transport output but contribute only 32 per cent of revenue. The worst year was 2000-01 when losses on account of passenger services and other coaching services amounted to Rs 4,875 crore. Within the passenger segment, suburban passenger services accounted for a loss of Rs 659 crore. The point here is whether passenger fares should be rationalised or increased or should the Indian Railways continue to incur losses on passenger services and suburban business?"

"…In 1975, the Railways had 0.06 pensioners for each serving employee, but the ratio rose to 0.17 in 1981 to 0.74 in 2000. In other words, while the staff strength was around 1.54 million, the number of pensioners was 1.13 million. Another noteworthy fact was that while pension payout was a mere 6.3 per cent of gross revenue in 1986, it went to about 14.6 per cent in 2000 and might cross the level of existing regular employees in coming years…"

"There is a peculiarity about the fuel problem, especially HSD oil used by the Railways. Of every rupee spent on fuel, such as HSD oil, only 48 paise is the real intrinsic value. The remaining 52 paise is spent on taxes such as customs, cess, sales tax and other local taxes. In addition to this, some state governments, such as Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, have imposed a hefty entry tax on inter-state movement of HSD oil resulting in a heavy burden on the fuel bill. Even state electricity boards (SEBs) charge unreasonably high tariffs for electricity supplied for the railways electric traction, twice or thrice more than the rates at which they purchase it from NTPC. The Railways normally carry 60 per cent of freight traffic on electric traction."

"There is every reason why there should be preferential treatment for the Railways… They are a bulk consumer of electricity and a good paymaster. Moreover, as a mode of transport they are four to eight times more energy efficient than the roads. But disproportionately high electric tariff nullifies this advantage. Should SEBs be allowed to overcharge the Railways, the most eco-friendly mode of transport?"

(R. N. Misra in 'Indian Railways Turnaround: A study in management,' p. 245 Jaico)

Indian Railways Turnaround: A study in management


Kautilya’s Arthashastra

"Items of expenditure were classified under 15 heads. This was known as Vyayasarira, 'the body of expenditure.' The majority of items involve expenditure on State accounts. Only a few may be regarded as constituting the privy purse of the King. Perhaps the most important public policy ideas in this section come from Kautilya's analysis of productive and capital expenditure as opposed to non-productive expenditure. In the Arthashastra, a clear distinction is made between revenue invested, i.e., capital expenditure and current expenditure. For Kautilya, there were two kinds of expenditure, viz., daily expenditure and profitable expenditure. Daily expenditure was the obligation of the State to maintain certain services and functions for the people, i.e., the day-to-day expenditure of running an administration. For Kautilya, the 'expenditure' that earned revenue 'once in a paksha,' a month, or in a year is called profitable expenditure. Kautilya understood that such profitable expenditure, in essence, puts a check on spending from the current account. Investment of capital (vikshepa) is a means to check expenditure (vyayapratyayah). Kautilya realises the importance of capital expenditure through which the State can earn revenue in the long run; he states, 'the King will have to suffer in the end if he curtails the amount of expenditure on profitable works.'"

(Priyadarshni Academy in 'Kautilya's Arthashastra,' p. 85 Jaico)

Kautilya's Arthashastra


How Apple Inc. Changed the World

"One of the most influential people in the recovery, renaissance, and resurgence periods of Apple is Jonathan Ive. The man credited as the principal designer of the iMac, iPod, and iPhone is internationally renowned, yet he remains humble, modest, and private. When asked to autograph his book Apple Design at a signing in Japan, he wouldn't sign his name 'because it was a team effort' and instead autographed the book 'Apple Design Team.'"

"The London-born designer has been referred to as Apple's forgotten saviour, but Apple prefers to call him Senior Vice President of Industrial Design."

"Ive was raised in East London by his father, a silversmith, and studied industrial design at Newcastle Polytechnic in 1985, where he received a Bachelor of Arts and an honorary doctorate degree. He graduated with honours, having created a pebble-shaped concept for a product to replace cash and credit cards as his final-year project."

"At London design agency Tangerine, Ive created products ranging from combs to power tools to televisions and ceramics. One of the agency's largest clients was a bathroom and plumbing company called Ideal Standard for whom Ive designed toilets – with inspiration from marine biology books."

"Ive moved to the US in 1992 to pursue his career at Apple. While at Apple, he designed computers with a goal to complete the user experience. His primary design principles are ease and simplicity, which are a perfect fit for Apple. 'People talk about how design is important but that's such a partial truth. It's good design that is important.'"

"He ascended to Senior Vice President of Industrial Design in 1997, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, and reports directly to Jobs. Ive and his team are responsible for the design of the iPod, iMac, and iPhone – three of the most influential products in computers, technology, and arguably, popular culture."

"Ive has been recognised with numerous design awards, including being named Designer of the Year by the Design Museum London in 2003 and given the title Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts. Apple products have become celebrated design icons featured in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including MOMA in New York and the Pompidou in Paris."

(Jason D. O'Grady in 'How Apple Inc. Changed the World,' p. 151 Jaico)

How Apple Inc. Changed the World

How Toyota Changed the World

"In the beginning, a Toyota was a car that could be depended upon to break down. It became the butt of jokes. Kiichiro and his team worked feverishly to fix defects as they showed up, but sadly they tended to show up on the road – or, rather, by the side of the road. Western-built cars were far ahead. They had financial power and images of high quality behind them…"

"Kiichiro knew he could make the new brand work. He had done the math. In America, every four people enjoyed the services of one automobile. In Japan, if progress kept to its schedule, that figure would be 1 to 10. There were close to 100 million Japanese people. So the marketplace averaged out to about 10 million potential customers. That was huge!"

"He also knew that he could improve quality and the poor image of Toyota quickly if only he had proper space in which to build vehicles and proper assembly personnel to put them together according to his exacting standards. That would require a far larger factory than the one now stepping on the toes of the loom workers. And it would require a massive investment of capital for newer, larger, more technologically advanced equipment along with the money necessary to train the local peasants in motor car production. Kiichiro could see the path to success clearly, and not that far down the road."

"The only fly in the ointment was that, so far, the new brand had yet to turn over so much as one yen in profit. It existed on the back of the loom works profits. Kiichiro had an answer even for this. The trick, he said, was to cut costs. To reduce the quality of the materials any further would be to risk suicide. Therefore, the task was to cut costs by eliminating waste. It was the only answer. And he was just the man to come up with new ways to get rid of waste. It would take an accounting pencil as sharp as a samurai sword and managers as ruthless as Mongol warriors, but it could be done."

(K. Dennis Chambers in 'How Toyota Changed the World,' p. 46, Jaico)

How Toyota Changed the World

How Google Changed the World

"Google has used acquisitions adeptly for strategic purposes and to increase revenue. Sometimes the acquisitions, like Pyra Labs, which created Blogger, are easily and quickly offered to the public as Google entities for immediate use. Other times, the new acquisitions are taken into Google for additional work before becoming public. But, to date, acquisitions such as Upstartle (which produced an online word processor prior to sale and later became the basis of Google Docs and Spreadsheets), YouTube, and DoubleClick, among others, have been good investments. YouTube and DoubleClick brought the possibility of significant revenue increases. They were also valuable companies to deny competitors…"

"In 2005, Google announced a partnership with NASA Ames Research Center to build a research centre and to collaborate on projects related to the entrepreneurial space industry, distributed computing, nanotechnology, and large-scale data management. In 2006, it entered into a $900 million agreement to provide search and advertising on the social networking site, MySpace, owned by News Corp's Fox Interactive Media."

"In March 2008, Google, Yahoo!, Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING, among others, announced their formation of the OpenSocial Foundation. As a nonprofit, the OpenSocial Foundation advocates that social network applications, which have always been community-driven, will remain open and free."

(Virginia Scott in 'How Google Changed the World,' p. 134 Jaico)

How Google Changed the World

The Undrowned Child

"'June 15th, 1888,' said Renzo gently. 'All Venetians know that date, Teo. That was the night of a terrible ferry accident in this very part of the lagoon. A vaporetto reamed a gondola accidentally in the fog. Ten people died. The captain of the vaporetto didn't see a thing – he was set upon and murdered by a flock of seagulls that had gone mad in the mist. None of his passengers saw a thing either. So the accident was not reported straightaway. It was too long before anyone realised what had happened. It was also odd because the gondola sank to the bottom of the water – normally the wreckage would float. The fog didn't lift for ages. And then it was a day before the bodies were washed ashore. They were all Venetians. It was one of the worst accidents of modern times.'"

"He spoke again, after a few seconds, 'From what I remember about it, an entire family, several generations, died in that accident.'"

"He parted the nearby bushes, shining the brand on graves to the left and the right – more Gasperins, all with different ages but the same date of death…"

(Michelle Lovric in 'The Undrowned Child,' p. 142 Hachette)

The Undrowned Child

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Collaborator

"Those Greek traders who had first anchored their boats in the shadow of the great mountain, mid-eighth century BC, had called it Nea Polis, the New City. The Romans came later from the north and corrupted the name to Napoli. Now it is a city adored and detested, admired and despised. It is one of UNESCO's proudest World Heritage Sites, and is regarded by Interpol as having the greatest concentration in the world of Most Wanted organised-crime players. Horace, the Roman poet, coined the phrase 'Carep diem,' 'Seize the Moment,' and it is still the maxim of Neapolitans."

"Many cultures have left their mark on Naples. After the collapse of Rome's civilisation and its hold on the city, the occupying army was that of the Ostrogoths, then the Byzantines from Constantinople, the Normans and the Spanish. There were Bourbon satraps and Napoleonic revolutionaries. Admiral Nelson's fleet covered the port with cannon, the Wehrmacht and the Gestapo sought to control it, after which the Americans gave it military government. In the last century, Communists, democrats and Fascists have attempted to bring Naples to heel, but failed."

"At the university, the academics seek to excuse the inner city's million people for its ungovernability. They quote the actual and the potential. The actual is the Camorra, the generic name for the criminal families that are the principal employer and major pulsebeat in Naples. The potential is the lowering image of the mountain, Vesuvio, with its volcanic capability and history of destruction. The criminality survived the most savage reprisals of the Mussolini era and now cannot be beaten: the threat of the volcano mocks any who look far to the future: it may erupt at any time and warning will be minimal."

(Gerald Seymour in 'The Collaborator,' p. 61 Hachette)

The Collaborator

The Englishman's Cameo

"The jewellery box was made of gunmetal inlaid with very fine silver wire. Opened, it did full justice to the beauty and the wealth of its former owner. The interior of the box was lined with red silk in which nestled a king's ransom in jewels. There were bangles, baazubands and gulubands – the latter a necklace consisting of seven strings of tiny beads shaped like roses; a golden collar, which Muzaffar recognised as a hans; and even a choodirghunta, a slim silver girdle hung with minute golden bells. There were Kashmir sapphires here, diamonds from Golconda and Arabian pearls; pigeon's blood rubies, and even a few precious pieces of turquoise from faraway Tibet, all set in some of the most elegant jewellery Muzaffar had ever seen."

"Two cylindrical rods jutted out along the shorter ends of the box on the inside, holding bangles and bracelets, while two slimmer rods, each thinner than a finger, held the rings and the toe rings. The necklaces were carefully laid out, the earrings painstakingly mounted, each pair attached to its own little loop of stiff wire."

"Akram drew in a sharp, awed breath. 'Ya Allah. That is worth a fortune.'"

"'Well?' Muzaffar addressed Farida. 'Can you see anything here that you recognise as having been gifted by the foreigner?'"

(Madhulika Liddle in 'The Englishman's Cameo: A Mughal murder mystery,' p. 154 Hachette)

Hachette-The Englishman's Cameo

On Killing

"The process of bonding men by forcing them to commit an atrocity requires a foundation of legitimacy for it to continue for any length of time. The authority of a state (as in Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, or Baathist Iraq), a state religion (as in the emperor worship of imperial Japan or the Islamist fundamentalism of the Taliban in Afghanistan), a heritage of barbarism and cruelty that diminishes the value of individual human life (as existed among the Mongol Hordes, in imperial China, and in many other ancient civilisations), and economic pressures combined with years of prior experience and group bonding (as in the KKK and street gangs) are all examples of varying forms of 'legitimising' factors that, singly or combined, can ensure the continuing commission of atrocities. They also, however, contain the seeds of their own destruction."

(Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in 'On Killing,' p. 216 Hachette)

Hachette-On Killing and more