The Reasonable Man

If you think about it, the reasonable man actually adapts himself to the unreasonable man. After all, the world in which he resides is pretty much shaped by the unreasonable one.

Money can buy happiness (if you do the charts right)

Chart making 101

If you make the charts the right way, you can definitely make money buy happiness. Read How to Lie with Statistics, and you’ll see the above chart as a poster child for most of the tricks explained in the book:

  • The Satisfaction axis is truncated to magnify the increases – most countries have a difference of just 1 point between the lowest and highest scores
  • The income reported axis is on a log scale to compress the differences. In most cases the reported income needs to go up 2-4x for a single point increase in satisfaction.
  • The figures are self reported through an online poll (Gallup or not, after doing assignments during my management education I have increased my dose of salt when reading online poll results).

Check out the original paper for more data along with detailed graphs, and to draw your own conclusion:

While the idea that there is some critical level of income beyond which income no longer impacts well-being is intuitively appealing, it is at odds with the data. As we have shown, there is no major well-being dataset that supports this commonly made claim. To be clear, our analysis in this paper has been confined to the sorts of evaluative measures of life satisfaction and happiness that have been the focus of proponents of the (modified) Easterlin hypothesis. In an interesting recent contribution, Kahneman and Deaton (2010) have shown that in the United States, people earning above $75,000 do not appear to enjoy either more positive affect nor less negative affect than those earning just below that. We are intrigued by these findings, although we conclude by noting that they are based on very different measures of well-being, and so they are not necessarily in tension with our results. Indeed, those authors also find no satiation point for evaluative measures of well-being.

As for my thoughts on the graph? Brazilians and Mexicans seem to do better with what they have than the rest of the world. Then, there’s Nigeria where money doesn’t seem to buy happiness – must be the conscience kicking in after scamming all those thousands of dollars from gullible people in the other countries.

via Daily chart: Money can buy happiness | The Economist.

Analysts, Statistics and Apple

Given the kind of speculation and advice given out by experts and analysts when it comes to Apple, I’m tempted to apply their brand of analysis to myself. Look! I’m growing older by only around 3.5% vs 100% on my 2nd birthday. Can’t wait to touch 1% when I’m over 100…

P.S. For a sane take on the Apple earnings check here.

Quora: What should I do about my early life crisis?

I’m coasting along, getting lost along the way at times…

Answer by Marcus Geduld:

Here’s a secret: there are four types of people in the world:

1. People who, from an early age, know exactly what they want to do and are still doing it in their 50s and 60s. My friend Meggin is like that. In elementary school, she was already writing. By high school, she had written several novels. Now she’s the best-selling author of “The Princess Diaries.” It’s incredible because it’s so rare. A tiny percentile of people are like her. You’re not like her; I’m not either. Get over it.

2. People who, from an early age, think they know what they want to do. They often have big surprises in their 40s, realizing they don’t actually enjoy what they’ve committed to. Many of the apparently-directed people you see are in this group. You’re feeling lost now. They’ll go through what you’re going through later, but it will be much more complicated, because they’ll have husbands, wives, kids, and mortgages. So as nuts as it seems, you’re lucky.

3. People who don’t care about big goals. They know how to follow rules (e.g. do the homework, study for the test, do what the boss demands) and the enjoy dotting I’s and crossing T’s. They coast.

4. People like you who are lost.

Most young people are in that final category. Some hide it better than others. Some even hide it from themselves. Do your peers all seem more confident and directed than you? They’re not. Most of them are faking it or just aren’t as introspective as you are. Talk to them in 20 years and they’ll tell you how frightened and confused they were back when they were in college. So the first thing to realize is that feeling lost is part of being a 20-something.

To be honest, it’s part of being a 40-something, but those of us who don’t have midlife crises tend to embrace it. I enjoy being lost, because it allows me to be surprised. I prefer to have life hit me than to hit life. Anything could happen!

When I first started directing plays, I was terrified because I didn’t know what I was doing. My goal was to come up with a plan so that I could have some confidence. It took me 20 years to figure out that the fun was having no idea what I was doing. The fun part of directing is making it up as I go along. So I’m just as lost now as I was back then. But when you’re lost, you can either view it as a scared child, alone in the woods, or as a brave explorer, open to experience.

We can subdivide lost people into two groups:

1. People who are truly lost. They really do have no passions. Their emotions are blunted. This group may be clinically depressed. If you’re a member, I urge you to seek professional help. There are treatments for depression. There are ones involving meds and ones involving talk therapy (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy) that can be quite effective. If you’re clinically depressed, Quora can’t help you but a doctor probably can.

Also note that lots of people use “my career” and “my major” as proxies for their real concerns. When I was in college, most of my complaints about lofty things (“what am I going to do with my life?” “what’s it all about?” “how can I find meaning?”) really came down to panic that I didn’t have a girlfriend.

2. People who have bought into cultural norms of what they’re “supposed” to do. For example, George loves video games. They really, really excite him, but he’s been told “you can’t make a career out of that” or “that’s not for grownups,” so when he wonders what he’s passionate about, he doesn’t count gaming and decides he doesn’t have any passions. Be he does have a passion. A passion is a passion, whether it’s a sanctioned one or not.

Or Mary, who has bought into the idea that she has to choose a major in college, and that whatever you choose should be your passion, and that this choice is all tied up with a lifelong career. What Mary most loves is singing. But she doesn’t have a great voice, and she’s been told she’ll never make it as a professional singer. So she doesn’t even consider majoring in music. As far as she’s concerned — based on what she’s been told — she has no passion.

Or Dan, who dreams about being a dad. No career interests him, but he really, really wants to have children. Or Amy, who longs for a boyfriend. She’s very passionate when she imagines being in a relationship, but she feels guilty because modern women are “supposed” to be independent.

If you’re in this group then you’re not really lost. You just don’t fit well in generally-accepted categories. Well, then that’s your lot in life. If you love doodling, you can’t make yourself stop loving it and start loving banking instead. What you can do is work to arrange your life so that you can have as much doodle time as possible. You can stop confusing what-you’ll-get-paid-for with what-you’re-into.

Some people are lucky enough to get paid for their passions. Many aren’t. It’s a fact of life, and it’s one you can cope with. I’m 30 years into an adulthood in which I can’t make money doing what I most love. I don’t even think about it any more. I have a great life. I have a day job that’s interesting and a night-and-weekend life that’s thrilling.

Adrian Thomas suggests some ducks you should line up. He’s right. Do that. Then quit worrying about what you’re supposed to do. Your major? It’s not important no matter how many people tell you it is. Your passion? You have one or you don’t. Maybe you don’t have one now but you’ll have one later. It doesn’t matter. Just work to give yourself opportunities.

One last piece of advice: how much have you traveled? How often have you ventured out of your comfort zone? Consider taking a year off and backpacking around the world. Do it with little or no money, paying for your room and board by working in restaurant kitchens or whatever. Let Planet Earth and its peoples and sights shock you into becoming a passionate person. Many young people can’t be passionate because they haven’t been exposed to enough sensations and experiences to be awakened into the possibilites of the world.

Ekushe Ain (21st Law) for the 21st Century

Given the recent events in Bengal, India and the World as a whole, the Sukumar Ray poem seems to ring truer than ever.

শিবঠাকুরের আপন দেশে ,
আইন কানুন সর্বনেশে!
কেউ যদি যায় পিছলে প’ড়ে,
প্যায়দা এসে পাক্‌‌ড়ে ধরে ,
কাজির কাছে হয় বিচার-
একুশ টাকা দন্ড তার।।
সেথায় সন্ধে ছটার আগে
হাঁচতে হলে টিকিট লাগে
হাঁচলে পরে বিন্ টিকিটে
দম‌্দমাদম্ লাগায় পিঠে ,
কোটাল এসে নস্যি ঝাড়ে-
একুশ দফা হাচিয়ে মারে।।
কারুর যদি দাতটি নড়ে,
চার্‌টি টাকা মাশুল ধরে ,
কারুর যদি গোঁফ গজায় ,
একশো আনা ট্যাক্সো চায়-
খুঁচিয়ে পিঠে গুঁজিয়ে ঘাড়,
সেলাম ঠোকায় একুশ বার।।
চলতে গিয়ে কেউ যদি চায়
এদিক্ ওদিক্ ডাইনে বাঁয়,
রাজার কাছে খবর ছোটে,
পল্টনেরা লাফিয়ে ওঠে ,
দুপুরে রোদে ঘামিয়ে তায়-
একুশ হাতা জল গেলায়।।
যে সব লোকে পদ্য লেখে,
তাদের ধরে খাঁচায় রেখে,
কানের কাছে নানান্ সুরে
নামতা শোনায় একশো উড়ে,
সামনে রেখে মুদীর খাতা-
হিসেব কষায় একুশ পাতা।।
হঠাৎ সেথায় রাত দুপুরে
নাক ডাকালে ঘুমের ঘোরে,
অম্‌‌নি তেড়ে মাথায় ঘষে,
গোবর গুলে বেলের কষে,
একুশটি পাক ঘুরিয়ে তাকে-
একুশ ঘন্টা ঝুলিয়ে রাখে।।

Rough translation:
In Shiva’s homeland, the rules are quite strange, as I can truly attest,
If someone slips, and falls by err, police come by to arrest.
Your ordeal continues inside of a court room,
Where judges are ready to fine you a fortune –
21 rupees is the price you must pay,
but wait till you hear what they charge in the day –
for sneezing before six, a ticket is needed,
without this in hand, you will be ill-treated –
they beat you like drums, and snuff up your nose,
you sneeze not just once, but 21 blows!
The fine for teeth-chattering is 4 rupees flat,
for growing a mustache a bit more than that –
a hundred nickles, paid out in cash,
plus 21 prayers with both hands clasped.

While walking the streets, your steps cannot wander,
a step left or right and the king is called yonder.
He summons his guards who come in with a run,
to force you to sit while you sweat in the sun.
There is some relief, as they offer some water,
unfortunately so much that its not worth the bother.

But this isn’t the worst of it, by any means really,
for those who write poems, their punishment is silly,
they’re placed in a cage under strict lock and key,
with no chance of exile, or option to flee.
A hundred Orrisans are placed, so it’s fabled,
proclaiming exhaustively the multiplications table.
And then there’s more math as you tend to a store,
account for the sales – it’s a menial chore.

One last offense, that’s punishable by law,
Is snoring at all – it’s seen as a flaw.
The glue from a bilva tree, the dung from a cow,
It’s all used quite viciously, here’s how:
they rub it in coarsely, the hair of an offender,
who’s tied to a tree and spun like a blender.
For 21 spins he goes round and round,
and 21 hours till his feet touch the ground.

Most Reviewed Amazon Book?

I was wondering which was the most reviewed book on Amazon and came across this list on the site (been a while since its been updated though). It seems that the first Harry Potter book is most probably the most reviewed product with over 7000 reviews of which nearly 6000 are 5 stars. Interestingly, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix had more reviews at the time the list was last updated (in 2008).

Wonder whether there are any other books\products with a higher number of reviews…

Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Book 1.

Wine: What’s in a name and price?

After my post on diamonds and water, I came across a really detailed article – The Price of Wine – on how the price and brand of wine influences the “taste-buds”. Also covers the wine investment market and wine making. This bit sums up the taste bit:

However, it’s unclear whether anyone can tell the difference between a $2,000 Lafite Bordeaux and a $3 table wine. In fact, most wine economists consider the matter settled. Blind tastings and academic studies robustly show that neither amateur consumers nor expert judges can consistently differentiate between fine wines and cheap wines, nor identify the flavors within them.

Personally, I prefer my grapes unfermented.

You Pay More in Mechanical Metered Taxis

I’ve been doing quite a bit of travelling in taxis in Mumbai over the last 4-5 months, and one of the interesting things I noticed that the fares on the taxis with mechanical meters usually comes out higher than taxis with digital ones. This is especially true when there is a significant amount of waiting time due to heavy traffic. Here’s my theory on why this is so:

Faulty waiting time calibration on mechanical meters

On mechanical meters, we use a reference chart to convert the meter reading to the appropriate fare. All this was fine when the meters came out originally many years back and the meters were calibrated for a particular waiting fare rate. However, after several fare hikes that just raised the rate per km & not the waiting time rates, this calibration has become erroneous.

An example is in order to explain this. Say, initially 1.00 on the meter meant Rs 10 (per km) and 0.10 on the meter corresponded to 2 min waiting time at the rate of Rs 0.50/min (effectively meaning that for every 0.10 you pay Re 1, i.e., the same as the per km rate). Here, we have a uniform multiplication factor of 10 for both distance and waiting time.

Now, let’s say that there have a series of revisions and the rate per km has doubled, but the waiting rate is still the same. So, we should have 1.00 on the meter corresponding to Rs 20 (per km) as the distance rate, while 0.10 still signifies a 2 min waiting time at the rate of Rs 0.50/min. Therefore, the multiplication factors are now different for distance (20) and waiting time (still 10).

However, the fare charts are created only keeping the distance fares in mind, due to which you have the following scenario: For a trip of 2 km with a waiting time of 10 mins, the meter will read 2.50 (2×1.00 + 10×0.50×0.10) for both old and new rates.

  • As per the initial rates, the fare would be Rs 25 (meter: 2.50×10 or rate breakup: 2×10 + 10×0.50)
  • For the new rates, the actual fare should be Rs 45 (2×20 + 10×0.50)
  • However, the new rate chart prepared would have only factored the increase in per km rates and would suggest a uniform multiplication factor of 20 for the meter reading, due to which you would end up paying Rs 50 (2.50×20)

Long live digital meters?

In the case of digital meters, they are recalibrated (at least in Mumbai, but not so much in Kolkata due to which the same problem exists) for the new fares without changing the waiting rates. Due to this you end up paying the actual fare (Rs 45 from the example above) when you use a taxi with a digital meter.

Of course, if the driver forgets to wind his mechanical meter before your trip, you end up avoiding the waiting charges altogether which gives you the lowest possible fare. So, I guess there’s a flip side to the whole mechanical vs. digital meter argument.

Ideas and boiling liquids

How do you capture and subsequently flesh out thoughts/ideas that  come to your mind? After all, they are like boiling liquids, i.e., vaporize unless you manage to capture them. This is one of the problems I have wrestled with quite often. Lots of interesting thoughts come to my mind, especially at odd times (while traveling, before going to sleep etc), of which quite a few should have ended up on the blog.

The problem has been sustaining the thoughts and then giving them a more comprehensible form which can be shared with others. After all, not every thought is going to lead to Archimedes’ Eureka moment, and such means of propagating ideas can be more or less ruled out. It is also too bad that we cannot collect our thoughts directly into a pensieve and experience them later.

So what choices are we left with to condense and collect the ideas before they vaporize entirely leaving no residue behind? Well, there are quite a lot of ways we can put down our thoughts, ranging from recording voice messages on the phone, making notes on some electronic device (phone/PDA/computer) to just going for the simple, cost effective pen and paper method. However, this only gives my thoughts an added degree of permanence, and not the form in which they can be readily shared. They are still too abstract (something like bullet points) to be readily comprehensible to others.

Thought cycle

The final mile (putting everything together in a coherent fashion) is probably the hardest, and this is what ultimately determines the fate of the thought – whether it gets published in the blog (or any other equivalent sharing medium) or remains confined to the draft bin. Of course, depending on the kind of thought/idea there may be a tougher journey ahead whereby it gets realized or implemented, but that’s another story altogether.

So, in effect, the thought cycle is quite a lot like oil exploration. A thought which passing through your mind is similar to striking oil, with a lot of initial enthusiasm. Then you need to drill down further to explore (put down your thoughts) or just ignore the occurrence. If you do drill down, you then have to extract and purify so that it can be distributed (as petrol, diesel etc in case of oil).