Archive: Nov 2006

Finally, some analysis

Amidst all the brouhaha about the performance of the Indian cricket team, finally, Rediff has done some analysis. Amazing stuff, analysis – actually gives you facts to talk about!

Ganguly vis-a-vis Dravid as captain in ODIs

Captaincy record

Mts Won Lost NR Won% Lost%
Ganguly 146 76 65 5 52.05 44.52
Dravid 53 27 23 3 50.94 43.39
Ganguly after 53 matches 53 27 26 0 50.94 49.06

Hmm… seems to me they are *exactly tied* at this stage in their captaincy careers. So I guess the moral of the story is that the Indian team has in fact been this pathetic before. Hopefully, this too shall pass.

Here’s the full analysis.

London cabs win hands down

London Black CabI was in London last week and often ended up taking a black cab. The cabs are expensive – more expensive than the Tube (London’s subway, which in itself is �3!), and about 30-40% more expensive than a NYC cab, but that’s about the only downside.

Compared to New York City taxi cabs, these black cabs are better in every single way.

  • The cab drivers actually know where they are going. You tell them once what the address is and that’s it. In New York, if your address is not on the grid (x street, between y and z avenue), there is a huge possibility your driver won’t know where it is. Isn’t knowing the city part of the job??
  • You never need to repeat yourself. Ever. They didn’t once say “Er, did you say 37th street and Broadway?”. I told them once what the address was and the next time I spoke to them was when I got off. Amazing. NYC cab drivers apparently can’t remember an address for longer than 3 minutes.
  • They never talk on the phone and if they do, it is very quiet and very quick. Off all the cab drives only one driver got on his cell phone. And I could barely hear him over the engine noise and he was off the phone in about 20 seconds. They take their jobs seriously – like jobs. Not like vacations where they are doing you a favor by driving you while they talk. In NYC, almost 90% of my cab rides involve the driver being on his cell phone. And loudly. I’ve been privy to everything from lunch menus to home repairs. Ridiculous. And rude.
  • They are polite. They say please and thank you and have a good evening. Considering London cabs are so expensive, apparently it is the norm to just round up. So, after the first couple of days of tipping 20%, I adjusted to London norms and for a cab ride that was �7.60, I gave the guy �8 and felt cheap doing so. He was still gracious and polite.
  • The taxis are clean. They are comfortable and spotless. No grime, no left over tissues, nothing. In NYC, you feel like taking a shower after riding in some cabs. Some of them stink. Of course this could be a reflection on the taxi riding public in both cities too!
  • The taxi configuration is so much better. London cabs are spacious on the inside. And they seat 6! In New York, if your driver is tall and has pushed his seat back, forget it, you are going to be scrunched in with no leg room. And the maximum NYC passenger limit is 4.
  • Finally, London cabs have evolved from boring black and come in multiple colors including hot pink. NYC cabs are only yellow.

Apparently, the London cab drivers need to attend a two year plus training course called The Knowledge to learn the streets of London perfectly and in order to be allowed to become a cab driver. With another fare increase coming to NYC cabs, maybe passengers need to get something for the extra money. The list above seems like a good starting point!


My brother sent me this quote from Richard Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion”. The quote is by then Senator Barry Goldwater, made in 1981. Goldwater was considered, in his day, the archetype conservative Republican.

“There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired o the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism”.

Wow, how they’ve changed!

Music companies still don’t get it

I think the RIAA and music companies remain clueless years after Napster has come and gone. This post by Om has my full support. Hence the badge.

When CDs were invented, the price of music was supposed to drop substantially. That never happened. Why? Because the record companies got very greedy. They need to restructure (read: reduce) their pricing model to continue to expand their sales. I guess that is too hard for them to understand.

They probably have a few more years, but they should acquaint themselves with their buddies the dinosaurs.

Copenhagen Consensus

Confused’s post on motives behind charity giving, reminded me about one of the most analytical ways to think about charitable giving that I�ve ever heard of.

Bjorn Lomborg, a Scandinavian economist, became famous for his controversial book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, that challenged the notion that our ecology was at risk. He proposed that our environment was actually improving and that if there was real risk, people would adapt how they did things in order to continue to live on earth. He also proposed that giving money to climate change was like burning it.

As someone who believes that our climate has changed and that people need to sit up, take notice and do something about it, this was hard to hear.

But in 2005, I attended the TED conference. And I heard Bjorn speak. He was extraordinarily compelling. He has started a project called the Copenhagen Consensus. What the Copenhagen Consensus does is get top thinkers to figure out the charitable causes that can be best addressed with funding. That is, if you gave one dollar to climate control or one dollar to fighting communicable diseases, where would your money be more efficiently used and actually help solve the problem. The first year, he had economists participate and rank the problems. You can see the results here. In 2005, he had 24 UN ambassadors do the ranking. It is quite interesting.

If you are someone who cares about your money actually helping to solve a problem, check out the website to learn about where it would be most compellingly used. It is not the only way to think about charitable contributions, but it is the most analytical way to do so.

An auction to remember

More in my “loving New York” series.

On Wednesday evening, I went to the Christies Impressionist and Modern Sale. I visited in the morning to see the works. A sale like this, with works of such astounding quality is very rare. It was like visiting a museum that was doing a “best of” showcase.

The highlights of the sale were four works by Klimt. I have to say I loved them all.

Adele Bloch-Bauer II Houses at Unterach on the Attersee

They are phenomenal works of art. The Adele is masterful, but Birch Forest and Apple Tree just spoke to me.

Birch Forest Apple Tree I

They just make me want to smile. The paintings were behind glass, but I happened to be there at a moment when they opened them up for the press and it was astounding to see them directly. Gorgeous.

L'homme à la hacheThe other work that set record prices was a Gauguin. I have a special affinity for Paul Gauguin. When I was 14, I was dragged through the Smithsonian for 4 hours to see the most comprehensive retrospective of Gauguin’s work. Every major piece was there. While I felt it was somewhat torturous back then, I am really glad my mother forced us through the experience.

The other paintings that really drew me was a Toulouse-Lautrec that was an early work – a charming image of people lounging in the golden country side with a black dog by their side (very unlike some of his later works) and a wonderful wonderful Leger (unfortunately I can’t find an image for the awe inspirting work). Actually, there were so many amazing paintings… I was very lucky to see them.Partie de campagne

The evening sale was a zoo. There were hordes of people and two overflow rooms. The sale set a record of $491 million (including buyer’s premium) and the star of the show, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, sold for a whopping $87.9 million. Amazing. What a great experience.

Read more about the sale here. See all the prices here.

Opera season begins!

I LOVE living in New York. In terms of culture, it is truly mind-blowing. One of my favorite things is going to the opera.

The Metropolitan Opera is such a special experience. It is an elegantly regal building, both on the outside and inside, everyone is all dressed up, you drink some champagne at the break, and watch some of the finest performers around.

Lincoln Center Met interior

The first opera of this season for us was Rigoletto. We saw Rigoletto a couple of year ago and the sets were the same, but the performance last week was fabulous.

Rigoletto is best known for the song “La donna è mobile”, which most of the audience hummed along to. Also, the opening number, “Questa o quella” may be familiar to many – what a wonderful opening song to get everyone into a good mood.

Rigoletto is a long opera at 3 hours and it is broken into three acts. The first act sets the scene – we are introduced to the Duke of Mantua who is a womanizer extraordinaire and his jester Rigoletto, a hunchback who antagonizes the courtiers by being mean and offensive to them. Monterone, an elderly nobleman enters the building and accuses the Duke of seducing his daughter. When Rigoletto mocks him, he pronounces a father’s curse on Rigoletto.

Rigoletto goes home and worries about the curse. We see that he has a beautiful daughter, Gilda. He hides her from the world, worried for her safety. Unfortunately the Duke has already found her, but she thinks he is a poor student, Gualtier Maldè. In the meanwhile, the courtiers discover the daughter also, but think she is Rigoletto’s mistress.

Everyone clear? So Rigoletto leaves his house. The Duke shows up and flirts with Gilda. He then leaves. Rigoletto comes back, but it is too dark to see and he’s not sure where he is. He bumps into the courtiers who convince him they are trying to steal someone else’s mistress. They blindfold Rigoletto and have him hold the ladder and they abduct Gilda.


In Act 2, we discover that the courtiers have delivered Gilda to the Duke. He, of course, makes full use of the opportunity. By the time Rigoletto gets there, it is too late. Gilda soon rushes into his arms, weeping. Rigoletto swears vengeance, but Gilda begs him to forgive the Duke since she still loves him.

In Act 3, Rigoletto hires an assassin, Sparafucile, to kill the Duke. He also shows Gilda evidence that the Duke is flirting with the assassin’s sister, Maddalena. Gilda is sent to Verona, dressed as a boy (for protection). Maddalena begs Sparafucile to spare lover-boy, but they need a body to deliver to Rigoletto. Gilda returns and overhears their decision to kill the next person to enter the inn. Still in love with the Duke, despite his various dalliances, she sacrifices herself and knocks on the door. Sparafucile kills Gilda. When Rigoletto arrives, he is given a body in a bag. He opens it and is heartbroken to find it is Gilda — alas, Monterone’s curse has come true.

So, overall a depressing story. But that’s opera. The performances were awesome. Nancy Fabiola Herrera as Maddalena, Ekaterina Siurina as Gilda and Joseph Calleja as the Duke were excellent. My favorite was Juan Pons as Rigoletto.

What a wonderful evening! One thing that makes the Opera more accessible is the in-seat translations – at the back of every seat is a slim panel that translates the lyrics into English. So, you activate the device on the back of the seat in front of you and you can laugh along with the jokes. Ah, technology and the arts combining so well – I love it.

Being counted

I left India right after I turned 21 and never had the opportunity to vote there. So, now, in 2006, I voted for the first time ever.

On this wonderfully pleasant fall day in New York City, I waited for the morning pre-work rush to be done and then strolled the four blocks to the polling station.

There was no line. Signed in, and then stood in front of the non-electronic machine. It was gigantic. And a tad intimidating. And very cool.

voting machine

I pulled the red lever to the right and the turned the knobs to pick my candidates. Then, a quick check and pull the lever back to register my votes. That was it. So easy.

voting lever

It was such a big moment for me personally that I felt it went by too quickly. Without drama. Without the “ta-da” I somehow expected. But as I walked back, I was ecstatic. I VOTED! That was so cool. I somehow expected the people in the street to congratulate me.

Now, I’ve always had an issue with the two party system here. I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative. That option does not exist. When push comes to shove, I will vote for the social values. But recently, things have gotten easier for me — we have two parties – one is socially conservative and fiscally liberal and the other is socially liberal and fiscally liberal. A no-brainer really.

HilaryA few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be part of a very small gathering that met with Hilary Clinton. Damn, the woman is impressive. She is articulate, thoughtful and very smart. She doesn’t have the same charm, the people power that her husband did (too bad Bill didn’t attend!), but she was very, very powerful. I’m very glad she’s my senator — I hope she runs in 2008.

voting for Hilary


Now, I live in New York, where Hilary and Spitzer will both win by a landslide, but it was still special to be counted. Yes, I was voting for them, but I was also expressing my displeasure with where my country is headed under the current administration. Registering my vote for change. Standing up and being counted.

Breast pump evolution — is this the new frontier?

I went shopping yesterday with a pregnant friend to help her figure out all the things she needed to get. Now, you’ve all heard of breast pumps, but we were blown away by this contraption.

breast pump

It raised some critical questions in our minds, including but not limited to –

  • How often does one read and pump at the same time? How often does one read, talk on the phone *and* pump at the same time?
  • Is it truly more efficient to pump both breasts at the same time? Isn’t the motor capacity fixed, which means pumping both breasts together takes longer (or the same as each breast sequentially)?
  • Can they truly hang off there defying gravity like that?

If there’s anyone out there who’s used this device, we need to hear from you so that my friend can figure out if this should be on the “must have” list!

Everyone has the right to representation

Apparently this concept is too hard for the Indian press to understand. As background, there’s quite a famous case in progress. The court of public opinion has convicted the accused. That’s fine — happens all the time.

But apparently they are having a hard time understanding why a leading lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, is defending the accused. Mr. Jethmalani, who is, if anything, brilliant, takes the reporter, Sagarika Ghosh, to the cleaners on her lack of understanding between public opinion and legal fact. The basic issue is not whether Manu Sharma is guilty or not guilty. The basic issue is that being convicted in the court of public opinion does not mean that he is guilty according to the law.

Sagarika Ghosh can’t grasp that distinction. It is ludicrous how she keeps asking him “why are you defending him?” – because everyone has the right to a fair trial and everyone had the right to representation. Even the guilty ones. Only by ensuring that the guilty have fair representation can you ensure that the innocent will get fair representation.

I love this quote —

That is my courage. I have moral courage, and who are the citizens of India? You are not the repositories of the citizens of India. I decide according to my conscience who to defend and please understand and tell those people who are asking this question that there is a statutory rule of the Bar Council of India that a lawyer who refuses to defend a person on the ground that people believe him to be guilty is himself guilty of professional misconduct.

Watch the video here. [Hat tip on video and quote: Confused]

While I personally might feel that Manu Sharma is guilty as sin, is using his political connections and must be convicted, I will also defend his right to the best counsel available. Why is that hard to understand?

The on thing I completely disagree with him on is that the press has overstepped their ground – India has too many instances where politicans get away with, well…, murder. So I think the press has done a great job of exposing this story and all it’s gory details. But, he’s entitled to his opinion. I hope Jethmalani doesn’t give himself a coronary with all the screaming.