Notes to Myself


September 2017

Analytics gone wrong 🙄😏🤦🏻‍♂️

Amazon India’s “Great Indian Festival” begins today!

While they are promising Blockbuster Deals to everyone, in my case they are promoting bulk discounts on Baby Diapers and Wipes under title “Offer You Cannot Resist” 😏

I hate analytics. There is much more to offer to me than Baby Diapers…don’t go by past (recent) data.

#Analytics #Data


Samuel Johnson Doodle on Google: Irony?


Today’s Google Doodle honors Samuel Johnson on his 308th birthday. Johnson is regarded as a great Lexicographer.

Today some of you might Google to know meaning of lexicographer; however, few years ago you would have reached out for a dictionary – only to know that “lexicographer” is a person who compiles dictionaries!

Irony, isn’t it? Yes, and there is more. But in a while. Before that here is something interesting about Samuel Johnson.

A Dictionary of the English Language

Johnson, who grew up in Staffordshire, did not create the first English dictionary, but those that preceded him were poor comparisons, often stiff and dry.

It took Johnson nine years to complete (he rarely got up before noon), although he had originally promised to complete it in three. Once finished it was as much of a work of art as one of reference, full of witty definitions. Here are some examples:

  • Dull: Not exhilaterating (sic); not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work
  • Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words
  • Mouth-friend: Someone who pretends to be your friend
  • Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people
  • Pension: An allowance made to any one without an equivalent. In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his country
  • Stockjobber: a low wretch who gets money by buying and selling shares

It was hardly comprehensive: the first edition contained just 42,773 entries, compared to more than 250,000 words in the English language.

Here are some of his good, witty and thought-provoking quotes:

  • Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise
  • Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful
  • It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time
  • The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write. A man will turn over half a library to make a book
  • A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.
  • What is easy is seldom excellent
  • Wine gives a man nothing. It only puts in motion what had been locked up in frost
  • When making your choice in life, do not neglect to live
  • Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned
  • One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts.
  • Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment.
  • You can’t be in politics unless you can walk in a room and know in a minute who’s for you and who’s against you.
  • There are some sluggish men who are improved by drinking; as there are fruits that are not good until they are rotten.
  • Actions are visible, though motives are secret.
  • Man alone is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed.
  • I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.
  • Paradise Lost is a book that, once put down, is very hard to pick up again. (Amazing! My type of sarcasm J)
  • Worth seeing? Yes; but not worth going to see. (Deep! Still trying to peel many hidden layers)
  • It is not true that people are naturally equal for no two people can be together for even a half an hour without one acquiring an evident superiority over the other. (Deep! Profound!)
  • Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult. (Very original view on why Poverty is bad – not because of material things, but as a threat to liberty and virtues)
  • Between falsehood and useless truth there is little difference. As gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich, so knowledge which cannot apply will make no man wise. (Sharp! And so relevant in today’s world of Social Media propaganda)
  • The two offices of memory are collection and distribution.
  • Disease generally begins that equality which death completes (Equality is a myth! Except when you are dead)
  • Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good. (Classic insult!)
  • So many objections may be made to everything, that nothing can overcome them but the necessity of doing something. (Perfect for perpetual nay-sayers and fault-finders)

And the three which I like most are:

  • “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
  • Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity (that’s why I am economical in my praise J)
  • The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. (I heard it from Warren Buffett first. Later got to know that Samuel Johnson said it)


Now the Irony – Part 2:

The rise of Google – the search engine – has been partly responsible for declines in dictionary sales. Garry Kasparov in his book “How Life Imitates Chess” has written about how Dictionary, and Encyclopedia were made less important, if not redundant by search engines – mainly Google.

And this happened not only to print version but also to the digital version of Encyclopedia – such as Microsoft Encarta – digital multimedia encyclopedia created by MS in 1993 and which they had to close in 2009.

Dictionary, and Encyclopedia are not dead. But the way we access them have been changed completely. And for those who have not yet figured out the difference – it is Sorting versus Searching!

Dictionary is based on sorting principle – you organize words in a sorted manner so that you can look-up later based on a particular technique (algorithm). A Search engine such as Google is based on searching principle. It doesn’t sort information continuously but searches using an efficient algorithm as and when needed (actually this is not completely true – Google does sort to some extent – called indexing).

Enough on the topic for now, but I’ll follow up with a post on this interesting topic – Searching vs Sorting – that will elaborate more on the irony of Google celebrating birthday of a lexicographer!


Critical Thinking and Analysis Case Study: Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Project

shinzo-abe-narendra-modi_1d5b3072-990d-11e7-baba-4acd69b87684Bullet Train

I have had the privilege (or curse?) of pursuing full-time MBA two times. And if I had enough wealth, I would pursue it again, or maybe some other higher studies such as Ph D or Masters in Economics, Masters in Policy Making etc. I enjoyed the process of learning about Critical Thinking and Analysis and honing ability to study various subjects, evaluate opinions, data, facts and form a view.

And MBA is all about “application” – through Case studies. So, let’s pick the most recent and most interesting case study – that of Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train.

As I write this post, the Indian Prime Minister Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Abe laid the foundation stone of the 508 Km long Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Bullet Train project, a few minutes ago.

Here are key details of the project (Case facts):

  • India’s first Bullet train is being built in partnership with Japan
  • The government has set an ambitious deadline of starting the bullet train on August 15, 2022 – the day that India marks its 75th year of India’s Independence.
  • The gigantic infrastructure project that is going to cost India approximately Rs 1,10,000 crore (~17 Billion USD)
  • he Japanese government is providing a loan of Rs 88,000 crore at a “miniscule” interest rate of 0.1%.
  • The loan can be repaid over a time span of 50 years, with the repayment beginning 15 years after disbursement. The loan interest ranges between Rs 7-8 crore a month and the government claims it will not put any strain on existing financial resources.
  • The bullet train will run at an operating speed of 320 Km/hour and a maximum speed of 350 Km/hour! The 508-Km journey will be completed in 2 hours and 7 minutes and cover 12 stations
  • Japan’s Shinkansen E5 series of bullet trains have been identified for the project.
  • The bullet train – with executive and economy-class seats – will have 10 coaches that will be able to seat as many as 750 passengers.
  • Later, Indian Railways proposes to add 6 more coaches to take the seating capacity to 1,250 passengers. Initially, 35 bullet trains will be operated.
  • By 2053 this number is likely to go up to 105. The bullet trains are expected to do 70 Ahmedabad-Mumbai sorties in a day. While 24 bullet trains will be imported from Japan, the rest will be manufactured in India
  • According to the government, the project is likely to generate employment for about 20,000 workers during the construction phase.
  • Safety: The train delay record of Shinkansen is less than a minute with zero fatality, says Japan. Not only that, the technology for disaster predictions and preventions will also be acquired.
  • This would make sure safety is maintained in case of any natural calamity such as an earthquake etc. Modi government hopes that with this technology, India will leapfrog to the cutting edge of latest train developments.
  • One of the biggest benefits of the bullet train project will come from the fact that Indian engineers and labour will gain knowledge and skills to ‘Make in India’ the parts and rolling stock. This, in turn, would be beneficial for future high-speed rail projects that are being planned for other routes in the country – and as Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said – we may even start exporting!
  • The Maharashtra government is still undecided on where the bullet train will end in Mumbai. The state government this week agreed to spare 9,000 sq metres plot for the station at the Bandra-Kurla Complex on the condition that the railways assess suitability of an alternative site.
  • At their summit talks today PM Modi and Mr Abe are expected to focus on bolstering defence and security ties. They are also expected to discuss cooperation in the nuclear energy sector. The recent nuclear test by North Korea will come up during the talks, officials said.
  • Benefit for Gujarat: An agreement between the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Gujarat Maritime Board for developing the Alang shipbuilding yard, besides the establishment of two industrial parks, will be on the table during Abe’s visit. According to Gujarat Chief Secretary, JN Singh, 15 Japanese companies are keen to invest in Gujarat and will be signing agreements with the state government. Some of these companies include Moresco, Toyoda Gosei, Topre and Murakami.

Here is a good 2015 article about Economics of Bullet Train written in connect of Mumbai-A’bad Bullet Train proposal then.

Now you must keep in mind “What’s In It For Me” (Link: ) question and apply it for different stakeholder groups.

For example, WIIFM from Japan’s perspective. Why would they provide loan at such low interest rates of 0.1% and provide technology? What do they get?

Think about WIIFM from different stakeholder perspectives – some of the key ones are: PM Narendra Modi (the individual), BJP Government at the Center, BJP Government in the state of Gujarat (remember, Gujarat state elections are due in few months), BJP-Siv Sena state government in Maharashtra, the commuters (who can take slow and cheap train or a fast and expensive flight, as of now, to travel Mumbai-Ahmedabad), business communities in Gujarat (Surat, Ahmedabad etc) and business communities in Mumbai (again Gujaratis?), the Indian Railways (getting technology know-how, developing skills in operating High-speed trains), the social and environmental groups (massive displacement due to land acquisition and some part of the route is submarine), the new commercial opportunities along the train route/stations (malls at and around the train stations), the public at large (tax burden, cess, toll?).

The more you start thinking, the more you can identify stakeholder groups. And different aspects how they are linked such as – Economic, political, sociological, environmental, international relations (Japan as an investor and ally – to counter China threat).

For now, I leave it up to you to think about this case study from various angles. Will write a follow-up post on this in due course. Maybe my analysis, or just updates about the project.


The Joy of Solving Brain Teasers, Puzzles and Donald Trump!

I like solving puzzles, brain teasers. That doesn’t mean I am an expert at solving them. It just means that I enjoy the process and I don’t get fed up with trying. And if I get the answer right, that’s a bonus!

Mathematicians often use word “elegant” when they talk about their research or work. By elegant they mean that a complex mathematical equation that looks so simple and yet profound, and that which looks succinct – more like poetry.

Sometimes the answer is not elegant, but the method or arriving at it is. And sometimes the answer itself is so revealing that it evokes another interesting chain of thoughts! I am often in awe of people who compose such puzzles, brain teasers!

Recently I came across this puzzle. Isn’t it wonderful that someone could actually create a puzzle out of nowhere?

And if you think that the puzzle is a genius, you would be amazed once you see the possible solution! The possibility (that the answer proposes) is a frightening thought – sure to spark HUGE debate in the US! See if you can crack that J

If you have missed the clue, it is right there in the title of this blog!


Source: Twitter

Misha Osipov – the new chess prodigy (age 4)

If you follow Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner and Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, you would know his love for a mental model called “Inversion” or “Thinking Backwards”. Charlie quotes Jacobi (“Invert; Always Invert”) and says that a lot of problems could be solved by inversion – that is, by inverting the problem statement and answering the inverted problem, which leads to the solution of the original problem. For example, he says, if you want to be loved and respected, prepare a checklist of all qualities that put you off. And avoid them!

Munger himself tells this story: “I have a physicist son who has been trained more in the type of thinking I like. And he immediately got the right answer, and here’s the way he reasoned: It can’t be anything requiring a lot of hand-eye coordination. Nobody 85 years of age is going to win a national billiards tournament, much less a national tennis tournament. It just can’t be. Then he figured it couldn’t be chess, which this physicist plays very well, because it’s too hard. The complexity of the system, the stamina required are too great. But that led into checkers. And he thought, “Ah ha! There’s a game where vast experience might guide you to be the best even though you’re 85 years of age.” And sure enough that was the right answer. Anyway, I recommend that sort of mental trickery to all of you, flipping one’s thinking both backward and forward.”

Note: The 85-year old person Charlie was referring to was Asa Long (1904 – 1999), an American checkers player, winner of multiple US Championships, spanning more than sixty years, and a one-time World Champion.

The reason I was reminded of this anecdote about Chess was the recent news about a new child prodigy, barely 4 years old, named Misha Osipov, who played with World’s oldest Chess grandmaster, 95-year-old Yuri Averbakh – and defeated him!

There are many “WOW” aspects about this story, so let’s go slow. World’s oldest Chess grandmaster, 95-year-old Yuri Averbakh still very much active and playing chess is the first extraordinary thing – which links to Charlie’s story. Viktor Korchnoi a Soviet and Swiss chess grandmaster was considered one of the strongest players never to have become World Chess Champion. He was very active and strong chess player till he died in 2016, at age of 85. Korchnoi became the oldest player ever to win a national championship, when he won the 2009 Swiss championship at age 78. He won the national title again a few months after his 80th birthday in July 2011. So Korchnoi and Yuri Averbakh are the exceptions to what Charlie Munger said.

Now the next extraordinary thing! Misha Osipov, the young (actually an infant) child prodigy from Russia, played with former World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov (66 years old) when he was just 3.5 years old. Though Misha lost the blitz game (5 mins game), he played very strong chess (for a 3.5 years’ old). You can watch his game here:

You can also watch a cute interview of Misha here:

But that was not enough. If playing against a Chess Grandmaster at age 3 is an amazing achievement, winning against another Chess Grandmaster at age 4, is a 1000x more amazing achievement! (In fact, a billion times…). And the Grandmaster who lost was also another marvel – 95-year old Yuri Averbakh. You can watch the video and the game here:

Chess is probably the only sport where a 4-year old can compete with a 95-year old and defeat him!

José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera (Havana, Cuba, 19 November 1888 – New York, 8 March 1942) was a Cuban chess player who was World Chess Champion from 1921 to 1927. He was also a child prodigy and started playing at very early age with his father and defeated him when he was just 4. Here is a photo of 4-year old Capablanca playing with his father (year: 1892).


That was an amazing achievement, no doubt! But see the progress the Chess world has made since then. Today Misha not only plays well at 4, he has beaten a Grand Master!

You should read Garry Kasparov’s new best-seller “Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins” (Amazon: ). Kasparov talks about his match with IBM’s Deep Blue and the evolution of chess playing machines and what it means for humanity. Not specific to chess, but in general. When you see examples such as Misha you know that Humans are still way ahead of any programmed machines.

P.S: You should remember the 2003 game between another child prodigy (13-years then) who drew with former World Champion and one of the greatest players of all time – Garry Kasparov. Here is the video:

The 13-year old prodigy was Magnus Carlsen, today’s World Champion and one of the greatest players of all time! He was a child-prodigy too – so watch out for Misha!


Understanding arbitrage opportunity

They say, “A picture speaks a thousand words”.

Here is a picture that explains “abritrage opportunity” concept perfectly well! ☺️

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