Tuesday, January 31

curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning

Now isn't this a lovely little quote? It reminds me of the famous Einstein saying, 'genius and children share one attribute, curiosity. Always be asking is my motto. This is the sad thing about growing up. People stop being curious. They don't like asking questions. Why? Because they think that it's below their dignity. Because it's going to make them feel small. Because it might diminish them. Utter rubbish. Total bollocks. 

Asking and being curious makes you grow. Makes you stretch. Makes you happy. See people who are unhappy. One thing you'll notice about them is that they aren't curious. They aren't interested in what's going on in and around them. Weird people. But they are worthy of curiosity :) 

Happy questioning children. Today I'm off to see the Greenwich international maritime museum. It's been on my bucket list for years. A place so awesomely filled with history of people who were curious. 



Monday, January 30


Btw son, if you get a chance, read the Charles Allan book on Ashoka which we have. It's a good, perhaps the best available book on this Indian emperor. I came across references to this particular text Ashokavandana while trying to track down a vicious rumour about him being pretty nasty to some folks after his conversion to Buddhism. 
Ashoka is an amazing man. He lives on even now as his symbol of the four lions on a lotus flower is the national symbol of India. His works engraved in stone across India can still be seen. By all accounts, he was a good king, ruling justly for all of his reign. Yes of course he killed and raped and conquered but then we have to be careful not to judge the ancients by our standards. 
It's interesting how religions try to control people and pitch the best. This book, written around 200 AD is a good example of trying to push the religious view. 
But good fascinating read none the less. 

Ashokavadana - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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The Ashokavadana (Sanskrit: अशोकावदान, "Narrative of Ashoka") is a 2nd-century CE text that describes the birth and reign of the Maurya Emperor Ashoka the Great. It contains legends as well as historical narratives, and glorifies Ashoka as a Buddhist emperor whose only ambition was to spread Buddhism far and wide.[1]
Ashokavadana is one of the avadana texts contained in the Divyavadana ("Divine Narrative"), an anthology of several Buddhist legends and narratives. According to Jean Przyluski, the text was composed by the Buddhist monks of the Mathura region, as it highly praises the city of Mathura, its monasteries and its monks.[2][3] Also known as Ashokarajavadana, it was translated into Chinese by Fa Hien in 300 CE as A-yu wang chuan, and later as A-yu wang ching(zh:阿育王经) in 500 CE.[4]:16 It was translated into French by Jean Przyluski in 1923, and in English by John S. Strong in 1983.

Saturday, January 28

Here's What Would Happen If You Asked Ayn Rand To Loan You Money

Here's an interesting letter son. You know AYn rand and have been reading her books regularly. Interestingly, just yesterday I had a long conversation with one of my girls at work. She's Russian and she brought some fascinating perspectives on how a person raised in an ex communist country sees objectivism. She's all for it. But I got the impression that it's a bit too tilted to individuality. 
Second point. Lending. It's an interesting social behaviour son. Do you know that my record on lending is absolutely disgusting? Ive never managed to get any money back which I've lent. Ever. Curious eh? I'm supposed to be a banker and review lending and all that but I'm pathetic. I don't regret the lending. Or even the non return of the money. But I do regret that the relationship I had with the people who borrowed from me suffered. Always. So all I can advice is that never lend any money. Help them in non monetary ways. That's better. Another truism is that son, gratitude is the shortest lived human emotion. So what do you do? 
You don't expect anything son. No expectations, no complaints, no explanations. As much as you can. You'll be happy. I've donated or given money to many people. And that makes me happier than lending. I value the relationship more than lending. 
But as you can see, I tend to disagree with Ayn rand here. 

Here's What Would Happen If You Asked Ayn Rand To Loan You Money
In 1949, a 17-year-old girl named Connie Papurt wanted to buy a dress but needed $25. So she did what a lot of young women in her situation would do: asked a relative if she could borrow the money. The relative? Her aunt, author and economic philosopher Ayn Rand.
Papurt is the daughter of Agnes Papurt, sister of Rand’s husband, Frank O’Connor. The Toast spotted this letter from Rand to her niece in the book Letters of Ayn Rand, and has shared it for our reading pleasure. Naturally, Rand couldn’t resist answer a request for a loan with a dissertation on fiscal responsibility. While there is some sensible stuff in here (and hey, at least she admits that Connie doesn’t have to agree with her personal philosophy), most communications with teenage girls don’t turn into a miniature version of Atlas Shrugged, paired with threats of viewing them as embezzlers. I suppose, though, young Connie knew — or at least should have known — what she was in for when she made the request:
May 22, 1949
Dear Connie:
You are very young, so I don’t know whether you realize the seriousness of your action in writing to me for money. Since I don’t know you at all, I am going to put you to a test.
If you really want to borrow $25 from me, I will take a chance on finding out what kind of person you are. You want to borrow the money until your graduation. I will do better than that. I will make it easier for you to repay the debt, but on condition that you understand and accept it as a strict and serious business deal. Before you borrow it, I want you to think it over very carefully.

Tuesday, January 24

Decoding leadership: What really matters

Hope you had a great time at your spring ball. We are anxiously waiting to see your photographs in your tuxedo all dressed up. I made chicken stir fry yesterday and I was missing feeding you. Lol. That sounds like I'm an emperor penguin feeding his chick while his mate is off foraging for her meals. But you did cuddle into my lap like a penguin chick does :) 
Anyway. Talking about leadership. Difficult decision son. And I've seen more papers and advice about leadership than I've seen leaders. I've had great leaders. I've had crap leaders. I've been an ok leader and have had serious leadership issues myself as well. It's a tough one. You have to have different leadership skills at different times with different people for different tasks. 
Besides the below, I would say that the first thing is that you shouldn't be an asshole. In so many banks, I've seen leaders become assholes. Just because they have the power. Be nice to start with son. And then other elements come in. 
Another thing is to talk. Leaders talk. And communicate. And communicate. Written. Spoken. All the time. Keep banging on about it. 
Anyway. Looking forward to the photos son. 
Love you


Telling CEOs these days that leadership drives performance is a bit like saying that oxygen is necessary to breathe. Over 90 percent of CEOs are already planning to increase investment in leadership development because they see it as the single most important human-capital issue their organizations face.1 And they’re right to do so: earlier McKinsey research has consistently shown that good leadership is a critical part of organizational health, which is an important driver of shareholder returns.2
A big, unresolved issue is what sort of leadership behavior organizations should encourage. Is leadership so contextual that it defies standard definitions or development approaches?3 Should companies now concentrate their efforts on priorities such as role modeling, making decisions quickly, defining visions, and shaping leaders who are good at adapting? Should they stress the virtues of enthusiastic communication? In the absence of any academic or practitioner consensus on the answers, leadership-development programs address an extraordinary range of issues, which may help explain why only 43 percent of CEOs are confident that their training investments will bear fruit.
Our most recent research, however, suggests that a small subset of leadership skills closely correlates with leadership success, particularly among frontline leaders. Using our own practical experience and searching the relevant academic literature, we came up with a comprehensive list of 20 distinct leadership traits. Next, we surveyed 189,000 people in 81 diverse organizations4 around the world to assess how frequently certain kinds of leadership behavior are applied within their organizations. Finally, we divided the sample into organizations whose leadership performance was strong (the top quartile of leadership effectiveness as measured by McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index) and those that were weak (bottom quartile).

Monday, January 23

Ships and Silver, Taxes and Tribute: A Fiscal History of Archaic Athens

So I'm hoping to start another Phd this fall at UCL son. Where this professor teaches. It's got a great history department. Completely new subject in history so let's see how that pans out. 
But funny thing happened last week. I posted something about how Israel imposed price controls on books. And with the sad and completely predicable collapse of the book industry in Israel. Great idea, to increase prices so that authors can live but basic economics son, people would switch from books to toys or games. With the result that the authors are now in a worse situation. And I said that price controls usually end up fucking up the market place like rent controls. 
One labour supporter took umbrage at it. And said that's not true. When I pointed out that we have been doing rent controls since 1915 and every time we did that, the availability of housing has gone down. And then he said, economists do not live in the real world. 
Quite a curious statement. The economic illiteracy is about as expected in this election phase but to say I'm not going to learn from history or economics is not even illiteracy but seriously gobsmacking. 
This book talks about how Athens used taxation for its wars. And that also gives you an indication why I hate wars. They raise taxes and lead to some of the most unproductive use of human capital. I'm reading about Athens 2500 years or so later and its fiscal situation and shaking my head. 
History is a vast early warning system son and as you can see from the election, our politicians and our fellow citizens do not want to learn. We are going to be in a world of hurt now. Be prepared for the government to grab more of our money. 

Hans van Wees. Ships and Silver, Taxes and Tribute: A Fiscal History of Archaic Athens. London: I. B. Tauris, 2013. 240 pp. $90.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-78076-686-7.
Reviewed by Nikolaus Overtoom (Louisiana State University)
Published on H-War (January, 2015)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
Institutional Power and Public Finance in Archaic Athens
Hans van Wees’s Ships and Silver, Taxes and Tribute: A Fiscal History of Archaic Athens argues that the financial and institutional advances associated with classical Athens were developments of the archaic period. The book charts the rise of institutional power in archaic Athens with a focus on public finance. Van Wees is at odds with many of the generally accepted historiographical traditions of the fiscal history of Athens. His revisionist history uses, as Paul Millett calls it, “new fiscal history.” Van Wees reconsiders literary evidence from authors, such as Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Aristotle, and supplements them with archaeological evidence. He concludes that the accounts of later authors either were biased toward making classical Athens seem more spectacular by overlooking the archaic period or were anachronistic. The scope of the work roughly ranges from the reforms of Solon in 594 BCE to the transfer of the war chest of the Delian League to Athens in 454 BCE. In seven chapters, he discusses the obstacles in studying archaic Greece, the background to public finance in archaic Greece, Athenian financial institutions, public spending, public revenue, and the media of public finance. A brief concluding chapter, a short appendix on Persian naval expansion, a sizable bibliography, and a helpful select index of passages accompany the work. Van Wees is Grote Professor of Ancient History at University College London and is the author of several works on ancient Greece.

Friday, January 20

Five research papers that revolutionised health

Some very interesting insights into how medical research was published and how pretty much every medical insight was thought to be stupid. I learnt this German  term yesterday while doing the learning to learn course. It say that our previous learning can actually stop us from learning new things. So true. I need to constantly keep my mind open to new ideas and thoughts. 
Saying no is too easy son. Stay away from people who reflexively say no. Listen to them but keep working away. It's not easy to fight. I'm struggling against some entrenched interests to get a pet subject launched. One year and I'm getting there. Fun times. 
Anyway. Much interesting aspects in the story here. 

Five research papers that revolutionised health
(via Instapaper)

15 March 2015 Last updated at 10:16 By Deborah Cohen BBC Health Check
First edition of Phil Trans Roy SocThe world’s first scientific journal with its founders Viscount Brouncker, King Charles II and Francis Bacon
You are unlikely to find The Lancet, Thorax or the Journal of the American Medical Association in your doctor’s waiting room, but their contents have more impact on your health than the usual lifestyle magazines.
Such journals, where papers are reviewed by other scientists in the same field - are where researchers set out their findings about how diseases occur, which drugs save lives or what surgical procedure is best.
The first scientific journal - Philosophical Transactions - was published 350 years ago this month. It is still produced now - along with thousands of others.
Here are five of the many papers that have transformed medical practice - and people’s lives - over the centuries.

Thursday, January 19

18 Quotes By The Dowager Countess That You Need To Start Using In Your Life

hese were very funny indeed Kannu. Some of them you can use to get into your conversations. The last one I liked. I'm reminded of what one of my bosses told me when I was trying to cut costs. He told me, BD, don't be a middle class with cost cutting. Basically meaning penny wise and pound foolish. But this quote from the dowager did make me think. Why is being defeatist a middle class problem? I'm not one and I guess I could be the archetypical middle class man. In terms of thinking anyway. Money wise we are way off. 
Makes one think as to why the middle classes are so worried and bring defeatist. Is it because of their insecurity? 

18 Quotes By The Dowager Countess That You Need To Start Using In Your Life
(via Instapaper)

To paraphrase another great wit: rumours of her leaving appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
Which is a relief. Because 'Downton Abbey' without its marvellous matriarch - Dame Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess - would be a duller place indeed.
From quick-witted observations to sharp-tongued ripostes, here are some of the finest, funniest bon mots ever uttered by Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham.
Whether you're dealing with foreigners, friends or whining women, we highly recommend using them when the social occasion arises...
  • 1 'At my age, one must ration one's excitement.'

Wednesday, January 18

‘Dastarkhwan’ revisited

I first came across this word, dastarkhwan in Lucknow. It's a tiny street which is full of little eateries. And I tell you the food there is to die for kids. It's truly magical what they do. Every time I go there, nana gets me some food from there and I just pig out. Here's an article written by a friend of mine which goes a bit deeper into the history of food. I chuckled at the recipe where she mentions 'bhunao'. Brown. Take a peek at mamma's recipe book. It's so amusing to read. But that's what makes these recipes beautiful and lovely. They include the human touch. The emotion. Nigella Lawson does the same and that's why I love her as well. Food should be a passion and to make it or eat it, you should be passionate about it. And I further reiterate, the mark of quality for any restaurant is a biryani. Specially the meat biryani like goat or chicken. If that's good then the cook/restaurant is good. 
Maybe one day I'll learn to make biryani. We've got that hyderabadi biryani book but those recipes are horribly hard. And the girls don't like that. So I guess I'll have to wait till you come kannu. And it was good to see you yesterday. I was happy to see you relaxed and looking good. And don't forget the deal! :) 

‘Dastarkhwan’ revisited
Pritha Sen (left) with Manzilat Fatima. Photographs: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Manzilat Fatima, 47, is describing a Shia community speciality offered in prayer (haazri) on Muharram. “You take a mini paratha, place a kebab on it, add a piece of smoked paneer that you get in New Market here in Kolkata, plus julienned ginger, mint leaves, a slice of cucumber and a roundel of onion,” she says. “We call this a ghutwan kebab, because the meat is first marinated with papaya and then cooked till it assumes an almost paste-like consistency.”

Tuesday, January 17

The Ritual behind Wishing Wells: Buying Favors and Good Fortune

This is a fascinating story behind how the tradition of throwing coins into wells and fountains came about. Never knew this at all. What was the most poignant was that Odin was required to pay a very steep price to drink the water of wisdom. Quite an interesting story. I need to read up more on Norse mythology. 
When we went to Italy, we were merrily throwing coins into the wells. There's actually a well in Ambleside which is a charity well. You can throw in a coin to help a charity and also make a wish. Both winners. 

The modern Western world is familiar with the concept of wishing wells, or bodies of water in which currency, most commonly in the form of coin, is tossed with the intention of making a wish.  Some towns even host a fountain in the town square or epicenter in which passersby drop coins in hopes that their desires will be fulfilled. While this practice is common knowledge, the origin of the tradition is not. In fact, when and where this practice began is somewhat unclear.
As with many traditions that predate recorded history, pinning down one particular event or origin related to the wishing well is difficult. Many ancient practices spanned more than one culture, varying according to the practicing people. But in regards to the phenomenon of the wishing well, there are undoubtedly age old customs that correlate to the tradition of wishing over sacred water.
The dark pools in the Luray Caverns are filled with coins and other tokens thrown in by visitors and hopeful wishers. 'Wishing Well' of Luray Caverns, Virginia, USA.
The dark pools in the Luray Caverns are filled with coins and other tokens thrown in by visitors and hopeful wishers. ‘Wishing Well’ of Luray Caverns, Virginia, USA. Wikimedia Commons
Though the wishing well is considered to be a European tradition, it is important to understand the worldwide significance of clean water before the advent of indoor plumbing and water filtration.
Water is the source and sustenance of life. All major civilizations developed around a source of water, mostly fresh, so that it could be used and utilized for drinking and other essential day to day activities, such as agriculture. These large bodies of water were also key in successful trade and defense. On a smaller scale, clean water that emanated from springs or streams were also vital to local communities. Structures often came to be built around the source of this clean water to protect it from contaminates. These ‘wells’ often became a common meeting place for residents.

Monday, January 16

Ecuador - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

So we will be going to this country in couple of months. This promises to be great fun. We will be spending time in Galapagos and Quito and the Amazonia resort over 2 weeks. And we will be driving from Quito to the Amazonia resort. It's going to be quite a fun time. The country seems to have gone through some really torrid times indeed. You can see how the geography of the country has an impact on its politics and history. That's why a knowledge of geography is very important. Whist we shape the landscape, the landscape shapes is much more. I hope you two have fun. Keep your eyes open and observe. This is the first time you two are going to go to a Spanish speaking country in South America. Totally different culture, history, food everything. Fun times. 
I'm totally excited :)

Ecuador - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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For other uses, see Ecuador (disambiguation).
"Equador" redirects here. For the city in Brazil, see Equador, Rio Grande do Norte.
Not to be confused with Equator.
Ecuador (
i/ˈɛkwədɔr/ E-kwə-dawr), officially the Republic of Ecuador (Spanish: República del Ecuador [reˈpuβlika ðel ekwaˈðor], which literally translates as "Republic of the Equator") is a representative democratic republic in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland.
What is now Ecuador was home to a variety of indigenous groups that were gradually incorporated into the Inca Empire during the fifteenth century. The territory was colonized by Spain during the sixteenth century, achieving independence in 1820 as part of Gran Colombia, from which it emerged as its own sovereign state in 1830. The legacy of both empires is reflected in Ecuador's ethnically diverse population, with most of its 15.2 million people being mestizos, followed by large minorities of European, Amerindian, and African descendants.