Note to recruiters

Note to recruiters: We are quite aware that recruiters, interviewers, VCs and other professionals generally perform a Google Search before they interview someone, take a pitch from someone, et cetera. Please keep in mind that not everything put on the Internet must align directly to one's future career and/or one's future product portfolio. Sometimes, people do put things on the Internet just because. Just because. It may be out of their personal interests, which may have nothing to do with their professional interests. Or it may be for some other reason. Recruiters seem to have this wrong-headed notion that if somebody is not signalling their interests in a certain area online, then that means that they are not interested in that area at all. It is worth pointing out that economics pretty much underlies the areas of marketing, strategy, operations and finance. And this blog is about economics. With metta, let us. by all means, be reflective about this whole business of business. Also, see our post on "The Multi-faceted Identity Problem".

Monday, May 28, 2012

Thailand Pictures

Here is a final set of pictures from Thailand. Keep those answers for the puzzle coming in. Happy solving!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bangkok, city of Buddhas

Here is a second set of pictures from Thailand. These pictures are from Bangkok. Office hours announcements below the fold.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The theme for June - Java

We have put up the first Summer Puzzle. As we mentioned before, the Summer Puzzle columns are going to consist of just puzzles (plus a few pictures). The first Summer Puzzle is linked here. It will run just here on this blog and will not run in the Times of India.

The theme for the month of June is Java hence the pictures from Java. I know that it is still May. We are putting up the puzzle a little in advance so that you will have more time to solve it. So your mission with the first Summer Puzzle, if you choose to accept it, is simple : just solve the puzzle below.  Email your answers to : with the subject "Summer Puzzle".

(1)   Mallika is in Java but can't take her mind off football. She is trying to decide between three football teams to throw her support behind – the University of Oklahoma Sooners, the University of Texas Longhorns and the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. All she has to help her is a fair coin, that is, with this coin, there is an equal probability that the coin will show up either heads or tails. Devise a way for her to choose one of the three teams with equal probability.
(2)   It is the next day and Mallika realizes that she has misplaced her fair coin. She is now trying to decide between five IPL teams - the Chennai Super Kings, the Kolkata Knight Riders, the Mumbai Indians, the Rajasthan Royals and the Delhi Daredevils. All she has to help her is a coin with unknown bias, that is, with this coin, there is a non-zero probability that the coin will show up either heads or tails but we don’t know what the probability of heads is. Devise a way for her to choose one of the five teams with equal probability.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Origami, office hours, et cetera

So I did a practice run of the "Why are there cows on the street in India?" talk, and we have a video recording of the talk available. After the talk, I sent Prof. Tom Kosnik a letter about the video with some explanatory comments. The letter is linked here. Prof. Kosnik is, of course, familiar with the Case Method of lecturing. I just added enough detail about the Case Method, et cetera, to my letter so that it would be generally useful if I forwarded the letter on. Readers, one thing : please take a look at my previous post on this topic (linked here) and let me know if there is anything that needs clarification. The post is supposed to be self-contained and self-explanatory, and if it is not, I would be interested to know how I can improve it. Also, I will be holding office hours Monday morning (May 21) between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. PST.

And in the meantime, to keep those little grey cells working, here is an interesting talk by Robert Lang who merges mathematics and engineering principles in ... oh, you just have to watch.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Pizza and Panini

Indiatimes' main page is carrying an edited version of the latest installment of our mathematics column entitled "Pizza and Panini". It is written in the style of the New Yorker. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. (For those who came in late, Chandrayaan-12 is the rocket on which Anand and Ravi are traveling.) Please send in your answers to the puzzle in the column to the following email address : Happy solving!
This article is in collaboration with Prof. Krishnan Shankar, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oklahoma.
The Oracle Asks
The Sanskrit grammarian Panini is at his friend Socrates’ place in Athens.
Boy. Here is the tea.
Socrates. Thank you.
Panini. The boy, he understands Greek Mathematics, does he not?

Socrates. Yes, indeed; he was born in the house.

Panini. Can you talk to him about mathematics?
Soc. Certainly. Attend now to the questions which I ask him, and observe whether he learns of me or only remembers.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Office hours : tomorrow morning, 9-10 am PST

This is just a note to say that I will be holding office hours tomorrow morning (between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. PST). Please feel to catch me on Skype with any questions you may have about Columns 1 and 2. I don't expect there will be any questions, but just in case you do have questions, please feel free to call. My Skype id is : anandaimeaim.

In the meantime, here is a talk by Benoit Mandelbrot himself.

Friday, May 11, 2012

How to do a talk

I am shooting for a talk like the TED talk below called "How to use a paper towel". What the speaker says can be summed up in two or three sentences. The point of the talk, though, is to entertain. In this, it succeeds.

Take it away, maestro!

How not to do a talk

J. Krishnamurti makes many mistakes in this talk of his, and this talk might as well be titled "How not to give a talk". I have generally not found much by way of insight in J. Krishnamurti's writings, and that is because I don't think there is very much in there. So I was not expecting a great deal when I listened to this talk, but I had to give up after about five minutes because he never clarifies what he means by his many very elliptical sentences in the first minute. Within 60 seconds, he manages to say something obtuse ("I really don't know why you are clapping") and something very bizarre ("Have you ever tried clapping with one hand? Please do that now... from today."). I listened to all of five minutes before I gave up. To those who perserved longer: please let me know what I missed.

I am quite aware of J. Krishnamurthi's reputation as a philosopher in certain circles, but I have some background in Philosophy myself and, over the years, have come to love the field. Indeed, as I noted on my List, many of my organization behavior posts have been written to be an exercise in philosophical thought. So, you know, I know that those are some pretty bold statements to make, but there it is.

And finally, I would like leave a message here for the good people at the Theosophical Society over in Adyar. In case they have not cancelled their subscription to the resurrection of the World Teacher, I would like to let them know this : yes! I am available!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shall we dance?

And now for something completely different. Here is "Shall we dance?" from the cartoon version of "The King and I":

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cows in India, or What Gets Measured Gets Managed

Prefatory Note: This is intended to be a talk, not an article. Please treat it as a sort of transcript of my talk. In particular, expect low information density. I find that much of the information in TED-style talks comes in the Q&A. My lecture is really in a very different tradition, if you will, of lecture, namely, the Case Based method of teaching. The aim of the lecture is to inform the audience assuming that they have already read the Case Materials beforehand. It is a more intimate setting, but makes for a much richer experience. Furthermore, with the Case Method and unlike in a regular talk, you can engage with nearly all the members of the audience on substantive issues related to the topic at hand during the course of the lecture itself. Thus, the Case Method technique serves as validation for the idea itself. Using this technique, I have given this speech a few times thus far, and have found the main idea validated each time. I hope you enjoy the presentation.

The Talk:
I created and uploaded a video of my talk for my meeting with Prof. Lietz, but unfortunately, my Macbook has a soundcard problem, and so the sound is simply not showing up. Here is the video.

The title of the talk is "Why are there cows on the road in India?" In this post, I will provide a brief walkthrough of the talk since there is no sound. This is meant to be a very accessible talk so please feel free to write in if there are any questions at all, but please do bear in mind that this is a talk and so it is meant to be heard, not read.

My basic argument is simple. The way Indian Assemblies work today is dysfunctional, and we need a system of checks and balances there. There is just too much commotion in the Indian Parliament and State Assemblies today. (I have a clip from one of the State Assemblies in my video above (6:12 to 6:28). You will see footage here of an incident involving two members that occurred in the Kashmir State Assembly.) Things are clearly not working. I propose that we need to have a system of checks and balances in Assemblies and in the Parliament to make sure order is restored. I propose one such system (Proposal A - please see below), but it does not necessarily have to be the one that is adopted. In fact, even if the Parliament does not adopt this proposal, people could use a variant of the proposed system to keep tabs on the politicians themselves (Proposal B - also see below). What gets measured gets managed. What these proposals offer is a way for people to measure the performance of the members of parliament (MPs). If people can keep track of the performance of their members of parliament, they could put pressure on the politicians to do something about it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pizza and Panini

The third installment of our column is coming up at the Times of India. And to give you an update on the TEDx talk - my preparations for the TEDx talk are coming along well. Tomorrow, I am scheduled to talk to Nori Gerardo Lietz, an expert on world real estate markets here at Stanford. So exciting!

I expect to have an interesting talk with her and I imagine she would have some very interesting things to say on the topic, which <drumroll> is "Why there are cows on the street in India?" Anyway, the latest installment of our column is almost there. Hope you enjoy this month's puzzle.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hello, Young Lovers

Oh, and if you aren't reading all the posts about "Golden Balls" - and why wouldn't you be? - maybe you would like to listen to another song from "The King and I"? So, for all those who would rather listen to musicals than watch game shows, here is another song from "King and I". And in case, you haven't noticed : we have a new look for the blog.


Must Watch : Ask the Delphic Oracle3

We have the third in the series for our column at Indiatimes up and running. It is a short post with a video at the end. An edited version of the post is below. You don't need to know advanced mathematics to enjoy the video, so go ahead and press play!


Two contestants, one pot of money to win.
A British gameshow called "Golden Balls" invites contestants to play a version of the Prisoner's Dilemma, wherein the two contestants have to decide whether they're going to "split" or "steal" a pot of money.
If they both opt to split, they split the money. If one opts to split, and one opts to steal, the one who steals it gets the whole pot. And if they both opt to steal it, then neither get the money.
Prisoner's Dilemma is a classic game from game theory. What happens next? You've got to watch this.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The theme for May - Talk

The theme for the month of May will be Talk, that is, Talks on Mathematical topics. I will be making a series of posts on this theme and, in my posts, will provide examples of effective and ineffective technical talks and presentations. We will also continue to make posts on the theme of Thailand since Panini and Thailand are, of course, the flavors of the month.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TEDx talk

I am preparing for a TEDx talk later this year. It is related to the idea of "power distance", a concept in organizational behavior which has arisen out of research into organizational culture. This research has been based in some interesting mathematical statistics, and I will be talking more about this talk in future posts.

I am preparing for this talk in two ways : one, I am giving practice preparatory talks to friends; and two, I am taking a course on Public Speaking at Stanford. As part of the public speaking course, I will be making a presentation as part of a three member group on "Torture" today.

Torture has become a controversial issue of late. It has been frequently making it to newspaper headlines. Here is what we plan to cover as part of the talk. The talk is in three parts : one, a historical perspective on torture; two, the ethical and moral aspects of torture; and three, we will talk about torture using a Case Study. I will be presenting the first part of the talk, a historical overview of torture.

As part of my portion of the talk, I will be making the case that in modern times, torture is no longer the evil that it used to be. In premodern times (the Ancient and Medieval historical periods), fear of torture was quite widespread. With the Age of Enlightenment, however, it became increasingly recognized that torture was not acceptable. Organizations show isomorphism. When one legal system adopted codes against torture, other legal systems tended to follow and adopted similar legal mechanisms. The British legal system abolished all forms of torture around 1640, except for "peine forte et dure". (This form of torture was abolished in 1772.) Legal mechanisms similar to those in Britain were adopted around the world with organizational forms similar to the British legal system (hence the term "organizational isomorphism", of course). Today, torture is almost universally frowned upon. Whereas it used to be common for a slave, as one example of a Common Man, to be tortured as punishment, the Common Man today no longer needs to fear torture.