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November 28, 2009

India to Indians: give up and accept it the way it is ?

"India can seem to have a fairly ambiguous and chaotic way of working, but it works," Ms. Bansal said. "I've heard people say things like 'It is so inefficient or it is so unprofessional.' " She said it was more constructive to just accept customs as being different.


"Some very simple practices that you often take for granted, such as being ethical in day to day situations, or believing in the rule of law in everyday behavior, are surprisingly absent in many situations," said Raju Narisetti, who was born in Hyderabad and returned to India in 2006 to found a business newspaper called Mint, which is now the country's second-biggest business paper by readership.

He said he left earlier than he expected because of a "troubling nexus" of business, politics and publishing that he called "draining on body and soul." He returned to the United States this year to join The Washington Post.

Returnees run into trouble when they "look Indian but think American," said Anjali Bansal, managing partner in India for Spencer Stuart, the global executive search firm. People expect them to know the country because of how they look, but they may not be familiar with the way things run, she said. Similarly, when things don't operate the way they do in the United States or Britain, the repats sometimes complain.

Business / Global Business
Some Indians Find It Tough to Go Home Again
Published: November 28, 2009
India wants its emigrants and their offspring back, but many say the business climate is frustrating, and the workplace culture makes them feel unexpectedly foreign.

November 27, 2009

Retrevo laptop deals by Retrevo, a gigaom gig (cofunded-wise)

Retrevo blog and Laptop deals.

Black Friday 2009.

November 26, 2009

Coat pockets vs shirt pockets as benchmarks

CAMERAS TACKLE LOW LIGHT From the beginning of digital-camera time, the rule was: if you want to take no-flash photos in low light, you'd better buy yourself one of those big, black, heavy S.L.R. cameras. Too often, the pocket cameras that make up 90 percent of camera sales produce blurry or grainy shots in low light.

This year, the camera companies finally abandoned their decade-long obsession with megapixels. Instead, several of them began working on things that really count -- like bigger sensors for better pictures.

Panasonic and Olympus teamed up to create the Micro Four Thirds format: coat-pocketable cameras that take near-S.L.R.-quality photos. Fujifilm and Sony released new shirt-pocket models whose redesigned sensors do exceptionally well in low light. And Canon's PowerShot S90 combines an unusually large sensor (for a little camera) and a remarkable lens to produce amazing low-light shots.

Still, even these cameras may someday seem laughably crude; already, high-end cameras like the Canon EOS 5D MKII actually "see" better in low light than you do. Trickle-down theory, do your thing.

State of the Art
Novel Now, but Not for Long
Published: November 26, 2009
This year has produced many gadgets -- high-tech and low -- that point toward the future.

November 24, 2009

Wonks can win over Douthat

Ross Douthat thinks wonks could win him over.

"...precisely because the G.O.P. currently has a reputation for being anti-intellectual, there's a huge upside for a Republican politician in being identified as that rarest of species -- a "conservative with domestic policy ideas."

November 23, 2009

Fx: Forex trading profits

Do Forex trading profits go to traders, brokers, software vendors ?
A review of the Foreign Exchange advertizing economy.

November 22, 2009

Twitter ethics panel ? #sponsor

Ted Murphy, the C.E.O. of Izea, now a 30-person business backed by $10 million in venture capital, said the company initially "made a big mistake" by not setting disclosure standards for publishers and advertisers. Today, ad networks promote their standards; Izea's ads on Twitter are typically demarcated with signifiers like "#ad" or "#sponsor."

A Friend's Tweet Could Be an Ad
Published: November 22, 2009
A group of start-up marketers see value in getting regular people to send a sentence or two of text to their friends and admirers.

November 21, 2009

Bloomberg spent 102 million to win 3rd term

NY Mayor Mike Bloomberg spent $102,000,000 of his own money to win a
third term mayoral term which pays $195,000 per year.

-- NY Times CityRoom

Mike Bloomberg made his money. He did not wrest it from banks, the poor, first time home owners, or Uncle Sam. He did not game the system and send the bill to the American people, a la Goldman Sachs. The man is honest, self-made, charitable, amusing and decent. He came to Salomon Brothers & Hutzler in June 1966 - where I hired him. He was humble, funny, a decent guy - just trying his best in a nutty place. He was not all that able at trading and selling. So, the heavies sent him to the back office - where he learned what to do to make his Bloomberg News the world's leading source of financial data. This man reaches out to serve his fellow man - as journalists pan him for spending his own money to get his message across. Horatio Alger was an American hero. The Crash, our Depression, produced Mike's work ethic. His father died young. He has supported many, including his mother. It's time we honored those who are legitimately successful and dealt with the other kind - and stopped confusing the two. Mike Bloomberg is an American hero, he should be the example. Envy - jealousy - contempt - end it! It's all over. By far the best man won... and any intelligent person - even at The New York Times - knows this. Mayor Daley's vote machine, this is not. Mike is not Karzai. Mike won, and the people of NYC won with him. We are most fortunate when men like Mike try. More should do the same. We should thank them when they do - and respect their right to do so. Our nation was built for men of means to serve. The constitution set the senate and presidency accordingly. Our founding fathers respected ability and men of means. It is time we did so again. When the self-made rise, we rise with them. Mike is not a Kennedy. He is not a legacy brat. His liberalism is not party drive. Respect him. He is a good soul. http://sblewis.com

-- Sandy Lewis

November 20, 2009

Condos for short people: sold

There were some things his company couldn't fix. Ceilings in the tower were seven and a half feet high, about a foot and a half less than typically found in luxury condos. "He tried to squeeze an extra floor into the building," Mr. Radow says of the project's developer, William Matt. Mr. Matt declined to comment.

To help solve the height problem, Mr. Radow hired only sales people who weren't much taller than 5 feet. He sold all the units, and Lehman Brothers was thrilled

Go Ahead and Yell. He's Everyone's Punching Bag.
Published: November 22, 2009
Day in, day out, Norman Radow deals with the unpleasantries of the real estate mess. He works for lenders to revive developments gone awry.

November 19, 2009

Wyatt Gallery is aptly named

Mr Wyatt Gallery has a Photography Gallery.

Notably, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to Trinidad and Tobago.

-- another example of the Dennis the Dentist naming rule.

And noted explorations with Anya Ayoung-Chee (R) and an apparent Hiroko Mima (L).


November 16, 2009

Modern Love

2009 Nov 15: cougars

Field Notes
In Cougar Territory, Cubs Take the Lead
Published: November 15, 2009
In a turnaround, young men now seem to be the ones lining up to date older women.

How do you keep people coming back ?

As Bill Simmons tells it now, all he really needed to know about Internet success he learned as a nearly anonymous blogger -- the term had not gained currency, but it still fits. "The question was, how do you keep people coming back?" he said. His insights were to update his posts frequently and to be provocative, to get a discussion going among and with his readers.

For example, in a recent ESPN.com column, he asks which is the better month, October or April? As he lists it, April has the start of the baseball season, start of the basketball playoffs, Easter Sunday, the N.F.L. draft; October has the baseball playoffs, the start of the N.B.A season, foliage. For Simmons, Halloween, among other things, breaks the tie.

"My vote goes to October," he sums up. "Still, 'April or October?' remains one of the underrated arguments."

Perhaps that is because it can never be resolved. Can you ever really answer which is better, October or April, or, more profoundly, who is the better N.B.A. center, the prolific scorer Wilt Chamberlain or the prolific winner Bill Russell?

Mr. Simmons's book is a collection of many such debates and discussions, and, no doubt, there is an eternal appeal to lists. As the philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco recently said in a published interview, "The list is the origin of culture."

Yet if what Mr. Simmons does were that easy -- as easy as he strives to make it look -- then everyone would be doing it.

Business / Media & Advertising
Writing a Sports Column Far From Print, and the Game
Published: November 16, 2009
How a sports columnist's early commitment to the Web is subtly changing a corner of sports journalism.

November 15, 2009

Cel phone pricing is a repeated game

When Apple and AT&T started offering the iPhone for $199, plus $30 a month for Internet access, sales shot up, even though the previous deal -- $399 for the phone and $20 a month -- cost less over a two-year contract.

"The whole pricing thing is weird," said Barry Nalebuff, an economics professor at the Yale School of Management. "You pay $60 to make your first phone call. Your next 1,000 minutes are free. Then the minute after that costs 35 cents."

To economists, it simply doesn't make sense to make chatterboxes pay that penalty. After all, most businesses tend to give discounts to customers who buy more.

It would be easy to see the cellphone companies simply as avaricious oligopolists trying to gouge consumers for every penny they can. And in some senses they are aiming to maximize revenue, at least as much as the market will let them.

But understanding the psychological nuances of how a price plan affects customers' behavior is at least as important to running a cellphone company today as knowing how radio waves spread over a city. Those high charges for going over your allotted minutes, for example, are designed to cause you enough pain that you will switch to a plan with a higher regular fee.

"You give people a really good bargain on this bucket of minutes," explained Roger Entner, a senior vice president for telecommunications research at Nielsen. "People are risk averse, so you have a relatively high overage charge, which gets people to overbuy. You also get really predictable revenue out of it, which Wall Street loves."

There is nothing obvious or necessary about this approach to pricing. In many parts of the world, you simply buy a phone from a store, then buy a card that entitles you to talk for a set number of minutes. Use up the card and buy more minutes. No contracts. No surprising charges. No confused economists.

But for all the complexity, cellphones American-style do have a certain supersized logic. Americans spend more money each month on their wireless bills than people in any other country. But the money we spend buys a whole lot more talk time and text messages than it does elsewhere. On average, we effectively spend about 5 cents per minute of talk time and about a penny a text message, lower than anywhere else in the developed world.

This year, the deals are becoming even better. For people who want to surf the Web on their phones, wireless companies are willing to sell them iPhones, BlackBerrys and other sleek gadgets for hundreds of dollars less than they cost. The catch, of course, is that customers need to pay $30 or so extra each month for Internet access. For those who just want to talk and text without a fancy phone, there is hot competition to offer lower- price, unlimited phone plans that don't require contracts.

In 2004, Cingular Wireless (now AT&T) introduced what it called rollover minutes, with plans that allow unused minutes of talk time to be used in the following months.

An economist would see Cingular's move as a price cut. After all, why buy a big plan as a cushion against what might be an occasional month of high use when you can accumulate your minutes from low-use months? In fact, it worked the other way around, encouraging people to buy larger plans. It turned out that people were happy to buy extra minutes if they knew they could keep them, rather than having them expire.

MORE recently, the carriers have confronted another problem: People are talking less on their mobile phones, and texting instead. In the first half of this year, the average wireless customer sent 518 texts a month and made 220 phone calls, according to CTIA figures. (That average, of course, is driven up by the furious texting of teenagers.)

Is There a Method in Cellphone Madness ?
Published: November 14, 2009

November 14, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell's Science

An eclectic essayist is necessarily a dilettante, which is not in itself a bad thing. But Gladwell frequently holds forth about statistics and psychology, and his lack of technical grounding in these subjects can be jarring. He provides misleading definitions of "homology," "saggital plane" and "power law" and quotes an expert speaking about an "igon value" (that's eigenvalue, a basic concept in linear algebra). In the spirit of Gladwell, who likes to give portentous names to his aper├žus, I will call this the Igon Value Problem: when a writer's education on a topic consists in interviewing an expert, he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong.

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

The problem with Gladwell's generalizations about prediction is that he never zeroes in on the essence of a statistical problem and instead overinterprets some of its trappings. For example, in many cases of uncertainty, a decision maker has to act on an observation that may be either a signal from a target or noise from a distractor (a blip on a screen may be a missile or static; a blob on an X-ray may be a tumor or a harmless thickening). Improving the ability of your detection technology to discriminate signals from noise is always a good thing, because it lowers the chance you'll mistake a target for a distractor or vice versa. But given the technology you have, there is an optimal threshold for a decision, which depends on the relative costs of missing a target and issuing a false alarm. By failing to identify this trade-off, Gladwell bamboozles his readers with pseudoparadoxes about the limitations of pictures and the downside of precise information.

Books / Sunday Book Review
Malcolm Gladwell, Eclectic Detective
Published: November 15, 2009
The themes of this collection are a good way to characterize the author himself: a minor genius who unwittingly demonstrates the hazards of statistical reasoning.

November 13, 2009

Good Shoes

Shoe makers that specialize in high end (not necessarily high fashion) shoes will usually overhaul and resole shoes for you with original parts. Alden, Edward Green, John Lobb, Allen Edmonds, heck even Cole Haan will all do this for you.

Generally, shoe makers who specialize in "fashionable" shoes - Gucci, Ferragamo, etc. intend for the shoes to be more or less disposable. Since they aren't necessarily in the business of making "classic" shoes, generally by the time the sole wears out the shoe is either shot to hell or out of fashion. Therefore there isn't a lot of call for resoling, especially not with the original sole.

-- Styleforum

November 12, 2009

aspirational Suzuki Kizashi

The question for Suzuki is whether Kizashi sales will be hurt by the poor economy or helped because consumers see the car as a good value. Suzuki, long a bit player in the American market, said its goal was to move from being an alternative to mainstream brands (Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Toyota) to being an alternative to aspirational brands (Mini, Volkswagen, Mazda). That will be a tall order indeed, but certainly the Kizashi is a big step in the right direction.

Behind the Wheel | 2010 Suzuki Kizashi
The Cloak of Invisibility Comes Off
Published: November 15, 2009
The Kizashi reflects a major shift in Suzuki's American product line toward vehicles that offer attractive looks and are fun to drive

November 11, 2009

If the news is important, it will find me

TWITTER AND FACEBOOK are platforms that allow the news sources, like newscorp to post breaking news and gain value from their brand. Google does not. In other words, if I trust a newspaper, tv or any brand, I can follow it on twitter and expect the news to come to me. The concept of "If the news is important, it will find me" works better by the day. If it matters to me, chances are very good its in one of the twitter feeds I follow.

November 8, 2009

Sesame at 40

The pedagogy hasn't changed, but the look and tone of "Sesame Street" has evolved. Forty years on, this is your mother's "Sesame Street," only better dressed and gentrified: Sesame Street by way of Park Slope. The opening is no longer a realistic rendition of an urban skyline but an animated, candy-colored chalk drawing of a preschool Arcadia, with flowers and butterflies and stars. The famous set, brownstones and garbage bins, has lost the messy graffiti and gritty smudges of city life over the years. Now there are green spaces, tofu and yoga.

The show's original intent was to present enjoyable and beguiling preschool education to poor children who did not have access to decent preschools while bringing diversity to children's programming. "Sesame Street" wasn't the only children's show with a social message. (Rocky and Bullwinkle are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Some of the earliest cartoons, back when the show was still known as "Rocky and His Friends," were way ahead of the times; a 1962 retelling of "The Ugly Duckling" on "Fractured Fairy Tales" is a screed against cosmetic surgery.)

But it was the mixture of whimsy, pop music and didactic rigor that distinguished "Sesame Street" from everything else. It has arguably had an even greater impact overseas, especially in places like Kosovo and South Africa, where the show is made in partnership with local television producers and tailored to local concerns. Kami, the world's first H.I.V.-positive Muppet, made her debut on the South African version in 2002 when the government of Thabo Mbeki was still questioning the value of anti-viral drugs.

Same Street, Different World: 'Sesame' Turns 40
Published: November 8, 2009
Over the years, "Sesame Street" has replaced the graffiti and gritty smudges of city life with green spaces, tofu and yoga.

November 7, 2009

Taxing somebody other than taxpayers

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, leading a meeting here of finance ministers from the Group of 20 rich and developing countries, said such a tax on banks should be considered as a way to take the burden off taxpayers during periods of financial crisis. His comments pre-empted the International Monetary Fund, which is set to present a range of options next spring to ensure financial stability.

Business / Global Business
Britain and U.S. Clash at G-20 on Tax to Insure Against Crises
Published: November 8, 2009
Gordon Brown of Britain told G-20 finance ministers that the world needed a system to force banks, not taxpayers, to cover future bailouts.

November 3, 2009

Facebook feeds (FaceFeed) 2009

So three big changes:

1. The new Live Feed is linked-to at the top of the page and shows a number of new items since your last visit.

2. Highlights plus hot status updates are now the default, the new News Feed.

3. Birthdays and other important events have taken the place of the old Highlights section; they are of particular interest to users and will now be easier to see.

What It Means

Facebook says that after viewing your new News Feed, you can go check out the raw Live Stream of all the most recent updates from your contacts. That's the opposite of the way FriendFeed did it and neither strategy should be taken for granted. Decisions like this impact a major method of communication for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

October 23, 2009
The New Facebook News Feed and What It Means
October 23, 2009

November 2, 2009

M.T.A. Weighs Lower Fares During Off-Peak Hours

The new chairman of New York's transit system is looking to introduce a pricing policy that would offer passengers discounts to ride late at night and on weekends, an abrupt break from a century-old fare model that could be the city's biggest transportation revolution since the demise of the token.

"We might imagine that we offer discounts at later times, or we offer weekend discounts. Time-of-day pricing might be very attractive."

-- Jay H. Walder, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority

It is already too crowded on weekends

Andrew Albert, a nonvoting board member and chairman of the New York City Transit Riders Council, said he was hesitant about the idea. "You really already have some crushed loads at off-peak periods," he said, citing crowded platforms on some weekends.

Many riders already have zero marginal cost

The price of a single bus or subway ride -- $2.25, after a 12.5 percent increase this summer -- is largely symbolic: about half of riders travel with unlimited-ride MetroCards, and the price for each ride varies depending on which type of card is used.

New York Region
M.T.A. Weighs Lower Fares During Off-Peak Hours
Published: October 22, 2009
The new chairman's plan to introduce discounts for late nights and weekends would be a break from a fare model.