Archive for May, 2010

Cheaper Security

Friday, May 28th, 2010 May 28th, 2010 Praveen Bose

Security has been a big concern ever since the threats of terrorist strikes on economic interests of the country became real. It seems to be more the case with businesses that are almost always in the media limelight, for the right or the worng things

While it is the job of the CISF to provide security to public sector establishments and railway stations and airports, off late  the CISF has taken over security at IT hubs and at the campuses of many an IT major. The beneficiaries have had no qualms of getting publicity from their getting the CISF to provide security. They sported it like a badge of honour ever since they got CISF security.
But, does it really make the campuses secure and safe? “It doesn’t make these campuses of IT firms any safer,” said the police chief of a metro at a seminar while speaking of security in the city where he is responsible for keeping law and order.

“Everyone thinks the CISF will make the firms safer for their staff from any sort of security threats. What are we policemen doing?” he said.

The CISF has been roped in to provide security, not because they are better or they have better equipment. “It is just that they much cheaper than the private security agencies,” the IPS officer said with a contemptuous smile.

It is all a part of the cost-cutting measures, not about providing better security. The slowdown had prompted it in the first place.

The unanswered question

Thursday, May 27th, 2010 May 27th, 2010 Aditi PhadnisAditi Phadnis

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s press conference has to have been the most eagerly awaited event this year.

Here is the question I had written down and wanted to ask him. I was not allowed.

“Prime Minister, I live in NOIDA, a Delhi suburb. Last night, the lights went out for seven hours. This is nothing new, they keep going out, but the difference this time was, the lifts stopped because the generator had to be rested. An old gentleman decided to take the stairs to reach his 6th floor flat and had to be admitted to the ICU because his heart couldn’t take the strain. Water couldn’t be pumped up and flushes ran dry. Every citizen of India is familiar with the word ‘load shedding’ You have yourself expressed concern about the power situation in the country. Inclusive politics is all very well, but can you indicate to us by when you will have a power sector that performs and every Indian citizen can expect to turn on the switch and actually have the bulb light up?”

Was this an inappropriate question?

The Divided Colours of Bengal

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 May 26th, 2010 Devjyot Ghoshal

With inaccuracies possibly intact, not since the British left Bengal last century has colour been at the centre of politics as it is now.

That’s not to say that politics in the state has been devoid of colour. Rather, there has always been an element of raucousness that has defined the weeks leading up to hustings.

Being repeatedly woken up by street corner meetings with their battered but blaring speakers spewing disjointed poll rhetoric; constantly visiting the balcony to accost party workers for daring to mar your walls with electoral graffiti; subsequently, smiling sedately while they deface the neighbours boundary wall.

That, however, is just the sedate bit.

Public meetings that block traffic for kilometers and hours, trapping ambulances, cops and sometimes cows; organised rigging, booth-capturing and such, with the distinct possibility of a murder or two; shady money trails leading out of or into even shadier environs; back-room dealings and other paraphernalia that make elections that stuff of Bollywood blockbusters.

But the words on the street this time, with the Municipal polls slated for May 30, is not about the usual colour that characterises a wholesome hustings in West Bengal.

Instead, there is talk of shades: mainly red and green, and some others in between.

Without a pigment of imagination, much of the state’s contemporary past has been dipped in generous quantities of red — that unwavering symbol of the longest stint of any government, Communist or not, in the country.

And then, there is the resurgent green of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress which is seeking to unseat over three decades of institutionalised mismanagement. Every tragedy needs a catharsis.

Banerjee, though, has not stopped at just green. As the helmswoman of the Indian Railways, she has taken up the paint brush herself. After embellishing the gastronomically disastrous but fast Duranto, the firebrand politician is now hitting the platforms.

Railway stations across the state are turning into multi-coloured destinations with a smattering of all colours except, unsurprisingly, red. Although, greens — florescent or otherwise — are the dominant shade, diverse counterparts including purple are being punched together to create a unique ‘colourful’ ambiance.

Therein lies the fear and mystery. Since Banerjee’s disdain for anything red is well-documented, and her ambition to unseat the incumbent Left Front well-known, the colour of Writers’ Building that houses the West Bengal government is turning out to a consummate poser.

The century-old heritage building has kept a red facade for most of its lifetime and Communists inside for most part of the last fifty years.

If the political soothsayers are correct, the occupants on the inside are to change. But what of the outside?

Or, will Banerjee walk into the red building, even as the Left turns green with envy?

The distortion of history is a fact of life in West Bengal, and predicting the future a facile pastime.

You can’t spell Messiah without Messi

Monday, May 24th, 2010 May 24th, 2010 Aabhas Sharma

Ariel Ortega, Javier Saviola, Pablo Aimar, Martin Palermo, Sergio Aguero, Andres D’Allesandro. Apart from being Argentine footballers, they all have one thing in common. The dreaded albatross called “The next Maradona” has been hung around their necks at one point or the other. And it is something which has weighed down the best of the best. But then along came Lionel Messi who is assuring one and all, that the quest has not only finally come to an end but a new quest must begin.

Suddenly, the football discussion around who’s the best player in the world has come to an abrupt end. Maybe, it was because of the ‘messi’merising performance he put against Arsenal in the Champions League quarter finals or maybe because there is actually no one better around. It is the latter in all likelihood.

His coach at Barcelona Pep Guardiola has this to say about him, “I like the love he has for football and his anonymous character”. That is true about Messi. The only time you hear about him is when he is making the ball dance to his tunes, terrorizing defenders all over the world. Not a word in the press about his personal life. Footballers often make headlines for the wrong reasons, but Messi it’s all about football.

Guardiola also added that “You have to see it – it is not something you can describe because you have to see it to believe it.” Arsenal manager called him a “Playstation player”. In spite of almost everyone waxing lyrical about Messi, some critics still exist. They say that he has often flattered to deceive for Argentina and never replicated the form he has shown at the club level.

If Messi like Maradona wins the World Cup for Argentina, we can probably start talking about him as one of the greatest players of all time.

He has won everything there is to be won at the club level. All that is needed is a World Cup medal. But for that to happen, ironically, he depends on Maradona only. So far, Maradona hasn’t been able to tactically utilize Messi in the best possible manner. But then again Messi is one player who can defy all the odds including bizarre tactics by his own manager to stamp his class on a football match. Come June, the world will be waiting to see if Lionel Messi adds another chapter to his illustrious career. And yes, he is only 22.

It’s a mag, mag world

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 May 18th, 2010 J Jagannath

It is a typical Bombay minute away from Churchgate station and is almost like the Harry Potter 9-3/4 platform— visible but elusive even before you could fathom its existence. I am talking about a magazine store that has been the biggest find of my six months’ humble existence in Bombay. I get the latest issues of foreign magazines like, New Yorker, Wired, Empire, The New Republic, Spin, Rolling Stone, Downbeat, Prospect, FourFourTWo, New York, Q, Atlantic, Spectator, Monocle and, at the risk of being branded a jubiliant name dropper, many more. That too, wait for it, within the price range of Rs 20-150.

For the uninitiated, I am making a killing here. Why? Well, foreign magazines are prohibitively priced in India because of overhead costs like shipping, courier and what not.

Thus, the latest Wired will be available at Rs 500 at any Crossword store, Esquire at Rs 600, Monocle at Rs 850. You get the drift. Considering the chump change I get in the form of salary, I can’t afford all these magazines even at my death bed. However, I would love to hoard them. I read any of these magazines and their writing would rival the compelling narrative of any novel worth its salt.

You may read all these magazines cover-to-cover on the net without any undue pressure on your conscience. However, the designing of these magazines is done in such a way that your heart would pine for a print edition rather than their digital cousins. You pick up an Empire magazine, which is the best film magazine after Cahiers Du cinema, and just see how much happens on every page. They don’t slap the content and a picture in the middle, which New Yorker does and is justified in doing so for the last 85 years. The sense of humour in Empire and Q is all pervasive to the extent that even the picture captions are a hoot and, mind you, the intellectual value is never diluted. I don’t understand a single music term but I consider reading the interviews in Rolling Stone and Spin almost an on-the-job training.

Spectator introduced me to probably the most insouciant movie critic called Deborah Ross. Her personalised reviews opened a whole new world of movie criticism that doesn’t necessarily tip a hat at Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert. It’s fascinating to know how embedded magazine culture in the westerners’ DNA. I don’t know if we all came from Gogol’s overcoat, but as a cinephile I can certainly attest to the fact that the best cinema came from Cahiers Du Cinema with the likes of Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, nouvelle vague, starting from there. The kind of stories the western magazines come up with while giving a big middle-fingered salute to hard news can be some delicious food of thought for the news-obsessed magazines that are available in India.

Our magazines insert all kind of forks in that eight-inch pie called news magazines. The features are downright risible and expecting insight on any issue would be optimism on steroids. Except Caravan, which shows a semblance of audacity to cock a snook at hard news, our magazines have a lot of soul searching to do. I am not saying I’ve become a better writer after poring through these magazines’ delicious prose. I still remain, and would continue to remain, someone who, as my former professor once said, “can’t write to save his life”. However, I find it almost epiphanic that I can add an extra dimension to an American president’s quote, “I am not educated but I read magazines”.

US, Greece, inflation and deflation…

Monday, May 17th, 2010 May 17th, 2010 Rajiv Shastri

First, a few words about this post. Given that I cannot post more than twice a week on my Business Standard blog and I have something to say almost every day, I believe I have found a middle path. I can write every day, but post a collection of these notes, two or possibly three combined into one, twice a week. As with any experiment, its success is uncertain, but there’s just one way to find out. On to the first topic, then…

Is the US like Greece?

This question has become one of pretty intense discussion between economists across the world recently. Paul Krugman declared that it isn’t and created some graphs to prove his point. Others declared he misinterpreted the data used for the graphs and used it to prove the opposite case. While Prof Krugman used data to try and prove that the US deficit is reducing and Greek deficit is growing in the coming years, his detractors used the same data to show that despite lower deficits, US Debt/GDP ratio in 2020 will be close to Greece’s today.
The funny thing about numbers is, if one is smart enough, one can prove almost anything with them. Sadly, the core of the problem isn’t about numbers, its about monetary theory. And by ignoring this, both sides are missing the plot completely.

When Greece adopted the Euro, it chose to give up control of its currency. The Euro is now its home currency and legal tender for all financial transactions within its borders. This includes it’s borrowings. But Greece doesn’t control the quantity of Euro in circulation and cannot create it out of thin air, a privilege reserved only for the European Central Bank. So when it comes to repaying its debt, Greece needs to ensure that it either earns the required amount or borrows it. This was not the case when Greece had its own currency when they could just create it to repay their debt.

The core differentiator between domestic and foreign currency, especially when it comes to borrowings, is the government’s control over the quantity of that currency and not its use as legal tender in the country. The test for this differentiator is simple. One only needs to ask whether the government can, even if only as a last resort, create the currency required to repay its debt. If it can, all borrowings denominated in that currency are domestic borrowings. Conversely, if it can’t, all borrowings denominated in this currency are external borrowings.

When it comes to choosing between domestic and external borrowing, if such a choice exists, government’s will try and keep external borrowings to a bare minimum to minimize their foreign exchange commitments. But there are nations which either don’t have this choice or don’t need to make it. In the former group are nations which adopted the Euro. They do not have any control over the Euro individually, but have to denominate their borrowings either in Euro or in some foreign currency. In essence. all borrowings for these nations are akin to external borrowings since they cannot unilaterally create the currency needed to repay this debt.

Membership of the latter group; nations which don’t have to make this choice, is restricted to nations having the ability to borrow in their domestic currency from foreigners. Nations like the US do not need to undertake any foreign exchange debt commitments. All their borrowings are denominated in a currency they control completely, and can create and destroy at will. For them all borrowings are akin to domestic borrowings regardless of the nationality of their lenders.

So Greece will default, either now or in some time, because it cannot create Euros out of thin air. But with a similar Debt/GDP ratio, all the US has to do is to create the money required to repay its debt. Whether that’s sensible is another discussion altogether, but in the end, the US has a choice and Greece doesn’t.

And that’s what makes them different, not their numbers.

Is the world headed for inflation or deflation?

This is a tough one. Ever since central banks started creating money from nothing, Austrian school economists have been crying themselves hoarse about potential inflation. And yet it hasn’t been that much of an issue after Paul Volcker supposedly tamed the beast. Theory supports these economists, but experience doesn’t. So what’s really going on?

For one, theory often makes assumptions which don’t hold true in reality. “Ceteris Paribus”, a Latin phrase meaning “ other things remaining constant” is often used in economic theory but doesn’t really work in real life because almost nothing remains constant.

So when central banks started conjuring money, they not only added to the amount available for consumption, but also to the amount available for lending. This in turn led to the creation of capacities, which are now far in excess of consumption demand. Consumption demand should have risen as well, and it did, but looking at the scale of unemployment in all major economies, not enough to offset increased capacity.

This should ideally result in deflation and if one were to look at core inflation numbers (excluding food & energy) across the world, it has. On the other hand, sectors in which capacities haven’t really kept pace like food-grains, and those where natural limitations exist, like minerals, oil, metals etc., prices have been rising all through this period.
Rising prices of necessities, when coupled with falling prices for almost all other items, does not impact all nations equally. This differential impact is really a function of  the consumption pattern in these nations, which in turn is a function of their average per capita income. In high income nations, a lower proportion of income is spent on necessities when compared to low income nations. So increasing prices of necessities are more than balanced by deflation in other items as far as consumers in high income nations are concerned. On the other hand, in low income nations, necessities form a large part of the consumption basket and despite deflation in other items, perceived and experienced inflation remains high.

Average global inflation is, per force, GDP weighted while actual inflation is ‘per capita GDP’ weighted. This implies that while average global inflation will remain low and inflation experienced by consumers in high income nations will be slightly below this average, inflation experienced by consumers in low income nations will be significantly higher. Looks like the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer.

Food for thought?

The blogger is an independent macro-economic consultant and has been a part of the debt market for over 15 years. He also blogs at www.rajivshastri.com. Views are personal   

LPO Causes Mental Illness!

Friday, May 14th, 2010 May 14th, 2010 Praveen Bose

The ‘outsourcing-phobes’ in the US, especially those paranoid about legal process outsourcing to India, have put together 10 reasons why legal outsourcing to India will make Americans lose their mind; it can cause mental illnesses! A US-based lawyer who has an LPO in India sent this out.

Commentators have expressed concern with regard to data security and client confidentiality in connection with legal process outsourcing (LPO), i.e., the off-shoring of Western legal work. Now, a study commissioned by ‘Law Without Borders’ has revealed another, even more dangerous risk associated with legal outsourcing: mental illness.
A blog post says:

Like the LPO critics, aren’t you tired of all those expert reports, blog posts, press releases, news stories, and tweets, telling you how legal process outsourcing will solve all your problems?  Don’t you get annoyed by all the propaganda saying that outsourcing legal services to an LPO in India will increase profits of your company or law firm, make your clients or your CEO happy, reduce your workload and improve its quality, increase the morale at your office, provide a way to defeat frivolous lawsuits or pursue legitimate ones, allow previously unaffordable deals to happen, and generally make the world a better place? Okay, so all of that is true. But still, there must be another, darker side to legal offshoring, right?  Yes, there is. The shocking, previously unknown fact is that legal outsourcing to India can cause you to lose your mind. Below are 10 reasons why this happens, all based on actual case studies:
1.  You will develop imposter syndrome. Clients and colleagues will start calling you improbable things like “visionary,” or “revolutionary,” or in the actual emailed words of a particular leading general counsel, “you are one %#@$ $(@#”
2.  Your inability to accept this praise will be accompanied by an underlying inferiority complex. This will arise when Indian lawyers, who never went to a U.S. law school or passed a bar exam anywhere, start correcting your legal mistakes, and even your English grammar. (Stay tuned for an article in a major legal industry publication on this very subject.)
3.  You simultaneously will suffer from a superiority complex, otherwise known as narcissistic personality disorder.  This will happen as your small law firm starts running circles around big law firms, or your relatively small legal department (such as you and a secretary or paralegal) outshines the legal departments of large corporations.  You will develop delusions of grandeur, when you beat these people in court, out-master them in deal negotiations, or otherwise become able to handle disproportionately huge amounts of legal work at affordable costs.
4.  You will develop symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, especially after a highly-placed, inebriated insurance executive at a law industry conference tells you that you should hire a bodyguard, because he believes that misguided big law firms are going have you whacked.  And you realize that, unlike Michael Clayton, you are not going to escape by getting out of your bomb-rigged car to gaze with wonder into the eyes of a gentle, all-knowing horse.
5.  You also will have generalized anxiety disorder, when the increased income resulting from your influx of new clients, or your in-house salary raise, pushes you into a higher tax bracket, and you don’t have time to spend all the money left over, because you’ve taken up so many new hobbies, including the writing of the Great American Novel, with all the extra time created by the reduction in your workload.
6.  You will develop a combination of obsessive-compulsive disorder and insomnia. This will be brought on by the fact that you are already a control freak, and now you’ve got legal teams working for you at all hours of the day and night, and you feel a need to micro-manage everything they do in India, although they usually can do just fine without your meddling. You will not even get any relief from this compulsion during American holiday periods.  This is because the Indian lawyers work right through them, having no respect for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, or even Christmas and Hanukkah. So while normal attorneys are taking time off, you will be calling and emailing India at all hours, with no reason to do so.
7.  You will be afflicted with acute adjustment disorder, as you are forced to transition from managing your big law firm’s windowless basement sweat shops, where platoons of embittered U.S. contract lawyers “stare into the alkaline glow of their monitors and click through reams of the dullest, driest, most pointless shitpaper mankind has ever produced,” until their eyes start “weeping blood” and they turn to writing nasty, embarrassingly accurate critiques of you on the internet, while they are supposedly working for you. If you suffer from sadistic tendencies in the first place, you will find it especially difficult to adjust to the new reality, in which document review is performed in gleaming, sunny, air-conditioned office buildings by eager, motivated Indians, who may not be qualified to work on more high-end LPO assignments, but who might see document review as a way to (a) earn way more income than the average Indian, and (b) move ahead in a growing field.
8. Just as you begin to recover from this adjustment disorder, one of your rewards for sending document coding to India will be to receive a highly-publicized, “Beastly Behavior Award” from a US website called “Temporary Attorney: The Sweatshop Edition (Temp Life at Some of America’s Most Notorious Legal Sweat Shops”).

9. If you actually travel to India to see the outsourcing first-hand, it is possible that you will fall in love with the country, and start spending months there each year.  Eventually this can lead to dissociative amnesia, in which you forget that you are an American.  Or it could cause multiple personality disorder, in which you believe that you are both an American and an Indian, at different times of the day or night.
10.  All of the above will culminate in depersonalization disorder, characterized by feelings of unreality — believing that your body does not belong to you, that you have no separate self, and that you are constantly in a dreamlike state of nirvana.

Okay, so nobody in the above 10 examples really lost his or her mind, or even developed a psychiatric disorder. But be forewarned. If you decide to hire an LPO, you might need to develop coping mechanisms, even if you don’t require professional psychiatric help. For example, you could repeat mantras or affirmations quietly to yourself, such as “don’t worry, be happy,” or “everything’s gonna be alright.”  :)

Quantitative Easing in Europe - what’s the real point?

Friday, May 14th, 2010 May 14th, 2010 Rajiv Shastri

It seems like the European Bailout package isn’t the complete bailout that banks were hoping for. At least, not yet. But that doesn’t mean banks have given up trying to make it one.

After the ‘almost $1 trillion’ bailout package announced on Sunday, pressure is building on the European Central Bank to support it by buying government debt of the peripheral European nations. The ECB has already agreed to buy Greek, Portugese & Spanish government debt along with private sector debt but, to keep these purchases liquidity neutral, it plans to sell an equal amount of German and French government debt. But the amounts the ECB is willing to commit to this endeavor are relatively small and limited by their holdings of, and ability to sell, German and French debt. In a bid to increase this amount, financial market analysts are trying to get the ECB to delink sales from purchases. The reason being offered, of course, is very different from the real one. Analysts are trying to make the ECB believe that it needs to undertake quantitative easing to ‘unfreeze’ Europe’s slowly freezing credit market. But before we go deeper into  the real reason, let’s look at some numbers.

The EU has already pledged to set aside over $75 bln to manage balance of payment issues. In addition EU nations will set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which will underwrite/guarantee upto $560 bln of weaker members’ Government debt. The IMF will contribute close to $320 bln to this effort through either of the channels in addition to the EU commitments bringing the total to a whopping $955 bln.

However, financial analysts will have the world believe that despite the ‘ginormous’ size, this isn’t enough and suggest the ECB step in and buy close to $400 bln of government debt issued by these close-to-failed states as well. To make their ‘unfreezing’ premise believable and to free these purchases from restrictive limits, they also suggest that the ECB should not sterilize the liquidity. They propose that since this liquidity will go to the banks already holding this government debt, this will allow them to continue functioning normally.

It seems, having analysed the bailout package, banks and financial institutions have realised that it doesn’t give them a way out of their current holdings of debt issued by these weak nations. Debt which matures in the next 3 years will be rolled over with guarantees by the SPV or underwritten by it, but banks have no way out of their holdings of longer term debt issued by these nations.

Analysis of the bailout package also suggests that it will do nothing to stop Greece from defaulting eventually. Similarly, it doesn’t really help other peripheral countries like Portugal, Spain etc. This is because the package concentrates it’s efforts on improving liquidity for their debt, but doesn’t address their solvency. This solvency issue can only be corrected by a partial default, also called debt renegotiation. But, debt renegotiation will involve writedowns in the value of this debt and a direct loss to the holders of this debt.

Worried about these losses, and not knowing which bank will suffer more, banks have virtually stopped lending to each other, preferring instead to deposit funds with the ECB. As of Monday, bank surpluses deposited with the ECB totaled just under $400 bln, the highest since July 2009. This suggests two things.

1) There is no shortage of liquidity with the banks and the demand for additional liquidity is completely unjustified.

2) Banks are seriously concerned about their own solvency if one or more of these countries were to default and don’t trust each other to survive. Hence the reluctance to lend.

But in doing so, they are also making it clear that they will continue to hold the financial markets to ransom till their demand to be insulated from these losses is met.

The ECB has called their bluff to some extent by addressing their fear of frozen markets and re-introducing a facility under which it lends to banks for slightly longer periods, similar to what it did in 2007-08. But this has only changed their argument. There are now suggestions that inflation caused by quantitative easing is desirable as it will allow the fiscally weak nations to recover easily, given that inflation reduces the real value of debt. That rising inflation would go against the only task the ECB has been entrusted with is, of 
course, of no consequence to these self serving advisors.

Hopefully, it’s still of consequence to the ECB.

The blogger is an independent macro-economic consultant and has been a part of the debt market for over 15 years. He also blogs at www.rajivshastri.com. Views are personal   

The 21st century

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 May 13th, 2010 Rrishi Raote

Where I work I am surrounded by dinosaurs. There is the one who sneezes at the slightest change of weather. The one who eats spicy chips and falls ill; gets well and eats spicy chips again. The one who wears glasses. The one who consumes nothing but samosas and coffee. The one who’s balding. The one who has headaches. The one who has backaches. The one whose cabin is arctic and thundering with overactive AC. The one whose cabin is steamy like Kerala in summer. The one who won’t touch the office tea but swears by the nearby thelawala’s chai. The one who gargles loudly in the loo. The one whose cubicle is piled high with paper. The one who enjoys office meetings.

What an imperfect lot. I feel positively run down in such pre-modern company. Oh how I long for the 21st century, when things will be so much nicer.

In the 21st century, if there are any offices left at all, they will be full of charming, polite, decorous, stress-free and hardworking people who may work as much as four hours a day — four times a week!

In the 21st century, all my fellow workers will be too tough to succumb to germs and viruses, because not only will we eat better, exercise more and use our cars less, our doctors will know how to defeat most pathogens with ease.

In the 21st century, if someone sneezes we will look at them with interest, because it will be unusual and amusing.

In the 21st century, our vision won’t depend on 16th-century technology like glass lenses. We will be able to grow and replace our own natural lenses, should the need arise.

In the 21st century, we will not have smelly samosas and gritty coffee. Both will be banned, and people will have cucumbers and lemon juice instead.

In the 21st century, we will never go bald. Our hair follicles will not be allowed to rest.

In the 21st century, we will have excellent posture and 20/20 eyesight, so we will never have headaches and backaches.

In the 21st century, computers will direct airflow so that nobody is either too cold or too hot. Besides, we won’t have individual cabins, just airy pods that we can move around with.

In the 21st century, the only stimulant we will be allowed is oxygen. It may come in various flavours: Sweet Meadow, Bracing Sea, Sharp Mountain, Warm Field, Fresh Bread.

In the 21st century, we will not have to go to the loo more than twice a day. And in an emergency the loo equipment will come discreetly to us, disguised as a potted plant.

In the 21st century, paper will be permanent, so you will only ever need one large sheet. The same sheet will also do duty as a napkin, drape, extra shirt, hat…

In the 21st century, office meetings will actually be fun, because they will be so infrequent that people will actually be pleased to see each other. And because the work day will be only four hours long, meetings will be short.

I sure hope the 21st century arrives soon.

Reputation in Phone’s Hands

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 May 12th, 2010 Praveen Bose

A high-end phone could turn out to be a liability if it begins to do things out of its own volition, after all, it is a ’smart phone’. And, a smart phone is intelligent, and is capable of learning or unlearning when its software doesn’t “play according to rules”.

A friend is learning it the hard way, and is left fretting and fuming because his phone signs off any message with his name followed by 420. Section 420, as most pe4ople know, under the IPC, pertains to “cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property”. For someone like him who hates to speak on the phone, but prefers to communicate through messages sent out from the phone, it is very frustrating given that he bought the high-end phone and showed off its abilities for weeks on end after buying it, and is still exploring its various magical abilities.

He is now looking to punish the phone, so to speak. He will reformat the phone. But, he may lose whatever personal settings and other software he has saved. Being an information technology (IT) afficionado, he believes in the might of IT. But, never thought that IT’s blessings may turn out to be a curse for him personally.

Perhaps, the phone is showing its frustration by turning on him. It’s an intelligent phone, remember.