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  • quantitative finance Archives - Unreal Blog
    the form of a trade The trading platform comes with a pricing interface which combines trade information and market data It also runs in what they call batch mode regularly at a given time of the day to compute prices and sensitivities of all trades Since it is the trading platform that performs the batch job the quantitative developers may take care of the associated resources like the grid computing platforms market data feeds trade databases etc In this respect their product centric perspective may get diffused into a trade centric view computing Corporate Life money quantitative finance wilmott Books Corporate Life Quantitative Finance Quants August 28 2013 manoj If you are a quant you are a mathematician with an advanced degree in mathematics or physics Your work is based on both academic research and professional peer reviewed publications You take your inputs from them apply your own formidable intelligence to come up with a stochastic pricing model that you think will work exceptionally well for a class of products You will also need the details of the products Your output is of course a pricing model of your own or an implementation of a pricing model from the literature This is your primary work unit In order to make use of this pricing model it will have to be validated Then a set of products using the pricing model will be defined and submitted for approval Once approved with the help of trade inputs and market data each of the products can be priced and booked into the trading platform But such activities are outside the sphere of interest and influence of the quant To them how a product is instantiated into a trade is pretty irrelevant and trivial It is merely a question of specifying the trade and market inputs to the pricing model Even how various products are derived is mechanical and all the real work is done in the pricing model This perspective though accurate and functional for a quant is pretty far removed from the view of the rest of the bank which is why quants sometimes have the dubious reputation of being out of touch with the industry The point is not so much that they have to change their perspective but they should appreciate that there are other equally valid perspectives held by other business units they interact with and make an effort to know them computing Corporate Life money quantitative finance wilmott Books Corporate Life Quantitative Finance Trade Perspectives August 22 2013 manoj The last section of this post series is on trade perspectives In fact our earlier sections on the static structure of the bank and the temporal evolution of the trade have been in preparation to this last section In the next couple of posts we will see how the quants quantitative developers and the middle office professionals and the rest see trades and trading activity Their views are important and need to be accommodated in the design philosophy of any trading platform Where do these perspectives come from and why do we need to know about them Trade perspectives are based on the work paradigm specific to each business unit Because of what aspect of the trading activity a group focuses on they evolve a paradigm or a mental model that works best for them In order to understand let s take a look at how we work with a modern personal computer The paradigm we are presented with is one of a desk and a filing cabinet So we have a desktop folders and files They have become so natural for us now that we cannot imagine another way of interacting with a computer at all The Internet on the other hand is built on a paradigm of something that hovers over us which is why we down load stuff from it and up load stuff into it But the programmers and architects who develop such paradigms often do work with different and less known paradigms as well for instance we have ports and sockets and streams and so on If we do not appreciate the work paradigm we will find the jargon that comes with it mysterious and incomprehensible This is especially true if we are to work on projects that cut across multiple business units with differing paradigms To illustrate it further with an example from our trading world let s look at how we identify a trade The quants really do not care about the trade identification number for them it is the pricing model that is the basic unit that they work with The quantitative developer on the other hand would like the identifier to be something unique per trade A structurer would like to have one identifying reference for the trade with possible sub IDs for the individual sub trades that make up a structure While this requirement is easy enough to implement the software architecture also has to cater to trade cancellation and amendment requirements from Front Office and Middle Office What happens when a structure is modified or canceled How do we find and deal withall the related trades This problem will almost invariably ends up requiring a link ID in the database Trade number amendments on a live deal create problem for documentation and operations staff as well who might demand another immutable external reference number attached each trade Audit will require integrity and indelibility on everything demanding database record duplication As we can see the perspectives and work paradigms of each business unit translate to often conflicting requirements on the program design at a fundamental level It is for this reason that we will take close look at the trade perspectives in the following posts of this series computing Corporate Life money quantitative finance wilmott Books Corporate Life Quantitative Finance Summary Life of a Trade August 16 2013 manoj With that we have come to the end of our discussion on trade lifecycle We talked about pre trade activities

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  • wilmott Archives - Unreal Blog
    data feeds to price a product in the form of a trade The trading platform comes with a pricing interface which combines trade information and market data It also runs in what they call batch mode regularly at a given time of the day to compute prices and sensitivities of all trades Since it is the trading platform that performs the batch job the quantitative developers may take care of the associated resources like the grid computing platforms market data feeds trade databases etc In this respect their product centric perspective may get diffused into a trade centric view computing Corporate Life money quantitative finance wilmott Books Corporate Life Quantitative Finance Quants August 28 2013 manoj If you are a quant you are a mathematician with an advanced degree in mathematics or physics Your work is based on both academic research and professional peer reviewed publications You take your inputs from them apply your own formidable intelligence to come up with a stochastic pricing model that you think will work exceptionally well for a class of products You will also need the details of the products Your output is of course a pricing model of your own or an implementation of a pricing model from the literature This is your primary work unit In order to make use of this pricing model it will have to be validated Then a set of products using the pricing model will be defined and submitted for approval Once approved with the help of trade inputs and market data each of the products can be priced and booked into the trading platform But such activities are outside the sphere of interest and influence of the quant To them how a product is instantiated into a trade is pretty irrelevant and trivial It is merely a question of specifying the trade and market inputs to the pricing model Even how various products are derived is mechanical and all the real work is done in the pricing model This perspective though accurate and functional for a quant is pretty far removed from the view of the rest of the bank which is why quants sometimes have the dubious reputation of being out of touch with the industry The point is not so much that they have to change their perspective but they should appreciate that there are other equally valid perspectives held by other business units they interact with and make an effort to know them computing Corporate Life money quantitative finance wilmott Books Corporate Life Quantitative Finance Trade Perspectives August 22 2013 manoj The last section of this post series is on trade perspectives In fact our earlier sections on the static structure of the bank and the temporal evolution of the trade have been in preparation to this last section In the next couple of posts we will see how the quants quantitative developers and the middle office professionals and the rest see trades and trading activity Their views are important and need to be accommodated in the design philosophy of any trading platform Where do these perspectives come from and why do we need to know about them Trade perspectives are based on the work paradigm specific to each business unit Because of what aspect of the trading activity a group focuses on they evolve a paradigm or a mental model that works best for them In order to understand let s take a look at how we work with a modern personal computer The paradigm we are presented with is one of a desk and a filing cabinet So we have a desktop folders and files They have become so natural for us now that we cannot imagine another way of interacting with a computer at all The Internet on the other hand is built on a paradigm of something that hovers over us which is why we down load stuff from it and up load stuff into it But the programmers and architects who develop such paradigms often do work with different and less known paradigms as well for instance we have ports and sockets and streams and so on If we do not appreciate the work paradigm we will find the jargon that comes with it mysterious and incomprehensible This is especially true if we are to work on projects that cut across multiple business units with differing paradigms To illustrate it further with an example from our trading world let s look at how we identify a trade The quants really do not care about the trade identification number for them it is the pricing model that is the basic unit that they work with The quantitative developer on the other hand would like the identifier to be something unique per trade A structurer would like to have one identifying reference for the trade with possible sub IDs for the individual sub trades that make up a structure While this requirement is easy enough to implement the software architecture also has to cater to trade cancellation and amendment requirements from Front Office and Middle Office What happens when a structure is modified or canceled How do we find and deal withall the related trades This problem will almost invariably ends up requiring a link ID in the database Trade number amendments on a live deal create problem for documentation and operations staff as well who might demand another immutable external reference number attached each trade Audit will require integrity and indelibility on everything demanding database record duplication As we can see the perspectives and work paradigms of each business unit translate to often conflicting requirements on the program design at a fundamental level It is for this reason that we will take close look at the trade perspectives in the following posts of this series computing Corporate Life money quantitative finance wilmott Books Corporate Life Quantitative Finance Summary Life of a Trade August 16 2013 manoj With that we have come to the end of our discussion on trade

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  • Luddite Thoughts - Unreal Blog
    the slices of boiled eggs garnishing their overpriced salads come in a cylindrical form wrapped in plastic How could this be How could they use mass produced garbage and pretend to be serving up the finest gastronomical experiences Sure we can see corporate and personal greed driving the policies to cut corners and use the cheapest of ingredients But there is a small technology success story here A few years ago I read in the newspaper that they found fake chicken eggs in some Chinese supermarkets They were fresh eggs with shells yolks whites and everything You could even make omelets with them Imagine that a real chicken egg probably costs only a few cents to produce But someone could set up a manufacturing process that could churn out fake eggs cheaper than that You have to admire the ingenuity involved unless of course you have to eat those eggs The trouble with our times is that this unpalatable ingenuity is all pervasive It is the norm not the exception We see it in tainted paints on toys harmful garbage processed into fast food or even fine dining apparently poison in baby food imaginative fine print on financial papers and EULAs substandard components and shoddy workmanship in critical machinery on every facet of our modern life Given such a backdrop how do we know that the organic produce though we pay four times as much for it is any different from the normal produce To put it all down to the faceless corporate greed as most of us tend to do is a bit simplistic Going one step further to see our own collective greed in the corporate behavior as I proudly did a couple of times is also perhaps trivial What are corporates these days if not collections of people like you and me There is something deeper and more troubling in all this I have some disjointed thoughts and will try to write it up in an ongoing series I suspect these thoughts of mine are going to sound similar to the luddite ones un popularized by the infamous Unabomber His idea was that our normal animalistic instincts of the hunter gatherer kind are being stifled by the modern societies we have developed into And in his view this unwelcome transformation and the consequent tension and stress can be countered only by an anarchical destruction of the propagators of our so called development namely universities and other technology generators Hence the bombing of innocent professors and such Clearly I don t agree with this luddite ideology for if I did I would have to first bomb myself I m nursing a far less destructive line of thought Our technological advances and their unintended backlashes with ever increasing frequency and amplitude remind me of something that fascinated my geeky mind the phase transition between structured laminar and chaotic turbulent states in physical systems when flow rates cross a certain threshold for instance Are we approaching such a threshold of

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  • Columns Archives - Unreal Blog
    employing the formidable syntactical machinery at our disposal The only way to maintain an attitude of healthy self doubt and the consequent sanity checks is to jealously guard the connection between the patterns of reality and the formalisms in mathematics And that in my opinion would be the right way to develop a love for math as well children Columns parenting quantitative finance wilmott Columns Quantitative Finance The Wilmott Magazine Topical Math and Patterns February 11 2011 manoj Most kids love patterns Math is just patterns So is life Math therefore is merely a formal way of describing life or at least the patterns we encounter in life If the connection between life patterns and math can be maintained it follows that kids should love math And love of math should generate an analytic ability or what I would call a mathematical ability to understand and do most things well For instance I wrote of a connection between three things a couple of sentences ago I know that it has to be bad English because I see three vertices of a triangle and then one connection doesn t make sense A good writer would probably put it better instinctively A mathematical writer like me would realize that the word between is good enough in this context the subliminal jar on your sense of grammar that it creates can be compensated for or ignored in casual writing I wouldn t leave it standing in a book or a published column except this one because I want to highlight it My point is that it is my love for math that lets me do a large number of things fairly well As a writer for instance I have done rather well But I attribute my success to a certain mathematical ability rather than literary talent I would never start a book with something like It was the best of times it was the worst of times As an opening sentence by all the mathematical rules of writing I have formulated for myself this one just doesn t measure up Yet we all know that Dickens s opening following no rules of mine is perhaps the best in English literature I will probably cook up something similar someday because I see how it summarizes the book and highlights the disparity between the haves and the have nots mirrored in the contrasting lead characters and so on In other words I see how it works and may assimilate it into my cookbook of rules if I can ever figure out how and the process of assimilation is mathematical in nature especially when it is a conscious effort Similar fuzzy rule based approaches can help you be a reasonably clever artist employee manager or anything that you set your sights on which is why I once bragged to my wife that I could learn Indian classical music despite the fact that I am practically tone deaf So loving math is a probably a good thing in spite of its apparent disadvantage vis a vis cheerleaders But I am yet to address my central theme how do we actively encourage and develop a love for math among the next generation I am not talking about making people good at math I m not concerned with teaching techniques per se I think Singapore already does a good job with that But to get people to like math the same way they like say their music or cars or cigarettes or football takes a bit more imagination I think we can accomplish it by keeping the underlying patterns on the foreground So instead of telling my children that 1 4 is bigger than 1 6 because 4 is smaller than 6 I say to them You order one pizza for some kids Do you think each will get more if we had four kids or six kids sharing it From my earlier example on geographic distances and degrees I fancy my daughter will one day figure out that each degree or about 100km corrected by 5 and 6 means four minutes of jet lag She might even wonder why 60 appears in degrees and minutes and seconds and learn something about number system basis and so on Mathematics really does lead to a richer perspective on life All it takes on our part is perhaps only to share the pleasure of enjoying this richness At least that s my hope children Columns parenting quantitative finance wilmott Columns Quantitative Finance The Wilmott Magazine Topical Love of Math January 28 2011 manoj If you love math you are a geek with stock options in your future but no cheerleaders So getting a child to love mathematics is a questionable gift are we really doing them a favor Recently a highly placed friend of mine asked me to look into it not merely as getting a couple of kids interested in math but as a general educational effort in the country Once it becomes a general phenomenon math whizkids might enjoy the same level of social acceptance and popularity as say athletes and rock stars Wishful thinking May be I was always among people who liked math I remember my high school days where one of my friends would do the long multiplication and division during physics experiments while I would team up with another friend to look up logarithms and try to beat the first dude who almost always won It didn t really matter who won the mere fact that we would device games like that as teenagers perhaps portended a cheerleader less future As it turned out the long multiplication guy grew up to be a highly placed banker in the Middle East no doubt thanks to his talents not of the cheerleader phobic math phelic kind When I moved to IIT this mathematical geekiness reached a whole new level Even among the general geekiness that permeated the IIT air I remember a couple of guys who stood out There was Devious who also had the dubious honor of introducing me to my virgin Kingfisher and Pain would drawl a very pained Obviously Yaar when we the lesser geeks failed to readily follow a his particular line of mathematical acrobatics All of us had a love for math But where did it come from And how in the world would I make it a general educational tool Imparting the love math to one kid is not too difficult you just make it fun The other day when I was driving around with my daughter she described some shape actually the bump on her grandmother s forehead as half a ball I told her that it was actually a hemisphere Then I highlighted to her that we were going to the southern hemisphere New Zealand for our vacation the next day on the other side of the globe compared to Europe which was why it was summer there And finally I told her Singapore was on the equator My daughter likes to correct people so she said no it wasn t I told her that we were about 0 8 degrees to the north of the equator I hope I was right and saw my opening I asked her what the circumference of a circle was and told her that the radius of the earth was about 6000km and worked out that we were about 80km to the north of the equator which was nothing compared to 36 000km great circle around the earth Then we worked out that we made a 5 approximation on the value of pi so the correct number was about 84km I could have told her we made another 6 approximation on the radius the number would be more like 90km It was fun for her to work out these things I fancy her love for math has been augmented a bit Photo by Dylan231 children Columns parenting quantitative finance Singaporean wilmott Columns Corporate Life Quantitative Finance The Wilmott Magazine Topical Work and Life In Our Defense July 28 2010 manoj The financial crisis was a veritable gold mine for columnists like me I for one published at least five articles on the subject including its causes the lessons learned and most self deprecating of all our excesses that contributed to it Looking back at these writings of mine I feel as though I may have been a bit unfair on us I did try to blunt my accusations of avarice and perhaps decadence by pointing out that it was the general air of insatiable greed of the era that we live in that spawned the obscenities and the likes of Madoff But I did concede the existence of a higher level of greed or more to the point a more sated kind of greed among us bankers and quantitative professionals I am not recanting my words in this piece now but I want to point out another aspect a justification if not an absolution Why would I want to defend bonuses and other excesses when another wave of public hatred is washing over the global corporations thanks to the potentially unstoppable oil spill Well I guess I am a sucker for lost causes much like Rhett Butler as our quant way of tranquil life with insane bonuses is all but gone with the wind now Unlike Mr Butler however I have to battle and debunk my own arguments presented here previously One of the arguments that I wanted to poke holes in was the fair compensation angle It was argued in our circles that the fat paycheck was merely an adequate compensation for the long hours of hard work that people in our line of work put in I quashed it I think by pointing out other thankless professions where people work harder and longer with no rewards to write home about Hard work has no correlation with what one is entitled to The second argument that I made fun of was the ubiquitous talent angle At the height of the financial crisis it was easy to laugh off the talent argument Besides there was little demand for the talent and a lot of supply so that the basic principle of economics could apply as our cover story shows in this issue Of all the arguments for large compensation packages the most convincing one was the profit sharing one When the top talents take huge risks and generate profit they need to be given a fair share of the loot Otherwise where is the incentive to generate even more profits This argument lost a bit of its bite when the negative profits by which I indeed mean losses needed to be subsidized This whole saga reminded me of something that Scott Adams once said of risk takers He said that risk takers by definition often fail So do morons In practice it is hard to tell them apart Should the morons reap handsome rewards That is the question Having said all this in my previous articles now it is time to find some arguments in our defense I left out one important argument in my previous columns because it did not support my general thesis that the generous bonuses were not all that justifiable Now that I have switched allegiance to the lost cause allow me to present it as forcefully as I can In order to see compensation packages and performance bonuses in a different light we first look at any traditional brick and mortar company Let s consider a hardware manufacturer for instance Suppose this hardware shop of ours does extremely well one year What does it do with the profit Sure the shareholders take a healthy bite out of it in terms of dividends The employees get decent bonuses hopefully But what do we do to ensure continued profitability We could perhaps see employee bonuses as an investment in future profitability But the real investment in this case is much more physical and tangible than that We could invest in hardware manufacturing machinery and technology improving the productivity for years to come We could even invest in research and development if we subscribe to a longer temporal horizon Looking along these lines we might ask ourselves what the corresponding investment would be for a financial institution How exactly do we reinvest so that we can reap benefits in the future We can think of better buildings computer and software technologies etc But given the scale of the profits involved and the cost and benefit of these incremental improvements these investments don t measure up Somehow the impact of these tiny investments is not as impressive in the performance of a financial institution compared to a brick and mortar company The reason behind this phenomenon is that the hardware we are dealing with in the case of a financial institution is really human resources people you and me So the only sensible reinvestment option is in people So we come to the next question how do we invest in people We could use any number of euphemistic epithets but at the end of the day it is the bottom line that counts We invest in people by rewarding them Monetarily Money talks We can dress it up by saying that we are rewarding performance sharing profits retaining talents etc But ultimately it all boils down to ensuring future productivity much like our hardware shop buying a fancy new piece of equipment Now the last question has to be asked Who is doing the investing Who benefits when the productivity whether current or future goes up The answer may seem too obvious at first glance it is clearly the shareholders the owners of the financial institution who will benefit But nothing is black and white in the murky world of global finance The shareholders are not merely a bunch of people holding a piece of paper attesting their ownership There are institutional investors who mostly work for other financial institutions They are people who move large pots of money from pension funds and bank deposits and such In other words it is the common man s nest egg whether or not explicitly linked to equities that buys and sells the shares of large public companies And it is the common man who benefits from the productivity improvements brought about by investments such as technology purchases or bonus payouts At least that is the theory This distributed ownership the hallmark of capitalism raises some interesting questions I think When a large oil company drills an unstoppable hole in the seabed we find it easy to direct our ire at its executives looking at their swanky jets and other unconscionable luxuries they allow themselves Aren t we conveniently forgetting the fact that all of us own a piece of the company When the elected government of a democratic nation declares war on another country and kills a million people speaking hypothetically of course should the culpa be confined to the presidents and generals or should it percolate down to the masses that directly or indirectly delegated and entrusted their collective power More to the point when a bank doles out huge bonuses isn t it a reflection of what all of us demand in return for our little investments Viewed in this light is it wrong that the taxpayers ultimately had to pick up the tab when everything went south I rest my case Columns financial meltdown quantitative finance wilmott Columns Humor The Today Paper An Office Survival Guide July 20 2010 manoj 2 Comments Let s face it people job hop They do it for a host of reasons be it better job scope nicer boss and most frequently fatter paycheck The grass is often greener on the other side Really Whether you are seduced by the green allure of the unknown or venturing into your first pasture you often find yourself in a new corporate setting In the unforgiving dog eat dog corporate jungle you need to be sure of the welcome More importantly you need to prove yourself worthy of it Fear not I m here to help you through it And I will gladly accept all credit for your survival if you care to make it public But I regret that we this newspaper me our family members dogs lawyers and so on cannot be held responsible for any untoward consequence of applying my suggestions Come on you should know better than to base your career on a newspaper column This disclaimer brings me naturally to the first principle I wanted to present to you Your best bet for corporate success is to take credit for all accidental successes around you For instance if you accidentally spilled coffee on your computer and it miraculously resulted in fixing the CD ROM that hadn t stirred in the last quarter present it as your innate curiosity and inherent problem solving skills that prompted you to seek an unorthodox solution But resist all temptation to own up to your mistakes Integrity is a great personality trait and it may improve your karma But take my word for it it doesn t work miracles on your next bonus Nor does it improve your chances of being the boss in the corner office If your coffee debacle for instance resulted in a computer that would never again see the light of day which you would concede is a more likely outcome your task is to assign blame for it Did your colleague in the next cubicle snore or sneeze or burp Could that have caused a resonant vibration on your desk Was the cup poorly designed with a higher than normal centre of gravity You see a science degree comes in handy when assigning blame But seriously your first task in surviving in a new corporate setting is to find quick wins for the honeymoon will soon be over In today s workplace who you

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  • French Archives - Unreal Blog
    else to impress me or others pretending to be somebody better or more sophisticated than you really are The implicit assumption behind this accusation is that you know the person But it is very difficult to know people Even those who are very close to you Even yourself There is only so far you can see within yourself that your knowledge even of yourself is always going to be incomplete When it comes to casual friends the chasm between what you think you know and what is really the case could be staggering In my case I think my friend found my writing style a bit pompous perhaps For example I usually write perhaps instead of may be When I speak I say may be like everybody else Besides when it comes to speaking I m a stuttering stammering mess with no voice projection or modulation to save my life But my writing skills are good enough to land me book commissions and column requests So was my friend assuming that I shouldn t be writing well based on what he knew about how I spoke Perhaps I mean may be However I really should start saying but instead of however there are a couple of things wrong with that assumption Everyone of us is a complex collage of multiple personas happily cohabiting in one human body Kindness and cruelty nobility and pettiness humility and pompousness generous actions and base desires can all co exist in one person and shine through under the right circumstances So can my weak articulation and impressive albeit slightly pretentious prose More importantly people change over time About fifteen years ago I spoke fluent French So if I preferred conversing with a French friend in his tongue was I being pretentious given that I couldn t do it five years before that time Ok in that case I really was but a few years before that I didn t speak English either People change Their skills change Their abilities change Their affinities and interests change You cannot size up a person at any one point in time and assume that any deviation from your measure is a sign of pretentiousness In short my friend was an ass to have called me pretentious There I said it I have to admit it felt good Columns French humor Corporate Life French Humor Speak Your Language April 25 2012 manoj The French are famous for their fierce attachment to their language I got a taste of this attachment long time ago when I was in France I had been there for a couple of years and my French skills were passable I was working as a research engineer for CNRS a coveted fonctionnaire position and was assigned to this lab called CPPM next to the insanely beautiful callanques on the Mediterranean Then this new colleague of ours joined CPPM from Imperial College He was Greek and being new to France had very little French in him I took this as a god given opportunity to show off my French connection and decided to take him under my wing One of the first things he wanted to do was to buy a car I suggested a used Peugeot 307 which I thought was a swanky car But this guy being a EU scholar was a lot richer than I had imagined He decided to buy a brand new Renault Megane So I took him to one of the dealers in Marseille on Blvd Michelet if memory serves The salesman a natty little French dude with ingratiating manners welcomed us eagerly The Greek friend of mine spoke to me in English and I did my best to convey the gist to the French dude The whole transaction probably took about 15 minutes or so and the Greek friend decided buy the car After the deal was all done and as we were about to leave the Frenchman says So where are you guys from and how come you speak in English in flawless English Well if not flawless much more serviceable than my French was at that point We chatted for a few minutes in English and I asked him why he didn t let it on that he spoke English It could ve save me a world of bother He said it was best to do business in French For him certainly I thought to myself Thinking about it a bit more I realized that it is always best to do business in whatever language that you are most comfortable in especially if the nature of the transaction is confrontational Otherwise you are yielding an undue advantage to your adversary So next time you are in Paris and that cabbie wants 45 euros for a trip when the meter reads 25 switch to English and berrate him before settling the issue It softens the target at the very least French language French Humor Accents March 25 2012 manoj Indians pronounce the word poem as poyem Today my daughter wrote one for her friend s birthday and she told me about her poyem So I corrected her and asked her to say it as po em despite the fact that I also say it the Indian way during my unguarded moments That got me thinking why do we say it that way I guess it is because certain diphthongs are unnatural in Indian languages OE is not a natural thing to say so we invent a consonant in between The French also do this I had this funny conversation with a French colleague of mine at Geneva airport long time ago during my CERN days Waiting at the airport lounge we were making small talk The conversation turned to food as French conversations often do although we were speaking in English at that time My colleague made a strange statement I hate chicken I expressed my surprise told her that I was rather fond of white meat She said Non non I hate chicken for lunch I found it even stranger Was it okay for dinner then Poultry improved its appeal after sunset She clarified further Non non non I hate chicken for lunch today I said to myself Relax you can solve this mystery You are a smart fellow CERN scientist and whatnot and set to work Sure enough a couple of minutes of deep thinking revealed the truth behind the French conundrum She had chicken for lunch that day The IA as in I ate is not a natural diphthong for the French and they insert an H in between which is totally strange because the French never say H or the last fourteen letters of any given word for that matter H is a particularly shunned sound they refuse to say it even when they are asked to The best they can do is to aspirate it as in the textbook example of les haricots But when they shouldn t say it they do it with surprising alacrity I guess alacrity is something we all readily find when it comes to things that we shouldn t be doing accent French French Humor Belle Piece September 27 2011 manoj Here is a French joke that is funny only in French I present it here as a puzzle to my English speaking readers This colonel in the French army was in the restroom As he was midway through the business of relieving his bladder he becomes aware of this tall general standing next to him and realizes that it is none other than Charles De Gaulle Now what do you do when you find yourself a sort of captive audience next to your big boss for a couple of minutes Well you have to make smalltalk So this colonel rakes his brain for a suitable subject Noticing that the restroom is a classy tip top joint he ventures Belle piece Nice room CDG s ice cold tone indicates to him the enormity of the professional error he has just committed Regardez devant vous Don t peek French humeur humor joke Columns French Topical Unpublished Luddite Thoughts September 21 2011 manoj For all its pretentiousness French cuisine is pretty amazing Sure I m no degustation connoisseur but the French really know how to eat well It is little wonder that the finest restaurants in the world are mostly French The most pivotal aspect of a French dish usually is its delicate sauce along with choice cuts and of course inspired presentation AKA huge plates and minuscule servings The chefs those artists in their tall white hats show off their talent primarily in the subtleties of the sauce for which knowledgeable patrons happily hand over large sums of money in those establishments half of which are called Cafe de Paris or have the word petit in their names Seriously sauce is king to use Bollywood lingo in French cuisine so I found it shocking when I saw this on BBC that more and more French chefs were resorting to factory manufactured sauces Even the slices of boiled eggs garnishing their overpriced salads come in a cylindrical form wrapped in plastic How could this be How could they use mass produced garbage and pretend to be serving up the finest gastronomical experiences Sure we can see corporate and personal greed driving the policies to cut corners and use the cheapest of ingredients But there is a small technology success story here A few years ago I read in the newspaper that they found fake chicken eggs in some Chinese supermarkets They were fresh eggs with shells yolks whites and everything You could even make omelets with them Imagine that a real chicken egg probably costs only a few cents to produce But someone could set up a manufacturing process that could churn out fake eggs cheaper than that You have to admire the ingenuity involved unless of course you have to eat those eggs The trouble with our times is that this unpalatable ingenuity is all pervasive It is the norm not the exception We see it in tainted paints on toys harmful garbage processed into fast food or even fine dining apparently poison in baby food imaginative fine print on financial papers and EULAs substandard components and shoddy workmanship in critical machinery on every facet of our modern life Given such a backdrop how do we know that the organic produce though we pay four times as much for it is any different from the normal produce To put it all down to the faceless corporate greed as most of us tend to do is a bit simplistic Going one step further to see our own collective greed in the corporate behavior as I proudly did a couple of times is also perhaps trivial What are corporates these days if not collections of people like you and me There is something deeper and more troubling in all this I have some disjointed thoughts and will try to write it up in an ongoing series I suspect these thoughts of mine are going to sound similar to the luddite ones un popularized by the infamous Unabomber His idea was that our normal animalistic instincts of the hunter gatherer kind are being stifled by the modern societies we have developed into And in his view this unwelcome transformation and the consequent tension and stress can be countered only by an anarchical destruction of the propagators of our so called development namely universities and other technology generators Hence the bombing of innocent professors and such Clearly I don t agree with this luddite ideology for if I did I would have to first bomb myself I m nursing a far less destructive line of thought Our technological advances and their unintended backlashes with ever increasing frequency and amplitude remind me of something that fascinated my geeky mind the phase transition between structured laminar and chaotic turbulent states in physical systems when flow rates cross a certain threshold for instance Are we approaching such a threshold of phase transition in our social systems and societal structures In my moody luddite moments I feel certain that we are Columns French greed luddite unabomber Columns French Humor The Today Paper Sophistication July 5 2010 manoj 1 Comment Sophistication is a French invention The French are masters when it comes to nurturing and more importantly selling sophistication Think of some expensive and therefore classy brands Chances are that more than half of the ones that spring to mind would be French And the other half would be distinctly French sounding wannabes This world domination in sophistication is impressive for a small country of the size and population of Thailand How do you take a handbag manufactured in Indonesia slap on a name that only a handful of its buyers can pronounce and sell it for a profit margin of 1000 You do it by championing sophistication by being an icon that others can only aspire to be but never ever attain You know kind of like perfection No wonder Descartes said something that sounded suspiciously like I think in French therefore I am Or was it I think therefore I am French I am amazed by the way the French manage to have the rest of the world eat things that smell and taste like feet And I stand in awe of the French when the world eagerly parts with their hard earned dough to gobble up such monstrosities as fattened duck liver fermented dairy produce pig intestines filled with blood snails veal entrails and whatnot The French manage this feat not by explaining the benefits and selling points of these ahem products but by a perfecting a supremely sophisticated display of incredulity at anyone who doesn t know their value In other words not by advertising the products but by embarrassing you Although the French are not known for their physical stature they do an admirable job of looking down on you when needed I got a taste of this sophistication recently I confessed to a friend of mine that I never could develop a taste for caviar that quintessential icon of French sophistication My friend looked askance at me and told me that I must have eaten it wrong She then explained to me the right way of eating it It must have been my fault how could anybody not like fish eggs And she would know she is a classy SIA girl This incident reminded me of another time when I said to another friend clearly not as classy as this SIA girl that I didn t quite care fore Pink Floyd He gasped and told me never to say anything like that to anybody one always loved Pink Floyd I should admit that I have had my flirtations with bouts of sophistication My most satisfying moments of sophistication came when I managed to somehow work a French word or expression into my conversation or writing In a recent column I managed to slip in tête à tête although the unsophisticated printer threw away the accents Accents add a flourish to the level of sophistication because they confuse the heck out of the reader The sneaking suspicion that the French may have been pulling a fast one on us crept up on me when I read something that Scott Adams of Dilbert fame wrote He wondered what this ISO 9000 fad was all about Those who secure the ISO certification proudly flaunt it while everybody else seems to covet it But does anyone know what the heck it is Adams conjectured that it was probably a practical joke a bunch of inebriated youngsters devised in a bar ISO sounded very much like Iz zat ma beer in some eastern European language he says Could this sophistication fad also be a practical joke A French conspiracy If it is hats off to the French Don t get me wrong I m no Francophobe Some of my best friends are French It is not their fault if others want to imitate them follow their gastronomical habits and attempt usually in vain to speak their tongue I do it too I swear in French whenever I miss an easy shot in badminton After all why waste an opportunity to sound sophisticated n est ce pas Columns French humor Creative Environment French Philosophy La logique July 26 2008 manoj 2 Comments The last of my French redactions to be blogged this one wasn t such a hit with the class They expected a joke but what they got was well this It was written the day after I watched an air show on TV where the French were proudly showcasing their fighter technology In English first Science is based on logic And logic is based on our experiences what we learn during our life But because our experiences are incomplete our logic can be wrong And our science can lead us to our demise When I watched the fighter planes on TV I started thinking about the energy and effort we spend on trying to kill ourselves It seems to me that our logic here had to be wrong A few months ago I read a short story by O V Vijayan as a matter of fact about a chicken who found itself in a cage Everyday by noon the little window of the cage would open a man s hand would appear and give the chicken something to eat It went on for 99 days And the chicken concluded Noon hand food good On the hundredth day by noon the hand appeared again The chicken all happy and full of gratitude waited for something to eat But this time the hand caught it by the neck and strangled it Because of realities beyond its experience the chicken became dinner on that day I hope we human beings can avoid such eventualities Les sciences sont basées sur la logique

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/french/ (2016-02-16)
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  • greed Archives - Unreal Blog
    our normal animalistic instincts of the hunter gatherer kind are being stifled by the modern societies we have developed into And in his view this unwelcome transformation and the consequent tension and stress can be countered only by an anarchical destruction of the propagators of our so called development namely universities and other technology generators Hence the bombing of innocent professors and such Clearly I don t agree with this luddite ideology for if I did I would have to first bomb myself I m nursing a far less destructive line of thought Our technological advances and their unintended backlashes with ever increasing frequency and amplitude remind me of something that fascinated my geeky mind the phase transition between structured laminar and chaotic turbulent states in physical systems when flow rates cross a certain threshold for instance Are we approaching such a threshold of phase transition in our social systems and societal structures In my moody luddite moments I feel certain that we are Columns French greed luddite unabomber Corporate Life Work and Life Systems and People February 22 2010 manoj 1 Comment One of my friends found my post on Bill Gates and his philanthropic efforts less than persuasive He said Bill just couldn t be a good guy It may be true I just have no way of knowing it I am in a benevolent and optimistic mood in the last few years so I tend to see the rosy side of things My friend s objection was that Gates would squeeze blood out of a stone if he could while what he probably meant was that Microsoft was as ruthless a corporation as they came Therein lies the crux of the problem with our modern era of greed and excess We see the figureheads standing in front of the soulless corporate entities and attribute the evils of the latter to them True the figureheads may not all be innocent of greed and excesses but the true evil lies in the social structure that came with the mega corporates which is what I wanted to talk about in this note What is this system It is a complex and uneasy topic And this little analysis of mine is likely to draw flak because it is going to point right back at us Because we are all part of the system So let me spell it out right away It is our greed yes yours and mine that fuels the paychecks of those fat cats at the helm of large companies because they can and do exploit our unreasonable dreams of riches and creature comforts It is our little unkindnesses and indifferences that snowball into the unstoppable soullessness of giant corporations We all had our little roles to play and nobody is innocent There I have said it Before I accuse you and me of being part of the system a possibly evil one I have to clarify what I mean by the system Let s start with an

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  • luddite Archives - Unreal Blog
    and pretend to be serving up the finest gastronomical experiences Sure we can see corporate and personal greed driving the policies to cut corners and use the cheapest of ingredients But there is a small technology success story here A few years ago I read in the newspaper that they found fake chicken eggs in some Chinese supermarkets They were fresh eggs with shells yolks whites and everything You could even make omelets with them Imagine that a real chicken egg probably costs only a few cents to produce But someone could set up a manufacturing process that could churn out fake eggs cheaper than that You have to admire the ingenuity involved unless of course you have to eat those eggs The trouble with our times is that this unpalatable ingenuity is all pervasive It is the norm not the exception We see it in tainted paints on toys harmful garbage processed into fast food or even fine dining apparently poison in baby food imaginative fine print on financial papers and EULAs substandard components and shoddy workmanship in critical machinery on every facet of our modern life Given such a backdrop how do we know that the organic produce though we pay four times as much for it is any different from the normal produce To put it all down to the faceless corporate greed as most of us tend to do is a bit simplistic Going one step further to see our own collective greed in the corporate behavior as I proudly did a couple of times is also perhaps trivial What are corporates these days if not collections of people like you and me There is something deeper and more troubling in all this I have some disjointed thoughts and will try to write it up in

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  • unabomber Archives - Unreal Blog
    and pretend to be serving up the finest gastronomical experiences Sure we can see corporate and personal greed driving the policies to cut corners and use the cheapest of ingredients But there is a small technology success story here A few years ago I read in the newspaper that they found fake chicken eggs in some Chinese supermarkets They were fresh eggs with shells yolks whites and everything You could even make omelets with them Imagine that a real chicken egg probably costs only a few cents to produce But someone could set up a manufacturing process that could churn out fake eggs cheaper than that You have to admire the ingenuity involved unless of course you have to eat those eggs The trouble with our times is that this unpalatable ingenuity is all pervasive It is the norm not the exception We see it in tainted paints on toys harmful garbage processed into fast food or even fine dining apparently poison in baby food imaginative fine print on financial papers and EULAs substandard components and shoddy workmanship in critical machinery on every facet of our modern life Given such a backdrop how do we know that the organic produce though we pay four times as much for it is any different from the normal produce To put it all down to the faceless corporate greed as most of us tend to do is a bit simplistic Going one step further to see our own collective greed in the corporate behavior as I proudly did a couple of times is also perhaps trivial What are corporates these days if not collections of people like you and me There is something deeper and more troubling in all this I have some disjointed thoughts and will try to write it up in

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/unabomber/ (2016-02-16)
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