Saturday, April 07, 2007

I am Girish's friend

I do not remember much of what happened before October 10, 2004.  On that day I met him in State College, PA, when he walked into my house and had a brief conversation with Gus, the head of my house.  He came to me, looked at me and I knew we would be together for the rest of our lives.  He said little and with a smile in his eyes, said something to himself and then walked towards Gus. They spoke briefly and then, Girish -  that was his name and me rode together for the first time in our lives.

I thought I was the one in his life and then a month later after we met for the first time, we took a long trip to Detroit, MI where we met Radhika.  It dawned on me that they were already in love and were getting married the next summer.  It broke my heart, and I thought it would be irreparable.  However, being a true friend, I realized that I had to give him company in tough and easy times.  We went on long great drives to raleigh, to DC and to NY.  They were all wonderful trips.  Time passed by and one fine day Girish realized he had to move on.  I realized that too, and we parted ways on friendly terms.  He was the best friend I ever had, took care of me very well and I was a better person after I met him.  On July 26 2004, Girish went back to meet Gus our old mutual friend, and we said our final good byes.

He still talks about me to all his friends fondly. He came to see Gus recently, and i gathered from one of my trips to Gus that Girish is moving out of State College soon. I wish him well.  If he ever talks to you about me, do not tell him that I wrote about our relationship here.
If you are Girish's friend and are wondering who the hell I am...I got a surprise for you!

I am a Nissan Sentra - tee hee!  Girish's first car in the US!




Thursday, April 05, 2007

The opinionated immigrant trying to defend a dissertation

I am pretty opinionated - I am against the war in Iraq, I am pro-life, I am for gay marriages, I believe US exercises its power on the world, I believe China and India are rising powers etc. etc.  However, as you can see -  based on my opinions I do not belong to any of the simplistic categorization schemes that the media uses in the western world.  I am neither left, nor right, nor a liberal, nor a Regan republican, nor a conservative, nor a libertarian....I realized I am none of these. I am not sure of the reasons and I can only ponder about them.

I thought about this for quite a while.  Maybe it is because I come from a different country and culture - far far away in the East which is collectivistic, as opposed to the western individualistic approach towards life.  Maybe it is because I grew up in a society whose tremendous success on some issues is only matched by its magnificent failures in some.  Maybe, it is because of India's pluralistic approach, as Amartya Sen calls it, that lead to my beliefs.  I cannot really pin point the exact reason, but I am sure it is combination of a lot of rational valid reasons.

At the end of the day, I am an immigrant, or maybe I should say, I am a non-immigrant, to keep INS from raiding my student dwelling !  Am I entitled to a political opinion in this country ? Will my voice be heard ?  Does it even matter what people like me think?  My opinion has little or no value in my home country.  I do not know how to influence or shape opinion in my own homeland - is there a point being vocal in the US?  Well, these might be PhD musings as my blog's title says and I might figure out the real meaning behind all these random rants  Maybe I won't.  It does not matter....what matters is that I have a Markov graph model to estimate and a dissertation to defend !

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Red Sea was never parted! - It really does not matter

New York Times reports on a new archaeological finding that suggests that the Exodus never happened. Well, it boils down to the veracity of the Ten Commandments!

However, in my opinion it does not really matter whether Moses ever saw the burning bush on Mt. Sinai and received the Ten Commandments from God. What matters is whether the Ten Commandments, as we know them today, have intrinsic merit in the light of this new evidence.

The first four commandments read like verses from the Bhagavad Gita - God himself proclaiming that he is the one true God. The remaining 6 commandments are guidelines to a moral and honorable life :

Honor your parents


You shall not murder


You shall not commit adultery


You shall not steal


You shall not bear false witness


You shall not covet your neighbor's wife


You shall not covet your neighbor's house


If anything at all, the new evidence might question the first four commandments, but does not change or cannot argue with the the last six.

The point I am trying to make is that often archaeological findings question the legends, myths, stories and beliefs of ancient cultures. That is how normal science operates - however normal science cannot question the deep moral fabric that these cultures help create.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dateline and quixtar

The other day I was browsing through videos on Youtube and found the Quixtar segment on a Dateline NBC video. There was a guy (a motivational speaker) claiming he was making 250K per annum on the video. However, when the investigators looked up Quixtar documents all they could find was a figure of 1400 USD as the expected income for a distributor. Why this disparity?

Can another level in the supply chain create value that can justify returns worth 250,000 USD ?

Let's do some math and let's use some fictional characters. I used aggressive numbers for this analysis.

Dick and Jane have an IBO. They put in a lot of effort and recruit an army of 500 volunteers. Of these individuals, let's say a very reasonable 50% are really motivated. Of the remaining 250 say 20% have the capability to be the go-getters. So, Dick and Jane have an army of 50. Now each of these 50 make contact with say 100 people in a year. If they have a conversion rate of 10%, Dick and Jane have a base of 500 downstream consumers. Now going by the logic that Dick and Jane make money off of the commissions they get due to the consumption behavior of these 550 people below them (500+50). Let's punch in more numbers.

On average a family spends say 200 dollars on groceries and 100 dollars on miscellaneous junk available on Quixtar's offerings. The average family size being 3, the number of families that Dick and Jane can feed on is 183. So, Dick and Jane generate a total revenue of (300*183) = 54900 per month which is roughly 648000 a year. If we assume that Quixtar gives a commission of 10% to its channel, the total commission on this would come close to 65,800 of which some of it would be passed on to Dick and Jane's army of volunteers. Say a total of 40% is further passed onto downstream, Dick and Jane are now left with 40,480 USD. Either Quixstar is lying- or I must be crazy ! What kind of conversion do you need to make 250K in Quixtar? The question is can everyone make it? And even if someone does it - Is the opportunity cost woth it?
Given my knowledge of the entire process, 41k looks like the high end estimate. Is this 41 K worth it? Don't forget losing friends, getting to hear no's from a thousand strangers !
And finally, I believe our success is measured by not what we achieved, but by what we "gave up" to achieve that success. Is anyone listening (or rather reading?)