Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Random Post

I felt an impulse to come write here, even though I have to confess I have only the vaguest of ideas about what it is I'm going to write. It had been a while since I came here, so maybe I should explain my absence - even though there is no real explanation. I just had been busy studying and thought that writing blog posts wasn't the most judicious use of my time.

"Studying for what?", I'm often asked. And I never have a good answer. To be more precise, I don't have an answer that would be good enough for someone who would ask that question, because someone who assumes that one always only studies for a tangible near-term goal -- a job interview, an exam, a promotion -- would probably find it difficult to empathize with where I'm coming from.

I just study just to learn. And I learn because I couldn't live any other way. "But you could just learn from life, like people do, can't you? You don't have to be studying!" I know, I can, and I do, but there's scope for more. I learn to gather insights into things that I find hard. It is not too different from why anyone runs long distances. I'm guessing they do it because it is hard, because they don't know if they can do it, and they want to find out. It is only curiosity that drives every such action about which other people ask 'why would they do that'. Anyway, as I said, I can only answer this question in roundabout, unsatisfying ways for a person who has this question.

Recently, I've been talking and skyping with girls who are strangers to me. My parents tell me about them - they think that she and I should talk - and we do. Girls I've spoken to thus far are mostly unable to understand why someone would study, code, solve math problems just like that and more importantly why they would want to put up with such habits, and so the conversation sort of fails. On the other hand, the small minority which get this are invariably in other ways so opinionated that I imagine living with them would be a lifelong presidential debate, so the conversation fails again.

There was one particular girl who I actually met in person rather than on skype recently, about which I do have a funny story to tell, but I'll reserve that for another, a hopefully funny post.

So yeah, that's what's up as well, other than studying.

Other than that, Trump won today and I'm not saying anything about the election. Yeah, I'm not. I started having election fatigue 6 months ago, and now is time for relishing the absence of election noise around.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. I didn't get promoted. Yeah, still an associate; although some senior people did care to make aghast faces at the supposed unbelievability of it. I don't buy faces, though. Faces are deceptive. Don't base your judgments, emotions or decisions on reading faces. That's childish. Did you ask my age? I'm 30. It's OK.

Rohit is coming cross-country to NYC this weekend, although unlike all the earlier times, he will not be staying at my apartment in Princeton. He will be talking next week to youngsters at his alma-mater Columbia about start-up success, or something thereabouts. I will visit him on the weekend, maybe have food at the dhaba we used to go to every day back when I was interning in the city and sharing an apartment with him 3 years ago. Those were good times. Some sort of good times, I suppose, although when I reconsider I can recall that there are ample reasons to not categorize that time as such.

That's it I guess, given that I don't intend to unload my bucket of don't-even-get-me-started emotions on this blog.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Happy Diwali!

Wishing a happy Diwali to whoever reads this! Hope this Diwali you see the external and internal changes you want to see.

And if you only want to see changes externally, hope this Diwali you can start to want to see changes internally as well! ;)

Have a great one!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


I was reading an article yesterday which quoted Iris Murdoch writing to someone "Your mind is a country I find very agreeable". I thought that was pretty cool.

We hired a new guy in our team at work, and he brings me sweets and snacks all the time and insists I eat. And after some pretense at self-control I usually cave in.

I don't call home everyday anymore like I used to.

Summer is about to end.

I've been having some trouble with dreams these nights that I don't want to have.

Cricket last Saturday was fun, Sunday not so much.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Aimless blogging

I haven't gone to the gym in a week now. I started working out this July, and I was very pumped about it until last week, going almost every single day. In my mind I thought that the first half of the year was about intensive learning, and the second half would be about intensive fitness, and I followed through on it for almost two months. Even the odd day that I wouldn't go to the gym to exercise I would at least go for a run outside, or go to the kickboxing place and pull some punches, let some steam out.

However, it's been a week now since I stopped. I remember when I missed the first day, that was the 24th of August, and I felt entirely entitled to do that. Everyone needs rest. Then the second day I just decided, well, it's okay, I can live with a little guilt. The third day I thought something escapist - something along the lines of "it's also important to study" to rationalize my decision, and then read a book, or part of it. Clearly, I was lying to myself, the motivation was simply to laze around at home. Then this weekend, I missed not only gym but my only 2 days of cricket per week, as I had to be somewhere. What was it yesterday? Yesterday, I did some yoga, yes. It didn't exhaust me at all, so I could have also gone to the gym, but then I told myself I did yoga today, and that's good enough.

And maybe it is. I used to study so much until June, when I started working out and gradually stopped studying entirely. Now I've kind of stopped working out, but haven't restarted studying either. So what am I doing? I started watching Quantico, Priyanka Chopra's US TV show. I have to say it's nothing too mind-blowing but I'm watching it anyway, you know, just being lazy. The only silver lining to the last one week has been that I have persisted with eating healthy and haven't gone back to junk food, at least not on a regular basis.

My posts these days are neither funny nor insightful, I know. Maybe things are going well elsewhere but my writing has certainly taken a steep fall. I sometimes read my old posts, and I find them so much better than how I write now that I wonder if it was really me that wrote all that.

This coming weekend I'm traveling to Cleveland to my brother's place, and from there both of us will drive to Toronto, where some of my cousins live. I went there at this same time of the year, last year, and it was very nice. I'm looking forward to the weekend. On my way back, I might first go to DC to some of my other cousins before coming back home. That should quell my yearly need for good old cousin comforts, I think. I've already been to India earlier this year, and it wasn't that much fun after the first few days. I came to the realization that the India I go back to isn't the India I left four years ago. Actually, the moment I landed back in USA, I was as thrilled as I was about going to India when I was leaving US three weeks before.

Oh yeah, I will go to the gym today. Do some curls. My biceps just don't get any bigger, though, no matter what I do. Anyway.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Yesterday, I went to this temple straight from work. After a little while of just hanging about, I felt terribly enervated. I left and drove straight to a restaurant, and ordered a chicken gyro. I had turned vegetarian sometime last year, but in this moment of feeling so exhausted all of a sudden, I felt like I needed something more strengthening than something vegetarian would be. Yes, this was flawed reasoning, but I'm not trying to win a nutritionist's argument here; just stating how I felt and thought in that particular moment. So I had a gyro, which is quite a lot in itself for a dinner, and before I had finished that I ordered one more. For yourself?, the guy asked, puzzled at the second order. Yes, sir.

I finished the second one equally ravenously and went home. I don't know when I fell asleep, but it was within minutes of reaching home. Before 7 PM, to be sure. 

When I woke up, it was 7:40 AM today. 12 hours and 40 minutes. I haven't slept that long in a long time. 

Something was strange, yesterday.

Moral of the story? I don't know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


I was reminded an hour ago, out of nowhere, just sitting on my office desk, of this:

That was 10 years ago. I was 20, and apparently was already feeling old enough to deem it appropriate to look back on my younger self. I was ruminating wistfully over a kind of life I had already left behind, one of being crazily excited about festivals such as Janmasthami, about the little things that made it awesome and, to be sure, about my own intense participation in them. At some level, I was also thinking about my 8 year old self, how I looked, how small my hands were, how short I was and how I had look up into the sky to talk to my dad. At 20, though, I already looked largely as I do today, so that difference is perhaps not as outwardly stark when I sit down looking back now as I did then. But the nature of my Janmasthami has changed again.

At 20, Janmasthami was still being celebrated all around me. My parents observed all the little things. What I missed was my own former enthusiasm. Today, there is no Janmasthami around me, except in the abstract. The people I meet and see on a day to day basis have no clue that there is some such thing. I live in a world far removed from it. The enthusiasm for Janmasthami, though, is discernably more alive now, despite that. Despite that, or, because of that? I can't say for sure. 

I will be leaving early from work today, because google helped me locate a temple where they're having Janmasthami celebrations. I admit it won't be a Janmasthami of great personal involvement that it was back when I was 8. In all likelihood, all I'll do is drive there, hang around for a little aimless while, and come back, hopefully with some delicious prasad. And that would be gold, too.

Happy Janmasthami!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

YAAR! (yet another angry rant)

I feel like a phony coming back here. I don't relate to this writing your experiences thing anymore. I continue to do it all the same because, once, in a moment of clarity and some insight, I had decided that I should do it. So I'm back, and I'm ranting.

I don't know how people deal with numerous romantic relationships - I truly find it daunting. Even one is more than enough, it seems. Yet people all around me participate in this merry go round time after time, each time with an equal enthusiasm. My own experiences only informed me that the whole thing is akin to going out of your way to shop for defeats of different shapes and sizes, and the little victories once in a while are mostly accidental and always pyrrhic.

My parents talk to me about getting married every single day. For I can't even count how many days. Yet I can't see one really good reason for why I should. "Do it for them" comes the closest to convincing me to do it, but I know that it fails on the criterion of being "a good reason". For most people, I think, they get something from this and that's why they do it. Good for them. But if I don't derive anything out of it, should I merely follow the convention?

I suppose some people feel lonely without a romantic partner, but being alone has never bothered me. In fact, a vast, vast majority of my best moments in the thirty years I've been around have occurred when I was alone. Besides, those moments were the most real. Anything in the company of other people -- no matter how much I love them or they love me -- has always had a tiny winy tinge at least of something unreal, something fake, put on. And that stuff saps energy.

I'm not asocial by any means. I have some of the best people for friends, am well liked by most people I've known. Still, to subvert the arrangement of my life to an extent where my most personal tics and antics, things that I truly believe are nobody's business but mine, are also put out for someone else's accountability for a lifetime, is an action that I don't understand why I should undertake.

Rant over.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back injury. Excruciating pain. Daunted by I don't know what. Leaking wall. Feeling insufficient. Seeking to discover what to seek. Decently happy. Lost.Vaguely disillusioned. Heavy air. The sound of insects from afar. Crammed days. Empty evening. The books I read. Reminders and questions. The books I didn't. Whatever. All that seems significant is invisible.  A dainty collection of screams that I did not scream sits portentously atop my throat, and I'll gulp it down again. Olympics are inspiring. I hope to sleep deep tonight. Tomorrow is simple.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Happy Idiot

I've been happy, as much is normal,
and most days sleep a full 8 hours.
When I wake up, and look at folks,
it seems to me their joy is a farce.
And whenever it is they look at me
with that air of inquisitive frown
"who the hell is he talking to,
this talking-to-himself clown?",

I am talking to you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A long, sad marriage

The husband is not a bad person. The wife is not a bad person. But it's a bad marriage. The husband and the wife have very different values. Sometimes the wife thinks that the husband, indeed, is a bad person, but regarding this she is not always sure. But even when she does not think so, she does believe the wedding was a farce, a deceit; an imposition from her adoptive guardian whose decision she now sees no reason why she has to comply with. The wife wants a divorce, and the apartment she lives in. Make no mistake about that. The husband is always disappointed in her. He wonders to himself sometimes how disloyal she is. He reminds her of the copious amounts of money he has spent on her over the years. She is tired of hearing that, and just says she feels suffocated. He tells her she would be nothing without him, that she does not appreciate how good she has it, so stop being such an ungrateful wife. Sometimes in worse language than I just used. She is sick of the condescending tone. In the past, this has led to some domestic violence on both sides, some would say the point of no return to a past life of camaraderie has been reached. Even if you don't know whether it was due to the husband's actions or the wife's, it's hard not to see that irreparable damage has been done to the trust between the two. The husband's kins call her names, and tell her she's welcome to go away, but dare not think of the apartment! The wife throws similar expletives at them. The husband has reacted to all this by monitoring her with a heavy hand - something that is only worsening the wife's sense of dismay. And the more she gets fed up, she resorts to more extreme displays of spite, every couple of years trying to stir some serious harm in the husband's otherwise largely harmonious life, which includes his work life, on which, by the way, he's been focussing a lot more the last couple of years and has actually been making great strides; and although it's not all a bed of roses elsewhere on his large estate, it's this apartment with the missus in particular that most often leaves him sleepless. The wife, on the other hand, lacks this 'other' life of relative peace and progress - for her, it's all about the divorce.

All this has been going on for many, many, many years. Ask yourself: if you were asked to opine on their marriage, would you advocate that they separate amicably, or would you still argue for sticking it out. Oh, a possibly important piece of information while you make your mind, this apartment is one she already had before she got married.

And know that the conclusion you offer, is also what you think should happen about the Kashmir problem. Let there be no incongruity.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Good day

I had the most satisfying day at work today. Since this blog is also a bit of a diary, I have to note this down. Made breakthroughs in a couple of different statistical research projects I was working on, and in addition had a great day, exposition wise, on a third macroeconomic stress model I had worked on last week. Days like this are so rare, and I'm pretty thrilled with how everything went today, especially as all three were the more creative and thoughtful of my projects. I also work on several other, more regular and tedious ones, and success on them does not quite make my day in quite the same way. Hooray!

Enough self-congratulations for now, I suppose. Must start reviewing Khan Academy Linear Algebra lessons in a few minutes now.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Half-formed things - 2

Why I stop:

1. Unrealistically ambitious goals (e.g. my plans often include 15 hours a day work sessions) which, at some point, I can't deal with anymore, and put the thing aside, to start another, temporarily more intrinsically rewarding and less tedious and freedom-restricting thing.

2. Often, I just want to escape the drudgery of the implementation part.

3. I work on multiple time-consuming projects at the same time, each of which, it is quite plausible, demand sustained and exclusive attention. By the very nature of setting my goals in this way, I set myself up for failure, because at some point many of the other things will necessarily need to be put aside for some time, to focus on one particular thing. The danger is that often I fail to return to those things later.

What are NOT the reasons I stop:

1. Perfectionism - That is not why I stop. I do understand whatever I'll do will be immensely imperfect, even before I set out to start it.

* * *

From a neuro-scientific perspective, it seems to be true that I entertain the autonomous right hemisphere a little too much at the cost of the order-following left hemisphere.

Might expand on this part, later.*

* * *

Hacks to try and fix things:

1. Set precise process-based (as opposed to goals-based) targets. For example, "I will work on the XYZ project for an hour a day", as opposed to "I will write 5 pages a day".

2. Give those targets less autonomy. For example "I will work on the XYZ project for an hour everyday, at 8 PM"

3. Don't clutter. Don't have projects XYZ, ABC and PQR all vying for attention, at 8 PM, 9 PM and 10 PM respectively. It's hard to say what the sweet spot is, but intuitively it seems that having only 2 main projects has some advantages. It avoids the possible monotony with having just one, and avoids the clutter that may come with having 3 or more.

4. Expect that things can still take a lot longer than you initially imagined, and accept that. At the outset itself, ask yourself, if this took 4 times as long as I think it will take, would I still want to do it? If the answer is yes, start.

5. Start today with something (not very ambitious one, but still, something which is not trivially small - ideally at least a 4-5 day effort) and make sure that no matter what, this one project you will most certainly finish.

* * *

So, today, I choose to complete reading "The Master and His Emissary" as the first project, not too small nor too big, and one which will also help me hopefully finish the neuro-scientific perspective part just before the hacks in this post that I said I might expand on later. I will read this book for an hour a day, every day, at 10:30 PM. Not setting any restrictions on how many days I have to finish the book. My very rough estimate is 15-16 days, but let's see.

Since I, as of today, believe that having 2 projects hits the sweet spot, I will also be completing the Linear Algebra courses on Khan Academy, one that I've been putting off for a long, long time. Again, without committing to a time for finishing it, I'll just say I'll spend 2 hours on it, every day, at 7:30 PM. My rough estimate is it should take me 8-10 days, but let's see.

Most importantly, I will NOT take up any other things while I'm still at these two.

I'll come back in a couple of weeks to report my progress on these two mini projects.

Half formed things - 1

Perhaps my biggest weakness is not seeing ideas or projects to completion. Invariably, I take a lot of interest in the problem formation, in understanding everything about the thing in great, minute detail, chalking out an algorithm for the problem, at which point, one would think, or at least I end up thinking, that all the challenging parts are taken care of, and what remains is a mechanical implementation of all the hard work done so far. And then I start on this often tedious but rather critical second part, and almost always lose interest mid-way during this part, and divert my attention to another problem, with which, too, I similarly lose interest while I'm mid-way in the implementation part, and so on.

The result is that I have a lot of incomplete things. Incomplete data science projects, incomplete essays on economics, half-read books, quit training regimens, incomplete short stories. 

Recently in a conversation of some sort I was asked what I thought my big weaknesses were, and I had replied that in the trade-off between exploitation (of acquired skills) and exploration (for learning new things), I tend to veer towards exploration more than what I think is ideal. I was asked, then, if I felt that adversely affected my precision or throughput. Now since I was asked the question in a way that gave me two options, I think it restricted me to thinking only in within the bounds of these two consequences, and after some musing, I found that it did not affect my precision as much as it did my throughput. I now think that what I was reflecting upon when I said that was a rather sugar-coated, roundabout way of saying what I'm saying in this post: that I leave stuff incomplete, except that the bounded way of thinking I had been set into prevented me from getting to it with quite this clarity. It is not the throughput, either, that suffers per se, since I'm actually making decent progress per unit time, between any two points of time, only it never feels as such, because the said progress is predominantly lopsided in the first part, and has very little in the implementation part, which actually produces tangible, touchable output.

If there is one thing I find should be my topmost priority at this stage in terms of improving in a work-ethic sense, it is to start to make sure to finish things. I will write some more on this as I get any lucky insights on how to bring about this change, but for now, a diagnosis is all I have.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

In praise of satire

Loved both of these:

Awesome stuff.

Friday, July 1, 2016

On the state of Eastern Philosophy today

One of my abiding interests is Eastern Philosophy. To be more specific, the Upanishads, which after years of study and deliberation, I'm fairly convinced had outlined in minute detail millenia ago whatever western philosophy converged to towards the mid 19th century, plus more that western philosophy will probably some day converge to, if it is able to circumvent some roadblocks it has built in to its approach. On the other hand, the problem with eastern philosophy is that little progress has been made since the days of the vedantic school and Upanishads, and whatever progress has been made has come after gaps of centuries. Patanjali made some significant inroads; and then centuries later Buddha made a bit of incremental progress; a millenia after that Adi Sankara made some strides, and the progress since then has been very muted, although some incremental advances in recent history have been made by the yogic school. But even their most powerful contribution is not a recent addition: the idea that the process of learning, or of attaining truth for lack a better English translation, is clearly not an exercise to be carried out using only your intellect, a fundamental idea that western Philosophy is yet to even conceive, and chances are slim it ever will. Still, it must be admitted that a spirit of active debate is missing from eastern philosophy when you compare it to its western counterpart - the focus is instead on disseminating what is already out there, on eulogizing its past achievements - and is inhibiting futher progress in the field. Alternately, I'm also open to the idea that progress must diminish asymptotically the closer you inch to the truth, and some of that may be at work here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Who I'm awed by

Current favourites below. It is clearly a disservice to fit many of these people under a category, because clearly their influence and great talents are wide-ranging. In fact, the common theme in those that I'm awed by is as much breadth as depth. Salman Khan (of Khan Academy) it seems knows about everything well enough to teach it to you better than your specialist teacher. Bill Gates fluidly moves between high technology and philanthropy. Ramachandran is a brilliant and eccentric neuroscientist, but his ameteur attempts at archaeology are also very impressive. Tyler Cowen and Rajan look more like specialists in this group, but their breadth inside economics is wide ranging - unlike most economists who are limited to one or two areas. Some of it, I confess, is because of of my own inclinations in Economics. Daniel Kahneman is more of a specialist, yes, but in an area that has increased greatly our understanding of how breadth has a depth all its own. David Eagleman is an outstanding neuroscientist whose work of fiction "Sum" was equally outstanding. On a similar vein, Vikram Seth - delightful poet and mighty novelist; is also a pretty good painter; George Soros, who you might better know as a hedge fund manager, made seminal dents in the philosophy of markets. Charlie Rose is the most versatile interviewer I know - and betrays a good understanding of subjects from Literary theory to Macroeconomics to Hollywood to Brain sciences to Politics. In fact, he has been responsible for introducing me to several things I later got very interested in.

In time, I'm sure this list will change as my own interests evolve, but for now I'm pretty happy with this. There are so many others I admire a lot, but in condensing the list I know I've tended to favor those who are not just great, but whose greatness exerts itself across many disciplines, as well as into a human element I love.

Salman Khan
Bill Gates

VS Ramachandran
Raghuram Rajan
Tyler Cowen
Daniel Kahneman
David Eagleman

Iain McGilchrist
Jaggi Vasudev
George Soros

Vikram Seth
Jagjit Singh
Hugh Laurie

Shashi Tharoor
Barack Obama


I never quite know if I am replete or not, and it seems that most other people seem to know this. I do sense hunger. Not often - because I take my meals more or less 3 times a day so I end up not letting hunger a chance to set in - but on occasions when for whatever reasons I haven't been able to, I do feel, physically, pangs of hunger. It's not something to observe under IOAM because it is the most normal thing. I only note it because I've almost never quite known the counteracting feeling of experiencing, physically, that I am replete. I just stop out of conventional wisdom and reasonable rationing borne of external stimuli (e.g. gathered knowledge to the effect of "you're supposed to stop after eating this much.."). I wonder if it's just me, or most, or everyone.


Coffee has never worked for me. Never made me more active, awake, anything. So far, it seems, probably never will. I like its taste though when mixed with milk and sugar.


The thoughts we entertain today enslave us tomorrow. If it is an identity, not a hypothesis, then the choice we have is not regarding whether we will be enslaved, but what we will be enslaved by.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Calling a spade a spade

Rational discourse is standing on its last legs. After all, it is such a drag in front of impressive intellectual outbursts, especially when directed against somebody well-known. Calling oneself smart is cleverly understood to be in bad taste, but hey, there's an easy fix - calling others imbeciles is fine! It obviates the need to explicitly state how you're so much more evolved. Unfortunately, this quickest road to eternal smarts is gaining widespread traction. Who needs to do the hard work of understanding complicated policy implications, when calling Rahul Gandhi a pappu suffices, never mind your own secret failures at telling stare from stair.

 Let me state my disagreement with the extent of slamming Salman Khan, the bollywood actor, is facing for comparing his physically damaging routine while shooting for Sultan, a movie where he plays a wrestler, to rape. I'm no Salman Khan fan, but I'm a fan of trying to understand things in their context. Level-headedness and humility demand that one weigh their conclusions and metaphors before spewing them out to fawning followers. And that is also why I think the comparison Salman Khan drew was ill-advised. But the same preference for carefully weighing what you say is now surprisingly amiss, also, in those who castigate him in every possible way, for what was in all likelihood more a conversational gaffe than the all-out assault on women power it is now being portrayed to be.

 Intellectual heft, today, increasingly depends on identifying the prevailing fashions of the intelligentsia and magnifying that rhetoric in passably good prose. Thinking for oneself is a minority sport, and objectivity is for losers. By his admittedly imperfect usage, did Salman Khan really mean to "trivialize" rape, or did he mean to intensify his expression of the debilitating nature of his wrestling sequences? The answer to this question is not determined by morality or sentiment, but by plain old verbal comprehension. Yes, that boring thing that we only care about when preparing for CAT. Approaching it thus, Salman Khan used a simile - and similes don't have to be perfectly logical, or perfectly concordant. In a simile one often compares A to a more widely understood thing B, often to aggrandize the effect of A. In Hindi we refer to it as Atishyokti alankar - in English, I guess, one would call that hyperbole. As far as my comprehension serves me, in comparing his training/stunts to rape, he grossly over-aggrandized, and which I'm not defending. What I intend to bring forth, in fact, is that it was much more an aggrandizement (excessive, yes, and definitely unwarranted) of his stunts, than a downplaying or trivializing of rape. Efforts to understand and portray it as primarily the latter, in my opinion, distort the reality.

 Let me take the example of the talented singer Sona Mohapatra, of whom, unlike Salman Khan, I actually am a fan, and who took to social media recently to lambaste Salman Khan, calling him stupid, nasty, dangerous and an imbecile, for trivializing rape. Except that when you call a functioning individual an imbecile, you trivialize the hardships faced by the mentally challenged. "Ah, that's silly, you're twisting her intention." Well, maybe. So how about a song of hers she posted the very same day, titled qatl-e-aam, with its recurring "aap ki aankhon mein warna aaj qatl-e-aam hai". As heinous as rape obviously is, I'm sure qatl-e-aam, or mass murder, is just as bad. So is she trivializing murder when she compares it to some arbitrary dude's eyes, insensitive to all those whose loved ones have, in the long bloody history of time, been murdered?

 "Come on, now, you're making no sense - you're just pissed with Sona Mohapatra" you might be tempted to say at this point. And I would whole-heartedly agree - that the reasoning I provide can only be considered spite with Sona Mohapatra, not a cogent advocacy of victims of mass murders. I've already made up my mind on who I want to put down, and I'm stretching things way out of context to prove my point. Alas, that is precisely the point I've been trying to make.

 In a world full of politically-correct bandwagon-jumping, calling BS is a public good. Happy to do my part. Check her song out though, it is pretty awesome:

Saturday, June 18, 2016

On cliches

The trouble with cliches is not their content, the trouble is the fact that they're cliched, so the message passes you by without registering itself. The trouble is that you fail to really take notice of it even once because it is floated around hundreds of times. In other words, the trouble with cliches is nothing, the trouble is with you. Notice.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Time Series in R .. to be continued


SBUX <- auto.assign="F)</p" from="2012-1-1" getsymbols="" to="2012-12-31">
plot(SBUX$SBUX.Adjusted, main="SBUX Closing Price (adjusted) for 2012")

// Typically there are many things we might want to do in time series analysis
// *generate forecasts of future values (predictive distributions)
// *gain an understanding of the process itself

//Constructing Indicators
//how can a ts of past info be "transformed" into indicators useful for forecasting

//Standard ts models fit a process to the series, requiring the estimation of a few parameters

//Standard approach
//1. Plot the time series. There are a lot of features that are still most readilty identified by a human
//2. Transform original ts to a stationary ts
//(a) determine whether to apply boxcox/log transformation or not
//(b) check for trend, seasonality, sharp changes, outliers, etc then do appropriate transformation
//3. Fit a model to the stationary ts
//4. Disgnostic tests to check model is reasonable, if its not go back to step 2
//5. Generate forecasts (predictive distributions) for the model
//6. Invert the transformation made in step 2, get forecasts of original ts.

# Stationarity

//Weakly stationary ts if :
//Var(X(t))//E[X(t)]=mu for all t ---------------------------------(2)
//autocov(r,r+h)=Cov(X(r), X(r+h))= f(h) = autocov(h) --(3)

//Also (3) implies that Var(X(t)) is independent of t, that is, a constant. So (1) can be restated.

//(1) White noise process WN(mu, SigmaSq) is stationary
//(2) Random Walk process X(t) = Summ(1,t) [WN(0,SigmaSq)] is NOT stationary
//(3) MA(1) process X(t) = WN(t) + theta*WN(t-1) is stationary
//(4) ARCH(1) process is stationary, actually ARCH(1) process is also a white noise process





//AR 1

//Stationarity of AR1. Stationary if |fi1| < 1

//use arima() to fit

Box.test(SBUX$SBUX.Adjusted,lag=10,type="Ljung-Box", fitdf=1) //fitdf=1 since AR(1), prevents overfitting
arima(SBUX$SBUX.Adjusted, order=c(1,0,0))

Box.test(diff(log(SBUX$SBUX.Adjusted))[-1],lag=10,type="Ljung-Box", fitdf=1)
arima(diff(log(SBUX$SBUX.Adjusted))[-1], order=c(1,0,0))


DGS3 <- auto.assign="F)</p" getsymbols="" src="FRED">DGS3<-last p="" years="">head(DGS3diff)
DGS3diff<-diff 1="" p="">DGS3diff<-dgs3diff diff="""" p="">
pacf(DGS3diff) #AR1 not appropriate as in AR1 lags 2,3.. shouldn't matter after accounting for lag 1
#In general in PACF plot for AR(p), shouldn't see significant numbers after lag p --- Important

#acf formula is hard for AR(p) but there is function ARMAacf
#see how the ACF and PACF for an AR(2) model with fi1=0.5 and fi2=-0.2 looks:
plot(0:10, ARMAacf(ar=c(0.5,-0.2), lag.max=10), type="b", pch=16) #ACF
plot(1:10, ARMAacf(ar=c(0.5,-0.2), lag.max=10, pacf=TRUE), type="b", pch=16)  #PACF

# using auto.arima() to fit.
# 1. argument max.p sets the largest value of p to consider, max allowed is 5.
# 2. to fit a pure AR(p) model, either use arima() or in auto.arima() specify max.q=0
# 3. ic="aic" or "bic", or "aicc" which is corrected AIC - used for model selction by auto.arima()
# 4. input data to this fn should be vector, not xts. Apply as.numeric()
# 5. stepwise=FALSE to be specified if you want exhaustive search
# 6. seasonal=FALSE if don't want to consider models with seasonal components (default)
# 7. argument max.q sets the largest value of q to consider, max allowed is 5.
# 8. d can be specified explictly (e.g. d=2) else it will determine itself (not preferred).

# Consider daily trading volume of MSFT for 2012, find first difference of series.
# what order AR is chosen with aicc?

# Answer

MSFT <- auto.assign="F)</p" from="2012-1-1" getsymbols="" to="2012-12-31">MSFTVolumeDiff <- diff="" olume="" p="">auto.arima(as.numeric(MSFTVolumeDiff), max.p=6, ic="aicc")

//It fit a model with p=1 and q=1. In addition, mean parameter was found to be unnecessary.

//Stationarity of AR(p)
//Recall that root of a fn f(x) is value of x that makes f(x) equal 0.
//It can be shown that AR(p) is stationary if EVERY root of f(x) = 1 - Summ:n(1,p)[FI(n)*x^n]
//has absolute value greater than 1.
//To get the roots of f(x) shown above we can use in R, polyroot(c(1, -FI(1), -FI(2),...))

# for example, lets say an AR(2) with FI(1) -1.2074 and FI(2) -0.2237 is fit. Is it stationary?
# both are greater than 1, but the first one is pretty close.
# Ruppert says, "since the roots are estimated with error, reason to suspect nonstationarity"

# Unit Root Tests
# These are hypothesis tests for stationarity
# the simplest one being Dickey-Fuller test - but useful only for AR(1)
# Augmented Dickey Fuller (ADF) is more commonly used: adf.test()

adf.test(as.numeric(DGS3diff), alternative="s") #"s" for stationarity, "e" for explosive
#p-value of 0.01 suggests we can reject the null in favor of alternative, that is "stationary"

# Lets see what auto.arima fits on DGS3diff
auto.arima(as.numeric(DGS3diff), max.p=6, ic="aicc")
# It fit ARIMA(2,0,2) with some parameters. Can't use polyroot on it since it has MA component.


# MA(q) process - Stationary, no correlation beyond lag q in ACF plot.

# Lets simulate MA(2) process data of length 250 with theta1=0.3 and theta2=-0.2 and sigmaSq=1
simdat <- arima.sim="" model="list(ma=c(0.3,-0.2))," n="250," sd="sqrt(1))</p">
# See if the simulated data is stationary by using ADF test
adf.test(as.numeric(simdat),alternative="s") #small p value suggests stationary data

# See if any correlation beyond lag 2 in ACF plot
acf(simdat) # no correlation beyond lag 2, as expected, since data was simulated from MA(2) process

# Let's fit a MA(2) model to this data (as if we didn't know it was simulated data from specified MA(2))
holdfit <- arima="" order="c(0,0,2))</p" simdat="">holdfit # returns an MA(2) with theta1 0.24, theta2 -0.16 and sigmaSq 0.88

# But the theta1 estimate has a std error - lets see the confidence interval for it
holdfit$coef[1] - 1.96*sqrt(holdfit$var.coef[1,1])
holdfit$coef[1] + 1.96*sqrt(holdfit$var.coef[1,1]) # 95% C.I for theta1 is (0.11,0.35)

#Ljung-Box Test (H1: "at least some correl at some lag") applied to residuals of the fit
Box.test(holdfit$residuals, fitdf=2, lag=20, type="Ljung-Box") #p not small enough to reject null-> no correl
acf(holdfit$residuals) # acf confirms box test result
qqnorm(holdfit$residuals) # normal probability plot.. need to make this work.

# Comparing acf from simulated data to acf from true process
acf(simdat, cex.axis=1.3,cex.lab=1.3,main="") # Sample ACF of simulated data
trueacf=ARMAacf(ma=c(0.3,-0.2), lag.max=30) # true ACF
points(0:30,trueacf, pch=16, col=2)
fitacf=ARMAacf(ma=holdfit$coef[1:2],lag.max=30) #ACF of the fitted model
points(0:30,fitacf, col=4)
legend(23,1,legend=c("True ACF","Fitted model ACF"), pch=c(16,1),col=c(2,4), xjust=1, cex=1.3)

# fitting ARIMA

DTWEXM <- auto.assign="F)" dollar="" getsymbols="" index="" p="" src="FRED" trade-weighted="">DTWEXM <- dtwexm="" p="">plot(DTWEXM) # clearly not stationary
plot(diff(DTWEXM,1,1)) #diff(vec,n,d) is lag n difference (X(t)-X(t-n)) applied d times #now looks stationary
plot(diff(DTWEXM,1,2)) #2nd (lag-1) differences .. this too looks stationary.

# We want smallest d that's good enough
adf.test(as.numeric(diff(DTWEXM,1,1)[!,1,1))]), alternative="s")
adf.test(as.numeric(diff(DTWEXM,1,2)[!,1,2))]), alternative="s")
# Looks like 1st differencing was sufficient, so d=1

# REVISION: using auto.arima() to fit.
# 1. argument max.p sets the largest value of p to consider, max allowed is 5.
# 2. to fit a pure AR(p) model, either use arima() or in auto.arima() specify max.q=0
# 3. ic="aic" or "bic", or "aicc" which is corrected AIC - used for model selction by auto.arima()
# 4. input data to this fn should be vector, not xts. Apply as.numeric()
# 5. stepwise=FALSE to be specified if you want exhaustive search
# 6. seasonal=FALSE if don't want to consider models with seasonal components (default)
# 7. argument max.q sets the largest value of q to consider, max allowed is 5.
# 8. d can be specified explictly (e.g. d=2) else it will determine itself (not preferred).
# 9. approx=F tso that true maximum likelihood estimates are found

fitted_model<-auto .arima="" a="" arima="" as.numeric="" d="1," fit="" ic="aic" it.="" it="" p="" see="" that="" to="" we="">

# Forecasting

# REVISION: Standard approach
//1. Plot the time series. There are a lot of features that are still most readilty identified by a human
//2. Transform original ts to a stationary ts
//(a) determine whether to apply boxcox/log transformation or not
//(b) check for trend, seasonality, sharp changes, outliers, etc then do appropriate transformation
//3. Fit a model to the stationary ts
//4. Disgnostic tests to check model is reasonable, if its not go back to step 2
//5. Generate forecasts (predictive distributions) for the model
//6. Invert the transformation made in step 2, get forecasts of original ts.

k=3 # number of future predictions
# Rem that holdfit was the model fitted to MA(2) simulated values
next_k_preds <-predict holdfit="" n.ahead="k)</p">
# Lets do another example

AAA <- auto.assign="F," getsymbols="" p="" src="FRED">AAA <- aaa="" p="">
plot(AAA) # Clearly not stationary, there is a trend
plot(diff(AAA)) # looks like trend has been removed, could be stationary
adf.test(as.numeric(diff(AAA)[-1]),alt="s") # small p value suggests stationary
holdfit <- a="" approx="F)" arima="" as.numeric="" auto.arima="" d="1," fits="" it="" p="" process="">
#diagnostic tests
Box.test(holdfit$residuals, fitdf=1, lag=10, type="Ljung-Box") #high p-value, fail to reject null: no correl
acf(holdfit$residuals)# suggests no serial correlation among residuals
pacf(holdfit$residuals)# suggests no serial conditional correlation among residuals
plot(holdfit$residuals) # looks good

#generate forecasts
holdpreds <- 6="" also="" care="" holdfit="" inverting="" n.ahead="6)" note="" of="" p="" predict="" r="" step="" takes="" that="" the="" transformation="">holdpreds


# Seasonality

HOUSTNSA <- auto.assign="F)</p" getsymbols="" src="FRED">HOUSTNSA <- houstnsa="" p="">plot(HOUSTNSA, ylab="Housing Starts (thousands of units)")

# We notice that there are trends not stationary
# We also notice seasonality
acf(HOUSTNSA) # confirms seasonality, peaks every 12 lags

plot(diff(HOUSTNSA)[-1]) #this removes the trend, but seasonality remains acf(diff(HOUSTNSA)[-1])
plot(diff(HOUSTNSA, 12,1)) #this removes seasonality but trends remain. (seasonally adjusted)
plot(diff(diff(HOUSTNSA, 12,1))) # this removes both and should be good. ------------(A)
# we can fit ARMA to it, but in practice this turns out to not yield models with sufficient flexibility

# Multiplicative ARIMA models for accomodating seasonality (preferred)
# ARIMA((p,d,q)*(P,D,Q)s) where s is the period of seasonality (12 for a year, for example)
# Think of it as fitting ARIMA(p,d,q) on non-seasonal component and ARIMA(P,D,Q) on seasonal component of ts.
# This multiplicative ARIMA model is fitted upon the ts obtained in (A) above
#(In R you needn't do the differencings first)

# Fitting a multiplicative ARIMA model

# METHOD 1: using arima() fitting a ARIMA((1,1,1)*(1,1,0)12) to the housing data again.
holdfit1 <- arima="" order="c(1,1,1)," period="12))</p" seasonal="list(order=c(1,1,0),">
# METHOD 1: using auto.arima()

# s is typically already known, or estimated exploring the ACF, not something auto.arima() finds.
# ts object fed to auto.arima should already be in a form that specifies the period of the series, i.e. s

HOUSts<-ts an="" creates="" frequency="12)" function="" not="" object="" p="" r="" series="" the="" time="" ts="" xts=""># d, D should always be specified yourself based on inspection of series, although auto.arima can search for it
holdfit2<-auto .arima="" d="1,D=1,approx=F)</p" ts="">
# We got a better (smaller) aic than that in the totally self-specified arima() model holdfit1.

# Use it for forecasting now.
holdpreds <- holdfit2="" n.ahead="24)</p" predict="">plot(HOUSts, xlab="Year", xlim=c(0,22))
lines(holdpreds$pred + (1.96*holdpreds$se), col=2, lty=2)
lines(holdpreds$pred - (1.96*holdpreds$se), col=2, lty=2)


# Heteroskedasticity


# ARFIMA models


# Revisiting Regression

# One key assumption in regression was that errors iid normal, i.e, uncorrelated with const variance
holdlm=lm(HOUSts~sqrt(HOUSts)) # just some random regression

# In a time series regression test whether they are really uncorrelated makes sense to see ACF of residuals
acf(holdlm$residuals, lag.max=10)

# Another way is the durbin-watson hypothesis test, made specifically to test serial correl in a linear model
# H0: there is no correlation. If small p-value, reject the null: there is correlation.

# DW suffers from the same multiple testing problem as acf. Can use Ljung-Box on holdlm$residuals, if needed.
# In our example we can see that errors ARE correlated.

# How to deal with this problem?
# 1. might want to log transform the predictor or response variable or both in the linear model
# 2. If significant serial correlation, fit an ARIMA(p,d,q) process in place of model error, instead of WN.

# Example. Response var is 3-year tsy rate, predictor var is 1-yr tsy-rate.
OneYearTreas <- auto.assign="F)</p" getsymbols="" src="FRED">ThreeYearTreas<-getsymbols auto.assign="F)</p" src="FRED">
holdfit1 <- hreeyeartreas="" lm="" oneyeartreas="" p="">holdfit2 <- arima="" hreeyeartreas="" order="c(1,1,1)," xreg="OneYearTreas)</p">holdfit3 <- as.numeric="" auto.arima="" d="1)</p" hreeyeartreas="" xreg="as.numeric(OneYearTreas),">acf(holdfit3$residuals)

# This solves the problem of serial correlation. What about non-constant variance?
# One way is model the errors as GARCH. Unfortunately not straightforward like with ARIMA above. Follow steps:
#1. Fit a regular lm model.
#2. Fit a time series model to the residuals  from model fit above.
#3. Refit the model using weighted least squares, weights being reciprocals of conditional variances from step2
#   Conditional variance from garchFit() are found as: holdgarchfit@sigma.t
#   weights = 1/(holdfit@sigma.t^2)
# Do it yourself.


Friday, May 20, 2016

These Economists

Time for some armchair speculation. Since Subramanian Swamy, being an Econ PhD from Harvard and one-time professor there, couldn't possibly be as ignorant about Economics as his letter to the PMO suggests he is, he is most probably being manipulative, in my opinion. If real world politics is as smart as 'House of Cards' and 'The West Wing' would have us believe, then it might be a tactic to elicit even louder public support for Rajan, and make keeping him for another term easier for the government, in the face of opposition from factions of business that the government can't openly defy. But my theory 2 is that the real world is not American television, and that Swamy is a bit of an egomaniac and a little dismayed in his old age that he is not more widely thought of as the Econ genius he is inside his own head, so he takes any opportunity he gets to attack others who are thought of in that way. In the past, he has slandered Amartya Sen as merely a Gandhi family flatterer, and now, it's Raghuram Rajan's turn.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Vices of reading a lot

A vast majority of what you read in facebook statuses, online articles, quora answers, have nothing new to say to you. You see cliches everywhere - things that have been beaten down to death in your head, and evoke little human emotion or 'aha' in you. Makes you generally undemonstrative.

In most debates, you are intimate with the cogent arguments of both sides, so you're rarely find yourself taking a stand with one side or the other, because you see how both have some great points and also how both are willfully or ignorantly blind to the great points of the other side.

Reading a lot is bad for the elasticity of your brain, and hampers genesis of creative ideas, especially if you read a lot on the same topic, if you specialize. If you read eclectically, this vice is limited.

Reading takes away from time you could spend outdoors, being active in the real world. And it takes away a lot - it is one of the most time consuming activities. The only respite here is if you're out in the real world a lot, you know that the real world is a little over-rated.

Reading ingrains behavioral biases in subtle ways that you have to always consciously guard yourself against, which takes effort.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Just another note to self

Always keep some chocolate at home.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Go fucking work

I am again in the midst of too much hectic. Time to put your head down and work, than worry and be daunted by how much there is to do and how improbable it will get done.

For others in the same situation as me, here's a nifty chrome extension. Using this app, you can choose the websites that are a time suck for you, and then when you unconsciously open a new tab and hit those websites again out of habit, what will open instead is a page that will say, in big bold letters, "Go Fucking Work". Pretty cool, no?

The link to the extension is below. Don't be offended by the colorful language you see on the link, because, sometimes, you can either give a fuck about language, or about getting shit done.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Being Vegan 2

It is the fourth day of being a vegan now, and I have a little bit to report. It is true that with a vegan diet, I feel a lot lighter. I don't mean this in the kgs and pounds sense, but in the way you feel lying down, sitting, standing, climbing the stairs and moving about. There is a lightness for sure; whether it is a direct consequence of the vegan diet, or comes from the little yoga I've been doing, I can't be sure.

I also suffer from a bit of chronic cold in my nose. I do have a swollen cyst in my nose that was diagnosed long ago, but doctors both in the US and in India have left it to me to decide whether I want it operated: "If you can live with it, it's OK to leave it as it is because it won't morph into anything more dangerous plus the surgery is delicate, but if it's too much of a trouble, we can operate it". I've obviously chosen not to be operated upon, but it is definitely a frustrating thing, physically, to live with a bit of a blocked nose all the time. Anyhow, my nose has been troubling me a lot less the last 4 days, so that's good.

Outside of wellness, I've found a few jugaad ways to eat vegan and not feel like I'm torturing my tongue. That includes a few jugaad recipes; and while I won't go into the specifics, I'll just say sprinkling lemon juice, some black pepper powder, and some pudina powder, makes most things tastier.

Still, it's too early to come to any conclusions. But prima facie, things look good.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Being Vegan

I turned vegan yesterday. I'm going to try it for 21 days, and see if I feel any different. If it is half as good as Dr. Neal Barnard promises it is, maybe I'll stay vegan, otherwise I'll go back to being a vegetarian, which, incidentally, I had turned into from my earlier non-vegetarian self in the summer of last year. Turning vegetarian was not so much a health decision, but this one is. So far, anyway. Let's not get too ahead of ourselves already.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


Most realized that it was a long route to a non destination, and slipped away, wisely, in what were still, from where I see it, early days. Others found love. Yet others, more adept at staying with the times, took to twitter. Some of the old fellows, who I am still in one kind or another of touch with, remember it fondly, nostalgically, as if it belonged to another era, now extinct. When I remind them they needn't be wistful, that they can restart today if they miss its charms, they laugh. Some laughs, I just never understand, and I tell them, ingenuously, that I'm still at it. What follows is an expression of admiration, with a tinge of suspicion that you can't miss, and, once in a while, a promise!  The first few times, I bought in on the promises, but now I know what to make of them. They are the promises of small-talk, those adornments that make the mundane memorable, even if briefly.

I wanted to be quiet, so I guess I still have some way to go.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Day 119

I did write posts on days 114 and 115 which I never could post for internet reasons, but I will be posting them tonight. For today, there's not a whole lot to say. I have an important work day on the 12th of May, similar to the one in January from which I had put a picture up on the blog. I do think I'll put a picture up from this time as well, unless I'm in a really bad place after the event, or, if I'm looking shabby. Soon after that day, I've taken a couple of days off adjacent to a weekend to go to San Fransisco, just to chill out. This sounds like the kind of thing which if I read someone else write a few years ago I would have concluded he's a wierdo, if not a full scale asshole. But how things are, is how they are.

I think I have an unhealthy capacity for self-reflection, and continually run an internal feedback loop. The main goal of the feedback loop is to become a more able, more helpful, and healthier person tomorrow, but the by-products of the loop are revised views of the same, unchanging past, and revised views of my past selves. One of the consequences has been a revised view of the role and importance of relationships. While last year I believed that relationships, especially romantic, are an indispensable part of personal growth, I am not so sure anymore. I still hold that relationships goad you on to become better, but my newly acquired conviction is that they goad you on to become better is certain set ways, and inhibit exploration of the infinite other unseen dimensions, an exploration that is as necessary in liberating you as it is rare. Note that I merely use the word inhibit, and not something stronger like cease, because of course it is still possible, only more unlikely.

In another news, I've decided to work out intensely until my CFA exam on June 5, just to do something counter-intuitive. Through late 14 and early 2015, I used to work out a lot, both cardio and strength, and then sometime in late April last year (yes, exactly 1 year ago) I stoppped, because I had to dedicate myself to preparing for the CFA exam a month away and who has the time to waste on working out, or so the warped reasoning went. It is characteristic of me to skip even showers, let alone work outs, in the days of intense preparation preceding exams. Part of the reason is I start very late, but that's only part of the reason. The bigger part, I believe, is that I convice myself that by skipping this and that I am somehow being more "serious" about the exam. But of course that is self-fooling hogwash, the kind that we realize is bullshit and continue to subscribe to all the same. So, to get out of this self-fooling tendency, primarily, I've decided that in the 35-40 days left before the exam, I will not only be not skipping workouts and showers, I'll infact be doing more of it. More exercise, more showers, ironing my clothes everyday - basically everything I would have ordinarily avoided I will amplify. Let's see how this experiment goes.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Day 113

Today was an odd day. I ate a lot as soon as I woke up. Like, a lot.

Something has thrown me off balance a little bit. I don't know if it is the incessant, unnecessary hullabaloo in my family surrounding getting me married, or, whether it is the seeping realization that my mom is clinically depressed, or whether it is something more endogenous. I got myself steeped in eastern spirituality and meditation last year, and had finally come to a state of balance that was not so transitory. I had thought it was for real, not a fluke peacefulness that hits you intermittently one way or the other. I still hold that it was, for the balance did last me fairly long, but maybe I had overestimated its longevity when I naively assumed it will last my lifetime. There were signs of it going astray in January, but I was able to quickly set it right before giving imbalance a chance to set in more solidly, and then it was back to good times. Besides, I took on so much work back then that there was little time for peacelessness. But the trip to India, it changed something.

Now I'm back, and I'm going to try to salvage the project that had begun last year from disintegration, and hopefully it'll work. Maybe my impatience to make it work is the thing coming in the way of making it work.

A fair bit of the day is yet to go, but I'm posting already. It's not as though something mind-blowing is going to happen, anyway.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Day 112

My sleep cycle has been a little twisted since I came back. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a jetlag, though. I sleep at around 9 and wake up at 4 AM. For some people who do everything by the book, these might even be perfect sleeping hours. For me, it's just a consequence of having moved from India. In any case, I seem to like it. Maybe if I woke up at 5 instead of 4 I'd like it even better, because at 4 it's dark so I can't really head out right away. I wait an hour (how do I wait? I surf facebook and quora, reply to emails and messages, watch the youtube videos of my subscriptions. Yes, how I wait is pretty uninspiring) and then get my camera and walk out into the breezy, chirpy spring mornings that bless us here at Princeton these days. There's a good chance of running into the most unique, colourful birds, even though getting a picture of them is challenging all the same. But there are squirrels out aplenty even if you miss the special birds, and they're guaranteed fun. They're better captured on video than in pictures, but I don't make videos of them, because they are best captured by the naked eye, not by eyes behind lenses. I've loved squirrels since back when I used to go to morning walks with my grandfather in the very early nineties. When I first moved to the US, I thought gosh the squirrels in the US are so big, no no no. But it's just a matter of getting used to them and then they're fantastic again, I guess, because on my trip to India earlier this month, I was equally surprised by how little India's squirrels were. Other than this, I'm particularly fond of American spring, when the flowers start budding and flood the trees, and the ground starts turning lush, lustrous green, and the sun is out just the right amount - not too hot, just sunny enough to help you smile like a fool. If I had my way, I'd lie in a park near my house from sunrise to sunset - standing up only to play cricket in the evening and for going up to the taps to drink water. But, I have to go to work. Which is also cool. Being employed is pretty cool. I say so because I've known the contrary, and it sucked like a miele vacuum cleaner.

Maybe I'll put some pictures up one of these days, but most probably I won't. I don't want to promise more than I can deliver, since that's a habit I've got to kick.

I don't know what else to say. I'm getting kind of bored of the whole blogging thing, and to a large extent I've been continuing only because I decided to do this at the beginning of the year. I'm unsure how long my obedience to myself will last, for the price of disobedience is pretty small when you're as close to your master as I am to me. I guess now I'm just droning on, so I'll go.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Day 110

I don't know what I'm doing with my life.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sisyphean wish

I have sought you for years.
And now if you'd yield,
It'd be of great value.
And if you don't,

On my mysterious liking for Mad Men

Mad Men is one of my favorite TV shows, and I don't even know why. It doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat the way Breaking Bad does. It does not betray the caustic, clever brilliance of House. It has not the comic genius that makes the commonplace become the source of everyday laughter and joy for your soul, like The Office has.  In fact, I can only talk of Mad Men in terms of all the things it is not, than the things it is. Because of what it is I have little clue.

Many of its episodes just linger, like life, without a set goal or aim. Like an afternoon spent without knowing what to do or who to call.

Unlike my other favorite shows, which I watch with rapt attention whenever I watch them, with Mad Men I often find myself drifting away, zoning out, and realizing it 10 minutes later, at which point I scroll back to wherever I last was with the show, and watch again. Reviewers of the show tell us that it is about the feminist movement, about the changing social mores in the 1960s USA, but I've never bought it. I like the show because it doesn't pretend to know any answers, propose any theories. Because it is interested in different kinds of people, its characters, without painting with a heavy hand exactly how their stories should look and be interpreted. Because it is more interested in knowing than in telling. I like the show because it has the spirit of someone who knows they do not know.

Don Draper, the lead character of the show, is one of my favorite TV characters. Media reports extensively on his looks, his womanizing habits, his affairs, as though that is what Don Draper is about. Don Draper, if you ask me, is about trying to feel meaningful the possibly meaningless, about trying to act like stuff matters, day in and day out, when he doesn't know if it does. And that is why I like this character. 

Mad Men is a show I really like and never recommend to others, not only because I'm not sure they'd like it, but also because I'm not sure what I could say to recommend it convincingly. My feelings about Mad Men are very similar to my feelings about John Banville, the novelist.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Day 108

It's already day 109, woah! Days have a way of passing you by like credit card bills, furtively, smugly furtively.

I came back to the US in the wee hours of the morning today, and spent the day chatting and watching TV and driving about and eating with my brother. It was like we were doing all of these things simultaneously, all of that time. Although of course we weren't.

I didn't feel any heaviness of heart while leaving India, the way I used to feel before. I don't know, maybe I don't want to say much other than saying that I don't want to say much.

There's the CFA Level 3 exam in the first week of June, for which I'll start studying in a few days. Probably only next week.

And I've got to start running and playing a little bit from today, after gorging on everything edible with reckless abandon for 21 days.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Delhi 2016

I am in your town again,
which was once mine too,
until you, happened.

Now there are no towns that I call my own,
there are towns where I work, where I'd grown,
there are towns of my friends, of my mother.
But not mine, I go from one refuge to another.

Don't get me wrong, I love them all.
I love them, but they're not mine.
Towns are like people, and that's fine.

I'm in your town now, but I don't feel its beat.
I do probability for a living, and yet, naively, I
expect you on every once-friendly street.
Faces that resemble yours in faint ways, say 'Hi',
as they see me solving their contours, and that's also sweet.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Day 77

Coffee is a big part of American culture, sort of like tea in India. Except that coffee in America tastes like shite. The fact that it's the most awfully tasting coffee I've had anywhere (granted the only other places I've drank coffee are Toronto, Brussels, Vienna and maybe 7-8 towns in India) makes it all the more remarkable that it is celebrated as much as it is. But then, Donald Trump is on a winning streak as well.

I slept early yesterday (for fear of having to drink that coffee to stay awake, perhaps?) when I shouldn't have slept at all. I do that every now and again, I think it's an escapist tendency. By way of analogy, it is not too different from laughing at a question paper you know will leave you with a Fail. In the spectrum of performance anxiety, both extremes are dangerous -- escapist and over-anxious -- and I think I tilt a wee bit towards the former.

I traveled to India last March and it was much fun. I'm not one for celebrating my birthday, but my parents wanted to, and it drew a lot of my relatives and cousins and everyone looked good and was chirpy. It is eerie what a difference a year can make. Compared to last year's visit, my grandfather, one chachaji and one mausaji aren't around now. Another mamaji, and a cousin sister, are now very ill. Another previously high-flying uncle has gone bankrupt and am told is battling severe depression. My closest chachaji, who has for all intents and purposes actually always been a real elder brother to me, his business isn't doing well either, to put it mildly.

My current trip to India, due in 8 days, will also find me 20 pounds heavier than my last one, which limits my possibilities in flirting with hypothetical random girls in hypothetical wedding functions I might hypothetically attend.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Here, this is the day
of many knocks
on your door.
I made sure
that I have locks
on my doors today.

Day 76

The thing that halted my blogging isn't over until the 20th, but I have resumed already. I am not sure that I will be able to complete what I set out to, which is not to say that I won't continue to try. My mom asks me on the phone if I will be able to finish the thing off in time, and I say "I don't know". My mom knows that I don't say yes, unless I am sure.

She has asked me over the years if I would qualify for this college, secure that job, pass that exam, and she knows that I rarely said that I would, even when I did end up passing those hurdles. It is not the case that I decide to be conservative for fear of making a fool of myself. 'How would it be if I turn out to be wrong' is never at play. What is at play is only saying things I can also say to myself without feeling like I'm fooling myself (and I am the easiest person for me to fool).

Last year when mummy came to stay with me for the summer, it was the happiest period of my life in many, many years. We weren't having rollicking fun, but I suppose I've outgrown the charms of rollicking fun some time ago. I used to take her to the usual places - temples, Gita discourses, and, of course, shopping, which, with her, is invariably grocery shopping. I loved it all, which I guess doesn't bode well for my romantic success with girls my age, who, I'm told, hate bloody mumma's boys.

That aside, grocery shopping reminds me of a particular trend that I find a little annoying, although perhaps no one shares my opinion on this. I'm all for using technology to make our lives easier (in fact, what I've been working on fits the description) but when I see one startup after another making apps to get your groceries to you, I have to stop and wonder: where are we going?

Call me a lunatic, but grocery shopping, I think, is one of those integral parts of life that make us who we are. So much of my growing up days was sometimes being excited about grocery shopping because I'd secretly sneak in that other thing I also want, and sometimes being so unwilling to go for it because its such a chore and "I have more important things to do" but then getting over myself and doing it anyway. And then there is the time when you're actually getting stuff, waiting in lines, waiting for your turn, being careful about discriminating between two similar looking but significantly different products, learning how 1000 rupees don't go a long way and altering one shampoo for another as a last minute decision, and so on. Grocery shopping was at least as formative for me, if not wildly more, than reading Camus, Frankl, Wallace and Nida Fazli combined.

Now I've grown up, but grocery shopping is still a part of life I don't want to relegate to an app. It has its value for adults, as it brings us to appreciate and engage with the daily, the nondescript, the commonplace, which is what real life is, once you get past the concoctions of grandiosity. It is one thing to use apps to ease our lives, and it is another to invite them to substitute our lives. For this reason, and I hate to say this, those of you making grocery-delivery apps, I hope you don't succeed.

Evergreen song......

Monday, March 7, 2016

My loving grandfather passed away today.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Kanhaiya Kumar is not my hero. It takes a lot more than good oratory to get that spot.

I will continue this post later, as I get more time. Will try to finish it over a month or two.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Quick update

I am well aware that I'm shamelessly ignoring my resolution to post every day. It is just because I've been working on another thing; and if it didn't require so much time that blogging would feel like "wasting time that's better spent elsewhere", I would definitely try and post every day. It is what it is.

I'd been teaching a couple of Gurgaon back office guys some quantitative finance and data programming on my own time, and given that I've started doing this other thing, I've had to abandon that too. So yes, that's another thing I've get back to when I can.

This other thing that I refer to is a software project I've to work on and try to finish by a deadline. It's not related to my career, and I likely won't be making any money from it either (not that I make any money from blogging or from teaching Gurgaon folks in the evenings) but I thought that it would force me to learn something new in a couple of weeks which one would otherwise take, I don't know, 6 months or something to learn. I guess that makes it worth the plunge. And because it was about learning, it was able to push to the backseat, even if probably temporarily, both blogging and teaching, which at some level, are, to me, also about learning (although these 2 are about re-learning, or consolidating my learning, as opposed to fresh learning).

The third thing that it has unseated is my attempts to stay fit and active, and that part I'm not so unequivocally OK with. Let's see, I already have posted something, maybe I'll go to the gym too today, even if only for a short bit.

Yeah, and I booked my tickets to India for late next month, and I'm pretty excited about that too. I love Delhi, I love walking on gullies I've grown up wandering aimlessly on, going to shops I've stopped daily at for banta drinks after cricket filled evenings, and being around people who've nurtured me with love and fondness and forbidding amounts of mind corrupting, tongue seducing, tasty food.

Friday, February 12, 2016

One of life's big milestones

is to forgive someone who isn't sorry and, what else, doesn't need your forgiveness.

It's a pretty hard thing to do, it needs character and forces you to build character to be able to do it. But in the end it is worth it, and you feel grateful for it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Day 24

I failed to update the blog for several days in a row as I was not feeling well. But I'm better now and so will resume the exercise, and hopefully starting tomorrow also study more and have more to report in my daily posts. But for today, I have no such productive work to report.

I've been thinking lately of ways to return to India. When I first moved here, I was pretty clear I wanted to come back. In five years, I told everyone, I'll be back. It's been three and a half years now, and I'm beginning to think how best to script the return. What will I do once I'm back there? 

One option that figures highly in my mind is to run a book shop. Why? Basically because I can see myself doing that for the long haul, without worrying too much about why I'm doing this. That's not entirely true though - there is, if I be totally honest, a latent conceit of intelligence in me, that makes me ask this question to myself a lot: "you could have done this with far less intelligence and skills than you possess, so aren't you wasting your talents doing this?" Partly, it is true, for running a bookshop needs not great smarts, but mostly, it is just conceited, for I imagine I am so much more intelligent. I have to confess I do harbor these ideas, even if somewhere I know they are crazy. All said, I can still see myself doing that for a long time, just because I think I enjoy being surrounded by books. In any case, if I do decide to follow it, I still have to save aggressively over the next couple of years to be able to set it up.

Another option is to work in the social sector. That work can be meaningful, yes, so that box is checked, and there is enough scope to be creative so that you're not left thinking you're doing dumb work. The rub here is it pays peanuts. So either I save so much over the next one and a half years, that I'll get by fine anyway, or do it in a way that pays enough for me to afford rent and a car and petrol, other than of course food and AC. How how how.

The third option is to go back and work for some investment bank in Mumbai or Bangalore - money will be decent, yes - but it would score so low on the meaningfulness front that I would be sure to question the point of moving back. If I had to do this anyway, why wouldn't I do this in the US while taking in much more money, with much better convenience of daily living, and much higher opportunities for making it big? So yeah, this option is pretty much ruled out.

A fourth option is to work on a start-up. India is growing, I have the coding skills, some ideas, so why not try it out. The only rub here is the risk of losing everything accumulated thus far. This option is exciting, but is it too late? I'm almost 30, will probably add dependents pretty soon, so do I want to take the risk? In a way, this goes back to the social sector option - as long as I'm able to save a fortune in the next couple of years, maybe I can do that, but again, how how how.

In the end, every option will have its share of rubs, and it will come down to which of the rubs I'm willing to take for the upside bearing those rubs might afford. I think about it everyday. Maybe one day soon I'll wake up with the answer. Till then, one thing seems clear: for as long as I am here, I need to earn aggressively, and I need to save more.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


You always praised my memory, as I sat
bloated, and yearned for more of that.
I wish now that you had praised my heart,
and in yearning, I may have learned the art
of loving, not fueled and fooled by ego;
of being at home, wherever we go.
But what choice did you have in the matter?
I gave you no chance to praise the latter.
I worked for more of what I got
(I can not lie, I loved it a lot).
For years apart, it's clear as hell
that I had memorized you well.

[January 16, 2016 | Princeton]

Friday, January 15, 2016


Call me some time. It will very likely be awkward, yes,
but just a little. Tell me what work is like, what you do,
and I'll respond with measured interest, no more no less,
crack appropriate jokes - some old ones, but mostly new.

Important things hogged all attention, and time has shot.
Yesterday, I loved your taste, and you loved Wodehouse
and Rumi, who have grown on me, and Eliot, who has not.
Recommend a book, maybe, or stuff on the web to browse?

So much of life is hard work, and planning for tomorrow,
and that may be how it ought to be, by jove, for all I care!
But of that precious ticking time, I'd really like to borrow
a tiny bit of listening to any words you'd like to spare.

[November 30, 2015 | New York City]

Day 15

I'm a little tired tonight. It was a long day, and quite unremarkable.

I did not read any book today, but just the poems I've written in the last 11 years on my blog. I expected to be embarrassed, as I usually am by my previous deeds, but actually ended up feeling pleasantly surprised. Most of them, I think, were certainly better than what I can manage today.

That's it for today, really.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Day 14

Today was the annual review and bonus day. Although mine was nothing stellar and certainly below what I would have guessed it to be a priori, I got a sense that it was maybe better than my teammates, because they all looked pretty pissed off and were in a palpably bad mood through the day (some unpleasant emails were written, apparently). Alternately, it could be, although unlikely, that I am just stupid and therefore not protesting enough. Either way works for me.

Part of me wished that I knew Mandarin, to really know what people in the team were discussing (yes, they switched to Mandarin for today), but part of me is really happy I don't. It leaves me free, and limits just how unnecessarily tense I could possibly get. I personally think it is quite telling that year after year, this day of very possibly the biggest single cash inflow to your bank account that you'll see that year, coincides with the day you're especially unhappy and overly hostile.

On day 2, I wrote about the awesomeness of going to have a tea, after doing it for the first time. I now think much of the awesomeness was about it having been the first time, because I've done it four more times since, and it is only half as awesome now. It's a busy place that I go to, so a lot of what I enjoy is people-watching, more so because it is an Indian jaunt and I see a lot of Indians. Yes, the masala chai is very good too. They also serve vada pav, which I have every alternate time I'm there, and while it is nothing compared to the those served outside Siddhivinayak temple, or those outside Gokul's, or even Kanjurmarg's Balaji vadapav, let me not recall all that and get wistfully greedy. What they have here is good enough for me to be unable to resist it for long enough.

Over the last few months, I've listened with rapt attention to whatever Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev had to say. I'd been skeptical of Spiritual gurus before, but what he was professing made a lot of sense to me. In fact, let me not understate. It had a great impact on me, his lectures accessed a part of me I had lost access to as I had grown older. In a way, they helped me reconnect with the purer, happier parts of me. So let me not belabour how much gratitude and respect I have for him, because the more I write the more susceptible I am to an inaccurate depiction of it.

For this reason, it was hard for me to write the following comments on one of his recent videos. I'll paste the video as well as my comment here, and on this occasion I would invite any readers of my blog to share their views on the video and my comment. It was a big step for me, challenging the views of someone whose wisdom and intellect I deeply respect and consider far above my own, so I'm naturally a little iffy.

So here's the video:

And here's my comment:

"I've learned a lot from Sadhguru but I have to differ here.
One, the fact that slaughter of cows for export of beef is continuing is not enough reason to not be worried about animal cruelty in Jallikattu. This argument is akin to saying that if you can't climb the Everest yet, don't climb the hill near your house. Real progress is a step by step process, you fight for what you can get when you can get it, and then try for more. Two, whatever valour might be for a man or beauty for a woman, it is not bigger than what dignity and safety is for an animal, another 'piece of life', as we might call them. Besides, valour doesn't cease to exist because you can't express it by toying with an animal. Three, the point about no animal ever having died in this game even as men have died during it is not a valid defence (even if we assume it is a fact) for the simple reason that men who died during it made the 'conscious' decision to play this game, while the bulls that are injured (the videos I've seen of the game being played bear this out amply) did not choose this, they were forced to. I've learned from Sadhguru how what you do consciously is beautiful, while that which is not lacks any pleasantness, so I was surprised by this omission. I've learned a lot from Sadhguru and will continue to do so, but I think that I differ on this and just want to express what I really feel. Perhaps it seemed as important to me as valour is to men."


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Day 13

I finally got some studying flow going today. Read a couple of papers on rates, inflation and unemployment by Cochrane and Noah Smith, and a few articles by various economists, of which I particularly liked this one, by our RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. Not sure if I'm ready to fill a post with my own thoughts; it would  be wrong for me to claim support to any one among this cluster of diverging views that modern day macroeconomics has become, before I dig some data to convince myself.

I got ready for bed a couple of hours ago, and just read 50 odd pages from "The Road to Character". The profile of Frances Perkins is great and left me impressed with the writing as well as with Frances Perkins herself. I've always believed that the true import of any reading is if at the end of reading you know something you did not read. Along those lines, one takeaway for me that was not alluded to in the book, was that even for worthy virtues such as modesty, kindness - it is much better to have that virtue be conscious rather than compulsive. When it is compulsive, it is easy to lose all sense of proportion, of balance. And of course we all know how too much of a good thing can be bad.

Then there was a profile of Dwight Eisenhower. I'll be honest, he did not appeal to me as anything extraordinary. Peculiar, original, yes. Extraordinary, no. Anyway, that's just what I thought.

My diet is a mess, and has been for a while because I don't feel like cooking, and eating out everyday is not that great. I've got to fix it soon, but how, how, how. Off to sleep.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Day 12

Home from work, I resumed reading 'The Road to Character' by David Brooks, and I have to say, it is a very fulfilling, nourishing book. I'm still reading that book, and looking forward to going back to it after posting this entry.

What else, I had a big dinner today. It was one of those "I'll eat heavy today because anyway I'm going to lead a spartan life from tomorrow until time's end" days. Only such days have been coming a little too frequently these days.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Day 11

So I did watch The Revenant today, right after work. Inarritu and DiCaprio, among several others, have to be credited for going to extremes to bring their movie out with a level of purity that astounds. There are some great performances, and if you go watch the film watch it for the performances, and for the moments where it forces you to examine a past human life, which was a life in the pursuit of survival, just like the animals yet so indelibly like humans still. At the level of plot, it may be called a revenge movie, but if you must watch the movie at the level of plot, you might as well skip it.

After the movie I stepped into the Barnes and Noble next door, after maybe a couple of years, and was looking at those elegantly handmade leather-bound notebooks with recycled paper. When I was new to the US and first saw those, I was quite enamoured by them. I remember thinking how I could've pleased my then girlfriend so much if I gifted her one of those, but I ended up not buying anything because I was pretty broke. It is just as well, because we broke up shortly after and if I had bought them I would've had to keep these beautiful things on my table and never write on them.

I picked up "The Road to Character" by David Brooks from the store after reading about 15 pages sitting there. I was already riveted. I came home and read a little more until Rohit called and we ended up talking about the young generation.

When I was a kid, or even when I was collegiate, the distinction between us and the adults was pretty clearly etched in my mind. There were those of us, and there were those of them, the adults. You couldn't mistake any of us as adults, or any of them as us boys, even if you only interacted with them by mail or phone, such that you had no way to infer by physical appearance. Even on a behavioral level, in our conversations, views, and preoccupations the difference was crystal clear. We were another people, with another set of things that we deemed important in life. As I've grown up, I've held on to most of the same preoccupations and a largely same world-view as back then. And so for long stretches of time I latently believe that I'm still a boy, just the same as I was 10 years ago, even 15. In the demarcation between boys and adults, there is no reason to assign me to the latter category.

Not quite. It is easy to crush this notion with simply an hour spent with a 15 or 20 year old of today. And then you see that there are those of them, these kids, and those of us. And perhaps that's the whole difference between boys and adults. It is not as if our elders underwent fundamental changes on reaching a certain age that made them different from us, made them adults. In all likelihood, they were just as they were when they were 20 year old young boys, only that they remained the 20-year-olds of 1980, which seemed rather 'adult' to us 20 year olds of 2006. And similarly, even though I feel the same inside as I did in 2006, I talk to a 20-year-old of today and can immediately see that we're different. It is another thing that I think they're a bit fake, but didn't our elders think the same?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Day 10

Yesterday (Day 9, for which I did not post anything) and today were both very lackluster. I slept a lot. I didn't study. I think I was doing a lot better in 2015. 2016 has mostly found me out of my elements. My apartment is a mess, everything is lying around and I keep putting it off, the cleaning up, for a tomorrow that doesn't seem to arrive. I haven't been in high spirits either, which is a big departure from most of 2015 which was plenty blissful. Let's hope for a turnaround pretty soon.

In another news, two people who in all likelihood came to know of each other because of this blog will be getting married soon! That's some achievement, I suppose, for this blog at the tender age of 11 years. What a precocious kid. I must have written at least 15 meta-posts during these 11 years where the blog talks about what its purpose was, why it exists, and I have to confess that I've painted various conflicting pictures while tackling this subject, pictures of varying levels of authenticity. Hopefully, with this, that shall happen no more, for anyway it is somewhat presumptive of me to pretend that I know why this blog exists - maybe it did only for these two to find each other.

With my previous paragraph I have maybe romanticized the love and marriage business a little more than I genuinely believe. So to make up for that I'll go watch The Revenant. Will write a post about the movie tomorrow.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Day 8

I watched the documentary series "Making a murderer" till the wee hours of the morning and was very moved by it. I highly recommend that others watch it too. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Day 7

Today was another really busy day at work, the third one of back-to-back long days. This was the end of it though, at least for the next 5 or 6 days. I haven't been able to get a lot of studying of my own done this year. At work, one of my teammates has left and I am covering for her until somebody else is hired. On top of that was this presentation to one of the founders of my company that I finally got done with today. It went well, a couple of things garnered his commendation.

Many of the early career quants that I talk to find it rather intimidating to present to him. I did too, until some time last year. I think that whatever little initiation I've had into yoga, meditation and vedanta has really brought about a major transformation in how I approach everything in life, and being mostly relaxed even when presenting to such big-wigs, I think, is a direct consequence, or one of the manifestations, of that transformation.

One of the changes I've brought about is while earlier I used to take extensive notes of everything I would say, and almost memorized my presentations to the level where even phrases like "and for that matter", "so much so" and "let's turn to the top left part of the page" were not spoken naturally but were part of a thoroughly planned script, I let things flow almost entirely conversationally now. It has maybe added a few extra uhmms to my delivery, but from watching a recording of it, I felt that the overall feel of the thing was much better, much more real than the linguistically flawless but emotionally robotic nature of my older rehearsed presentations.

Of course, I could only make the switch from a super cautious to a more relaxed, natural delivery because via vedanta and mediation I was able to overcome to some extent the fundamental things that underlie nervousness and cause feelings of intimidation. All said, I'm still no good at workplace small talk, except with friends.

I also did away with the tie.