Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The best Cost-effective Dental Implant Las Vegas

Teeth are among the other essential part of our body that not only helps us in eating meals, but also add up to our elegance. Individuals with a awesome set of tooth are among the most joyful individuals in the world. Teeth need appropriate care in order to keep it powerful and company for age groups.

Dental therapy such as Dental Implant is very expensive in USA and UK. In USA, each state has some of its own guidelines concerning wellness. Such as New You are able to has a price control for dental therapy and Dental Implant, but Las vegas and Florida does not. Dental Implant is expensive in Las vegas and many times it is not affordable for typical people.

Affordable Dental Implant Las Vegas:

Though Las vegas has a expensive process of Dental Implant but now there are some organization and wellness guidelines provide Dental Implants Las vegas at in a affordable and affordable price. Among the various Dental Implant programs offered by Las vegas Oral wellness division and various other organization and nursing homes, there are two kinds of dental improvements are affordable for typical people and if they have appropriate insurance plan then all of it may be protected or cashless. These two kinds are

    Single Oral Implants
    Several Oral Implants

These two plan procedures have no extra need of devices such as hold etc. Dental Implant Center of Las vegas provides it at a affordable amount. There is FREE seek advice from type available in their website and side to side.

General Dental care Las Vegas:

There are different offers for dental implant at Las vegas different from price to quality. Sometime features are same for both low and heavy price dentistry programs. In typical, dentistry is not inexpensive in Las vegas. Personal experts has great amount or charges and no insurance plan or price benefit is available if you take therapy privately. So it will be better to go for a verbal implant issue or medical center for dental therapy. Dental Implant Center of Las vegas is an well known and well-known organization for dental therapy such as implant.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Good Pacific Property Transfer

Pacific property transfer is happy, start a long-term effort, property entrepreneurs sell or without sustained a foreign sales procedure complicated their private qualities to help, or to damage your credit score. The company offers a extensive program of solutions active for the delegation of Shepherd traders and enjoyment entrepreneurs through each step of the procedure.

Pacific property transfer has separated itself for hotel entrepreneurs and designers with back handling solutions for exchanged - in property, but his restored focus on property end-users to enhance the list of pleased customers guarantees, the exposure and expansion.

Monday, April 29, 2013

I don't want to win a lottery

What is man's greatest weakness. No, its not sex. No, its not even gambling.  It is his uncanny ability to fall for every "get rich quick" scheme.

Take the case of the collapse of the Saradha  (and probably numerous other such schemes) in West Bengal. This was a classic Ponzi scheme. Investors were attracted by fantastic returns (15-50% !!!). The early investors were paid off with money collected from subsequent idiots. Bingo. An avalanche started. Two years on, it has collapsed leading to much hand wringing and vociferous shouts of indignation.

What attracted my attention was not the scheme per se. They are dime a dozen. Remember the Emu farm scheme a little while ago in Tamil Nadu. Emu farming I believe - never mind that not one soul who put money into it had seen an emu in his life. But what has really got my attention is the response to the affair after it broke news.

There has been much clamour for regulation of such funds and criticism of governments for not regulating them well enough. Ramamritham must be rubbing his hands in glee at this new opportunity that has fallen into his lap. They want the death penalty for the owner of Saradha. A few people who have lost money have committed suicide. The loud lady who holds sway in the part of the country where this mess happened has announced a Rs 500 cr package to reimburse those who lost out . Never mind that the state is plain broke - there isn't money to pay salaries of government employees. The economically challenged lady, plumbed record depths by saying that she is going to  fund this by raising taxes on cigarettes and then exhorted her fellow citizens to smoke more !!!!! I kid you not.

The ancient fossils who are in opposition to the shrill lady, obviously oppose this, but their alternative is that those who lost must be reimbursed by auctioning the property of the owners of the chit funds. No wonder that this state has little hope of any advancement, if it is blessed with such wonderfully economically literate leaders.

Not one word has been said against the  lot who invested in such schemes. Pray ; why reimburse the clowns who lost money in this. They are no saints. They were simply attracted because somebody promised incredibly high returns. Any human with an ounce of intelligence must pause and think whether such returns are possible. Where will they come from. There is no return without risk and the correlation is direct. So if you let greed rule you, then don't cry when you lose your shirt. You deserve to be fried. 

One of the great rules of life is that winning a lottery is actually a curse. Getting rich quick is the surest way to misery. There is plenty of research to show that the majority of lottery winners do not find happiness.

The way to a better life is to get rich, of course. But slowly. Through hard work. Through initiative, through endeavour, through education, through innovation and through blood, sweat and tears. That is what brings true wealth. And happiness.

By the way, talking of Ponzi schemes - the biggest Ponzi scheme of all is property.  The only difference is that it operates on a time scale so large that an entire generation can become rich before it starts to unfold.  Pause and think about it. Every one of us gloats about the land/flat/house we bought some time ago and how its value now has an added zero to it. If you really think about it, its just another Ponzi scheme - some sucker will be left holding the curse sometime into the future. 

Grant me Lord, the ability to do a hard day's work, to make money by ethical and honest means, the strength not to be carried away by temptation, the courage not to want to get rich quick and some compassion for those who weakened and got burned. Compassion yes, but bailout, NO.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Alibaba and the Fourteen Years

Which is the biggest ecommerce company in the world ? Take a guess. Amazon ? E Bay ? You would be wrong if you guessed either of them. The biggest e commerce company in the world is Alibaba. Its portals handled a sales volume of some $ 170 bn. That is more than the volumes handled by Amazon and E Bay combined.

No, this is not some elaborate hoax dreamed up from 1001 Nights. Alibaba is indeed the largest e commerce company in the world. The reason you may have never heard about it is that it operates almost exclusively in China. It started life as simply Alibaba.com , a business to business portal. It then added Taobao - a consumer to consumer portal, whose similarity to E Bay is, of course, entirely coincidental. Now it has started Tmall, a business to consumer portal, which again, bears a completely coincidental similarity to Amazon. All this in just fourteen years. The last two, if you click on the link, you will see are entirely in Chinese. And therein lies the issue. Can Alibaba really be a global major, while being largely only in China.

One of the trends you may have not noticed is that China has overtaken the US as the largest ecommerce market in the world. Chinese love to shop. And they are merrily shopping online. There is terrific internet penetration in China. And Alibaba, thanks to its visionary founder, Jack Ma, is reaping the rewards.

But then, can it be really the dominant player in the world ? I can't see shoppers of virtually any other country migrating to Taobao or TMall, even if it is in English.  "Open Sesame" worked for the fictional Alibaba, but its hard to see the doors opening that easily for the real Alibaba. There is a huge brand image problem to be overcome, not just of Alibaba, but even of China. As Huawei and a clutch of Chinese companies have discovered, it is not easy going global.

Even in the home market, Alibaba's position will surely be under threat from competition. However big the Chinese market may grow into, its hard to see any company being the world's dominant major, being exclusively in China. As Britain discovered a century ago and the US is discovering now, the sun does set on everybody who thinks he alone can dominate the world.

What of the supposedly more tech savvy India. India does not even have a pipsqueak of an ecommerce company. Why ? The blame for that is squarely on Ramamritham. He has made internet connectivity one of the most difficult things in India to obtain. He has virtually made impossible an Internet Cafe industry. He does not allow easy payment systems to emerge. He goes after those who try, like Flipkart,  and brings his full attention on them by lodging all sorts of cases. And he does not allow the global majors to come in.

And therein also lies the risk for Alibaba. Thus far, the Chinese equivalent of Ramamritham , Li Xiao has left them alone. But then Li Xiao is not a bureaucrat. Li Xiao is from the Party. Ramamritham is completely predictable - he will create every obstacle possible, but do nothing else. Li Xiao is entirely unpredictable. If Alibaba attracts political attention, then its fate is sealed.That's probably why the wily Jack Ma is stepping down as CEO. And he is planning an IPO. An IPO that might even best the Facebook IPO.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not interested in the US anymore ?

So says Huawei. Really ?? No, not really. They are very interested in the US. Its just that they have realised that the doors to the US are simply shut for them. There has been a spat going on between the US politicians and Huawei for some time. It looks like the politicians have won.  And it begs the bigger question - can any company in the world be exclusively in one country or region (however big that might be) and hope to be a major player in the world.

Huawei is a telecoms company. They sell networking equipment significantly cheaper than say Cisco. They used to be crappy ( Cisco would snigger at the mention of their name). Not any longer. Same quality, half the price. In an uncomplicated world, companies  should be falling over themselves to buy from them.  But then, the world is not an uncomplicated place.

Huawei is a Chinese company. So what, you might ask ? Huawei's founder and leader was formerly in the Chinese army. Still so what ? Well, the ties with the Chinese government/army/party (same thing) never go away and its quite possible that Huawei will do whatever the Party in China asks it to. Huawei is not a transparent company. It largely refuses requirements that it be so.  And cyber espionage and hacking are weapons that the Chinese government uses against other countries constantly.The world's chief bugger (if you will pardon the bad pun) is China.

So Huawei is a pariah right. Wrong ? The US, and possibly every other major country does the same thing. Except that Obama cannot order Cisco to spy on his behalf while Xi Jinping can so order Huwaei. But then there is enough regulation and oversight in the US to prevent that from happening, or at least knowing that it is happening. And its not at all certain that Huawei would do anything major in the spying arena - its a $35 bn company. If its shown that it is doing something underhand, overnight, it would be expelled from the entire wold. But pompous Senators have repeatedly blocked Huawei from winning major deals in the US. Huawei has tried hard, but has won nothing. In frustration, they have simply given up. The beacon for capitalism and freedom, of course, does not think of the US consumers' interests (of getting things cheaper) and, of course, Cisco and other US competitors have been scrupulously fair , have never lobbied to stall Huwaei and surely windbag Senators have only the national defence of the US at heart.

Begs a question - why is only the US so paranoid. Every country in Europe has no problems dealing with Huawei . Even India, normally a completely paranoid country has plenty of Huawei here. The Chinese brass of Huawei in India go around with names like Ashok Li and Sundar Zhang. By the way, I have to recommend that Ramamritham Liu and Rajalakshmi Wang would also be worthy additions to their team. The only offense they have done to India is to start a Chinese canteen of their own on the grounds that what goes for Chinese food in India is unrecognisable by them and surely Gobi Manchurian is an abomination !

So what will happen to Huawei. They have admitted that they will have to revise their growth plans downwards. Without being truly global, no company can aspire to the big league. 

Or is that really true ? Could a company that's almost exclusively in one country be the largest in the world in its field ? We'll examine that in the next post.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Those black American songbirds

Ravi, who wrote this piece on  various forms of gramophone records is a certifiable music nut. He can wax lyrical (pun intended) on most matters musical. But when he does so about women 100 years old , well ........ you form your own conclusions.

The bloke writes beautifully, writes with passion and his words have magic.  If, at the end, you too fall for big black women who are 100 years old, don't blame me ! Read on.

There is something wonderful about the black American songstress of the days gone by.  They were usually big, with voices to match.  I can always tell a black singer from her voice, because of a certain something, a je ne sais quoi in their voices, in particular, in the voices of the great jazz singers of the 50s and later.   I venture an extreme opinion here when I say that singers of that era invariably were less schooled and less adept in the use of technology than their soul sisters of later decades.  For one – they had to graduate to the recording studio by singing in clubs and speakeasies, in smoky and noisy conditions where they had to make themselves heard. Second, recording technology was not as advanced as it is in these days, so a less than perfect voice could not be digitally tampered with.  As a result their voices sounded more authentic – a naturally lower timbre and the ability to hit high notes with great ease.

Last week I received my long lost consignment of LPs from France and among them was the treasured “At Last” by Etta James.  Etta was born during the Depression to a single mother who had an unsettled life – many jobs, many men, and no money.  No one knows for sure who her father was.  She was brought up in a foster home and discovered singing in a club.   Recording contracts followed. After she was relatively successful with a couple of big hits, the Argo label signed her and released this song and the eponymous LP in 1960.  The song itself was moderately successful initially, but over the years has acquired a sheen. Just listen to the voice here, filled with longing for the loved one who is finally with her.

Music reflects the times, and for me, it is very difficult to separate the performance from the context. This brings to mind the incomparable Queen of Soul, the one and only Aretha Franklin.  One of most beautiful songs from the 60s is “I never loved a man (the way I loved you)”.  And here is a story behind it.  Atlantic Records (founded by the Turkish immigrant Ahmet Ertegun) signed Aretha from another label.  She was then flown to Atlanta to meet the backing band.  This was during the 60s, civil rights, black power etc.  The story goes that she met the band – all of whom were white and of course, all enamoured of this young lady who had already shown her talent.  So they sat down, Aretha on the piano, and they banged out this song in two hours flat. It is very hard to not discern the natural desire of a newbie to showcase her talents even if it was to an admiring bunch of musicians who had not an ounce of prejudice. But this was the sixties in the South, and one can almost hear Aretha say – listen to this, boys, you ain’t heard nothing like this.

Love songs are normally about longing and absence – at least that was how they were. Therefore it is quite rare to come across this gem of a song that combines the longing of love with the pure lust of union, no matter how wrong it is or how messy the whole aspect of a man and a woman in love can get in life. Bessie Smith was another great black musician, who lived between 1895 or so until he tragic death in a car accident in 1937. She started life as a busker and lived a hard life.  The story goes that when she was taken to hospital after the accident the hospital refused to admit her because she was black. The original recording by Bessie Smith is here. However – no disrespect to Bessie – I prefer the version by Nina Simone.  Nina was a regal singer with a strong voice. She took Bessie’s original song and lyrics and modified it in 1968.  I prefer it to Bessie’s – probably because the permissive 60s allowed Nina to include the lust in love into the song.  Here it is - it really catches you by the throat.

And how can one not talk of the Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald.  She lived a long and honored life, culminating in the Congressional Medal of Freedom awarded by Bush 41.  Born in 1917, she had a difficult and unhappy childhood but soon began singing on stage until her first recording contract.  She sang scat and bebop, but really became the darling of the American people when Verve Records (a label created around her!)  got her to record the Cole Porter Songbook.  This became the first of a series of records that focused on a single composer and helped establish them in the pantheon as serious musical works.  She also performed a subtle service to America – here was a black woman singing the songs that were predominantly composed by, sung by and listened to by the white American public.  There are many songs by Ella to choose from but my personal favourite is from the Rodgers and Hart songbook, “Manhattan”.  So evocative of that wonderful city, and so full of the simple joys of love between an ordinary guy and an ordinary girl.  What could be more democratic than that?

Let’s conclude with my personal favourite from Billie Holiday.  Another big black lady, with a voice that was made for wit and play with a beautiful vibrato.  Her childhood was anything but happy.  Born in 1915 to a teenaged single mother, she spent her childhood with a relative for the most part since her mother worked on the railroads.  Billie (born Eleanora Fagan) played truant from school at the age of 10 and was sent to reform school. At the age of 11 her neighbour raped her.  Her mother moved to Harlem, and both mother and daughter became prostitutes.   She was arrested and released at the age of 14.  She then started singing in bars and clubs in Harlem. Talent will out, and she made her first record at the age of 18.  Towards the end of her life (she died in 1959) she made an album for Verve whose title song “Day In Day Out”  showcases her amazing talent.  And when you listen to it you will understand why she is one of the great influences on jazz and pop singers since. 

This cannot be an exhaustive list by any means and neither is this anything but a set of purely subjective opinions.  I love these songbirds, and listening to them gives me hours of joy. It is always poignant to remember how unhappy their lives were, and wrought from these tempestuous beginnings were a musical gift we must treasure. Do explore these singers.  Switch on the music. Take your favorite senor or senorita by the hand to the dance floor.  On commence!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Lala" Infosys

Infosys was , is , and will be a great company. Unarguably. But even great organisations suffer from malaise. Surprisingly, Infosys suffers from the malaise that you would not normally attribute to it - the Lala problem. Yes, I know, I am throwing mud at a great company, but you have to expect it if you lose 20% of your market value in one day.

Wait a minute. Isn't Infosys one of the most professional of companies ? A company that sets the standard for corporate governance. The company that raised the bar on ethical business. The company with the middle class values ? All true. But Infosys suffers from the same problem that family run companies have - the company is handed down from one  "family" man to another.

Only in Infosys' case, the "family" is not blood related, but the group of founders who set up Infosys. The peerless Narayana Murthy established it. The relentless Nandan Nilekani drove it to the status of a world leader. Kris Gopalakrishnan then took up the baton and reaped the boom years. And then , just like in a family,  the company was handed over from brother to brother, to Shibulal, the last of the founders. And as we all know, second and third generation families are never the same as the first generation.

In all this, quite a few senior managers stepped away, knowing they had reached the end of the road - not just that they could never lead the company, but that in the set way of things, they had done all that they could.

Infosys is not known in the market as a great company to work for. This, despite its undoubted brilliance, its strong values, its untarnished reputation and its incredibly strong balance sheet.  It simply does not attract the best quality talent that a leader in the industry should. And it loses talent far faster.

Calling it a "Lala company" is an insult to a great institution. But a staunch admirer of the company, and its founders that I am , I am usurping the right to be unfair.  A classic response of an organisation that is in the situation that Infosys is in now, would be to make an acquisition - especially since there is a mountain of cash burning a hole in its pocket. If its does that, it surely is then a Lala company. For that's what Lalas do.

Infosys will bounce back. It is suffering from the middle age blues - as all of us in our personal lives do too. It has reached middle age perhaps a little earlier than its peers - even in that it is a trail blazer. But its bounce will be faster if the founders leave. Lock their doors and go.

Its time for Infosys Gen 2 to emerge. One where there are no more "Lalas". 

An unfair post this one. For sure.  But you are only unfair to somebody you admire.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Now you know, why this kolaveri di !

Murderous rage is exactly what I am feeling for all "coders" at the moment. Noticing that a good rant has been somewhat long overdue on this blog and given that I think I have solved the answer to the famous question - why this kolaveri di  , I think this post is justified !

You see, a couple of days ago, Samsung released the new Android OS (cutely named Jelly Bean) for its smartphones in India. Yes I know, Jelly Bean is ancient news, but that's how long it takes for things to come to India. Yours truly's phone duly got updated.  And promptly lost all its screens, settings, etc etc. Having been a veteran of software upgrades from MS DOS (anybody remember) and having been burned a few zillion times, "kolaveri" had long given way to stoic resignation . But this one takes the cake.

Remember the prompt when you are trying to delete and move something - it asks you - are you sure and gives you the option of OK or Cancel ? Notice it next time when that comes - its always the OK button on the left and the Cancel button on the right. Well, the coders of Jelly Bean decided that they should transpose the buttons - we know have Cancel on the left and OK on the right ! Why oh why oh why oh why oh why??? Which brilliant mind thought of this ?? After a zillion times of pressing OK when I wanted to Cancel and vice versa, you can now start to figure out "why this kolaveri" ?

And of course, the grand daddy of them all, the upgrade to Windows 8. Terra bytes of lament have been written about the disappearance of the Start Button. But Windows 8 has millions of such "improvements" that give a new meaning to the word kolaveri. For instance, the place where you key in a website address ? - since browsers had been invented, they are at the top. Now, in Internet Explorer for Windows 8, some "brihaspati" has thought it fit to take it to the bottom. Grrrrrrrrrrr. The most counter intuitive piece of coder output, surely has to be Windows 8. No wonder kolaveri is rampant.

Which brings us to the vital question - are coders just plain dumb ? Don't companies like Microsoft or Google test anything out with actual consumers - people like you and me ? A 5 minute conversation with an 8 year old would have solved all the disasters of Windows 8.  Consumer goods companies test everything out with amazing painstaking care - even the length of the french fry and the angle at which it curls is tested for months (I am not kidding).  And then you have a Google which comes and transposes the OK and Cancel buttons. Ugh !

The pox on all dumb coders.

P.S For those not familiar with Tamil, kolaveri is loosely translated as murderous rage. If you are still wondering about my question, then you may be a fossil and ought to listen to this song !

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Thus spake Ravi

In my previous post on His Master's Voice, I speculated that "the LP nut", Ravi, would have an interesting comment. Instead I got a full post from him, written in his inimitable style. A classic, a collector's item and a passionate and wonderfully written piece. Here it is, as he wrote it.

The LP was not invented in 1902.  At that time, the most common form of recorded sound was the shellac record that ran for 3 ½ minutes on each side. Shellac was easy to  mould but could break very easily.  It was spun at 78rpm on mechanical players. You turned a spindle to wind up the plate on which the record rested, and a little speaker connected to the pick up converted the markings on the record to sound using mechanical conversion.  The first medium for recorded sound was the wax cylinder, which was invented by Edison in the late 19th century. There was no plate, but a spindle on which a wax cylinder was fixed.  Reproduction was mechanical. 

Electrical recording and reproduction soon followed, once Lee Deforest invented the triode in the 1920s that made amplification of current possible. It was possible to record sound from a microphone, amplify it, then use it to drive a cutting lathe that could precisely carve out grooves in a record.  Then an electrically powered motor that could run at a precise 78rpm could power a record player that picked up the grooves using a stylus that generated electrical currents from the arm. Glowing valves in an amplifier then converted scratchy shellac sound into music that could be played at louder volumes in drawing rooms.

America in the 1920s saw an explosion of electrical entertainment. Movies were becoming a very popular form of entertainment, and the problem arose as to how to have music accompany the action.  Western Electric pioneered a slightly longer version of the 78rpm record that could play for 10 minutes that coincided with the playing time of a normal movie reel. Every time the reel changed, the movie operator would change the disc.

Around the same time, radio was mushrooming.  Recording a 78rpm disc was very simple and thousands of locally made discs in small towns in the United States received airtime on the many hundreds of radio stations that dotted the country.  Singers and bands came out in their multitude. Regional and national popularity began to develop. Separately, though, people like David Sarnoff (the founder of RCA) started to consolidate radio stations to ensure uniform programming as well as to create the reach for national advertising. A mechanism was needed to distribute radio-plays that could be relayed across all stations in a network.  Thus was born the Radio Transcription Disc, which could hold 20 minutes of programming on both sides, with an ad break for the side changeover.  Surprisingly these discs survived until the 1980s.

The next innovation was to find some medium that was not as brittle as shellac. As artists began to become popular outside their local areas, there was demand to play their music.  Shellac records broke when sent by post to radio stations.  Enter vinyl – a form of plastic that was more stable and durable, and could also be etched with a finer lathe to hold more programming.

The availability of a stable medium that could be recorded using fine cutting lathes and the desire to listen to longer program music could only lead to one thing. The first Long Play Record was made in 1945 by Columbia Records under a team lead by Howard Scott (who died last year, mourned by yours truly).  This could hold 20 minutes of programming on each side.  The first LP released was of the incomparable Nathan Milstein and the New York Philharmonic (conducted by Bruno Walter) playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor. You can listen to a later recording by Nathan Milstein here.

Stereo recordings followed very quickly (based on technology incubated at Bell Laboratories).  Magnetic tape had been invented in the Second World War - it became the norm for recording music. You no longer needed to cut the disc while recording was in progress in studios. Instead, one could set up a performance in great auditoria that had excellent acoustics and reproduce them on equipment that could come close to the concert hall effect in the drawing room.

In particular, I would mention two great sets of releases. One was Mercury Living Presence.  The second was RCA Living Stereo.  Both had gifted recording engineers.  The Mercury team was lead by Robert Fine, and a lot of their recordings were made at the Watford Town Hall just outside London using Telefunken microphones and Ampex 3-inch tapes.  RCA was lead by John Pfeiffer as producer and Lewis Layton as engineer, and they were ambitious enough to attempt to record a performance live.  The competition between Mercury and RCA produced some stunning recordings, some of which survive today as reference recordings of a piece by any artist anywhere.   LP technology continued to evolve. HMV, Decca, Deutsche Grammaphon and French labels produced records of great quality.  DG in particular, after the War, commissioned a History of Western Music series intended for libraries.  Beautiful recordings of early European masters, not just Bach but those who defined early European music were made by DG under the Arkhiv label. I used to pick them up second-hand in Rue de Chine in Paris for 2 euros apiece!

The advent of tapes and then CDs sounded the death-knell for LPs. Once MP3 players and iTunes got into the game, music purchase from retail outlets was doomed.  The ease with which music could be copied could easily have meant the death of the impulse to create. But in the last ten years vinyl has made a huge come back.  The LP format allowed an artist to experiment.  Anyone who loves the Beatles will agree with me that the B-side of Abbey Road is a masterpiece of symphonic proportions. Had the Beatles been forced to stick only to the singles format, this kind of music would not have been produced. In 2007 that poster-child for post-millennial artistic angst, Amy Black, released her iconic “Back to Black” album on CD and Vinyl.  She died of a drug overdose the next year at the young age of 21.  In my view this album will go down as one of the great pieces of music to be produced in these times and the album itself is a rumination on her young and confused life.  It is frighteningly mature. The format produced the impulse to express oneself in extended fashion.

But that is possible with the CD as well, I hear you say. Fair enough – but the CD came in as a mechanism to record two full sides of an LP on a single disk.  The LP format pervaded the CD at the start at least.  And its not that the single did not exist in the days gone by – indeed, the 45rpm disc which could hold two songs one on each side made its appearance in the 1940s and until the 1980s, was how a song became popular amongst young people. These could also be played in cars with the central perforated disc punched out, and one slid them in like you slide in a CD in a car stereo. The first CDs were pretty bad. But as sampling techniques improved, sound quality improved.  Some of the CDs today are fabulous.  Indeed, in 1991, Wilma Cozart Fine – the widow of Robert Fine of Mercury fame – took the set of old magtapes of the Mercury recordings to Philips and persuaded them to use the finest sampling techniques to encode a set of CDs with the same original sound of the LPs. The effects were astonishing.

Sound quality and musical reproduction are subjective. As a lifelong audiophile I do not seek to denigrate anyone who relies on a high street Sanyo for their musical needs because music has to sound good to you. There is no other test. But some of us are cursed with hearing that is a little more acute – if that’s the word – that can recognize the tonal quality, the separation of musical instruments when a recording is played, the “sound stage” – i.e. the effect of actually being to hear different instruments in their spatial locations in the recording room when the performance is played back in a drawing room.  All this will sound like pseud-talk and I can well understand that.  These warped individuals will think nothing of investing thousands of dollars in equipment that can improve the sound quality just that one little bit.

Late at night, with wife and daughter asleep and their doors closed, I remove two LPs from my collection.  I clean them on my VPi Vacuum Record Cleaner.  The system has been on for a couple of hours playing music softly to warm it up. What is it today? “Waltz for Debby”, by the Bill Evans Trio consisting of Bill Evans on the piano, Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums, recorded in July 1961on the Riverside label at the Village Vanguard in New York just a few days before Scott LaFaro tragically died in a car crash?  Or will it be “Pieces de Viole” composed by M. Demachy in 1685 and performed by Jordi Savall and recorded on the French audiophile label Astree in 1978?  I pick Bill.  I mount the record on the Linn Sondek turntable.  I switch the Classe Audio pre-amplifier to LP pickup, and release the arm on the LP.  The sound travels through special cables to the phono stage, from there to the pre-amp, and then through a shielded cable to the Classe Audio power amp.  The power amp gives it a powerful boost and sends the signal to the pair of beautiful Bowers and Wilkins 802Ds.  I sit back on the sofa and read the sleeve notes for the hundredth time as the first notes of the piano lead enters my presence.  I am back at the Village Vanguard Club on July 25th 1961. I sip my brandy and lose myself.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bye Bye Nipper

To my generation, Nipper is an old treasured friend. Nipper is the dog you see on that immortal brand logo of His Master's Voice, better known as HMV. Most of us , in the good old days, owned a HMV Radio and certainly bought a few HMV records - or at least one or two, for the money would stretch only so much those days. In India, until Television really came to the country along with the Asian Games of 1982, HMV radio was the prime entertainment medium of the land. HMV has now gone into receivership and , I'm afraid Nipper will now be consigned to a dusty shelf in some museum.

Nipper, was Mark Barraud's dog and lived in the late 1800s in Bristol in England. On his death, a sorrowful Barnard painted the famous picture of Nipper listening to a gramophone with a puzzled expression and sold it to the Gramophone company. A marketing genius there called William Owen made it the logo of the business and thus was the immortal His Master's Voice born.

The Gramophone Company started sometime in 1902 manufacturing and selling LP records. In 1921 they started their first musical store, in London's iconic Oxford Street. In the 1930s they started making radios and the later televisions as the music and entertainment industry took off. They opened a number of music stores all across the UK. While their music stores were chiefly in the UK, their radios found their way all across the world, or at least in the British Commonwealth. The picture of a family huddled next to the HMV Radio  and amidst the crackle and the hiss, coming those famous words This is London and then the Lillibulero, was the classic picture in many parts of the world a  while ago.

Many of us, from a certain generation , who have had the opportunity to travel to the UK, will fondly remember browsing through the HMV store on Oxford Street. Maybe not to buy, but wandering around the store was one of the pleasures of life.  The last time I went there was 4 months ago, ducking into the store on a cold and rainy evening.

As music, increasingly became digital, and online, HMV was bound to fail. Its time in sun was over. Who buys records anymore ? And even if we did, who buys from a music store - we order it on line. Or more likely, we listen to our choices online for free and never buy anything. HMV struggled for many years and at last early this year went into receivership. His Master's Voice had been stilled. I fancy Nipper stirred in his grave.

Well, all we can do is shed a tear for Nipper. And ruminate that not too distant in the future, a blogger might write a post wistfully remembering the days of Napster or that the great musicians of the age had their own site on MySpace !

As I conclude this post, I marvel at the crappy post on nostalgia I wrote not so long ago. I must have been punch drunk when I wrote that !!

Farewell good friend Nipper.  Yelp Yelp !

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The economics of an election

My state is coming into election time. The politics of it - who will win; who will lose, etc is beyond the purview of this blog. But this blog will certainly muse on the economics behind it.

I am foxed as to why anybody wants to stand for any election - for the economics behind this is akin to a Las Vegas casino. On a conservative estimate, each candidate would spend about Rs 15 crores in each assembly seat ( see this speech as evidence of such numbers). More than three quarters of it is not for campaigning, but to bribe the voters (shame on you and me). Traditionally it used to be just cash and liquor.  But apparently now even water drums, watches, sarees and T shirts feature, as evidenced by this photograph and this article from The Hindu today.

The number of assembly constituencies in Karnataka is 224. There are four political formations in the fray. So that makes for 900 serious candidates. At Rs 15 crores per candidate, that amounts to an expenditure of Rs 13,500 crores .  Karnataka's GDP is about Rs 4,60,000 crores. So, something like 3% of GDP will be spent by candidates - that by any stretch of imagination is a staggering sum.

As JP Narayan, says in the video I refer to earlier, you have to spend this money to stand a chance. Spending it does not guarantee victory, but not spending it guarantees defeat. So, if you stand, you have to spend.

Consider for a moment, the ability to have a sum of Rs 13500 crores created for spending. Since much of the spending is illegal, the money has also to be generated by questionable means. It is actually not so easy to siphon away 3% of GDP - even corruption has its limits. Add the problem of keeping Rs 13500 crores in cash. If it is all packed in Rs 500 notes, each crore weighs 34 kgs. So Rs 13,500 crores weighs 460 tonnes - that is 46 lorry loads. You can't brazenly transport 46 lorry loads around - some will be stolen, some will be seized by the Election Commission officials, etc etc. And consider the logistics of buying so much liquor (and water drums). Its a mammoth logistics exercise and all has to be done surreptitiously.

And there can be only one winner in each constituency. What about the three blokes who lost. They have washed Rs 45 crores down the drain. They will virtually be bankrupted, for there is no way to earn it back until the next elections and , even then, only if they win. For the winner, he has to recoup a decent return on his investment - let us say he must make Rs 60 crores - to recoup a return on his investment and to create the capital for the next election. That is also not easy -  each winner to make Rs 60 crores is not an easy task.  A few can make that, but for everybody to make this sort of an amount is a tall order, however brazen the corruption is. And this alone is not enough, for each of his hangers on wants to make money as well. 

If you put your money in a bank deposit you can make 50% in 5 years, virtually risk free. With a little more luck, in the stock market or in gold, you can double it in 5 years. So, why take such wild risks for relatively meager returns and the possibility of losing it all. Obviously economics is not the strong point of those who stand for elections.

Many of the citizens are disgusted with those who would like to be our elected representatives. The best way to give them a big knock on their head is to vote such that the government will fall every year and elections are needed. Three elections in three years is enough to bankrupt them all. And then, maybe fresh air will emerge.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Barbarians at the Gate II

Barbarians at the Gate is the name of the scintillating book that detailed the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco in the mid 1980s. It was made into a movie as well and for a long time it was the biggest M&A transaction in the world. I strongly recommend the book, if you have an interest in business. ( or if you like thrillers !)
Take 2 seems to be happening in the goings on with Dell. The resemblance to what happened with RJR Nabisco is uncanny.
The Dell story started with Michael Dell, the founder teaming up with Silver Lake, a private equity firm,  and announcing a bid to take Dell private at $13.65 a share (a 25% premium over the closing price of $ 10.88 prior to this announcement). When rumours of this started to surface in January, people thought it was not a doable deal. Dell after all is a struggling PC maker in an industry which is declining with the onslaught of tablets. In any case its a fiercely competitive and somewhat commoditized industry. Whoever wants to pay top dollars for that.
As soon as the announcement was made, there were many murmurs that this was not a good deal for the shareholders - never mind that the stock was languishing at 35% below the bid price until rumours started to float. Carl Icahn, a famous Wall Street tycoon wanted to get in on the act. So did Blackstone, perhaps the world's largest private equity fund. Blackstone offered on Friday to buy the whole company for not less than $ 14.25 a share. Carl Icahn offered to buy 58% of the company for $15 a share.
Every investment bank in town is on one side of the deal or the other. So are many lawyers. Whatever happens, they will all pocket handsome fees. Money, greed, egos and insane optimism will now decide the direction of the deal. None have said what they will do with the company to realize value from what they are paying for it. Some form of stripping it and selling off pieces while keeping the rest would be inevitable. But still, how can the ugly duckling magically transform into a swan. What of Michael Dell himself. If either Blackstone or Icahn win, he will most likely be out.
Exactly the same thing happened with RJR Nabisco then. The book beautifully portrays the actors, their egos and their insanity. KKR "won" then, but then time proved how much of a dud deal it was as they had wildly overpaid. Now RJR Nabisco as a company does not exists. Various bits and pieces are in various places although the tobacco company RJ Reynolds still exists making Salem, Camel and Winston cigarettes. 

If you like thrillers, follow the Dell saga. And if you work for Dell, maybe its time to polish that CV.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Cypriot Tragedy

Tragedies are usually associated with Greece - a tribute to the richness of its theatre in the 5th Century BC. Over the weekend, you could be forgiven if you changed your tastes to a Cypriot tragedy. For that's exactly what has happened - albeit in the more prosaic world of economics.
These are the facts. Cyprus is another Eurozone country in deep trouble. It needed a bailout. So far, nothing unusual. A bailout was duly announced over the weekend. It was the terms of the bailout that sent a jolt reverberating through the world of economics. The EU is bailing them by about €13 bn (chickenfeed by the standards of bailout). But the conditions of the bailout are that all bank depositors would be levied a tax of between 6.75% and 9.9%. That means on Tuesday when banks opened, all depositors would lose that amount instantaneously.
The genesis of the problem is, alas, not new. Cyprus is a very small country. In boom times, it went berserk pushing its financial industry, positioning itself as an island finance centre. That's fine, but it just went way over the top. Cypriot banks had made loans to outsiders equivalent to 8 times the country's GDP. Worse still, a lot of those was to Greece its neighbor. When Greece began to go under, Cyprus was given an almighty whack. The bailout was then a question of when, and not if.
Another actor muddling the issue is Russia.  Of the € 68 bn bank deposits which are going to get a "haircut" (the tax referred to above) , a full € 21 bn comes from Russian companies. We shall not speculate where from this close affinity of Russia came from - let us just say that the word "money laundering" comes to mind. Now the Russians will instantly lose € 2bn. Enter Vladmir Putin. He is howling against the "$%^&* Germans who are the orchestrators of the bailout.
What about Joe Public in Nicosia. Even if you had say € 100 Euros in the bank, tomorrow it is only € 93. If ever there was a recipe for street riots, this is it.
And what about nervous bank depositors in other troubled countries - say Spain or Italy. Tomorrow it might be their turn. Only an idiot will keep his money in a bank anymore if you are an European. Take it out IMMEDIATELY. Dig a hole and bury it in your backyard. Keep it under the pillow. But don't deposit it in a bank even if a gun was pointed at your head.
What a mess. The world badly needs a new economic order. Fire all economists. Go back to the basics of countries balancing their budgets. Living within their means. Curbing the excesses in the banking and finance industry ruthlessly. It will be a prolonged period of pain. But when the clouds disperse, it will be a saner and fresher world. 
This, of course, is a Utopian dream - which leader is going to tell the truth to his voters. And even if he did, which voter is going to accept it. We shall stumble along from one crisis to another.