Friday, April 16, 2010

Why is Goldman Sachs being sued by SEC ?

Of course I am cynical - I don't think this is going to result in any meaningful change. All that will happen is the main employee mentioned (Fabrice Tourre) will be let go, GS will not admit to any wrong doing, pay a token file and then it will be business as usual.

Some things are interesting.
  • The announcement happened on an option expiration day. Why didn't the SEC do this over the weekend ? Or on Monday morning ?
  • GS was the top contributor (over $1M) to the democratic party in 2008 elections.
  • GS (not the company, but via employees and PACs) donated about $1M to President Obama's election campaign.
  • This is an election year. Maybe the political gods need a sacrifice. Maybe. Most likely not. Most likely, it's just to improve perception.
  • The Financial Reform Bill is on agenda. Maybe this is related.
So maybe I am cynical, or maybe not.

In any case, if you want to understand what exactly is the accused wrongdoing here, please see this video by my favorite news anchor Dylan Ratigan. He uses a simple analogy to explain and make this complex matter accessible to all of us.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tragedy in the backyard

I know it's overly dramatic to call this a tragedy, but I feel like my pet just died.

I had planted many cherry seeds in good soil and 5 of them germinated to give nice seedlings. I was excited and looking forward to grow them, but all of them died. Just like that. No sign of any insects, snails or decease. Just dead :-(

They looked fabulous when they were alive.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


The word "अफलातून" - meaning extra-ordinary - comes to Indian languages like Hindi, Urdu and Marathi from Arabic and Persian word "Aflatoon" - with blended "F" and "L" sounds (अफ़्लातून). Where did this word come from into Arabic ? Any guess on the origin of “Aflatoon” ?

It’s a name that comes from Greek ! Plato (the philosopher) becomes "Aflaatun" where the last N is sometimes pronounced as only a nasal sound. I have also seen it written as "FalatooN" in Urdu poetry.

Since Plato was indeed extra-ordinary, the word acquired that meaning in many languages.


Friday, April 9, 2010

The Camel Club

Book Review : Camel Club
Author : David Baldacci
My Rating : 3 out of 5 stars
David Baldacci has written one best seller book after another. This is the first time I read any book by him.

Camel Club in the book is a group of 4 very ordinary citizens, who want to know the truth. There are many other characters, far too numerous to list. Apart from POTUS, head of NSA etc. the main characters are a secret agent and his girlfriend. As busy as Washington DC is, almost everyone’s path crosses with everyone else. There are also Middle-eastern terrorist and their plot remains secret for most part of the book.

Like most thrillers, Camel Club is about a conspiracy against US. Most such books require a suspension of disbelief, and this one is no exception. That's fine by me. This is not a news report. This is supposed to be a page-turner. So apart from the far-fetched plot, how good is the book ?

Pretty good I must say. The book is gripping. It starts out slowly, introduces all the characters, builds their interactions and gives enough teaser glimpses of the terrorist plot. It's hard to put down once you start it. Baldacci undoubtedly has mastered the art well.

So why only 3 stars ? Not because lack of character development. I wasn't really keen on knowing any of these characters. But their dialogues feel very unreal at places. There is a quite a bit of preaching to the reader woven into these discussions.

Secondly, the plot depends a lot of coincidences - many many coincidences. Characters routines run into each other at appropriate moments.

But the biggest flaw is the end. The last few pages are so rushed that it simply ruins the whole build up. It's not that the suspense is bad. It isn't. Just that the characters do not really behave the way you expect them to behave. One of the main characters realizes some significant information in the end. But the reaction is so muted that it makes you wonder if the author was on a tight deadline to somehow finish the book.

Baldacci has followed up on Camel Club in 2-3 other books. I am not sure I will try them. But I might try his previous books.

This book is no match to even to sub-par attempts of Forsyth. Nor is it in the same league of Ludlum. Think of it like a typical Hollywood thriller and no more. Then you might enjoy it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

In Dodd We Trust

If there is a journalist who understands the financial mess we created and our inadequate reaction to it, it's Jon Stewart, who on this aspect, is miles ahead of etire CNBC crew combined. Watch this ...

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