Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Jimmy Cayne of Bear Stearns

I read the interview of Jimmy Cayne the CEO of Bear Stearns (which has now been bought over by JP Morgan) the first big casualty of the Credit Crunch.

Inspite of everything that has been said about Jimmy Cayne (how he was playing bridge while Bear Stearns was sinking, akin the Roman emperor Nero playing the fiddle while Rome was burning) I still find a couple of things extremely interesting.

(1) He is a college drop out, and was a CEO of a multibillion dollar company which he was not the founder member. (I know Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Steve Jobs are also college drop outs, but they founded their own businesses). I guess it tells us about the times how they were different earlier, now without college education one really cant get a white collar job I guess.

(2) His line about how he got the job at Bear Stearns, is right out of a movie

Greenberg asked Cayne if he had any hobbies. Along with magic and yo-yos, bridge was a serious interest of Greenberg's. "And I said, 'Yes, I play bridge,'" Cayne recalled. "You could see the electric light bulb. He says, 'How well do you play?' I said, 'Mr. Greenberg, if you study bridge the rest of your life, if you play with the best partners and you achieve your potential, you will never play bridge like I play bridge.'"

You could have a young Amitabh Bachhan out of Deewar saying such a dialogue. (Instead of saying, "Main aaj bhi gire hue paise nahi uthha ta") Needless to say Jimmy Cayne is one of the best players in the world, and was recently ranked world no. 225 (I dont know what is his best ranking though)

Big Sailing Yacht

This is what I saw last Saturday at Portsmouth Harbour, (returning from Gosport where my sailing school Adrenaline Sailing is)

This is the 99 foot long sailing Yacht owned by Hugo Boss.

Isnt she lovely?

(Also I will have to soon blog about Sailing ... this is long long overdue)

And this is with the Spinnaker Tower in the background (it is the shape of the spinnaker sail used in racing yachts while sailing downwind)

Damn looking at these massive boats, all I can think is when will i buy mine. (I doubt I will ever be able to buy a 100 foot sailing boat, but a regular 36-40 footer will do)

One more pic (before the sails were being brought down as it is entering the harbour)

One more last question to all readers, if you ever buy a boat what would you name it?
I am confused myself, so help me think about a appropriate (hopefully funny) name for a boat.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Nirav goes flying ...

Well well well, I should have been blogging more often, especially when I have the time, as well as things to blog about.

As the topic suggests I did go flying, but flying commercial is not a big deal anyways, but I was lucky enough to be invited by a colleague (Mr. P) who has a share in a private plane, to hop on for a joy ride.

The plane which he has is a Ukrainian ex-military jet, used for training of pilots in the Ukrainian Air Force (YAK-30) and is a reliable plane for aero-batics.

Now P has this expensive hobby of flying these gas guzzlers (I am usually a person with a low carbon footprint, not having a Television at home and all) and doing all those crazy stunts like loops, flips and figure of eights, as well as flying upside down. He suggested I join him one fine sunday. Well I am never the one to say no for an adventure I agreed.

The airfield was outskirts of Greater London (outside the M25 ring road) and the nearest tube station was Epping (Far east on the Central Line) and got a ride in P's car to the North Weald airfield.

Before I boarded the plane, I was given a detailed briefing about the plane and its operating parts, and before starting the engine a serious check was done that all the moving parts were moving, and the parts which shouldnt move were not moving. (Unlike a car one cant suddenly stop a few feet ahead and fix the problems)

Then when I entered the passenger seat (mind you it is a training jet and the passenger sits behind the pilot, and has over-riding controls and a complete sets of instruments in the cockpit) I was told to strap the parachute and the seat belt.
Then Mr P said that incase of some trouble, he would try and land the plane, on some open fields but if in the worst case scenario that wasnt possible, I should open the hatch above me, and release the seat belt, and jump up, and then pull open the parachute chord.
Now this is simpler said than done. This wasnt some simple seat belt, it had straps from your shoulders and well as below from your legs.
The parachute was also strapped similarly.
In case of an emergency what if I not only nstrapped the seat belt, but also the parachute and then jumped off?
When the time came to pull the chord, it would be all over, (not that my blog readers would notice, since I post so infrequently anyways) Though I am joking about it now, it made me sweat profusely during the period of the flight.

The ride was absolutely exhilirating, and we flew from North Weald to the east coast of England, towards the Thames Estuary and the mouth of the River Crouch (just north of Thames) flowing into the North Sea. The pilot was generous enough to let me take the control for a while (it was a training plane) and let me make a simple left turn and right turn (though he held the acceleration pedals, i only turned the joystick around)
The greatest part was the take off and landing, one hardly felt a thing (more like a wheeelie on a motorcylce than the stressful ear piercing take off on a commercial passenger plane)

I dont think anywords can describe the true feeling, (atleast I am not all that expressive) but during the loops I experienced 4G acceleration force, and rest I leave the pictures to do the talking

The pilot Mr P

The Passenger Nirav

The 9 cylinder radial engine

The cockpit (Passenger)

The Scenery below from the plane

Monday, June 09, 2008


One of the few things I have learnt (apart from at work) after moving to London has been sailing. Sailing a dinghy or a Yacht simply using windpower is one of the most amazing things I have experienced.

Infact when reading "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome (written in the year 1888) I came across this paragraph

There is no more thrilling sensation I know of than sailing. It comes as near to flying as man has got to yet - except in his dreams. The wings of rushing wind seem to be bearing you onward, you know not where. You are no longer the slow, plodding, puny thing of clay, creeping tortously upon the ground; you are a part of Nature! Your heart is throbbing against hers. Her glorious arms are round you, raising you up against her heart! Your spirit is at one with hers; your limbs grow light! The voices of the air are singing to you. The earth seems far away and little; and the clouds so close above your head, are brothers, and you stretch your arms to them

(Note: the book was written before the Wright Brothers had invented with the aeroplane) Anyways the principle behind sailing as well as planes flying is the same. The difference in pressure across the sail (or the wing of an aeroplane for that matter) gives a thrust and leads to the boat moving or the plane flying.

The book is one helluva hilarious read, and though it has been written 120 years ago, still describes London and the River Thames well, and makes me wonder so little has changed since then.
Even the humour about planning for a trip and packing, about different ways men and women tow a boat (can be extrapolated to any task though) remains true. It is one sure evergreen book.

And as for sailing I am extremely lucky to have been introduced to this sport by Hemant on the River Charles in Boston 2 years ago, and am lucky to be living in London which has a great sailing culture.

The Telectroscope - connecting London and New York

I was walking by the River Thames, on the southbank from Tower Bridge to London Bridge, there i see this big new structure which with people gathered around it.

It turns out be a "Telectroscope" between London and New York with apparently a tunnel running from London to New York beneath the ocean bed of the Atlantic.

I find it hard to believe, and I guess its just something of a web camera.

The locations are also iconic, near the 2 most popular bridges in either city. (Brooklyn Bridge in NY and Tower Bridge in London) where many tourists frequent.

You can see more about it on the website

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Snow in April??!!??

The weather in the UK, is so damn unpredictable, on Thursday the temperatures are north of 15 degree Celcius, and on Sunday there is snow. As one friend had rightly pointed out, "Never go short vol(ality) on UK weather"

Again today there was heavy snow (about an inch) till noon, while in the evening at 5PM it is bright and sunny all over again. (Though it looked nice and bright, with lots of sunshine, it was a bit too cold outside)

As it is said in Chaos Theory a butterfly flapping its wings in rain forests of Brazil, might cause a storm in India. Well if that is true, I am sure there might be a bunch of butterflys flapping their wings somewhere, which causes total chaos of the weather in London.

(Though I guess there are reasons for the weather to be so volatile here, I guess it is just too volatile for a person coming from a place where is summer for 8 months and rains for 4, with little variations)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Aprils Fool

You know it is Aprils Fool Day when

The biggest bank in Switzerland (UBS) announces US$ 19 billion of writedowns in its quarterly results, posts a net loss for the quarter and the share price goes up.

Though analyst estimates were US$ 11 billion of writedowns, the losses were greater than expected.

Dont know what was happening?
Was it like the shareholders thought UBS was playing an April Fools prank on them?

Well I do agree on the saying
"Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent"


Daylight Savings

It is the last sunday of March and the Daylight Savings for the year begins in the UK.
The clocks will be turned ahead by one hour (Thus London is now 1 hour behind GMT and 4h 30 mins after Indian Standard Time)
The problem is, it means i need to wake up an hour earlier tomorrow.
This Daylight saving creates more problems, and the adjustment is done at 1 AM, thus after 00:59 the clock straight away moves to 2:00.

The problem would be encountered when day light savings is abandoned and we move back to GMT on the last sunday in October.
Clock moves back one hour at 2:00 AM. hence After 1:59 AM clock moves back to 1:00 AM and hence times between 1AM and 2AM come twice.
This can surely cause lots of trouble on the last sunday of October.
(especially if you are flying from western europe to UK where the time difference is also one hour)

though Daylight savings has its advantages, (proposed by benjamin franklin to reduce energy consumption) I am sure it creates all sorts of headaches.

What do my esteemed readers feel about daylight savings themselves

Saturday, March 08, 2008

More from Jodha Akbar

All the war scenes were badly shot, but did any one of you think that the war zone resembled a chess board?

First the Infantry (i.e. pawns)
Then followed by the Cavalry (The Knight)
Camels (Bishop)
Elephants (Rook)

the King who was a figure head and could only take a step at a time
The Master mind Vizier (Queen?) who directs the whole war, and can move in all directions.

In the first battle shown in them movie as well, like in any game of chess, the target was to nail the opposition king, who unwisely comes out in the open (worst strategy in chess) whereas Akbars army chief shields the king (effectively castling him)

I now need to read Sun Tzu's Art of War, to figure out further on war strategies, but i guess might as well read books on chess.

(I dont know anything about War Strategies, but surely military chiefs world over especially during cold was times must be involved in a continous one long game of chess)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

MH02 - EA 7211

Yesterday I ended up seeing Jodhaa Akbar (a way to long movie, but this post isnt a review) and after seeing all the kings, generals and armies on horseback immediately reminded me of my most beloved possesion ever.

My own motorcycle, (technically belonged to my dad, bought with his money but I was the sole user)

I remembered the fights I went through for 2.5 years to buy this motorcycle, and how I finally settled for a cheaper model (a Splendor instead of a Hero Honda CBZ). HOw I cribbed in front of my friends and my obsession was made fun of by all and sundry.

I actually cried and threw temper tantrums at home, fought with Dad, Mom and Sis making this unreasonable demand. I still believe how lucky have I been,

Finally on 31st August 2001 I got hold of my motorcycle. Registration number MH-02 EA 7211. Hero Honda Splendor, Black colour, with a Lavender swoosh sign on the petrol tank. It has many many fond memories

First Puncture:
Right in the middle of Santacruz flyover on the western express highway, with Avinash Mohan as pillion, and I was late for V.V. Mahajani's lecture. (The terror, as any student of Chemical Engineering in UDCT will tell you) I remember pushing the bike for a kilometer and half over the highway till I saw a puncture shop, and cars whizzing past me.

First Accident:
This was 4-5 days after I bought the bike, while commuting to college early morning around Dharavi (after turning left from Mahim Sion Link road towards Sion Hospital, I was trying to over take a taxi from the right, and the taxi squeezed me and I lost control of the bike, went over the tiny divider, facing the wrong side of the traffic and skidded and fell off. Thankfully escaped with minor bruises and scratches on my wrists shoulders and jacket torn around my left wrist.

View Larger Map

First Wheelie:
Hahahaha, this still brings out the smile in me. Hero Honda Splendor being a high mileage and a lower pickup bike this is usually unlikely.
But one fine day, during a break between the lectures, we wanted to photocopy a classmates (Chunnu) notes. Thus I went with Jaideep Raje on my motorcycle from my college to the photocopy center (Chandan Xerox). I had forgotten the petrol lock was on and after about 50m the motorcycle sputtered to a stop. I tried starting by kicking the kick start hard but no avail. Many of my classmates were around and making fun of me. Suddenly I realised and switched on the petrol lock and the engine roared to life. In order to act cool and not to show my disappointment, I revved up the accelarator, pushed into first gear, and let the clutch go lose, and lo and behold the front tyre defied gravity and the bike went up on the rear tyre, rising a couple of feet and travelling for a 4-5 meters or so before landing back up. If anything, the embarassment and jokes cracked on my riding inability went on further. Now I was the true laughing stock. (And Jaideep was petrified)
I could only get out of this by showing off I could do a wheelie at will, (by tuning up the engine and losening the valve from the tank to let more petrol flow down) But nothing was as spectacular as the first effort.

Best Single Ride
Sunday morning in October, not much to do, my bike had just completed the running in of 1000 km so now I could go over 60 kph. So without telling my parents I non chalantly go off in my shorts, T-shirt and chappals, wearing no helmet for a long ride from Andheri to BOrivali on the Western Express highway. the first time i cross 70 kph, and then 80, after a bit of coaxing do I reach 85 and then I see lightening and hear thunder. These are the retreating monsoons in mid october. It starts pouring cats and dogs. The visibility is bad, the road is slushy, but nothing matters. I am going the fastest I had ever been on a 2-wheeler, in the worst riding conditions, the wind is blowing in my face, (polluted with exhaust from the trucks and other vehicles) rain is hitting on my back, having no protection what so ever.
But nothing ever mattered. I crossed the Dahisar Check naka did a 3rd gear U-turn (another first for me) and came speeding back home. The whole feeling was exhilarating, I was drenched in the rain, and was down with a bitter cold for a week. But nothing mattered. I now was liberated. I had my own wings and I could fly.

First Big Bad Biking Trip
This happened in IIM Ahmedabad. Hitanshu Gandhi planned the trip from Ahmedabad to Junagadh via Rajkot, then the Gir National Park to see the Lions off to Somnath Temple to pray for our forgiveness, to Diu (out of the dry state of Gujarat to territory of unlimited cheap booze) and back to Ahmedabad via Amreli.

View Larger Map

Thus 1030 km in 53 hours, seeing Lions, visiting temples, fisher villages, drinking legitimate alcohol after a long time, those were the times.
This was also the first step in formation of the biking club "Freeriders". inspite of all promises to quit long distance biking after the back pains, the butt aches, we kept going again and again and again. Covered many national parks lakes and bird sanctuaries around Ahmedabad. This was the first time I cherished my bike more than just a machine. It gave me a new identity, and the temper tantrums, fights, tears spilled (who says boys dont cry) was completely worth it.

Worst Accident:
On the Freeriders trip to Dangs, we had left at 4 in the morning, there were 5 motorcycles and Sharath Coorg was my pillion rider. Going towards the Sardar Sarovar dam, we were on the old Ahmedabad Baroda highway and I was overtaking a truck (now you will see patterns in my accidents) and I was coming back to the left. Unfortunately in the bid to overtake I had veered too far right, and while coming back in I hit a divder. (The highway was a 2 lane without dividers for most of the journey, and suddenly this obstacle came in, being dark i didnt notice it, and went over it, lost balance and fell down at a high speed, myself and Sharath Coorg sliding on the road for 10-15 feet, and bike another 20 more feet. We were lucky to be alive, with the truck behind us breaking in time, and Abhilash Unnikrishsnan right behind us, swerving to avoid us. I was mentally shattered for a while, but thankfully all friends assembled around me, (Hitanshu, Narahari, Manu Raja, Sharath, Abhilash, Salman, Vaibhav Bhamoriya and Pixa). At that point I was thinking i might turn around and go home, may be never ride again. Then the words came to my mind, the Chumbawunba's song "I get knocked down, then I get up again ..." so off we went on the journey after a cuppa chai by the near by roadside chai-walla at the next junction (who just opened up at 5 AM. Off we went on, for another back breaking, 1000 km trip.

First Race:
With Chirag Raisharma from UDCT Matunga to Andheri Bisleri Factory on the highway. Evening 4.30 PM
He had a 156 cc, Hero Honda CBZ. I had a 97.2 cc Hero Honda Splendor. But what I lacked in power, I made up in my skill, and my manouverability in the traffic. (or so I thought)
After fighting through the traffic and maintaining a narrow lead till Sion Hostpital, he raced ahead of me in Dharavi, just for me to catch up near Bandra Kurla Complex, as he sat idling at the traffic signal. Then on the stretch of open road, he went whizzing past and I realised a fact. Neither am I an athlete by any stretch of imagination, nor was my trusted bike. A nice commuter vehicle, givign decent mileage, could hold steady at 70 kph, but no racing machine.

My fastest Speed:
Though I have touched this speed many times, always when alone, the 95 kph barrier is one which my bike has never crossed. the first time was coming down the slope from the Santacruz flyover, accelarating further down the slope rather than decelarate or stop revving the accelarator as my a standard procedure.
The fastest I went with a pillion on was with Ashwin Prasad (Bamboo) when we (Along with hitanshu and Pixa on hitanshu's bike) were going to Idar for a day long bike trip. there I touched 90 on the flat streches of the road, where due to my bad shock absorbers I could feel the bump due to the lines painted on the highway.

Drunken Drive:
This should never ever be done. during my internship at ICICI bank, Shashu, VJ, Jamun, Jhatku, Fraud and a few other friends were busy drinking beer one evening at Toto's in Bandra Pali hill. After a beer too many I was barely able to stand, let alone walk. But a glass of cold water, sheer will and determination got me back home. (Or may be I was simply lucky) Riding slowly on the left, only in 2nd and 3rd gear, I some how snaking through the traffic reached home after midnight.
Just to be scolded, screamt and shouted at by my Mum and Dad.

I guess I am lucky to be alive today to tell this tale, and the bike has long gone, sold to some one by the legal owner (my dad) when I left for London. I am thus dependant on the public transport, the corwded tubes and buses of London, the expensive black cabs which cost an arm and a leg. I feel inspite of all the good times, I have been lucky to have the motorbike ride it for 20,000 km without any permanant disability inspite of my lack of athletic ability, slow reflexes and devil may care attitude.

I doubt the attachment and the charm of the first vehicle will ever be matched by anything i might ever buy again, (who knows i am yet to buy a car, or any other expensive gadget) Just like the scars and marks left on the bike by me the bike has left its permanant impression on me, changed the person who I am.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Custom Number Plates

A couple of weekends back I was walking in the suburban outskirts of London, when I came across this number plate on a BMW. The number plate is nothing if not ostentatious, especially in the UK where you cannot get a custom number plate (like in the US, where you can get any number plate using alpha numeric code unless it is previously registered)

The number is definitely CE 07 LBX, ( C E Zero, not C E O) since the British number plates are in that manner 2 alphabets and then 2 numbers followed by more alphabets.

The owner definitely must be a chief executive officer (if only of his own start up) and most probably an alumni of London Business School (CE07LBS might have been taken or X is for ex-LBS)

I have heard after the credit crunch when the Cross Over Index (called XOVER colloquially on the trading floor) blew out and since it was the series 8 which experienced the most volatility some one bid GBP 10,000 for a number plate ending in X8VER and X0VER
quite and emphatic statement that the person has made money from trading the Cross Over Index. (I read it in a free newspaper City AM ) The columnist said with the credit market crashing if no one else atleast the transport authorities in london made some money out of Cross Over.

I have had relatives (really religious ones) who had number plates "AUM SHAKTI" and "CHAMUNDA"
I am sure if I would want the plate LOSER would have already been taken.

Could all of you readers suggest any name plates worth a mention which shows the personality of the owner?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Chinese New Year

Feb 7 is the Chinese New Year, as per their lunar calendar. Thus another time to make some resolutions.

This coming year is the Year of the Rat. Last year was the Year of the Pig, and as the name suggests i spent most of it pigging out and gaining weight.

Now that it is going to be the year of the Rat, what should be done?
The last year od the rat was in 1996 and i spent most of it studying for my class X ICSE exams. I am sure this one will be different.

Some astrologer has said this year will be bad for chinese stocks (ohh come on that was a bubble which was inflating like crazy, has to burst some day).
The year of the pig brought on the subprime crisis whereas the year of the rat will it bring a solution?

In this year of the Rat we shall all be a part of a huge rat race called life.
And guess what, even if you win, you shall still be a rat. :)

And by the way I am born in the Year of the Rooster, which makes me a Rooster or a cock. (and this might be funny for my IIMA friends, not the least since i woke up early and was the first guy in the mess for breakfast)

You can see which year were you born in here.
Please do post in comments what year were you born in and what characteristics do you have. (If at all they match with your chinese zodiac.

Infact I am Libra by the western solar zodiac pattern, scorpio by the Indian lunar calendar, and rooster by the chinese zodiac. Thus I can imagine my self as a pair of scales with one side a poisonous scorpion balanced on the other side by a rooster.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Joy of eating with ones hands

Many westerners find it funny to see indians eating most of their meals by hand. Recently when i went to Chennai Dosa, a South Indian Restaurant in London, it had a poster saying:

please eat with your hands, as Indian Ayurveda believes that the true joy of eating should encompass four senses, i.e. taste, smell, sight and texture.

Well I thouhgt what about the 5th Sense (Sound)
Come on, we desis love that as well. Slurping ones tea, chewing loudly with ones mouth open. How can the sound of eating be forgotten?

Come on, please let me know who has noticed people chewing loudly or slurping their soup/tea/coffee and found it an irritant?

Does that irritate you more than getting your fingers greasy?

See Scott Adams post on a similar topic here

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Damn it Feels Good to be a Banker (?!?!?)

Given the current credit crunch and the subprime crisis, not many bankers might be feeling good. Nevertheless this is a nice video made by Business School Students from Fuqua (Duke in North Carolina). The Club calls itself FuquaVision and outlines the different career opportunities open for b-school students. Apart from this video they have some more do check them out on YouTube. (Especially the Borat ones are hilarious)

(thanks Abhilash for the link)

The song is based on the Geto Boys song Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta

Damn all you blog readers, please leave your comments on what would you rather be?

Banker , Brander, Consultant, Non-Profit or a Gangsta ???
Or something you would say completely different?

nothing rings more true than the line

"To all of you money lovin' blood suckin' bankers
When the market blows up
What the F*ck you gonna do,
Damn it feels good be a brander"