Monday, July 31, 2006

Math models to predict disease outbreak


Books 2 Byte
Flu Action Plan: A Business Survival Guide
Colum Murphy
Wiley (http://www.wiley.com/)

Put policies in place

Using mathematical modelling, you can foretell 10 years in advance what might happen, affirms a quote of Gabriel Leung, cited in the book. Murphy mentions about a model that proved to be close to reality — that of Professor Roy Anderson of Oxford University. Drawing from the laws of physics, Anderson had studied in the early 1990s the HIV/AIDS disease among sex workers in Kenya, and predicted the massive impact of the infection. “His predictive curve foretold the nightmare that was in store for global health and gave an advance warning to the world’s health authorities of the sheer enormity of the task that lay ahead.”


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We must give our programmers clear priorities


Books 2 Byte
Necessary but not Sufficient
Eliyahu M. Goldratt
Productivity & Quality Publishing P Ltd (http://www.productivityquality.co.in/)

Porcupines have quills and programs have bugs

You’d meet Lenny Abrahms, behind the electric doors of the systems development section. He is battling with the challenge of integrating vendor-performance measures before the release date. Roger, the VP is worried about quality assurance. “We must give our programmers clear priorities,” he tells Lenny. “Some of our people are really excellent programmers, but I can’t keep constantly interrupting them. The need to stop work to answer questions and fix bugs is turning their work into havoc.” Too real a problem, as most professionals would acknowledge.
“It’s not such an impossible mission to write a computer system that will work right the first time,” says Lenny. “Just design a system that does nothing, and you have about a 12 per cent probability it will work smoothly. In all other cases it’ll do something - which means there are bugs somewhere.” Porcupines have quills and programs have bugs; that’s life, philosophises the author.


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It is healthy to be curious


Soft Skills
The Art of Connecting
Claire Raines and Lara Ewing
Amacom (http://www.amacombooks.org/)

Curiosity is key

“In human interactions, people regularly put forward a piece of information about themselves in hopes of finding a bridge.” This is an ‘offer’, say the authors. “Sometimes offers are accepted; sometimes they’re blocked.” If you were persistent, you’d counter a block with another offer!

“Curiosity is key,” reads the second principle. “Curiosity opens a mental door. As long as that door is open, there’s no container for judgment and self-righteousness. It’s impossible to be both curious and judgmental at the same time.” Also, it is healthy to be curious. “When we’re curious, we are stimulating our brains, keeping our minds sharper as we age.”

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Earthy read


Reading Room
Arumugam
Imayam
Katha (http://www.katha.org/)

Tale of a child denied his childhood

“Raman’s earthly possessions in Krishnapuram consisted of an old house, with four rafters holding up the roof. Close relations were practically non-existent, and those that did were twice or thrice removed. Raman would go out to work everyday, and return home in the evenings with a smile on his face — a good-humoured person who knew no fatigue or anger.”

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Even mental processes and thinking can be different!


Reading Room
International Business
R. Chandran
Jaico (http://www.jaicobooks.com/)

Before you sell your wares in the world space

An interesting chapter is on ‘cross-cultural communication.’ Food, relationships, beliefs and values vary among cultures. Even mental processes and thinking can be different. “The British will enter into any business only after doing their homework thoroughly and they follow strict documentation procedures; they also expect their counterpart to do the same,” describes the author. “The Germans have a preconceived notion that they are technically superior and can produce perfect items, and lay great stress on logic, while the Japanese reject the western idea of logic.”

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We are all Zen students, and we are all businesspeople


Manage Mentor
Z.B.A. Zen of Business Administration
Marc Lesser
New World Library (www.newworldlibrary.com)

‘Start where you are’

Lesser declares, “We are all Zen students, and we are all businesspeople. Our lives are messy, impossible, miraculous, mysterious, and beyond our usual explanations. There are no easy answers.” So? ‘Start where you are,’ instructs the book. “There is no such thing as work separate from your life. Work is not something you do to earn money or make a living. Everything you do is your life, your path. Your work is your path. Relationships are your path.”
Lest you beat a trail to the nearest forest to find peace, Lesser reminds, “Serenity is not freedom from the storm but peace within the storm.” He lists the many benefits of integrating Zen practice with work. Foremost is ‘increased creativity’. This happens because Zen develops a flexible and open mind. “Understanding that the world is not always what it seems fosters seeing problems and opportunities from a different perspective.”
Since Zen blurs the lines between what is ordinary and what is sacred, the essence of Zen is explained in one of the mystical dialogues as ‘chopping wood and carrying water’. But what is so mystical and sacred about “going to meetings, writing emails, managing cash flow, and writing business plans”?

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From the deeply secretive core of America’s real playbook


E-Dimension
The One Percent Doctrine
Ron Suskind
Simon & Schuster (http://www.simonsays.com/)

A code from the secretive core of the US

The book begins on a critical note, of the US President, Mr George W. Bush. That he trusts his eyes to size up people ‘swiftly and aptly’ when taking countless decisions each day. “The trap, of course, is that while these tactile, visceral markets can be crucial — especially in terms of handling the posturing of top officials — they sometimes are not. The thing to focus on, at certain moments, is what someone says, not who is saying it, or how they’re saying it,” notes Suskind.
The title of the book draws from ‘The deeply secretive core of America’s real playbook: A default strategy, designed by Dick Cheney’. That you pursue even a one per cent chance as if it were a certainty! Such as, the slim probability of there being weapons of mass destruction, which led a nation to war.
In the first chapter titled ‘False positives’ meet George Tenet, at the DI, the Directorate of Intelligence. DI is the home of CIA’s army of analysts, “who read the human intelligence or humint, collected by field agents, clandestine agents, and foreign sources of human intelligence, and the signals intelligence, or sigint, from the vast US network of eavesdropping.”

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A bit of history on topics that currently rage on


E-Dimension
Strategic Consequences of India’s Economic Performance
Sanjaya Baru
Academic Foundation (http://www.academicfoundation.com/)

The business of diplomacy and the diplomacy of business

Opinions about economics and politics don’t normally have a long shelf-life. While that fact may act as a dampener to the popularity of any compilation such as the one on hand, it should still be relevant to read a bit of history on topics that currently rage on.
For instance, Mr Jaswant Singh, who is caught in the mole avalanche he triggered, may be happy to read the essay on his famous doctrine on ‘tied’ foreign aid. Baru recounts how Denmark cut its aid to India when we went nuclear. “For over four decades accepting foreign aid had become a habit. Plan models had been built to show why we needed aid,” he notes. “Aid never comes easy. It always comes with conditionalities... Some countries are brazen in pushing their own agendas along with aid.”
Mr Jaswant Singh’s message was clear, chronicles Baru — that India is in no mood to cling on to “funds that are costly to administer and come with sermons, especially on national security.” Not something we have shaken off totally, if the US-India nuclear energy agreement is an example, though of a different kind of aid. In a report dated July 27, Forbes (www.forbes.com) cites the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, that he has asked the US administration for assurances that the ‘goalposts are not tampered with.’

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Monopoly is at the heart of every successful business


Book Mark
Monopoly Rules
Milind M. Lele
Crown (http://www.crownbusiness.com/)

It’s not about competition, it’s about monopoly

Monopoly, according to Lele, need not be large as painted by ‘economics 101’. A prominent example that he cites is of Honda: the company could capture one-third of the profits, even while controlling less than 10 per cent of the US minivan market, because the Odyssey had seats that folded flat.
“Monopoly is at the heart of every successful business,” declares Lele. “Pursuing it is not only moral but essential for anyone interested in creating a company with lasting value.” This is not about SCA or ‘sustainable competitive advantage’, clarifies the author, because SCA “does very little to shed light on some of the most startling success stories of the last dozen years,” including Starbucks.

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Distrust in Indian auditors!


Books of Account
Corporate Governance: Principles, Policies and Practices
A.C. Fernando
Pearson Education (http://www.pearsoned.co.in/)

Imperative to have independent auditors

Among ‘current issues’ is a paragraph on CRT (Caux Round Table). It is ‘an international network of principled business leaders working to promote a moral capitalism’ founded in 1986 by Frederick Phillips and Oliver Giscard d’Estaing, ‘as a means of reducing escalating trade tensions’.
CRT lays emphasis on job creation, sustainable practices, trust, and transparency. Importantly, it believes that solutions to complex global issues require the cooperative efforts of business, government and other institutions. “The partnership developed in many cities where business collaborate with local authorities, central government, education, emergency services and special interest groups could be adapted to global initiatives.”
The book wraps up on a bitter note about the lack of independent auditors. “It is imperative to have independent auditors who are reputed and above board. Due to the distrust in Indian auditors, most of the multinational companies have insisted that the parent company’s auditor should also audit the subsidiary companies in India, often at much higher costs,” rues the author.

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Remarkable range of topics


Say Cheek
The Da Vinci Notebooks
Leonardo da Vinci
Viva (www.vivagroupindia.com)

‘I know that many will call this useless work’

“Some of his writings here are detailed instructions or discussions - others are more hurried notes, and others again are downright cryptic and mysterious,” observes Dickens in the intro. The remarkable range of topics he covered includes colours and gestures, anatomy and aerial perspective, architecture and geography, machines and morals.
“Let no man who is not a mathematician read the elements of my work,” cautions the very first line in chapter 1. But that need not prevent the non-math among us from plodding on.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Must the end of life be the worst part?


Bill of Health
Chasing Daylight
Eugene O’Kelly
Tata McGraw-Hill (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

A different ‘closure’

Gene was 53 years old when in May 2005 the doctors diagnosed him with late-stage brain cancer that gave him but three to six months to live. “I asked myself to answer two questions,” writes Gene in chapter 1 titled ‘A gift’. The questions were: “Must the end of life be the worst part? And, can it be made a constructive experience — even the best part of life?” His answers were, ‘No. Yes,’ respectively.

“I was an accountant not only by trade, but by manner. The same traits that made me someone who might flourish in the world of finance and accounting also made me someone who did not know how to do anything unplanned — dying included,” he writes describing his resolve to manage the last lap in his life’s journey.

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May nobody go hungry!


Reading Room
In Search of Self
Amisha Kanoria

The dream India

“May nobody go hungry, may all have two meals, in order to keep healthy, and to express what they feel.”

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Diffusion of innovations


Reading Room
Communication of Innovations
Ed: Arvind Singhal and James W. Dearing
Sage (http://www.indiasage.com/)

Education diffusion through entertainment

The book is a collection of ten essays about Ev Rogers, “the pioneering and distinguished teacher-scholar of diffusion of innovations, communication networks, technology transfer, development communication, and the entertainment-education strategy.”

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The negative person drags his feet


Reading Room
Pillar of Strength: A biography of Mahesh Bagrodia
Shivani Maheshwari
Ameya Inspiring Books (http://www.ameyabooksindia.com/)
Be positive to attract other positives
“The negative person drags his feet. But if you are positive, other positives will be attracted towards you. They will reinforce your attitude.”
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When it comes to IR, there seems to be a void


Reading Room
Industrial Relations
C .S. Venkata Ratnam
Oxford University Press (http://www.oup.com/)

Mature businesses feel the need to collectivise

What about the new-era industries such as information technology and related businesses? The focus in these has shifted from collectivism to individualism, observes the author. “Even here, as businesses mature people will feel the need to collectivise, not merely for salaries and benefits, but also for protecting themselves against unfair dismissals.”

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The direct predecessor or the IBM PC was DataMaster


Books 2 Byte
Upgrading and Repairing PCs
Scott Mueller
Pearson Education (www.pearsoned.co.in)

From the original PCs to the most recent
Chapter 1 gives a timeline, beginning from 1617 when John Napier created ‘Napier’s Bones’ for calculating. On August 12, 1981 was established a new standard in the microcomputer industry, with the debut of the IBM PC. Many may not know that the direct predecessor or the IBM PC was DataMaster, “a small office computer system introduced in 1980.”

Much of the PC’s design was influenced by the DataMaster design, explains Mueller. “In the DataMaster’s single-piece design, the display, and keyboard were integrated into the unit. Because these features were limiting they became external units on the PC, although the PC keyboard and electrical designs were copied from the DataMaster.”

A section titled ‘what is a PC?’ explains not only the basics but also how a single contractual error made Microsoft the dominant software company it is today. What was that? When IBM hired Microsoft to provide most of the core software for the PC, it failed to secure exclusive rights to the DOS, ‘either by purchasing it outright or by an exclusive licence agreement’.


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Market for digital games compares well with ‘more mundane markets'


Books 2 Byte
Understanding Digital Games
Jason Rutter and Jo Bryce
Sage (www.sagepublications.com)

Games are now part of our broader mediascape
The market for digital games compares well with ‘more mundane markets such as insurance, credit card services, large kitchen appliances or fast food,’ points out the book. “In the UK, digital games are worth approximately half as much as ‘paints and coatings’, while the fast food market is worth about three and a half times more.”
A chapter on the history of digital games by John Kirriemuir begins from the beginning, when there was just the dot! He narrates tales that take us back by more than half a century. Such as the story about the 1952 game of noughts and crosses (Tic-Tac-Toe) that Alexander (Sandy) Douglas ran on the EDSAC, ‘the world’s first stored-program computer to operate a regular computing service’. And the 1958 tennis game that William Higinbotham served on a laboratory oscilloscope. The first game to be available ‘outside a single research institute’ was Spacewar, a 1962 game ‘written by a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology led by Steve Russell.’

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The explanation you give to the experience makes all the difference


Manage Mentor
Suite Success
Liza Siegel
Amacom (http://www.amacombooks.org/)

You can choose the way you think
Siegel emphasises that ‘a few key positive emotions and positive qualities such as optimism and persistence’ play a more important role in business success than ‘skill, education, and to some degree, even talent.’ She assures that the habit of optimistic thinking can be practised and learned. “With time, what starts as a habit leads to a genuine attitude change.” Remember, “People can choose the way they think.”
Though you may not be able to avoid the many hassles that confront you, “you can shield yourself from being overly affected by them,” counsels Siegel. “The explanation you give to the experience makes all the difference.” Such as: “It isn’t anything about me personally. It’s only a temporary setback, and this is just one little area of my life.”


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A good player made a good trader, and vice versa


Book Value
Liar’s Poker
Michael Lewis
Hodder

When others bluff and double-bluff
You’d meet John Meriwether in chapter 1. He was the king of the game, the liar’s poker champion on the Salomon Brothers’ trading floor. To him, the game had a lot in common with bond trading. “It tested a traders’ character. It honed a trader’s instincts. A good player made a good trader, and vice versa,” explains Lewis.
How is the game played? “A group of people — as few as two, as many as ten — form a circle. Each player holds a dollar bill close to his chest.” Then? “One trader begins by making ‘a bid’. He says, for example, ‘three sixes’.” Which means, his guess is “that the serial numbers of the dollar bills held by all players, including himself, contain at least three sixes.”
The game moves clockwise, and the next player has two options: One, he can bid higher, in terms of the number or the count, as for instance, ‘three sevens’ or ‘four fives’; or two, he can ‘challenge’. Thus, the game goes on, with the bid escalating till “all players agree to challenge a single player’s bid.”


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The ‘War on Terror’ is a case of neo-liberal globalisation project turning in on itself


E-Dimension
Global Rivalries From the Cold War to Iraq
Kees van der Pijl
Vistaar (http://www.indiasage.com/)

Societies pushed to contender roles
Israeli attacks find repeated mention in the book. “For the Jewish state, Iraq was always the more immediate enemy, and in a daring air raid in 1981 the Israelis destroyed the country’s one nuclear reactor before it could be started up,” one learns from a chapter on ‘energy conflicts in the post-Soviet era’.
Read also about Israel’s proxy wars with Syria and Iran in 1982. “It also used the occasion to strike at Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, driving Yasser Arafat from the country in August, and allowing Phalangist militias to massacre hundreds of civilians.” Attack came from ‘Hezbollah, the Shia party formed with aid from Iran’ against the US-French force stationed in Beirut, narrates Pijl. “Striking twice in 1983, they killed several hundred US soldiers (and 58 French) in October. To avoid further losses, the Pentagon withdrew the remaining troops.”
The ‘War on Terror’ is a case of neo-liberal globalisation project turning in on itself, “just as the medieval crusaders in their closing stages became obsessed with internal heresy,” says the author.


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Capitalism has ‘a profound asymmetry’ at its very core


E-Dimension
The Twilight of the Nation State
Prem Shankar Jha
Vistaar (http://www.indiasage.com/)

We can’t afford to put capitalism on autopilot mode
Thesis of Jha’s book is that capitalism can’t be put on autopilot mode, because the system has ‘a profound asymmetry’ at its very core. Markets can restore economic equilibrium after each external shock, but “they are inherently blind to the distributive effects of their own working,” such as widening income differences, redundancy, business failures and accentuated conflicts. The author studies the ‘four cycles’ of capitalism, tracing right from the origins in the twelfth century, “when wind- and water-mills spread throughout the European continent in a very short span of time.” The first cycle saw the rise of ‘industrial capitalism’ in Venice and Florence, and ‘finance capitalism’ in Genoa, with the city-states serving as the ‘containers’ of capitalism. This phase lasted for about 170-220 years.

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Offshore world is the financial black-hole


Books of Account
The Sink
Jeffrey Robinson
(http://www.constablerobinson.com/)
Smoke ‘n mirrors
Drugs, arms, and dirty money are ‘the Holy Trinity’ moving along “like a malignant virus through the system, driving crime and terror, breeding unabated offshore in the murky heart of the legitimate, global financial world,” describes Robinson.
Offshore world is the financial black-hole, he’d declare; a sink, “where money trails evaporate into thin air, where dirty money mingles with the financial traffic of the world’s legitimate businesses, where connections smudge and are then erased, and where anyone looking for the truth is confronted by so many man-made barriers.”
One example of offshore jurisdiction is Niue. “Some 2,000 people living on a rock in the middle of the Pacific earn an estimated $2 million a year in fees from licensing phoney banks and dubious shell companies, representing 7-10 per cent of the national economy.” Another is Nauru, where “10,000 natives licensed 400 offshore banks.”

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Value is not the price you charge, but the ceiling on the price you can charge


Book Mark
Trump University Marketing 101
Don Sexton
Wiley (http://www.wiley.com/)
Managers control features, customers buy benefits
The book sings the praises of Donald Trump by filling many pages with his insights, photographs of his buildings and ‘signature collection.’ Despite that, there is a lot you can learn from Sexton on ‘how to use the most powerful ideas in marketing to get more customers.’

Such as, that marketing is ‘managing perceived value.’ And that perceived value is “the maximum a customer or prospective customer will pay for your product or service.” This value is not the price you charge, but the ceiling on the price you can charge, explains the author. “Customers behave according to their perceptions of the value they receive, not according to the actual value they receive.”

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Monday, July 17, 2006

IDRA explained


Reading Room
A Study on the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951
Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (http://www.icai.org/)

Industrious read
The book begins with a discussion of industrial development in the pre-Independence era. The post-1947 scenario begins with the Policy Resolution of 1948, and progresses through the Industrial Policy of 1956, Industrial Policy Statement of 1977 and so on.

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A collection of boyhood escapades with meticulous illustrations


Reading Room
Green Well Years
Manohar Devadoss
EastWest (ewb@touchtelindia.net)

Tamil is a phonetic language

“The first ‘row’ of twelve letters are vowels (‘life’ letters) and the consonants (‘body’ letters) are a ‘column’ of eighteen letters,” he explains. “For each consonant, there is a row of twelve letters which are ‘consonant-vowel’ combines (‘life-body’ letters).”

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We can’t afford to throw our lives away through indifference, self-pity and hopelessness


Reading Room
You Get One Shot At Life
Aaron Lumpkin
Jaico (http://www.jaicobooks.com/)

See life for what it really is
Many of us don’t live colourful, energetic, enthusiastic, compelling and inspiring lives. There are ‘two main reasons’ for such a state of affairs. “First, many of us have not made a diligent effort to overcome the negative feelings that we have developed over the years. Some of us have decided that we are not smart enough, not lucky enough, not deserving of a better existence, so we resign ourselves to living mediocre lives.”

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Dreams are what get you started, discipline is what keeps you going


Say Cheek
Business and the Beautiful Game
Theo Theobald and Cary Cooper
Kogan Page (http://www.vivagroupindia.com/)

Lessons from football to succeed in business
The first half begins with skills. You’d need six of them, viz. control, touch, vision, awareness, resilience and fitness. Remember, these are what can help both in business and in football. For instance, resilience is about bouncing back in the face of adversity. “Organisations are realising the benefits of allowing their people to make mistakes, as this is key to learning the right way to do things,” note the authors.

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Some entrepreneurs have rejected the pressure of endless growth


Manage Mentor
Small Giants
Bo Burlingham
Penguin Portfolio (http://www.penguinbooksindia.com/)

Soul makes a business great
There are thousands of private companies that don’t grow much, but they don’t die either, points out the author. Contrary to conventional wisdom - that businesses must grow or die - these companies are ‘often quite healthy’, even as they march to the sound of ‘a different drummer,’ as Henry David Thoreau would say.

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There are people who believe that a man in his eighties should retire and take time off


Stories Retold
Meri Jeevan Yatra - The Journey of My Life
Samprada Singh

‘Miles to go before I sleep’
Quite often I prefer to sit along with the middle rank manager and try to understand his style of functioning and discuss his own managerial problems as well. Such an informal, uninhibited, complex-free and personalised meeting between the staff members and me proves conducive to industrial ethos.

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Many forays into e-learning have been big fiascos


Books 2 Byte
E-Learning: Concepts and Practice
Bryn Holmes and John Gardner
Sage (http://www.sagepublications.com/)

A flower petal approach to e-learning

E-learning, for starters, is defined simply as ‘online access to learning resources, anywhere and anytime.’ E-learning offers new opportunities to both educators and learners, aver Holmes and Gardner. Virtual environment supports not just the delivery but also the exploration and application of information and the promotion of new knowledge, they explain.

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Cyber crime falls into four categories


Books 2 Byte
Cybercrime and Society
Majid Yar
Sage (http://www.sagepublications.com/)

Cyber crime comes in different shapes and sizes!

Cyber crime falls into four categories, according to Wall, cited in the introduction.These are cyber-trespass, cyber-deception, cyber-pornography, and cyber-violence. The first two are crimes against property, explains the author. “The third covers ‘crimes against morality’, and the fourth relates to ‘crime against the person’.” Yar adds one to the list, viz. ‘crimes against the state’ which include ‘terrorism, espionage and disclosure of official secrets’.

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You can add value by giving your property a makeover


Book Value
Trump University Real Estate 101
Gary W. EldredWiley (www.wiley.com)

Real gains from real estate
Begin with your three budgets, urges the author. The first is the mental budget, that is, “how well you allocate your thoughts, attitudes and beliefs.” Next comes the money budget, the most easily understood and widely followed one. Last is the time/activity budget, or the hours you are going to devote “to looking at properties, building business relationships, and reading related books and articles.”

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Globalisation poses a challenge to the notion of a ‘normal biography’


E-Dimension
The Futures of Old Age
John A. Vincent, Chris R. Phillipson and Murna Downs
Sage (www.sagepublications.com)

Towards a dignified, fulfilled old age

The penultimate chapter is on the impact of globalisation on ageing, by Phillipson. Globalisation poses a challenge to the notion of a ‘normal biography’ constructed around a linear model of the life course, states the author. “There will be losers and winners in this process,” he adds. In the short term an increase in racism and associated forms of oppression may create divisions within the population of older people, warns Phillipson.

A way out may be migration, which Tony Warnes discusses in the final chapter. Through a chart, the author explains ‘the accumulation of human capital through the life course’, and observes that social networks (or, ‘who you know’) are less likely to influence the quality of life in retirement than occupational positioning and progress.

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A fact we have to live with is ageing


E-Dimension
The Ageing World
Anil Bagchi
Pearson Education (http://www.pearsoned.co.in/)

Elders will be accommodated in the mainstream
While there can be arguments on when to call a person elderly, a fact we have to live with is ageing. But what is ageing? “A progressive overall deterioration of different parts of the body, that starts after a particular age. On any given day the degeneration is a sub-clinical addition, but the process is relentless.” Chapter heading may give a clue to what you should be doing as antidote, ‘eat less and live well’.

Part two of the book is devoted to ‘grey dynamics’. Bagchi doesn’t foresee a shortage of occupation for the old. “The elders may decide to work or do what they are largely doing, which is enjoying leisure, but that will not change the situation,” he notes. Because, jobs will be created only when the elders work.

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Youth is full of sport, age's breath is short; youth is nimble, age is lame


E-Dimension
Ageing in India
Moneer Alam
Academic Foundation (www.academicfoundation.com)

We are greying faster with far less to bank on

A significant feature of Indian ageing is the predominance of women, perhaps because men are 'more prone to lifestyle diseases such as blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes'. Yet, elderly men from the higher income categories are far more active compared to women, one learns. "Old age work is more a phenomenon of poverty and economic insecurity, particularly in the case of women," points out Alam, with ample numbers to back from his sample study.

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The idea is to arrest public attention long enough for it to notice your business


Book Mark
There's a Customer Born Every Minute
Joe Vitale
Wiley (www.wiley.com)

The public's a parade walking past you
A chapter titled 'The Shakespeare of Advertising's Rules for Jumbo Success' lays down 17 rules, including one on weaving into your sentences 'free magic words' such as: "Announcing, astonishing, at last, exciting, exclusive, fantastic, fascinating ... breakthrough, introducing, new, and how-to."
Another rule is to tell people the benefits, not the features. Why so? Because a feature generally describes a product, while benefit is what the product does for the customer. Therefore, "Don't tell people how great you make your products; tell them how great your products will make them."


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Polyarchy is a political truce


Books of Account
Power and Organisations
Stewart R. Clegg, David Courpasson, and Nelson Phillips
Sage (www.sagepublications.com)

Polyarchy in project management
"Polyarchy is an ambivalent power structure enabling both the official recognition of a plurality of members and political actors, the right to disagree with the leaders, and the simultaneous concentration of political power," explain the authors.
Contemporary examples of this can be found in project-based organisations ("which are the organisational corollary of knowledge-intensive economies"). Polyarchy is a political truce that allows oligarchs to take care of 'the political-strategic agenda and make crucial decisions.'


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Government consulting is no longer just for big consulting firms


Books of Account
Government Consulting - Taking the First Steps
Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (www.icai.org)

Baby steps in conflict zones
The format is the reader-friendly Q&A, made friendlier by a simple style.
For instance, the first question says, "I belong to a small firm, and I have concluded that this area is not for me." The ICAI whispers back: "Let us tell you a secret... The trick lies in trying to get contracts in post-conflict countries." That should make you sit up and read further: "Immediately after a conflict, there are very few who want to go in and work; and those who give out contracts will give them to anybody who wants to come. This is the time people get even seven-day contracts, and after one or two of such assignments they have got `international consultant' all over their sleeve."


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Monday, July 10, 2006

The more skilled you are in the use of language, the more persuasive you will be


Write Right
Maximum Influence
Kurt W. Mortensen
Magna Publishing (www.magnamags.com)

'Leverage' language

Airline industry has mastered the power of words, says Mortensen. That helps them get their point across and reduce panic among passengers. One example he gives is of a flight attendant who ran out of steak as an option for dinner entrée. Did she tell the passengers that their only option was chicken? No, she said, "You can have a piece of marinated chicken breast, sauteed in mushrooms in a light cream sauce, or a piece of beef." What was the reaction? "People chose the chicken because it sounded better," narrates the author.

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A book by a barrister whose first client was hanged!


Say Cheek
Advocates
David Pannick
Oxford (www.oup.com)

Causes 'at best dubious' and 'positively dangerous'
The author devotes a chapter to clients. A quote you can't forget is from what a counsel told the House of Lords in 1967: "In criminal cases a large number of the clients are rogues and in many civil cases the clients are unreliable."
At times, the cause may be 'hopeless beyond redemption,' as in a 1616 case when the defendant pleaded 'infancy as a defence to an action', despite 'sufficient proof' that he was 63 years old! "A litigious client of mine, who had lost an important case, was unwilling to accept that this might be the end of the road; can we sue the judges for negligence, he enquired," narrates Pannick, from his practice.


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2,100 multiple-choice questions encompassing topics such as computers and economics, marketing and finance, quality and corporates


Reading Room
The Mega Business Quiz Book
Bijay Bhujabal
Vision Books (www.visionbooksindia.com)
Test your GK
Try these posers:
What is the precursor to Sony's Walkman: Pressman, Diskman, Listenman, or Deskman?
Who is the biographer of Barbie doll: M. L. Lord, Mark Pendergrast, P.F.E. Albee, or Ellen Harmon?
Which Unilever brand is made in and sourced from India for the entire world market: Wheel, Liril, Clinic Plus coconut oil, or Pears' soap?


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Define success in your own terms, and not according to what others have or haven't done


Reading Room
Personal Excellence
Ed: Ken Shelton
Jaico (www.jaicobooks.com)

If you know you are doing the right things, just relax and perform
The first piece is of Michael Jordan. How does he pursue his goal of being the best? By approaching everything step by step, using short-term goals, he explains. "When I meet one goal, I set another reasonable goal I can achieve if I work hard." Is he afraid of failure? No. "Failure always made me try harder the next time," declares Jordan. "Think positive, and find fuel in failure," he advises. "Sometimes failure gets you closer to where you want to be."


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10 essential principles for leading your company to victory



Manage Mentor
The Art of the Strategist
William A. Cohen
Magna (http://www.magnamags.com/)
Commit fully to a definite objective
Attempts to copy warfare as a model for business strategy have generally failed, says Cohen. "Except in the sense of commitment to win, there is no such thing as 'marketing warfare', for business is not war," he declares.
War takes lives; not so in the case of business. War is not a continuous activity, whereas business is. War is about speed; in contrast, businesses can succeed 'by electing not to be first in the market, but allowing someone else to do the groundwork and make mistakes first,' as Peter Drucker has pointed out.


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The emergence of China as a centre of innovation must be accepted - better yet, embraced


Books 2 Byte
Guanxi
Robert Buderi and Gregory T. Huang
Simon & Schuster
Research in relationships
Nathan Myhrvold, the architect of Microsoft Research, is a modern-day polymath, say the authors. Myhrvold had master's degrees in mathematics and geology from UCLA, a doctorate in mathematical and theoretical physics from Princeton, and then a postdoctoral fellowship to study quantum field theory under Stephen Hawking at Cambridge.

"Myhrvold's greatest gift may be to think big - and then convey his thoughts in easy-to-follow arguments," states the book. "In mid-1991, Myhrvold proposed that Microsoft allocate $10 million a year to support a research centre designed to help the company control its destiny."

China is where the big growth rate for new Ph.D.s in computer science will happen, predicts Myhrvold.


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Communication creates jobs


Books 2 Byte
Digital India: Rural Empowerment and Transformation
D.K. Ghosh
UBSPD (http://www.ubspd.com/)
ICT - 'the great global rescue from poverty'
Communication creates jobs. As a thumb rule, 100 mobile phones create a job, notes the book in a chapter titled 'The buzzword is jobs'. Ghosh estimates at least 3 lakh jobs to have been created "in setting up mobile phone networks, selling mobile phones to customers and billing, collection, servicing and so on." In the fixed line sector, however, "jobs have been created mostly at upper end like technicians and engineers," he states.
Ever heard of Infothela? Dr Prashant Kumar of IIT-Kanpur describes it as "computer and accessories are placed on a cycle rickshaw within a specially designed cabinet," to provide fax and Internet telephony facilities, using wireless technology. Infothela has been designed to accommodate diagnostic equipments to check blood pressure and blood sugar.


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Sunday, July 09, 2006

You can make better and timely investment decisions by tracking the economy


Book Value
All About Bonds and Bond Mutual Funds
Esmé Faerber
Tata McGraw-Hill (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)
It pays to know about bonds
Bonds and savings accounts have similarities, notes the author. Both are forms of lending for an interest. Again, just as one can get back the deposit from the bank, so too the investor receives the principal amount of the bonds back when the bonds mature (that is, become due), because bond is an IOU (I owe you).
But there is a major difference between bonds and savings accounts. "Investors can sell their bonds before they mature to other investors. Savings accounts cannot be sold to other investors." Bonds are negotiable IOUs, whereas savings accounts are not.


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Saturday, July 08, 2006

What distinguish complexity economics from traditional economics are five 'big ideas'


E-Dimension
The Origin of Wealth
Eric D. Beinhocker
Harvard Business School Press (www.HBSPress.org)
Evolution is a knowledge-creation machine, a learning algorithm
It was about 35,000 years ago that trading between groups should have happened, postulates the book, citing archaeological evidence such as "burial-site tools made from non-local materials, seashell jewellery found with non-coastal tribes, and patterns suggesting trading routes."
With trade came specialisation and 'a dramatic increase in the variety of tools and artefacts'. Cooperative trading between non-relatives is a uniquely human activity, says the author, quoting the work of Paul Seabright of the University of Toulouse.


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Good selling means you must have empathy with your prospects and you must be careful to match what you promote with what they need


Book Mark
Dynamic Practice Development
Kim Tasso
Viva (http://www.vivagroupindia.com/)
Why do pros fare badly in selling?
"I firmly believe that selling is relatively easy to those people who have the integrity to act in a professional manner and who are genuinely interested in helping clients by providing solutions to problems they face - or walking away when they cannot," says Tasso.
Why then do professionals fare badly in selling? Because of misconceptions and lack of confidence, diagnoses the author. "Selling - once you have found a style and the tools that suit your personality - can be as interesting, satisfying and as important as any other aspect of your professional life," she assures. You don't need to do anything distasteful or dishonourable to win in business, adds Tasso.


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'One of the first scientific performance-analyses of a completed project in India'


Books of Account
Bhakra-Nangal Project
R. Rangachari
Oxford (www.oup.com)
Fruits of dam
As accountants know, a project has to be assessed from various angles. A 1955 report of the Bhakra Control Board analysed BNP's fruits, not only from the fulfilment of principal objectives but also the reaping of incidental benefits. One prominent plus is the increase in crop yield, with better irrigation. Another is poverty alleviation with 'plentiful electricity for households, industries, and agriculture.' The benefits of the economic development in Punjab and Haryana have been shared both by rural and urban areas, observes Rangachari.

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