Wednesday, October 31, 2007

‘The Lahore conspiracy case’

Without Fear: The life & trial of Bhagat Singh
Kuldip Nayar

“No sword can sever hands that have the heat of battle within, no threat can bow heads that have risen so... Yea, for in our insides has risen a flame, and the desire for struggle is in our hearts...”

Thus reads a Wikipedia translation of Bismil Azimabadi’s famous poem ‘Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna’, which was on the lips of Bhagat Singh and his associates when they entered the Poonch House, on May 5, 1930, to stand trial in ‘the Lahore conspiracy case’.

The 18 heroes entered the hall, to the resounding shouts of ‘Inquilab Zindabad!’ and ‘Gora ja! ja!’ as Kuldip Nayar writes in ‘Without Fear: The life & trial of Bhagat Singh’ ( ).

10 communication strategies

The Voice of Authority
Dianna Booher

Some of the most astounding developments keep happening in communication technologies and tools, yet a missing thing in most places is communication. And it shows… as a boss who demands rather than asks, a supplier who promises but doesn’t deliver, a spouse who growls rather than responds, or a child who explodes rather than expresses feelings. With these frightening scenarios, Dianna Booher opens the intro to The Voice of Authority (

You can change things, she assures, and “the answer is not about technology”. Blogging, messaging, smart phones, and so on, will be passé after a few years, just like e-mails and faxes, the author foresees. New technology appears and disappears from the scene, but the one constant is human communication, she declares. Leaders have a great opportunity to become ‘the face of human connection of an organisation,’ by connecting with other people to get things done, and by communicating values.

Different types of meetings

Group Dynamics for Teams
Daniel Levi

STSP, STDP, DTSP and DTDP. Do these sound similar to DSDD, ‘double-sided double-density’ of the ancient floppy days? Well, these abbreviations stand for different types of meetings: same-time same-place (face-to-face); same-time different-place (videoconferencing); different-time same-place (computer databases); and different-time different-place (Intranet bulletin board).

Even when a team primarily interacts via technology, there is value to STSP meetings, argues Daniel Levi in a chapter titled ‘virtual teams’ in ‘Group Dynamics for Teams’, second edition ( “Face-to-face interaction is important for celebrating major team milestones and dealing with minor changes in the team’s focus or task.”

Ttechnology alone cannot make the expected improvements in performance

Up Close & Personal
Paul R. Gamble, Merlin Stone, Neil Woodcock and Bryan Foss

Realising that customer databases hold a lot of revenue potential, IT (information technology) suppliers have created ‘a proliferation of technological offers, designed to collect, analyse, and make accessible data for use in marketing campaigns’, write Paul R. Gamble, Merlin Stone, Neil Woodcock and Bryan Foss in Up Close & Personal, third edition (

The authors warn the CRM (customer relationship marketing) enthusiasts that technology alone cannot make the expected improvements in performance. “Business processes and company cultures need to be changed in parallel… Just because a capability exists, does not mean that people will use it or use it correctly.”

Allow customers to buy the products without distraction

Big Ideas for Small Retailers
John Castell

John Castell’s Big Ideas for Small Retailers ( is a small book with workable ways to improve your business. Such as, leveraging the Internet to revolutionise your customers’ shopping experience. The author, ‘an amateur Web-designer and an established retailer’, lays bare the conflict right at the start. “The Web designer part of me felt the need to demonstrate a good technical knowledge and superior design skills. This tends to lead down the path of flashy graphics, background music loops, form interaction, animated scenes and so on.”

‘A recipe for disaster’

Enterprise Resource Planning
Alexis Leon

ERP is not a silver bullet or a cure-all, says Alexis Leon in Enterprise Resource Planning, second edition ( Though “today’s ERP tools automate most business functions and processes thus making the lives of the users a lot easier,” it can be ‘a recipe for disaster’ to assume that these tools will take care of everything. There are many business activities that need human intervention and judgment, cautions the author.

The 80/20 rule

Best Practice
Richard Ilsley

An intelligent study of data can make a vast difference to your approach to profitability. The 80/20 rule is a classic example. Studying wealth distribution in Italy, Vifredo Pareto, a nineteenth-century economist, observed how very few people controlled the country’s wealth, narrates Richard Ilsley in Best Practice (Westland).

A general application of Pareto’s finding is that the majority is accounted for by the minority — around 80 per cent of the results are accounted for by around 20 per cent of the effort.

If there is a good challenge, a good fit, and a good boss, the right candidate will be motivated.

Great People Decisions
Claudio Fernandez Araoz

Normal managers lose sleep over “poor cash flow, impending lawsuits, a failing strategy, mergers and acquisitions gone awry, a competitor making a direct move against a profitable product line, and so on.”

But what can make successful managers sleepless is the ‘people’ worry, because they know that their success “grows directly out of the ability to choose the right people,” says Claudio Fernandez Araoz in Great People Decisions ( “Organisations that are skilled at solving the ‘people puzzle’ — finding, recruiting, hiring, promoting, and retaining the very best people for the job — tend to thrive.” As much as picking the right person is important for the organisation, so is the right career choice, for the individual.

Invest only in reputed funds

Everything you wanted to know about Investing
Kotak and CNBC-TV18

Investing is both an art and science, it is said. But how about investing in art? In 2005, when shares gave a return of 47 per cent and gold, about 25 per cent, high-end art gave no less than 150 per cent, informs ‘Everything you wanted to know about Investing’ from Kotak and CNBC-TV18.

“Like in the stock markets where mid-caps can outperform large caps, in the art market, the work of junior artists could fetch higher returns as they may be bought for a cheaper price.” Again, as with investing, you need knowledge about art, especially if you are buying art directly. “Invest only those art pieces that have been historically proven.”

When buying options, buy time

Book Value
Keys to Investing in Options and Futures
Nicholas and Barbara Apostolou

Make it simple

Options are an exciting part of the investment arena, where you can be successful provided you adopt a consistent and disciplined strategy, guide Nicholas and Barbara Apostolou in ‘Keys to Investing in Options and Futures’, fourth edition (Westland).

The first rule they prescribe is, ‘Make it simple’. Rather than adopting complicated strategies that are too difficult to understand, focus upon a few of the more widely used ones. The second rule, a seemingly obvious one, is: ‘Be safe.’ Means, never risk more than you can afford. “Do not exclusively buy short-term calls or puts, betting on explosive moves up or down. The tactic will lose money sooner or later.”


'Our intuitions about our intuitions can be misleading'

Your Money & Your Brain
Jason Zweig

What makes so many smart people feel so stupid? Investing, says Jason Zweig in ‘Your Money & Your Brain’ ( ). The book is about applying ‘the new science of neuroeconomics’ to get rich, by understanding ‘what goes on inside your brain when you make decisions about money’.

That may sound easy, at least till you read this quote of Ambrose Bierce the book opens with: ‘Brain, n. An apparatus with which we think that we think.’ Economists have long insisted that investors know what they want, understand the trade-off between risk and reward, and use information logically to pursue their goals, explains Zweig. “In practice, however, those assumptions often turn out to be dead wrong.”

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Factors behind insurance growth

A Nation in Transition
Jayshree Sengupta

The future of the insurance sector is bright because it is largely untapped, observes Jayshree Sengupta in A Nation in Transition ( The huge middle class and the break-up of the joint family system have led to an increase in demand for life insurance cover for the breadwinner, she notes.

“In nuclear families there are many in the older age groups who have to fend for themselves in their old age. Their demand for insurance is likely to be up because by 2010, almost 10 per cent of the population will be above 60 years of age.”

Don't give an opinion based on incomplete facts

Start & Run a Consulting Business
Douglas Gray

There are many ways you can increase your profits apart from raising fees, says Douglas Gray in Start & Run a Consulting Business ( First, work on keeping your overall fixed overhead down, he advises. “Review all the ways of saving costs on space, telephone, and personnel.”

Another tip is to keep an accurate record of all out-of-pocket expenses incurred pertaining to the client’s project. “If you are consulting on an hourly basis, attempt to arrange to be at your client’s office or project for a full day if possible, rather than a portion of the day.”

Statistical guidance

100 Statistical Tests
Gopal K. Kanji

Two teams of financial sales persons are to be compared to see if their training is leading to different success rates. An investment analyst wishes to examine a time series for a particular investment portfolio, keen on knowing if there are any turning points or if the series is effectively random in nature…

For solving these and 96 more posers, here is helpful guidance: Gopal K. Kanji’s 100 Statistical Tests, third edition (

The ‘do nothing’ strategy

Project Management Disasters & How to Survive them
David Nickson and Suzy Siddons

First in the list of ‘what not to do’ is ‘do nothing’, in Project Management Disasters & How to Survive them by David Nickson and Suzy Siddons ( ). “The ‘do nothing’ strategy involves masterly inactivity: carry on regardless, with the project team attempting the activities as planned and hope it all comes right in the end.” This is the equivalent of ‘something will turn up’. Dangerous response, which can be more disastrous than the disaster!

The most profitable item is the one that gives the highest total cash contribution

Food and Beverage Management
John Cousins, David Foskett and Cailein Gillespie

Cost-plus pricing, rate of return approach, and market-oriented method — these are the three basic pricing practices for restaurant wine and drink, write John Cousins, David Foskett and Cailein Gillespie in Food and Beverage Management, second edition ( ).

In the cost-plus method, selling price is determined by adding a specific percentage of cost price to the cost of the drink. Percentages may be varied “to achieve standard pricing for similar groups of products, for example all spirits or all minerals.”

Access to documentation

The Practice and Politics of Regulation
Navroz K. Dubash and D. Narasimha Rao

The Internet is an effective vehicle for transparency, but grossly under-utilised by the electricity regulators, find Navroz K. Dubash and D. Narasimha Rao in The Practice and Politics of Regulation ( ). For example, “Delhi has produced only one annual report in seven years and Andhra Pradesh has produced no annual report after 2002-2003.”

Knowledge workers are highly mobile

The Definitive Drucker
Elizabeth Haas Edersheim

What is the first sign of decline of a company? Not a splash of red on the financial statements, as accountants may tend to think, but ‘loss of appeal to qualified, able, and ambitious people,’ as Elizabeth Haas Edersheim writes in The Definitive Drucker ( ), citing the management icon.

“In the new world of the knowledge worker, attracting and retaining high-talent people is at least as important as anything else a company does.” What attracts talent is a truly interesting work where they can make a significant contribution; however, as highly skilled and independent professionals, knowledge workers are highly mobile.

The Odds on Everything

What Are The Odds?
Graham Sharpe and Roger L. Schlaifer

What percentage of the world’s 6,750 known languages are actively spoken by fewer than a lakh people? In which of the following countries are you most likely to have to bribe a government official to get something done: Colombia, Turkey, or Finland? Who makes the most money annually by allowing their music to be used in advertisements in the US? What percentage of tickets for concerts in the UK end up on the black market? What percentage of workers contact their offi ce whilst on holiday? Find scores of more esoteric questions and answers in ‘What Are The Odds?’ by Graham Sharpe and Roger L. Schlaifer (

Cupping practices

Coffee: Retailing the Refreshing Brew
Coffee Board

The Indian market for coffee is nascent, observes Coffee: Retailing the Refreshing Brew from Coffee Board ( “Notwithstanding the fact that 80 per cent of the urban consumers have consumed a cup of coffee in the last one year, the per capita consumption is in decimals. Even if all the current consumers were to be persuaded to drink just on e more cup of coffee in the year, the domestic market for coffee would grow by nearly 5 per cent,” predicts the Board.

Clothes top the list of cash-spend priorities for the young

India Booms
John Farndon

Teenage girls admiring Mahatma Gandhi and wearing saris, as much as they like “wearing tight blue jeans and high heels, drinking sodas and even alcopops and watching MTV, just like their counterparts in the West.” This is the ‘Miss India’ that John Farndon describes in India Booms ( “Beauty is a $3-billion business in India, and it’s not just the city k ids who are taking it. Procter and Gamble are seeing their greatest sales growth in rural areas.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Set more long-term goals for your life

The Top 10 Distinctions between Millionaires and the Middle Class
Keith Cameron Smith

What is it that separates the wealthy from the rest? “Fat paunches have lean pates, and dainty bits make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits,” finds Longaville in Love’s Labour’s Lost.
And Lord Polonius advises in Hamlet, “Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, but not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy; for the apparel oft proclaims the man.” In simple terms, however, we know that the dissimilarity between the rich and the most of us is not zero, but of many zeroes.
The most important difference is the length of period under consideration, according to Keith Cameron Smith. “Millionaires think long-term. The middle class thinks short-term,” he begins, in ‘The Top 10 Distinctions between Millionaires and the Middle Class’ (

The revolt of the palayakkarargal - the earliest expressions of opposition to British

Rethinking 1857
Sabyasachi Bhattacharya

Tamil Nadu is extolled for its size, wealth and contemporary importance, but its colonial history is relatively unexplored, writes N. Rajendran in one of the essays included in ‘Rethinking 1857’ edited by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya ( ).

“The earliest expressions of opposition to British rule took the form of localised rebellions and uprisings. Chief among these was the revolt of the palayakkarargal (poligars) against the East India Company in 1799,” narrates Rajendran.
“The East India Company, eager for revenue, opposed the manner of and the scale at which the poligars collected taxes from people. The issue of taxation – more specifically, who was to collect it, the traditional rulers or the new collectors from overseas, lay at the root of the poligars’ uprising.”

The seven steps to get rid of anger and bitterness

Finding Forgiveness
Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang

Becoming clear is the first of the seven steps in the ‘program for letting go of anger and bitterness’ that Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang prescribes in ‘Finding Forgiveness’ ( ). Forgiveness focuses on your inner healing and is not necessarily about an outward behaviour, explains the author.

“It is not about letting someone else off the hook. You are releasing your emotional pain so you can have a happier and more fulfilling life.”

Next step is to tell the story, with as much depth and detail, to someone you trust. “If it is difficult to talk about it, write or draw your story. Drawing pictures can be tremendously healing in working through painful material.”

An educational environment without predetermined limits

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
Kim Edwards

It happened… Men from the Board of Education listen to Ron Stone appealing for an education for all children. But the children in focus are ‘mentally retarded,’ say the Board people. “Mentally retarded is a pejorative term,” protests Stone. “These children are delayed, yes, no one’s questioning that. But they are not stupid. No one in this room knows what they can achieve. The best hope for their growth and development, as for all children, is an educational environment without predetermined limits. We only ask for equity…”

The Board is not impressed. We haven’t got the resources, they fret. “To be equitable, we would have to accept them all, a flood of retarded individuals that would overwhelm the system,” said one, passing around copies of a report and doing a cost benefit analysis.

Poignant. Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter ( ).

Subordinates tend to nod their heads rather than ask for clarification

The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome
Jean-François Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux

Most bosses fault their employees for poor performance, little realising that the blame often lies with the top. Bosses create and reinforce a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived weaker performers to fail, argue Jean-François Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux in The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome’ ( In such a dynamic, “capable employees who are mistaken for mediocre or weak performers live d own to low expectations, and often end up out of the organisation – of their own volition or not.”

Language popularity follows market trends

Global Issues in Languages, Education and Development
Naz Rassool

Language popularity follows market trends, says Naz Rassool in ‘Global Issues in Languages, Education and Development’ ( As countries improve their economic status, and become important trading partners, their languages gain in value within the international language market, she adds. Examples cited in the book are about how Arabic rode on the oil boom during the 1950s and 1960s; how during the early 1980s it was popular to learn Japanese; and how Mandarin Chinese is currently in ascendance.

Nine ‘ideas for organising in the digital age’

Mobilizing Minds
Lowell L. Bryan and Claudia I. Joyce

How to create more wealth for shareholders? Redesign the organisation, say Lowell L. Bryan and Claudia I. Joyce in ‘Mobilizing Minds’ ( ). “Most companies today were designed for the twentieth century. By remaking them to mobilise the mind power of their twenty-first-century workforces, these companies will be able to tap into the presently underutilised talents, knowledge, relationships, and skills of their employees,” the authors propound.

“The modern, ‘thinking’ company should be a fluid and fast-moving creature, in which its workers discover knowledge and exchange it with their peers, collaborating with others to create value,” they describe.

Investments are more likely to flow from poor to rich countries

The Economics of Microfinance
Beatriz Armendariz and Jonathan Morduch

Elementary economics tells you how ‘marginal return’ for a poor entrepreneur can be higher than it is for a rich entrepreneur. Yet, capital doesn’t naturally flow to the poor. “Instead of investing more money in New York, London, and Tokyo, wise investors should direct their funds toward India, Kenya, Bolivia, and other low-income countries where capital is relatively scarce. Money should move from North to South, not out of altruism but in pursuit of profit,” write Beatriz Armendariz and Jonathan Morduch in ‘The Economics of Microfinance’ ( ). They cite the findings of Nobel laureate Robert Lucas Jr that, based on estimates of marginal returns to capital, borrowers in India should be willing to pay 58 times as much for capital as borrowers in the US.

The ‘convenient untruths’

The Assault on Reason
Al Gore

The incestuous coupling of wealth and power poses ‘the deadliest threat to democracy,’ cautions Al Gore in ‘The Assault on Reason’ ( ). When money and deception corrupt the reasoning process, and counterfeit usurps power, a significant portion of the citizenry loses confidence in the integrity of governance, and democracy goes bankrupt, Gore describes graphically.

“No critical mass of opposition can form among individuals who are isolated from one another, looking through one-way mirrors in soundproof rooms, shouting if they wish but still unheard. If enough citizens cease to participate in its process, democracy dies.”

The difficulties of one financial intermediary can spread to others

The Panic of 1907
Robert F. Bruner and Sean D. Carr

The picture is still hazy after a series of avalanches in the Indian bourses, and investors repeatedly found the ground slipping away. Who would forget how, only days ago, the charts were awash with red before brokers could mutter their prayers in full, and how the breakers fell in place to freeze the pain so the plunge could stay still for what looked endless. It happened… “On Friday, October 17, a ‘run’ on the Knickerbocker was under way, and doze ns of depositors clamoured at the trust company’s doors to claim their funds…Wall Street was gripped by a paroxysm of fear. In the coming days, money would become scarce, banks would fail, the stock market would plummet, and the city of New York itself would reach the precipice of bankruptcy…”

Both the date and the description may seem eerily close, though not the day and the setting, but this is a snatch from the prologue to ‘The Panic of 1907’ by Robert F. Bruner and Sean D. Carr (

Communications, in the new India, is the great leveller

The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone
Shashi Tharoor

The cell-phone revolution in India is exciting as a sign of India’s economic transformation into a twenty-first-century success story, but Shashi Tharoor sees something more important happening: ‘a change in the attitude of our ruling classes’. The government is marginal to this success story, he says in The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone (

“Perhaps the key contribution of the government lies in getting out of the way — in cutting licence fees and streamlining tariffs, easing the overly complex regulations and restrictions that discouraged investors from coming into the Indian market.”

There’s a demand for a workforce that can build, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair PCs

CompTIA A+: PC Technician
Mike Meyers

Good books motivate readers to learn what they are reading, says Mike Meyers in the preface to CompTIA A+: PC Technician ( “For example, if a book discusses binary arithmetic but doesn’t explain why I need to learn it, that’s not a good book. Tell me that understanding binary makes it easier to understand how a CPU (central processing unit) works or why a megabyte is different from a million bytes — then I get excited, no matter how geeky the topic. If I don’t have a good motivation to do something, then I’m simply not going to do it.”

The '4A' framework

IT Risk
George Westerman and Richard Hunter

What is IT risk? “It’s the potential for an unplanned event involving a failure or misuse of IT (information technology) to threaten an enterprise objective,” define George Westerman and Richard Hunter in IT Risk ( And the risk is “no longer confined to a company’s IT department or data centre.”

The authors observe how a half-century of adopting IT at an astonishingly rapid rate has created a world in which IT is not just widely present but pervasively, complexly interconnected inside and outside the enterprise. So much so, “writing a book about IT risk is like writing about life.”

There is no ultimate victory in the new economy

The Street-Smart Parables
J.R. Sterling

The Astors were invincible warriors, wandering and winning battles. Growing tired of their nomadic life, they built an imposing fortress and began to lead a life of merriment. Decades passed by, during which the enemies of Astors gathered strength. One silent night, the enemies attacked the fortress with cannons – a contraption that the Astors had not seen…

Narrating the story, J.R. Sterling writes in ‘The Street-Smart Parables’ ( ), that complacency can be big killer.

Technical analysis is ‘the art of identifying a trend reversal at a relatively early stage'

Martin Pring on Price Patterns
Martin Pring

“Prices are determined by one thing and one thing only, and that is people’s changing attitudes toward the emerging fundamentals,” says 'Martin Pring on Price Patterns’ ( ). “If it were not for the fact that these changing attitudes move in trends and that trends tend to perpetuate, market prices would be nothing more than a random event, which would mean that technicians would be out of business.”

All faiths make giving an imperative

Bill Clinton

Buddhists believe donation to others is an essential step on the path to full enlightenment, writes Bill Clinton in ‘Giving’ ( ). “In Jewish law and tradition, giving, tzedakah, is obligatory, up to at least 10 per cent of income. The literal meaning the Hebrew word tzedakah is ‘righteousness,’ but it also is used to refer to justice and to giving to those in need,” the author mentions.

“Islam also has made charity, zakat, obligatory for all those who embrace the faith. Muslims believe that all human beings should be one another’s well-wishers, that the wealthy have a sacred duty to help the poor, disabled, and others in need.” Likewise, Christians are taught to tithe a tenth of their income to the church.

Money brings a good imitation that it is often hard to tell from the real thing

Book Value
All the Money in the World
Peter W. Bernstein and Annalyn Swan
( )

Money and happiness are unrelated

Financiers take risks and make money, but have faced criticism from ancient times for not producing anything useful. The counter argument is that any economy can’t grow without the financial innovations that root out the inefficient and the incompetent, and provide capital for business, says ‘All the Money in the World’ by Peter W. Bernstein and Annalyn Swan ( ).

“If nothing else, financiers are ingenious at recycling capital.” Out of the busts of the early twenty-first century, even greater Forbes 400 fortunes have arisen, note the authors. “The successors to George Soros and Julian Robertson are a close-knit, secretive group of men in their thirties, forties, and fifties who often run funds half the size of their predecessors, but with more diverse strategies that also get out-size returns.”


Thursday, October 18, 2007

To be accountable, you must clearly know your desired outcomes

Books of Account
Creating the Accountable Organization
Mark Samuel

How to create a work culture where ‘people at all levels of the organisation can be counted on to keep their commitments and agreements’? Mark Samuel offers help in Creating the Accountable Organization ( ).

Accountability is the basis for having an environment of trust, support, and dedication to excellence, he writes. “With accountability, people can depend on each other and don’t have to worry about doing extra work because others failed to keep their agreements.”

Four ‘disadvantages of franchising’

Iain Maitland

Aspiring franchisees should first study their finances, instructs Iain Maitland in Franchising ( ). “You must be certain that the potential costs of franchising are financially manageable and the returns will be worthwhile.”

The author suggests that pilot schemes, launched and operated for about a year, can help you test and adjust the format for franchising. Include in your computations the costs of experimenting as well, such as, “varying décor and the layout of customers’ sales space, changing packaging and point of sale material, and increasing or decreasing advertising levels.”

If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything

Get Motivated
Justin Herald

Too many people want to reach a greater level of success in their lives, whether financial or personal, but they never ask themselves why it is they want it, says Justin Herald in Get Motivated ( ).

A 37-year-old successful entrepreneur, Herald, was named ‘one of the 50 most influential leaders of the next generation in Australia’. Each year ‘he speaks to over 1,50,000 people throughout the world,’ informs . The word that transformed him was ‘attitude’, as Gordon Clark writes in a September 12 article on .

Standards are beneficial only if they are adopted by a wide range of market participants

Financial Supply Chain
Sanjay Dalmia

Ask company treasurers about the performance of their working capital processes, and in most cases their answer may be, ‘Sub-optimal’.

Working capital management is often fraught with inefficiencies that cut across multiple subsidiaries, departments and financial institutions, writes Sanjay Dalmia in Financial Supply Chain ( ). For instance, “the order to cash position consumes significant time and resources — 30 days is typically a minimum, while 120 days is common if there is a dispute.”

To write the way real people talk, listen to the way real people talk

The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood
Joe Eszterhas

One of the 19 lessons in The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood by Joe Eszterhas ( is ‘Ideas are poison!’ Go outside the box, the lesson exhorts. “A film should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order,” reads a quote of screenwriter/director Jean-Luc Godard cited in the book.

“To write the way real people talk, listen to the way real people talk,” advises Eszterhas. “Pretend you have a scanner in your head and, as people talk, imagine their words running across the screen, complete with punctuation marks, to ‘see’ the words more clearly.”

Price reductions tend to have a downward spiral effect on a business

Be Unreasonable
Paul Lemberg

When every other seller is cutting prices, it may seem logical to follow suit. No, don’t, says Paul Lemberg in Be Unreasonable ( “When you cut prices, you may make the sale, but your profits will sink like a rock in water,” he reasons.

Do the math, he urges, and with an example, he proves how a price cut of 20 per cent can cost you 67 per cent of your profits. “Price reductions tend to have a downward spiral effect on a business. The lower price often becomes the new price, and stays low.”

The application of brain science to social interaction

The Naked Brain
Richard Restak

Would it be possible: For marketers to use brain scans to determine consumer interest in a product, for politicians to target voters, and for employers to screen job candidates? Possible, says The Naked Brain by Richard Restak ( Welcome, therefore, to the ‘neurosociety’! It is already here.

Until recently, brain scientists studied the brain in isolation, “almost as if they were deconstructing a watch.” That is, “you simply remove the case – and then tinker with its component parts.” Our evolving knowledge about the brain has led to the new discipline of social neuroscience, the application of brain science to social interactions, explains the author.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A golden rule

To the Manner Born
Thomas Blaikie

Sometimes texting can be a substitute for communication, not a form of it, says Thomas Blaikie in ‘To the Manner Born’ ( ). “It can be discourteous, evasive, and even cowardly to text.” The worst example of such texting is to end a relationship with a text message, he notes.

“Nor should you break bad news or send information that might be in any way distressing to the recipient by text. It is far too abrupt, and there is no opportunity for any further comfort and support that might be needed.”

‘India’s industrial future couldn’t be confined to a Parel back lane’

Godrej: A Hundred Years 1897-1997
B.K. Karanjia

Acquiring the lands at Vikhroli was a rather tortuous process, narrates B.K. Karanjia in the first volume of ‘Godrej: A Hundred Years 1897-1997’ (Viking).

“The lands were originally purchased through the Court Receiver in the late forties, passed by the High Court order of April 15, 1943.”

The author traces the land transactions involving ‘the entire village of Vikhroli under Kowl’ from 1835 to the public auction in 1943, in which Naval (Naoroji) was declared the highest bidder.

The banyan tree

Stories Retold
Trees and Tree Tales: Some Common Trees of Chennai
K.N. Rao

Banyan exchange

The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of the banyan tree is its sheer size, writes K.N. Rao in ‘Trees and Tree Tales: Some Common Trees of Chennai’ ( ).

The ‘Adyar’ banyan tree in the gardens of the Theosophical Society, Chennai, a famous tourist spot, could at one time accommodate about 10,000 people in its shade, for discourses, the author narrates.

“Sometime in the 1980s, it fell victim to a cloudburst and all efforts at revitalising its main trunk proved futile. Still, its branches are supported by their own prop roots which pass for so many independent trees.”


A course in burglary

Dead Watch
John Sandford

In John Sandford’s Dead Watch ( you’d meet Jake Winter, a specialist in ‘forensic bureaucracy’, who goes about finding what really happened. “In training for Afghanistan, Jake had taken a course in burglary — what the army called surreptitious entry — from an ex-burglar hired by the CIA,” reads a snatch in the fast-paced fiction. Though the technique was not particula rly practical in Afghanistan, Jake found the training interesting.

The path of Buddha is one of intelligence, not emotion


Buddha is not the name of Gautama the Buddha, it is the state that he has attained, explains Osho in Buddha ( “His name was Gautama Siddhartha. Then one day he became Buddha, one day his bodhi, his intelligence, bloomed. ‘Buddha’ means exactly what ‘Christ’ means. Jesus’ name is not Christ; that is the ultimate floweri ng that happened to him. So it is with Buddha.” Everybody has the capacity for budh, assures the book.

The average person’s belief about themselves is flattering

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Lewis Wolpert

In all probability, you may be giving yourself a good score when it comes to self-rating. Only, that could be way off the mark. “People’s perceptions about themselves are particularly unreliable,” says Lewis Wolpert in Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast ( ).

“The average person’s belief about themselves is, in general, flattering. A large majority of the public believe that they are more intelligent and fair-minded, better describers and less prejudiced than the average person.”