So we moved to London yesterday. The wife has got a job here, and Berry and I have tagged along as “dependants”. My dependant visa allows me to work here, though it has been mentioned rather complicated as “Restricted no doctor/dentist training no sport”. Basically I can do everything else. The five-month old’s visa stamp simply says “work permitted”! Go figure.

This is not the first time I’m living in London. I’d very briefly (for the length of a mid-MBA internship) lived here twelve years ago, and as luck would have it, our cab from the airport to the temporary apartment passed under that office on the way (that employer has moved offices since, I’ve been told).

London welcomed us with some fabulous weather yesterday – I actually considered getting my sunglasses out! Wasn’t too cold (one jacket was enough) and mostly didn’t rain, so despite being sleepless and tired from our journey, we ended up setting out to put beats and meet some friends. While we were waiting at the bus stop, though, it did drizzle a bit, making me reconsider whether we should really go out. Then, my wife reminded me that we weren’t in Bangalore any more, and poor weather is no excuse to put NED.

We took Berry in her stroller yesterday. Walking around with it was peaceful – for the large part, footpaths exist, and though not as smooth as Hema Malini’s cheeks, there are no problems at all with taking the stroller around. It’s not a problem on buses either, but the tube is a real bitch. Most stations don’t have elevators, and you need to carry the strollers up or down stairs. And we haven’t yet figured how to hold it while climbing down escalators, which left little Berry rather scared as she got on for her first tube ride. Henceforth, when a tube ride is involved, we’ll most likely put her in her baby carrier rather than the stroller!

Keeping her warm is a challenge, though. As a good South Indian kid, she refuses to wear any warm clothes and we need to endure significant screaming when we make her wear a warm jacket. We also need to figure out a strategy for the rain. We’ve got this plastic cover for her stroller, but a different strategy is required when carrying her in her carrier (the carrier is also hard to wear when wearing a coat of any kind).

Finally, a note about coffee. Firstly, it isn’t that expensive – a typical coffee at Costa is around £2.25 (I’m still conditioned to thinking GBP/EUR = 1, though I realise I need to add 15% to convert pound prices to Euros, which I’m used to). But the coffee at Costa itself was disappointing.

They promised a Cortado, which is a Spanish concept where very little milk is added to a shot of espresso, giving a rather strong coffee. Costa advertised at their door that they served some three kinds of Cortado (a travesty in itself). And the cortado itself had way too much milk for it to be called a Cortado!

I hope to continue to make pertinent observations, unless I join an employer where continued blogging might seem too dangerous (I’ve worked for those kinds of employers in the past but don’t want to take chances again)! And you might remember that this blog “took off” in terms of the number of posts the first time I was in Britain!


My facebook feed nowadays is so full of Brexit that I’m tempted to add my own commentary to it. The way I look at it is in terms of option valuation.

While the UK economy hasn’t been doing badly over the last five years (steady strictly positive growth), this growth hasn’t been uniform and a significant proportion of the population has felt left out.

Now, Brexit can have a negative impact on two counts – first, it can have a direct adverse impact on the UK’s GDP (and also Europe’s GDP). Secondly, it can have an adverse impact by increasing uncertainty.

Uncertainty is in general bad for business, and for the economy as a whole. It implies that people can plan less, which they compensate for by means of building in more slacks and buffers. And these slacks and buffers  will take away resources that could’ve been otherwise used for growth, thus affecting growth more adversely.

While the expected value from volatility is likely to be negative, what volatility does is to shake things up. For someone who is currently “out of the money” (doing badly as things stand), though, volatility gives a chance to get “in the money”. There is an equal chance of going deeper out of the money, of course, but the small chance that volatility can bring them out of water (apologies for mixing metaphors) can make volatility appealing.

So the thing with the UK is that a large section of the population has considered itself to be “out of the money” in the last few years, and sees no respite from the existing slow and steady growth. From this background, volatility is a good thing, and anything that can shake things up deserves its chance!

And hence Brexit. It might lower overall GDP, and bring in volatility, but people hope that the mix of fortunes that stem from this volatility will affect them positively (and the negative effects go to someone else). From this perspective, the vote for Brexit is a vote of optimism, with voters in favour of Leave voting for the best possible outcome for themselves from the resulting mess.

In other words, each voter in the UK seems to have optimised for private best case, and hence voted for Brexit. Collectively, it might seem to be an irrational decision, but once you break it down it’s as rational as it gets!

Why Should Anyone Invade Syria?

I don’t understand why the US or the UK or any other country should invade Syria now. Yes, there are gross human rights violations in that country now, and the civil war has been raging for a while now. However, before any foreign country wants to intervene, they need to ask themselves the following questions:

1. what is the objective of the invasion? 

The objective of the US invading Afghanistan in 2002 was to track down Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the WTC attacks of 2001. The then Afghan government (Taliban) was not cooperating with the US’s efforts in locating bin Laden, and sensing that having bin Laden on the loose for too long would be a further threat to America’s national security the US invaded. So far so good.

The objective of the US invading Iraq in 2003-04 was that Saddam Hussein was apparently harbouring “weapons of mass destruction”. The US decided that if any such weapons existed with Iraq, it would harm their national interest and so went ahead and invaded. That no such weapons were found is a different matter.

The question is what would be the objective of the US or the UK or any other invading power in Syria? Do they know what they want? Or is it just that they want to invade simply because they can? I repeat – Syrians might be dying but why is it in the national interest of any other country to intervene?

2. What does the invading country seek to achieve by invading?

This is similar to the previous point, but different. Basically what does an invading power seek to achieve in Syria? Rather, what is the event that needs to happen at which point the invader will decide to call off the invasion and return? In Afghanistan there was one such objective – get rid of bin Laden, get rid of the Taliban, put in a new government, stabilize it and go. Yet it’s taken this long. The objective in Iraq wasn’t as clear, still it’s been an extremely long invasion. What would an invading power’s objective be in Syria? Remove Assad? But what would that achieve?

3. What about the chemical weapons then?

Agreed that both the sides in Syria might possess chemical weapons, but why would the US or Western European countries want to invade because of that? If anyone would want to invade for that particular reason it would be one of Syria’s neighbours – Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, etc – for they are the ones that are likely to be vulnerable to collateral damage. Given that both sides are likely to have chemical weapons it is unlikely that by taking sides in the civil war the chemical weapons could come under control.

Moreover, the nature of the civil war in Syria seems rather uncivil, and I don’t think either party will care about any convention that restricts the use of a particular kind of weaponry. So hoping that one side will give up the use of chemical weapons just because you take their side is futile .

To me, the civil war in Syria is like the Battle of Kishkindha, where Vali faced off Sugriva in a one-on-one combat. There, Rama had a strategic reason to intervene, for he had 1. struck a deal with Sugriva. 2. having no army of his own, he could count on the support of the victor in his campaign against Lanka. As far as any Western nation is concerned, there is no such incentive here. There is no treaty, and it is unlikely that help in this war will lead the victor to be an ally of the invader. The reason I qualified the previous sentence with a “Western” is that it doesn’t apply to Russia. Russia (and formerly USSR) has a pact with al Assad, and they have been long-standing allies. By taking al Assad’s side in this war, Russia knows that they will have a valuable ally in the Middle East in the event of his victory.

None of the Western countries have any such agreements. The only organization which has any sort of alliance with either side in Syria is the al Qaeda, which is supposedly supporting the rebels.

That Western powers such as the US and the UK want to intervene in Syria, and that too on the side of the rebels (in alliance with al Qaeda) shows that these countries are yet to get rid of the cold war mindset. They seem to want to intervene in Syria on one side only because Russia is supporting the other side. In fact, if the US or the UK were to want to invade Syria, the only thing that might make sense is to get in on Assad’s side and take out the Islamist rebels.