Sunday, December 23, 2012

The idea of justice

This is not about the book. But it may have something from this one.

Newspapers are now filled with lines like "We want justice" or  "Justice delayed is justice denied". Why do we have this apparent lack of justice? One thing that comes to mind is the fact that justice is not what it used to be. The only kind of justice available now for law abiding citizens of the country is what can be called legal justice.

I feel justice is a sort of cultural thing. It is something that is obvious to people at all the times but capturing it in rules and guidelines detaches it from its cultural roots.  The good and the bad part of legal justice is that it is defined and written. Just like all computer systems are hack-able, so is legal justice because it is also a kind of "code". Code that runs on computer has finite set of symbols and it has no ambiguity, and still it is possible to hack it. The code of legal justice has further complications, it is subject to interpretation. In some sense best lawyers are  hackers of legal code. They are highly paid and celebrated, whereas their computer counterparts are looked at in totally different spirit.

I can think of only two ways for legal justice to be effective. One is to have the jury system. If 10-12 random people think something is a crime, it likely is. People are a very good competition to people. They can understand each other, their motives and can evolve with time, unlike rules which can be easily abused. Lots of criminals would have been behind the bars if we have random people deciding their fate and not a set of rules, subject to interpretation of a small set of professionals. People can understand why witness turn hostile or why you don't get evidence. The law that only punishes criminals if there are witnesses and evidence,  is the logical/primary reason for criminals to threaten witnesses and to hide evidence.

The second way could be rules which are defined using languages that computers can understand. The benefit of such an approach is that anyone sitting in their home can input the related facts and see the outcome of the trial. We don't need any trial. Someone can write a crime generator and enumerate all possible crimes and their punishments. Basically instead of getting hacked in the court, which is a super slow process and sensitive because someones life is at stake, if we have a system which can be hacked any time by anyone, we end up with a better system. Call it open source justice if you will.

Justice is either a logical thing encoded in rules or something complex which perhaps only people can understand. In case it is first, it is logical to make it "people free" i.e. define it in a language computers can understand because they are so much better at this. If not, then let people run the show i.e let's have jury to decide stuff not judges. I just don't understand the rationale of the current system which seems to prevent the very thing it is supposed to provide..i.e justice.

By going to streets people might get some justice now, but what these exceptions tell us is that something is fundamentally wrong with the system itself. A short term focus will bring justice but it would be nothing more than revenge. But if we could fix the system itself, it can prevent injustice in the first place. I would prefer a better system than ever watching the replay of this story again.

Sometimes the middle path doesn't leads anywhere, you got to choose.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cost of Vote

2011-2012 budget for India = Rs 14,90,925 crores
Total number of voters (as per 2009 elections) = 71.4 crores

Per voter this year budget = Rs 20,881
Since we vote every five years, the cost of vote comes out to be around
Rs 1,04,406.

Strangely, poverty line in India is defined at Rs 28 per day, which gives Rs 51,100 as total expenditure for a poor person for five years. If poor people could sell their vote at market price, they would be twice as richer ;) 

Making pizza at home

First, accept it is difficult. That will make your life easy when things go wrong.
Second, read this Multiple times.

Lets start with some motivation.

Day 0: Sarson Ka Saag over Maize Pizza

Day 1: Simple toppings

Day 2: Egg Cheese and other stuff

Problem number one is the yeast activation. I had never dealt with it and without thermometer it was hard to find if the water is hot enough or not. Well they say the temperature should be 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  Our body temperature is about 99 degrees. If it feels warm, it is close enough. Put yeast in water along with some sugar and/or some flour. Leave it for about 10-15 minutes. If you see some bubble in the liquid, you are all set.

Problem number two is making the dough. Actually you don't need to make the dough. It is more like the mixture for making "pakodaas" just a little less wet. I don't think even the dough matters much because my latest pizza was maida(60%)+maize flour(40%), with "sarson ka saag" topping. Anyways, have some maida (at least 50%) because it sticks together and gives "enclosure" for yeast to work. Maize flour hardly sticks together and I wasn't really hoping things to turn out well.  It makes me think, may be maida is probably not a good choice for home made pizza. Regular wheat flour and even may be with a bit of dalia or sooji would probably give better results. Anyway, first add the yeast mixture and keep rotating it with a spoon or spatula. Add water if you find it difficult to mix and rotate, but don't make it a liquid paste. What we are looking for is something in-between. It should be possible to rotate spatula, but with effort. This shouldn't take more that 4-5 minutes. Leave it for may be 30 minutes. If it rises, that is good, if it doesn't, doesn't matters. Cut the dough if you want to call it, it will actually be some sticky stuff. You should be able to almost pour it from one bowl to another, except it will take couple of minutes at the speed it pours. It shouldn't have shape of its own as chappati dough has, it will easily spread. I kept these pieces in cling-film. Put them in refrigerator for may be 24 hours or more and then they would be ready to use.

As I described in details in the previous paragraph, the dough is very hard to handle because it is so soft. We don't need any rolling pin. Put lots of flour on the baking tray and then transfer this mass from the cling-film to the tray. Change sides to make sure it is completely covered with flour, so that it doesn't sticks your hands. Now is the time to spread it. Don't try too hard, you will tear it. What you are looking for is may be at max 3-4 mm thick layer, uneven of-course.

While we are doing all this, make sure microwave(oven) is using convection at 250 degree Celsius. That is 482 degree Fahrenheit.   My microwave doesn't go beyond 250, if yours does, please set it at maximum. At this point, all we need to do it put the pizza into the microwave and relax for 7-8 minutes.    At this point take the pizza out and switch sides and cook for another 5 minutes. The optional step here is to lightly spray olive oil/butter on both sides of the pizza. This will keep the crust soft. What you have at this point is a nice cooked pizza base. Get it out, put the toppings and cheese and put it back. No side change this time. The quicker you put the toppings, the best it is for pizza. Cook it for another 6-8 minutes and you will hopefully have a nice pizza. This extra cooking also helps in getting a nice crust below which makes it easy to hold pizza slices.

UPDATE:  May be you should ignore the cooking time information I gave. It will vary with quantity of dough. Instead, one can decide the side changing time depending upon when the pizza starts to rise. Once it starts rising, give it may be couple of minutes to cook and then change side. The important thing here is if the lower side has become crisp or not. If it is too crisp, just add the toppings right away but if not, you could cook it for another few minutes after changing side.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On FDI in retail

It can't be good for the farmers.
As long as farmers don't have the ability to say no to a bad deal, they will never make more money. Two things are required for that to happen: 1) They have enough to eat and 2) They have place to securely store food until they find a good buyer. Since FDI doesn't ensures either of these, all we are talking about is who will make money from the farmers, not if farmers will make money or not.

It might be good for the consumers in the short run.
Any new retailer needs to find customers and one of the ways is to price below its competitors. But it is not the only way. So in the short run, we can expect prices of some of the things to come down.

What about the %age?
All I said above was with reference to 100% FDI in retail. When the percentage is below 100%, the real beneficiaries would be be companies with which the foreign companies need to create joint ventures. These are the current organised retail ventures from India. If it is 49%, Indian companies get to control the joint venture, if it is 51% foreign companies get control. The percentage ensures that whatever "good" is going to happen with FDI, almost 50% of that goes to owners of the Indian retail ventures.

So, forget about farmers or small shopkeepers or consumers, the deal with FDI is to ensure current owners of Indian retail companies make money, who will otherwise collapse if foreign companies were to directly compete with them.  And who pays for that -- us and who decides for that - "our" government.

If government is so keep on interests of farmers,  they should probably open up FDI in farming and not in retail. Same rules, 49% of the companies owned by farmers who do the farming and 51% control for foreign companies which can create storage facilities or in general figure our how to make money with the farmers and not from the farmers.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

India Against Corruption

If we were to assume that corruption is caused by corruption, one time end of corruption ensures no further corruption. I guess many people justify their own corruption because they have to deal with other corrupt people. Lets call this assumption number 1. Actually this is less of assumption and more of rational behavior any economist would stand by.

Lets further assume that there was a point in time in human history when corruption didn't exist and we will call it assumption number 2 and similarly not of assumption number 2 is assumption number 3, which to put it in words say that their was no point in human history when corruption didn't exist.

If we assume 1 and 3, it is pointless to fight against corruption. History is against us and logic says it will continue to exist because it exists now.

If we assume 1 and 2, then we have a contradiction. If 1 was to be true and 2 is true, then corruption shouldn't exists today because at some point it didn't exist.  But as we know, it does exist and hence 2 is wrong.

We can postulate here that their is something about non-corrupt societies that causes corruption. Specifically,  not just corruption begets corruption (assumption 1), non-corruption begets corruption too. And if that were to be true, fighting against corruption is futile because that in itself lays the foundation of corruption.