Beer Arbitrage

June 4, 2008

Via Skimpy‘s Google Reader Shared Items, I have discovered this wonderful website: It’s the wikipedia of beer prices. Users e-mail in the price of a pint of beer wherever they live or travel, and the data are updated down to city level. The listed price of a pint in Bombay, for instance, is USD 1.82 – which is accurate enough.

The website also lists the ten cheapest, and the ten most expensive countries in the world for a beer. What’s really interesting is that in Rwanda, a pint is only 0.32 GBP, while in neighbouring Burundi, it’s at least three times more – 0.94 GBP in Bujumbura, and a whopping GBP 5.51 in Burundi City.

Imagine the arbitrage opportunity at the border! This, I feel, is the future of finance – FX traders carrying yen will be replaced by beer traders carrying Urgwagwa.

Not Quite Parallel

November 14, 2007

Over SMS, BJ asks:

Aaloo paratha is to a punjoo like curd rice to a tambrahm agree?

Not really. As TCA Srinivasa-Raghavan pointed out, for TamBrahms curd rice is both necessary and sufficient1. However for Punjews aaloo parathas are only sufficient2, since they can be replaced by mooli parathas, gobi parathas, or makki di roti.

Put another way, you cannot be TamBrahm if you do not eat curd rice. You can be a Punjew even if you don’t eat aaloo parathas, as long as you eat makki di roti instead.

1: He was drawing an analogy to how Indian economists treat statistical jugglery.
2: Provided they are two number aaloo parathas.

There Ain’t No Such Thing as Free Beer

October 16, 2007

You pay for it on the treadmill.

Who Decides What You Eat?

September 25, 2007

This Mint article on school lunches in Japan is rather alarming in its enthusiasm for the nanny state. It also gushes about the Japanese self-sufficiency movement, which actually dooms Japanese farmers to small farms and eats up money in food subsidies:

Chisan, chishou, the local term for ‘produce local, consume local’, is a major campaign in Japan and it is reflected in the school menu as well. The cabinet office directive says that ingredients for the meals have to be sourced from places no more than 30km away.

And also about government campaigns which set out what people should eat:

So, on 15 July 2005, a new law on syokuiku came into force. It lays down the basic philosophy for “dietary education” to eradicate all these problems at the root. Says Miho Kawano, assistant counsellor at the cabinet office on dietary education promotion department: “Syokuiku is based on the theory that every individual needs to acquire knowledge about how to choose food, be aware of healthy diet and food safety.” What is impressive is the scale and precision with which the movement has been launched all over the country and how every school, prefecture, municipal office, corporate, NGO and literally every citizen on the street has been drawn into the programme.

Which are expensive and intrusive:

According to Kawano, the programme has an annual budget of $98.31 million (Rs391.27 crore) and there are 190,000 volunteers involved. The goal is to get at least 20% more volunteers by 2010 who will spread awareness about nutrition and the link between diet and health all over Japan. And, in a brilliant masterstroke, health insurance societies, too, have been drawn into the programme. Hutami says that from April 2008, the government is planning to route special health checking and guidance facilities to every Japanese citizen through insurance societies. Successful societies will be given a reward, while unsuccessful ones will be penalized.

On a slightly less rational note, the praise given to The Shri Ram School annoys me:

Although it is not organized on military lines like the Japanese school lunches, The Shri Ram School lunch programme is constantly evolving. For instance, the menu, devised by the teachers, is circulated to parents and also vetted by dieticians.

Bah. Death to TSRS.

But the article is still very nicely written and has lots of interesting details. Do read it.

Expense Account Arbitrage

June 1, 2007

I am off to Singapore for the next two weeks on *cough*a shareholder sponsored junket *cough cough* training.

During the course of training I will be staying at two five star hotels. It’s hard to pick the best thing about this sort of luxurious accommodation. There are two very strong contenders.

The first is the free breakfast. The idea of a breakfast buffet where I eat as much as I can before its time to head off to the seminar rooms is beguilingly attractive. When it’s being expensed to my cost code rather than to my salary account, it’s nirvanic. But it’s still not a clear winner.

Because there is the other, equally strong contender: free laundry.

Yes, free laundry. I am currently dumping all my clothes into my suitcase so that they can be washed and ironed by professional launderers (who, I just realised, will be Chinese, thus making this an even better deal). After six months of having my clothes washed by a maid who believes that the best way to deal with clothes is tough love, and who leaves the ironing to me, I will finally have an opportunity to have all my clothes stainfree, fluffy, sweet smelling, and crisply ironed. The mind reels in delight.

Right then. Time to get back to packing.

PS: Ritwik, you will have to wait a little longer for the Sohrabuddin and Idiotarians post. If I write a long post while in Singapore, it will imply a failure on my part to spend my free times out partying with an international contingent and Mr. Walker.

Waheeda Rehman is a Goddess

May 2, 2007


The muesli itself:

The Most Important Meal of the Day

You should eat it too.

A Good Reason to be an I-banker

April 20, 2007

You can afford to eat regularly at Olive Bar and Grill.

I, of course, am a mere commercial banker. So despite being a grossly overpaid MBA I cannot afford to eat at Olive Beach Bangalore. Unfortunately the fates decreed otherwise.

I foolishly did not carry an umbrella yesterday. Thus, on my way back from the gym,  I got caught in the rain. I dashed to the nearest place of shelter, which just happened to be Olive Beach.

Now I had heard of Olive Beach and had wanted to try it out. I knew that it was pricey, but had no actual clue of how pricey it was. And I had no idea that it was a part of the Olive Bar and Grill chain. So I marched in, dripping hair and all, and asked for a table for one.


Yes, I was out of the rain, I was in a nice candlelit restaurant with high ceilings, and there was very good jazz playing, and the food was fabulous, but there was still the matter of the bill, which came to a kilorupee for salad, risotto and mousse. The situation was analogous to the one faced by the young prince who manages to find a lavish palace in the middle of the harsh and unforgiving forest, and happily rests there for a while, only to be saddled later on with a quest involving dragons and other nasty things by the princess living there.

Anyway. I have to decide a couple of years down the line whether to pursue the rat race with vigour, whether to put prodigal son and join the family business, or whether to do a PhD. The fact that some of these options will make it easier than others to go and eat at Olive will definitely be an important variable in the decision process.

Stocked Out

April 16, 2007

Things that just aren’t available in Bangalore: 1 Kg boxes of Good Earth Muesli and 1 Litre packs of Real Activ spinach juice. Why?

This wouldn’t happen if Jesus was in the supermarket meeting my needs.

Vodkathon Were There

April 1, 2007

At Shiok, where else?

Present: Anand, Suman, Prabhu, Zero, Chenthil, Arun, and Aditya. Drunkenness led to discussing how to rid the world of free market fundamentalism, how the true test of being an Old Skool blogger is remembering when Nidhi Taparia was the prettiest girl blogger, why we were the Real BarCampers, and our next project:

My humble contribution to the noble endeavour: a Californian Iced Tea and a Green Apple Martini.

Update: Poto!

Green Apple Martini

Size Does Matter

March 17, 2007

To my great delight, I discovered today that Fresh and Fresh on 100 Ft. Road stocks not only Kabuli pomegranates but also North Indian carrots. The carrot season will end in a couple of weeks, so this was a particularly nick-of-time discovery. The past three months I’ve been unable to find North Indian carrots anywhere in Bangalore- supermarket or traditional.

The question is not about the taste of the carrot (though the Fresh and Fresh attendant claimed that North Indian carrots are better for making both gajrela and sambhar), but of shape.

South Indian carrots are too short. You can chop them up and cook them with beans, and they taste great, but they just can’t live up to the expectations I have from carrots. I grew up in Delhi. The pleasure of washing a carrot, and chewing it raw in the winter sun is not to be understated. And this is where the long, thin, and tapering shape of North Indian carrots comes in useful. The short and squat South Indian varieties are over in two bites.

For more insights into the significance of the size and shape of carrots, read this post by theothernilu, and this xkcd strip.