Ask Me Anything: Owl in the Plane edition

So I am back at home after wandering around in India. I flew Jet Airways between BOM and LHR, and Virgin Atlantic between LHR and IAD. Talking of Jet Airways, an owl had offered to pilot one of their 777s.

An owl was waiting for pilots this morning in Boeing 777-300ER’s cockpit prior flight to London.

I found a nice little poem in the comments to that squawk:

A wise old owl sat on an oak,
The more he saw, the less he spoke,
The less he spoke, the more he heard,
Why can’t we be like that wise old bird?

The words oak and spoke, and heard and bird rhyme so beautifully. It also occurred to me that they even rhyme in the way Bongs pronounce the words:

The less he spoke, the more he hard
Why can’t we be like that wise old bard.

Anyway, moving on. There was another peaceful act by the followers of The Religion of Peace. In Kashmir. A CRPF convey was attacked by a suicide bomber in a car-load of explosives. Over 40 died a gruesome death. The usual fallout: politicians grandstanding, bleeding hearts responding to calls for revenge with their patented “violence does not solve anything”, etc.

And of course the obligatory labeling of those killed as “martyrs” by the retarded ignorant who don’t know vocabulary. The only martyr was the Islamic terrorist. He was fighting a religious cause; the CRPF are a professional force, not a religious force. They were killed in the line of duty. They are not martyrs.

Too much stupidity, bigotry, aggressiveness, arrogance and ignorance — hallmarks of monotheistic religions. Thankfully, there are other people who are not like them. There are people who do creative, imaginative, constructive, fun stuff, not all of which is (or has to be) useful. Here’s an example that brightened my day. Follow the blue marble.

To properly follow the action, it is even better to watch it at .75x speed.

Moving on to a more serious topic. I’ve been busy writing. I’m reading some good books too. Current on the bookshelf is David Benatar’s The Human Predicament: A Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions. It’s simple superlatively good. Here’s a nice summary of the book.

If you click on the image, it will take you to an Oxford University Press interview podcast in which Benatar talks about the book.

And finally a quote to conclude this post:

“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”

That’s from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Improved means to unimproved ends. That reminds me of wars, and the institution that is the prime motivator of wars: government. I am against governments having too much power.

OK, so this is an ask me anything post. What’s on your mind?



Author: Atanu Dey


21 thoughts on “Ask Me Anything: Owl in the Plane edition”

  1. Mr. Dey,
    The news just came out that Amazon is withdrawing its 2nd headquarters plan in Queens, N.Y. It is difficult to understand the complaints from neighborhood organizations on Amazon arrival. It is not every day you get such opportunity of high-end employment for tens of thousands of people. The people and the state government are making it go just like that. Reminds me of W. Bengal in some respects. There may be gaps in my understanding. I would like to know your take on it. Thanks in advance.


    1. “Given how wealthy Amazon is, giving them $3 billion in state and city incentives to build here seems inappropriate and a waste of limited resources. It rankled some. Oh, and they pay no Federal taxes either“. <– This twitter thread pointed by Prof Scott Galloway has something to chew.

      “Amazon Will Pay a Whopping $0 in Federal Taxes on $11.2 Billion Profits”


    2. P. Rao:

      There is no mystery in the opposition to Amazon’s HQ2 in NY City. There will always be people who are myopic and who will voluntarily cut off their noses to spite their faces. It’s partly ignorance, partly stupidity and partly greed.


      1. Atanu, so as per your dollar-auctions-post, India should stop playing the auction by negotiating an everlasting truce with Pakistan.
        Can you give an example scenario how that is possible? How can such an attempt be undertaken which will withstand sabotage attempts from very powerful arms lobby across the world?


        1. baransam1,

          I did not recommend “negotiating an everlasting truce with Pakistan” in my Dollar Auction post. What I recommend is that India should credibly commit to ruin Pakistan at the start of the game so that it becomes rational for Pakistan to not get into the game of bidding against India. Here’s the quote:

          If the more powerful player in the dollar auction goes to the other in the initial stages of the game and makes a credible commitment of setting aside an amount greater than the amount the other can ever bid, then the second player would find it rational to not bid at all. This would be so because the second player knows that not only will he lose for sure, but that it will be a fatal loss. This way, the first player not only does not have to spend the money set aside but actually wins the dollar for just 5 cents. The winner has to make a credible threat to ruin the other party. Any vaccilation on the part of the stronger party would preclude this outcome.

          India should have announced that it was willing and capable of outbidding Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir irrespective of what Pakistan could ever afford to bid. A credible announcement does not necessarily amount to actually spending the outrageous amount; it only requires the demonstration of the will to do so if the contingency arose.


    1. Sudipta, you are free to print or make your own currency. What’s illegal is to counterfeit fiat currency. Thus you cannot produce bits of paper that someone may mistakenly believe it is Fed Reserve currency. But you can produce some bit of paper that you give to people in exchange for good if they are willing to accept those bits.


  2. Atanu, I had asked a question about China in your note about “Economic Growth, Population and Poverty Numbers” December. I am curious to hear your take. I’ll repeat the question here.

    Liberty is not truly understood by everyone, and is an important fundamental in the growth and success of a civilization. Structuring government and its policies to minimally intrude with the affairs of free enterprise and personal liberty is the best course for prosperity and perhaps even happiness.

    So how does an authoritarian China end up doing so well and maintaining it for decades? Look at the way they treat any foreign company when it comes to their shores. They copy the best ideas and run local corporations that mimic the products, but lock the original products out. They brazenly steal IP from the west (notorious cases of engineers pilfering plans, like at semiconductor companies). Their manufacturing is ubiquitous, their products are all over, and they remain ascendant.

    Thank you.


    1. One example: How China became a naval powerhouse:
      China shipyards build civilian and military ships at the same time and most if not whole R&D and staff cost is dumped on civilain market. US navy shipiards not only don’t do civilian ships but mostly have narrow specialization. Because of the hazy line between military and civilian industries, China can use R&D funds more effectively on a national scale.


  3. Hi Atanu,

    Similar to the question asked by Namami, I requested your take on China’s economic model in the post “Whoever fights monsters”. Is it that Govt. involvement can in some circumstances propel development?


  4. Hello Atanu,

    //That reminds me of Wars, and the institution that is the prime motivator of wars: government. //

    But what about the religious or ideological wars? I mean for Pakistanis it’s a holy war against Hindu infidels. Chechnyans (they may call themselves as Freedom Fighters, Like the Kashmiri terrorists) waging a religious war against the Russians.



    1. Velmurugan,

      All wars are funded by governments. Pakistan’s wars against India can certainly qualify as religious wars but it requires the support of the Pakistani government. Without a government on one (or both sides) of a conflict, it would not be much of a conflict. Even “civil wars” require government support.


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