Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shameless plug

For the past year or so, I've been DJing (in Indian parlance, RJing?) at a radio station (KBCS, on air at 91.3 FM here, streaming online at www.kbcs.fm ) run out of Bellevue. It's a program called "The Spice Route" which plays music from South Asia - ?ollywood (? == B, T, M), Indian classical songs, music from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other countries in South Asia.

Now the station supports streaming archives which you can search here:


You can search for me by name or search for "The Spice Route". Playslists are always available. Audio is archived for 15 days after the program is over. The station can't archive more because of USA DMCA regulations.

This means that after my next show on the 24th you'll be able to listen to it till the 8th or 9th of December. I generally DJ on the 3rd Wednesday of every month, and it's been a fun experience for sure. If you're in the Seattle area and are interested in DJing, drop me a line. It's a volunteer thing. You won't get paid, but I guarantee you'll enjoy it.


Yes, I take requests.

No, I don't let you go on air when you call in. With the FCC being what it is, we can't risk you using a swear word on air.

Yes, listening to yourself can be weird at times.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Stick to the basics

I'm not big on writing about stuff I'm not an expert on, but that's not stopped me in the past.

This time it's the bank and credit meltdown. I was observing the rise and rise of real estate for the better part of two years and one thing struck me last year: this isn't making sense. I'm not talking about the subprime loans, credit default swaps or collateralized debt obligations et al. The basic business itself wasn't making sense. How can a sensible businessman even assume that real estate prices will keep going up forever? Were incomes going up at the rate real estate was? How long before people could simply not afford to buy homes anymore? In the Seattle area, it'd reached the point where buying an affordable single-family unit close to Microsoft was well nigh impossible for a single-income family. You had to move farther away or move into a smaller place. How many banks realized this and yet did nothing to reduce risk or exposure to mortgages?

This American Life had an illuminating episode on this. Link here. They say that the system made it such that no one had any incentive to be realistic about the kind of risks they were taking. Risk kept getting transferring from the lending institutions to banks, then to investment banks and so on till you had no idea where your debts were really owed. Then of course, everything went haywire.

However, I still wonder about banks and the people who run them. Didn't they at some point wonder - "This person didn't put down a single cent of his own money to borrow half a million from the bank. Is s/he ever going to be in a position to return all of this? What if some of these people are unable to repay?"

There's a saying in Kannada my mother loves to quote about money (which may partly explain why I'm hard-nosed about it). The saying means that you should stretch your feet only as much as your bed allows you to. Sleeping with your feet hanging off the bed leads to much grief, including $700 billion bailouts.