Reserve Bank of India's Interventions to maintain excess liquidity - Part 2

In the previous post, we looked at what the RBI has been doing over the 2020 calendar year. The over-all effect of RBI’s interventions have been that the exchange rate (INR to USD ratio) has remained within a narrow window, despite the unprecedented capital inflows into the Indian equity market. This is by design, and the RBI has tried to explain their policy a few times in various documents. Although this excess liquidity can theoretically cause high inflation and have an adverse impact on the currency, a couple other things are happening simultaneously and making this policy prudent (existing over-valuation and RBI’s strong balance sheet). After reading some of these documents, here’s my thesis of the advantages and disadvantages of what the RBI has been doing, as I best understand it.

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Reserve Bank of India's Interventions to maintain excess liquidity - Part 1

In December 2020, I came across several articles about India’s Central Bank, the Reserve Bank of India, intervening in the open market to maintain excess liquidity of the Indian Rupee in the market. With my elementary understanding of currencies, I understood that this excess liquidity of INR in the market, would keep the currency weak against other currencies, and this seemed undesirable. In this post and the next one, I will delve into the complicated reasoning behind the RBI’s choices and their delicate balancing act which seems to be associated with a high but manageable amount of risk.

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Comparison of metrics of COVID-19 vaccines

Over the past few days, several countries have approved vaccine candidates for emergency use and even wider use. In the US and in India, 2 vaccines have been approved. In the UK, both vaccines that were approved in the US have been approved, along with one that has been approved in India (under a different brand name). After seeing all these approvals, I wanted to understand what their comparative merits and demerits were. In particular, I wanted to understand the size of their clinical trials, the confidence each had in their efficacy numbers and their safety profiles. To this end, I read the “Primary results” research papers for all 4 vaccines. This post will try to compare the headline numbers, and explain some of the similarities between the trials, and the things that seem to have happened only with a single vaccine.

Side note: These papers were clearly written with very little medical terminology. I was able to understand them once I knew what terms like Seroconversion and Immunogenicity meant. The papers do have a considerable amount of graphs and numbers, so parsing them is an important part of reading them.

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Unionized Software Engineers - Is the Social Cost spread out disproportionately?

Today, there was an article announcing a new workers union for all employees working at Alphabet, Inc., Google’s parent company, the Alphabet Workers Union. The union is constituted by about 400 employees, an extremely small percentage of the total workforce of nearly 250,000 people. The union dues are 1% of total compensation.

We still have discrimination, harassment, & retaliation at Google. Over half our workforce are TVCs—paid less, w/fewer benefits, for often the exact same work.

We deserve meaningful control over the projects we work on & the direction of this company.

Here’s where it gets interesting: The union is a minority union. As the union doesn’t have a majority of all the employees as members, there is no basis for them to walk up to Alphabet’s management and demand to negotiate a Union contract. Instead, they are going to use their union as a more abstract entity that will be used for other purposes. The question that came up when I was discussing this with a few co-workers was whether the social cost of this particular type of union is spread out disproportionately between the employer and the union members?

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Strength of the Counter-Argument to Public Advocacy

On Dec 10th 2020, Zeynep Tufekci made a public argument for a trial of the single dosage of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines on her mailing list, Insight. When I first read the argument and it’s basis on the apparent safety and efficacy of just the single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, as described in the official peer-reviewed paper, I agreed with Tufekci. Her argument is a solid one and poses the central question: Is vaccinating 95% of 50% of available doses better than 60-80% of the total available doses? The answer is equally simple: No one knows yet. Some inferences can be drawn from the data of the 1300 people who didn’t get the second dose in the original N = 40,000 clinical trial. But this subset of 1300 people is not as random as the original well-designed trial. Another clinical trial, the advocacy for it in as many public forums as possible and subsequent funding / trial design seems like the prudent way to go forward, as Tufekci describes in her post.

On Dec 30th 2020, Tufekci posted philosophy professor,Matthew Noah Smith’s counter to her original argument on Insight. I read that post today and found it to be particularly weak. This post goes on to explain why I felt that, and the peculiarities in Smith’s post.

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Most Valuable Resource

A few days ago, I started thinking about why I was not spending time writing posts for this blog OR working on a side project that I have wanted to work on for a while. My conclusion was that I was not allocating my time properly. This is not original; I didn’t think it was a significant conclusion at first. As I started working on that, I came across another question that felt like a pretty good summary of what I was feeling at that point in time:

What is the Most Valuable Resource (MVR) in your life right now?

I started thinking about this off-and-on, and I eventually came to the conclusion that right now, it is Time. Thinking back to my childhood or my time in college, and I realized that my MVR in those stages of life were different from what it is now. In college, it was Experience. In school, it was Identity. This post is an exploration of my thinking on this subject. It is meant to stimulate readers to think about what their MVR is, how it has changed over the years, and how they might go about gaining more of their MVR through conscious changes in behavior.

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Configuring Emacs - 7 months later - Act 3

Note: This is the final post in a series of 3 posts about my experience configuring Emacs over 7 months, starting from scratch.

Emacs Lisp is the language that is used to configure Emacs. It is a functional programming language and looks very similar to the prefix notation that is used when doing simple arithmetic:

(/ 2000 (+ 34 4.5))

;; Insert the current time string at point in the active buffer
(insert-string (current-time-string))
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Configuring Emacs - 7 months later - Act 2

Note: This is the second in a series of 3 posts about my experience configuring Emacs over 7 months, starting from scratch.

After figuring out how to install packages, as you start to use the editor more, you run into cases where the keybindings are inconvenient or don’t exist at all. During this phase, the 3 months between June and August, I added a lot of keybindings. Most of them were to mimic the functionality that I had configured with Vim over some time. A lot of them were new keybindings which made sense only in the Emacs world.

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Configuring Emacs - 7 months later - Act 1

Note: This is the first post in a series of 3 posts about my experience configuring Emacs over 7 months, starting from scratch.

My first commit to icyflame/.emacs.d, the repository with my Emacs configuration, was in April this year (7 months ago). Now, I have reached a point at which I have cleaned up my configuration enough to feel okay about making it open source. In this post and the two posts after this one, I will go over some of the most important steps in my configuration’s evolution from scratch to it’s current form.


I started my configuration from scratch with a vanilla Emacs installation. This is a personal preference; there are several configurations out there which allow people to start from a opinionated configuration which they can understand and tweak to their needs. (There are even Emacs distributions like Prelude which have a lot of the plugins which I configured manually already installed!)

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Discovering Org Mode

I talked about some of the problems with Markdown that I was facing in my daily note-taking at work and at home. I had been looking for a replacement for my note taking system since early this year. Org mode seemed like a good candidate and a few people recommended it to me, so I started using it.

Now, I have used Org mode for about 6 months at work and at home. In my personal life, I managed the move to a new apartment and switching to a new mobile phone provider entirely using a single sub-tree in my notes file. At work, I have used Org for a few months now as I worked on a variety of Search and SRE tasks; a lot of them included huge files and ad-hoc Perl scripts which were written almost entirely within Org and are still stored only inside Org. This post is about my experience with Org mode and a list of the things that I believe are the strengths and weaknesses of this markup language.

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