Newbury Portion

Just another WordPress site

To Know Infinity

"The Man Who Knew Infinity" tells the story of the great Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Ramanujan was born into a very poor family on December 22nd, 1887 but managed to be admitted to the University of Cambridge during the First World War.

He died on April 26th, 1920 in Kumbakonam

Through his childhood and youth Ramanujan showed a great deal of interest in mathematics and was largely self-taught, learning mathematics alone from two books that he obtained before the age of sixteen, showing a drive for independent and original thought. These books allowed him to establish a strong basis in the theory of numbers, on continuous fractions and on divergent series, while creating his own rating system. Through the help of his employer he was able to have very papers published in Indian mathematical journals and they attempted to interest European mathematicians in his work by sending out letters.

One of these letters, sent in January 1913 to Godfrey Harold Hardy, contains a long list of formulas and theorems without a demonstration. This was one of Ramanujan weakest areas, and one that held him back in his attempt to achieve recognition. Hardy first considers this unusual consignment to be a deception, and then discusses it extensively with John Littlewood to convince him that his author is certainly a "genius", a qualifier that is now generally overused and meaningless. Hardy responded to Ramanujan and invited him to come to England; a fruitful collaboration, in the company of Littlewood, results from this collaboration.

Yet it was one that was to be short lived. Affected all his life by health problems, Ramanujan sees his condition worsened during his stay in England due to the cold winters and harsh living conditions he must endure; He returned to India in 1919 where he died shortly thereafter in Kumbakonam at the age of thirty-two. He left behind the books of unsubstantiated theories which, at the beginning of the 21st century, continue to be studied and proven by modern day mathematicians.

Ramanujan worked mainly on elliptic functions and on the analytic theory of numbers; It became famous for his calculations involving constants such as π and e, prime numbers or even the partition function of an integer, which was studied with Hardy. A great creator of mathematical formulas, he invented several thousand of them which practically all proved accurate, but some of which could not be demonstrated until after 1980 when computer models could became more common; some of them, Hardy particularly, was amazed by their originality, he once said that "only one glance was enough to realize that they could only be thought of by a first-rate mathematician. They had to be true, for if they had been false, no one would have had enough imagination to invent them."

The film "The Man Who Knew Infinity" stars Dev Patel as the protagonist Srinivasa Ramanujan. And though it was first released in 2015 I just now had the chance to see it. For an actor to interpret this role must have been a challenge both professionally and personally since Dev makes you believe that these impossible calculations are pouring from inside.

This film tells of a story, the full story, of his success and demise. It is at the same time a very inspiring story, one that people will recognize while at the same time heart wrenching.

I didn't know anything about this amazing man before I watched the film.

But at the same time I realized that this must be true for others as well. For that reason I decided to make him into today's topic. I thought if I could help make his legacy known to just one other person it would be something very positive, indeed.

That's why I am writing this revue.

I found his setbacks so personal, so harrowing. For example once in the United Kingdom, the mathematician had to face rejection and racism.

Outside of the men that knew him at Cambridge, few others were in a position to share much of his life. There are no videos or interviews like there would be today. It is impossible to know how he spoke or how he carried himself. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words and yet they do so little to tell the story of who this man was. Still, the filmmakers tried to capture the essence of a man who died almost a hundred years prior. They looked at him through the lens of photographers, they tried to understand what he read. In the end I think they managed to reflect him in the film so that he felt tangible, real, even though his intellect was anything but.

If you can I would highly recommend watching this beautiful movie.

My Professional Opinion on Business Plans

I am a business consultant, day job, some nights, and weekends on occasion. I like theology and the arts. These are the topics that interest me personally, but today I thought that it was time to share a topic that I know well.

And one aspect of business that cannot in overlooked is the importance of a business plan when going into business.

So what is it? This plan? And what can it do for your?

The business plan is the structured systematic overview of the planned start-up project in written form with a planed horizon of usually three to five years.

It includes, in a holistic way, the idea of the foundation and thus forms the basis for the implementation of the business idea.

In other words, the business plan is this, a document that maps out the company's strategy for success.

Can you see why they are important?

It is understood that future development is only a possibility, thus anticipation of, and actual development, is therefore not a guarantee but a goal. There can be not only deliberative, i.e. deliberate, strategies, but also emergent strategies, that is, those that condense due to unintentional insights. This waste of potential such as emergent strategies cannot therefore be foreseen or planned. They can be neglected, however when we regard the business plan as the only planning instrument that can take into account all possible developments is therefore extremely detrimental.

For this purpose, the planning would have to be supplemented with the scenario analysis, but this is also not possible to take into account strategies that arise over time and due to the compression of unintentional orders.

To get the benefit from a plan while remaining flexible you need to focus on several different functions of business. It is easy to focus solely on planning – this would not make sense when planning the company – there must also be room for exploration and learning curves. A well-founded business plan is the basis for a systematic consideration of the company and thus of continuous control.

This focus is not correct.

Not entirely at least.

The following advantages are often mentioned in literature when shaping a plan:

  • Partial or full review of the business concept, meetings for all Deal/No Deal decisions
  • Improve the range of services in the start-up stage
  • Find other, better market opportunities or founding ideas
  • Anticipate requirements/needs that need a certain lead time
  • Anticipate potential problems of the founding process
  • Preparation and thus accelerating future decisions
  • Inclusion of external suggestions for improvement/feedback
  • Better understanding of common tasks
  • Think about the foundation – how it promotes the learning process

These advantages are juxtaposed with another set, one which is also often mentioned:

  • Opportunity cost of time to gather information
  • Changing environment conditions make existing information obsolete and require planning to be adjusted
  • Danger of reinforcing misconceptions about the future and making bad decisions as a result
  • Risk of being discouraged by emerging complexity/difficulties
  • Labor-intensive activity without real feedback whose effect becomes visible only later
  • Discouragement from external criticism or exposing weaknesses

The important distinction between the business plan and the business model is to recognize that, during the development of the business model, the benefits are put first, while the business plan only serves to help others convince the business model.

So, and this is the crucial thing, the business plan is basically just an instrument for convincing others of the validity of your idea. This is also understandable because the business plan is the document that is handed over. While the founding team should be more convinced of the business model than the actual plan, others need to be more convinced of the business plan. The fact that the business plan is therefore a record of earnings of the business model should therefore be taken for granted.

When professionals collaborate it is the the opinion of the company founders themselves, the knowledge of the industry which is a key factor in the success of the business: When asked which factor they consider is particularly important for the success of the company, industry knowledge weighed the highest on the list. A competent management team came next, followed by innovation, financing, business plan and placement in the market.

Weigh the following considerations following hypotheses that the importance of a business plan determine future business success:

The hypothesis that: An above-average business plan indicates an above-average successful business.

  1. The number of analyses during formation is related to the company's success.
  2. If the competition analysis had a positive influence on the foundation, there are likely to be fewer discrepancies later.
  3. The more intensive the planning, the more successful the company.
  4. The more realistic the planning, the more successful the company.
  5. The more diverse the targets of the business plan, the more successful the company.

All of these have been rejected. And the last has actually proven to create a negative connection. Meaning that the more diversity will lead to a deterioration in the relationship between the plan and success.

The importance of detailed planning of the business results in certain periods where it should be considered less significant than the founders attempt to create a successful business model in the market.

Thus, it is less to follow the approach in order to merely increase access. A business plan should therefore be used as a tool to persuade and strengthen the assumptions of the model since they are subject to a continuous review.

Round 2: Trump vs. China

Trump wants to support farmers here in the US suffering from the ongoing trade war with China with 12 billion dollars. He announced this during his meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In a first step, the U.S. had increased its tariffs on imports from China worth $200 billion from 10 to 25 percent. In a second step, tariffs are to be extended to additional goods produced in China worth $325 billion – which will in essence affect all imports from China.

China, in turn, has announced an increase in tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods. As a result, negotiations with China ended without a breakthrough or plan for further talks, stock markets here and China slumped.

The new tariffs where in upped to 25 percent for goods like cotton, machinery and grain. Tariffs on aircraft parts and optical instruments double to 20 percent.

The Price of Coffee

How much does a cup of really good coffee actually cost?

Recently the difference between good and bad cup of coffee with some friends after lunch. We all ordered a cup of coffee and it was delicious. And good, as you know, comes at a cost, either your or somebody else's cost. So can we afford a good coffee?

The average American drinks about 60 gallons of coffee a year. And of course we drink it as cheaply as possible. On average, we pay $10 for a gallon of beer. And brewing a cup of coffee costs just 0.1 dollar.

Really? 10 cents? Can that be true? Sure it is, they have been studying this for a long time, you can find the research on the web. So is let's calculate …

I only drink coffee from large mugs, those cups with handle on them, you know, the large ones. How much coffee do you need to fill such a cup? General recommendations for the so-called Golden Ratio are (using the metric system because I like consistency in my coffee): About 60 grams of coffee for 1 liter of water. So, that makes 12 grams per cup. I like it a bit stronger, so we will agree on 13 grams, and that actually pretty much matches the 2 tablespoons of coffee beans I grind for a cup.

Now to the cost very good, high-quality, fair trade organic coffee costs about 12¢, per cup price comes out to 31¢.

Verdict: You have a choice. Good coffee costs about 10¢ cents good beer, $2.50: Great coffee, around 30¢ cents per cup, however, you are paying for: Great taste, freshness, no pesticides, and fair pay for local small farmers.

Is the choice hard? Not really.

What is the price of a good cup of coffee?

For me personally it could be defined in one word.

Priceless.

I. M. Pei

Abstract shapes and sharp, geometric designs have made Chinese-born architect Ieoh Ming Pei a star in the West. He turned 102 in April.

Pei died in his Manhattan apartment on May 16, 2019.

Pei, famous for, among other things, the design of the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris. His handling of simple geometric shapes and playing with light shaped his work.

Sponsored by Walter Gropius, the exiled founder of the Bauhaus at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, and Marcel Breuer, Pei is considered to be its most accomplished classical modernist supporter. Pei had already moved to the USA at the age of 17 for training, the Second World War prevented his return to China.

I. M. Pei was born into a wealthy family. His father was a senior executive at the Bank of China, and in 1927 he was transferred to the bank's headquarters in Shanghai. The mother, an artistically educated woman and practicing Buddhist closer to him than his father, died of cancer when he was 13.

Pei went to school in Shanghai at a boarding school run by American missionaries. North American standards were conveyed there, wearing Western school clothes, the preferred sports being basketball and tennis. Pei experienced a contrast with this environment during the summer holidays in Suzhou northwest of Shanghai with his grandfather, who introduced him to traditional Chinese values, with family sense and the teachings of Confucius.

Later Pei described the early experiences with both worlds as a win.

At that time, the first high-rise buildings were built in the East Asian business center in Shanghai, of which Pei was very impressed. He decided to study modern architecture, which was only possible overseas. In August 1935, Pei traveled to the United States and, after a brief stint in Philadelphia, enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston.

In 1942, Pei married the Chinese born, Ai-Ling Loon (1920 – 2014), whom he had met four years earlier in Boston. They have three sons and one daughter. Pei never talked about his personal life, nor didoes he talk politics. He was described as an amiable, witty interlocutor who never loses calm even in critical situations. His secretary believed he only cursed once in her presence in the thirty years she worked for him.

Still, he was a figure of controversy; His designs often caused violent resistance at first, but then mostly contributed all the more to his fame. Time and again his special energy was emphasized, which enabled him to perform with a high level of energy even in old age.

One of his partners once said: "He's equipped with a different set of batteries than everyone else." Pei himself said of his motives: "In me I have a great desire to leave something behind. This has nothing to do with ego. I think you owe it to your own existence to leave something that remains."

The last masterpiece is the Museum of Islamic Art in the Emirate of Qatar.

Previously, it was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, USA, from where a disk jockey sent the term "rock and roll" into the world in the 1950s. The design of this building was meant to reflect the energy of rock and roll, the architect once said.

In between, the desire for experimentation would have almost ruined his company – the 240-meter-high John Hancock Tower in Boston, USA, huge discs fell out of the façade during every storm – be it like, the Bank of China in Hong Kong glitters like a crystal once again. This time Pei felt inspired by the bamboo, in Chinese culture which is seen as a positive symbol.

A New Magic Carpet Ride

Disney's animated film "Aladdin" re-envisioning is about ready to hit theaters.

The director; Guy Ritchie, is the man responsible for the reshuffle of the 1992 classic, which appears to be a potential another box office hit for Disney once again. In the role of the famous blue bottled Genie, Will Smith, who has slipped into the role made famous by Robin Williams seamlessly. For fans it was either a perfect fit or a miss-casting. Will Smith is aware of the high expectations fans have placed on his performance: "I was really scared in the beginning. You have to be careful with movies like this because they shape people's childhoods."

For me there is a certain nostalgia associated with the film since it was one of the last that I got invested in in my mid-teens.

Director Guy Ritchie wasn't put off by the expectations people placed on him. The couples three children played a role in their father's film choices.

"My children forced me to make a family movie," he quipped in an interview. "Aladdin was a logical choice for me. I was a fan of the 1992 animated version. One thing led to the other."

The film also stars the Cairo born actor Mena Massoud, with Princess Jasmin played by Brit Naomi Scott.

Aladdin isn't the first Disney animated film that has been subject to a live-action relaunch; "The Jungle Book " and "Dumbo " have already been re-filmed. And later this summer we'll get treated "The Lion King."

Aesthetics & Heuristic Organization

I once read a paper early in my career about aesthetics as a means of heuristics in the field of organizations. This was a boon for me because it pushed me in a direction that I may have overlooked at that time.

Today I want to visit some of those concepts and maybe you too can see the benefits of aesthetic heuristics.

Before we continue it would be pertinent to look at the topic of aesthetic organizational research, the organization represents a contact resulting from the human ability to utilize all senses to produce knowledge.

When we follow this approach, the area in which knowledge is generated is further developed in languages and in processes that cannot be verbalized or are very difficult to verbalize, such as gestural languages or intuitive processes. The ability to produce knowledge thus begins not only with communication, but already with the ability to sense and perceive.

Moreover, this approach is not systematic, but emphasizes the heuristics with which organizational life takes place, and does not follow the myth of rationality.

Unlike rational and intellectual knowledge, aesthetic ability is heavily dependent on heuristic mechanisms, which is not logically detectable, but nevertheless binds the organization to a reality that is at least as powerful as behavior certainties.

The aesthetics do not follow rationality so much as obey forms such as hieroglyphs, gestures, myths and metaphors.

As a result, the rational analysis has shifted the discussion away from the claim that such a claim is capable of recognizing facts in the most appropriate way in the best possible way, but rather an aesthetic view is required that interprets, since only in this way is the system really relevant and can be examined and, above all, can reach the right and targeted conclusions. The aesthetic knowledge corresponds to the post-modern understanding of organizations, since this is also partial, fragmentary and modest and has far more to do with the postmodern consumer and customer than the generalizable, universal and objective Knowledge of rational analyses.

Passive perception, that is, attention, is therefore not synonymous with aesthetics, since aesthetics are a tool of contemplation and observation, and actively and not only passively interferes in the processes of perception. But aesthetics are also not synonymous with artistic understanding, since there is no processing of materials here, but only a consideration. Moreover, aesthetics are not an emotion caused in particular by a sense, but a heuristics that arises from several experiential impressions, i.e. a mesh, and should be used for this purpose. Thus, the approach calls for far more than the analytical approach, since here the observer also integrates into the observation process viewer. Wanting to rely solely on analysis does not engage at the very moment without aesthetics, when the observer must reach conclusions without support, and this is exactly what happens with every analysis when data is used.

So there will always be a moment when the observer has to intervene in what is happening. Aesthetics in the field of organizations therefore always, not only with expirations of language, but already to include processes and unverbalized gestures and mimics in order to arrive at a synthesis rather than just an analysis.

In conclusion you can see how important aesthetics are as a tool for organization when the aesthetic nature of the subject are taken into account. When this happens full potential is achievable with less direct involvement; that is through indirect means, i.e. engagement through passive perception through aesthetic heuristics.

Thoughts on Pricing

While I would like to avoid being cliché, pricing is often an under utilized and oft misunderstood strategy. So today I wanted to look at contribution margin-based pricing with you in my continued series of business related pieces.

What is contribution margin-based pricing? It is a is a pricing strategy which works without any mention of gross margin percentages. Many people are unfamiliar with it but I had the good fortune to have an amazing professor in college that saw the benefit at looking at intensely at pricing strategies that were not commonly utilized in the US at the time.

The main draw to the strategy is that it maximizes the profit derived from a company's assortment, based on the difference between a product's price and variable costs. You can calculate that by taking the product's contribution margin per unit. Then taking one's assumptions regarding the relationship between the product's price and the number of units that can be sold at that price you arrive at the product's contribution to total firm profit; This is a contribution to the operating income, which is maximized when a price is chosen that maximizes the Contribution Margin Per Unit X Number of Units Sold.

Depending on the level of employment of the strategy, a distinction is made between fixed and variable costs, which together result in the total cost.

We will look at that in just a moment.

However, first let us look at the required contribution, and how the cover can also be derived from the invoice. The contribution per unit sold is based on the net selling price minus variable costs.

Price – Variable Costs Per Unit = Contribution Margin Per Unit

The contribution does not take into account the fixed costs, i.e. the costs required to maintain the company. A contribution to cover occurs precisely when the sales revenue per unit is greater than the variable costs. The contribution to cover is thus the short-term price floor and is used precisely if it is to be decided whether:

Performance or foreign reference:

  • Acceptance of additional orders
  • General pricing policy

In order to reach the profit zone, either the price per unit must be increased or more customers gained through marketing measures in order to increase the net selling price than the total cost ( profit). Depending on the price policy, the price must either exceed the total cost, in the long term at least, or be higher than the contribution to cover; Aware that the short-term applies only to additional orders or the decision in pro/contra own performance. The contribution statement can also be used to inferred the operating result by making the sum over all units sold.

Unlike the commonly applied coverage contribution bill, this is used in connection with the Profit Center to figure out what coverage the Profit-Center bears in the general fixed costs for the company.

In many cases, the contribution statement still takes into account sales proceeds with which this profit center in particular works. In particular, this applies to pricing policy within market structure. So the net selling price is not set, but the gross selling price minus the cabling reductions like discounts.

Otherwise, the bill remains the same.

To put it simply, variable cost is the contribution to cover minus fixed cost, resulting in a profit/loss scenario per unit sold.

Bread and Wine

Something a little bit older landed on my bookshelf the other day; "Bread and Wine" by Ignazio Silone, published in 1936 by the Gutenberg Book Guild or "Vino e pane" published a year later in Italy. The book was republished in 1955 under the title "Wine and Bread," and apparently, in terms of content, it has been modified over the years but remains in print.

From Wikipedia):

Bread and Wine is an anti-fascist and anti-Stalinist novel written by Ignazio Silone. It was finished while the author was in exile from Benito Mussolini's Italy. It was first published in 1936 in a German language edition in Switzerland as Brot und Wein, and in an English translation in London later the same year. An Italian version, Pane e vino, did not appear until 1937.

After the war, Silone completely revised the text, publishing a significantly different version in Italy (in 1955), reversing the title: Vino e pane (‘Wine and Bread’). This updated version is also available in English translation.

I had learned about the author in a documentation that I watched some time ago and decided to try some of his work up. "Bread and Wine" is my first foray into that exploration.

Born in the small village of Abruzzo and died in Geneva in 1978, Ignazio Silone, whose name was Secondini Tranquilli wrote about Italy's poverty in the 1930s and the socialists' struggle against the Fascists, but actually also contains general wisdom for life. He then fled abroad, revised his books, etc.

The book follows the exploits of Pietro Spina, a young revolutionary who is being sought by authorities. To avoid capture disguises himself as an old priest known as Don Paolo Spada.

The story tells a lot about Silone's life, who lost his parents and his siblings early in on and was forced to make due without much schooling; his transition to a revolutionary and journalists were, for a time, under the scrutiny of police spies.

The book is beautifully written and for a work to survive it must be lest it slip into the space in history that is reserved for the forgotten.

Since "Wine and Bread" is still available, you can find some reviews that both provide sound information about the work giving you a good idea of what you are in store for and others. Some of them note downsides, such as "The book is adventure novel and political thriller in one" or "Wine and bread – both appear in the book while the figures consumes them regularly, the title does not suggest the actual content. It is also increasingly political and exciting towards the end."

While I find it good that they read the book it feels like they have missed the point. Neither of the opinions are capable of painting the work in a light that would be relevant to the themes and messages the book covers.

I will avoid going into much detail about the book; Instead it is more important to understand the time in which it was written, the struggles people faced, as well as the understanding that it is truly not a work of fiction but a document of the time.

For instance, the lives of the landless peasants are described very forcefully. Mussolini is all present and is feasible for one to see that people actually had no choice but to join the fascists, because they were mislead through the news, exploited and used to further Mussolini's agenda to receive minimal sustenance and support. For a job as a civil servant, teacher, community doctor one had to sell his soul and the poor students got money for their food rations, but only if they agree.

The book explores the populist rhetoric undermined the fabric of society and fake news was employed in much the same manner as today.

It is a time that we cannot return to.

Beet Risotto with Honey and Rosemary

I love my heavy cast iron pot. I have begun using it almost daily: Bolognese sauce succeeds particularly well in it, all kinds of stewing dishes and also oven risotto*.

That's why I was really pleased when people bring up the topic of "Dutch Ovens."

For those of you who don't know what a Dutch Oven is it is just a fancy name for a heavy, cast-iron pots with lids that are oven proof which you can even put in a fire with glowing coals. Wow…

*I cooked an oven risotto in my Dutch Oven this weekend. The great thing about the pot is that the stirring is actually completely eliminated. I couldn't believe it at first either – but it works flawlessly. At first it seemed like a big risk. I didn't want to end up with burnt rice that needed to be unstuck form the bottom of the pot. But…

The risotto turned out great. Actually better than any risotto we've made on the oven.

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 360g risotto rice
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 400g red beet about two medium or one large beet
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 25g butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 50g goat gouda/-fresh cheese or pecorino (we get ours at Sam's Club)

  • Preheat the oven to 375° F.

  • Finely chop the onions.
  • Peel the fresh beet and cut it into small cubes so that they will soften by the end of cooking. Pre-cooked the beet if you do not want to cut it quite as small. Fresh beets definitely add a nicer color to the finished dish.
  • Add all ingredients, except for the cheese in Dutch Oven and close the lid-

Put the pot in the oven and let the meal cook for 45 minutes you can now dedicate yourself to your other household activities: folding laundry, mowing the lawn, or drinking a small aperitif …

Hungry now?

Remove, stir, season with salt and pepper – it's time to eat. Supper is ready.
Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

« Older posts

© 2020 Newbury Portion

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑