Getting back to fitness

After a few years of not paying attention to my body I found myself in the worst physical shape I have ever been. I am 5 feet 10.5 inch tall and weigh around 81 kg. The problem was my body fat which I roughly calculated to be 23%. Most importantly I had a pretty bloated stomach.

Now my two previous experience with working out proved that I usually cannot sustain it. The greatest length I continued working out was for 6 months or so. Also, in both those occasions I was trying to gain both weight and muscle mass while this time I have no target of gaining weight. I just need to get my body fat % down to reasonable levels (numerically and aesthetically).

Its been a few months I have started my attempt to get fitter. Initially it started with just walking and light jogging. I then started some body-weight exercises like push-ups, chin-ups, dips etc. More recently I have added some weight training (3 day upper lower split). In addition to these I have started the following things.

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We want your feedback

A blog’s value comes from its readers. If readers don’t like the content then the blog just becomes a personal diary and nothing more. We don’t want to become a personal diary but rather an effective and helpful means of spreading knowledge.

We would like to hear from you. Please let us know what you think of the blog. Tell us what needs to improve. What you liked and disliked. Even beyond the content, if there is an advice on design or user interface that you think can use some improvement, let us know.

We look forward to your comments. The comments section below can be used to give your opinion and we will try to answer to every single post.

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The Musk of a Dynamic Business Model – Part 2

This is the second post and final post of this series. To read the first please go to this link.

One thing that connects both Tesla Motors and SolarCity is renewable energy. Lower oil prices, shale oil, and the huge reserves of oil and gas that have not been tapped into still offer energy sources that can sustain humanity for a few centuries. But the clamor for sustainable energy sources that has gained steam at the turn of the century has meant that our profit maximizing capitalist is looking towards renewable energy. Indeed, the UK even has a green investment bank. But being highly capital intensive as well as offering less energy than what can be produce from fossil fuels, renewable energy is not a particularly attractive option for the capitalist looking for a decent return.

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The Musk of a Dynamic Business Model – Part 1

Elon Musk does not think small. Neither does he think narrow. The South African born entrepreneur has managed to dip his fingers into a number of industrial sectors to varying degrees of success. With SpaceX (Industry Sector: Space Exploration), Tesla Motors (Industry Sector: Automotive) and SolarCity[1] (Industry Sector: Renewable Energy) remaining going concerns, Musk has etched his way into the global consciousness as someone who can achieve whatever he puts his energy into.

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The potato expedition!!!

Imtiaz Gadar, CFA is the Head of Public Markets at Bank Alfalah, Pakistan. Previously he served as the Head of Research at KASB Securities (Partner of BOA Merill Lynch) as well as JP Morgan. He was ranked as the best analyst in Pakistan four times by Asia Money and the CFA Association of Pakistan. He also served as the Vice President of the CFA Society in Pakistan.

Disclaimer: The post has Urdu in between because English alone would not fully capture the concept. 

Recently, while scrolling through my social media account, I saw a capital markets colleague had shared a picture with his wife where both of them were out shopping. My idle mind suddenly started visualizing what would happen if us capital market folks combined our professional roles with household roles (e.g. shopping). For instance if wife calls husband and asks him to buy 2 kgs of potatoes on the way back to home.

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Design is….

Amit Richard is a self-taught freelance graphics designer. With almost six years of experience, he has undertaken projects in several areas of design ranging from logo and corporate identity design to web interface design and print graphics. He has worked with a number of international brands directly and via third-party, some of which include Marks & Spenser, NBC Universal and Blackberry. Check out his works at RichardDesigns.

Starfall by Amit Richard

I was sitting in traffic on the way to a meeting. As I thought the meeting might include some junior designers, I decided I would ask what design meant to each one of them individually. That’s when I asked myself the same question. This is my answer to myself:

Design…Design is passion, design is creation and inspiration. Design isn’t limited to the visual representation – there’s more to it – from blueprint to final execution – it’s the entire process, the experience, design is..the solution.

It is the implementation of an idea that not only meets the expectations of clients and final users, but is an innovation that transforms wants into needs; design is..the revolution.

Design is also expression – expression of values, principles, style and taste, but most of all it is the expression of the ever creative GOD’S handiwork from beginning till date.

Design is what builds, what motivates, what procures and what endures.

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Asif Khan Blog now has 300 registered readers!!!

The Asif Khan Blog just got its 300th registered subscriber. We want to thank all our readers and well wishers for motivating us to come so far. Special thanks to Tasnova for being the 300th registered reader of the blog. As we have achieved a small milestone I want to give some more numbers for our readers.

  • Since the start of the blog (less than a year) the blog achieved 47,254 views
  • The highest number of views in a single day was 1,461
  • A total of 461 comments had been posted by the readers and the authors
Source: WordPress

More fascinating is the truly diverse set of readers coming from around the world. The blog had readers from 146 countries!!!! The heat map above indicates this graphically. The top 10 locations are

  • Bangladesh – 17,516 views (37.1%)
  • United States of America – 9,458 views (20.0%)
  • India – 3,142 views (6.6%)
  • Canada – 2,483 views (5.3%)
  • United Kingdom – 2,147 views (4.5%)
  • Pakistan – 1,622 views (3.4%)
  • Singapore – 945 views (2.0%)
  • Australia – 786 views (1.7%)
  • UAE – 568 views (1.2%)
  • Germany – 504 views (1.1%)

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A late realization

Since I completed my undergraduate studies in early 2009 I have read a lot of books. I spent a painstaking amount of time researching which books to read and mainly employed Amazon and Google to rank them. There was one small problem. Most of the books I read focused on Finance, Economics, Accounting and business strategy. There was some fiction in my book list and a number of self-development books.

5 years later, I feel that it was a mistake on putting my concentration on such a narrow focus area. The world is much bigger and anyone passionate about gathering knowledge should definitely widen his horizons. Thus began my late entry into other topics such as Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, History etc. Last couple of weeks I did a bit of research on these topics and shortlisted the following books which I plan on reading.

History

A little history of the world by E. H. Gombrich (Currently reading)

A short history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson

Philosophy

The Consolations of philosophy by Boethius

History of western philosophy by Bertrand Russell

The story of Philosophy by Will Durant

Psychology

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Drive – The surprising truth about what motivates us by Daniel H Pink

How we decide by Jonah Lehrer

Mastermind – How to think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova

Influence – The psychology of persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Quiet – The power of introverts by Susan Cain

 

 

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Carsharing and its implication

Ning Zhao

Ning Zhao works for IBM Germany as an  IT Specialist and Application Development Consultant,  serving the banking and insurance industry, among other industries. She started study of Computer Science in the University of Kaiserslautern in 2001 and has lived in Germany since then.

A strong interest in Artificial Intelligence grew in her during the study and she developed an intelligent multi-criteria optimization system for managing cooking plans as part of her thesis. After graduation, she served as system engineer in HaCon Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH, the biggest software service provider for railway companies in Europe for three years.

Ning has attended a number of online courses on finance on her own time. Asif and Ning were teammates in the Stanford Venture Lab (now Stanford Online) course “Finance”, where she was the team leader. The team did a good job and our performance ranked 18th among 800+ teams from all over the world.

Understanding Carsharing

Many are familiar with the car renting business. Car renting companies such as Sixt, Avis, Hertz are operating all around the world. In recent years, in Europe (especially Germany) a more flexible and efficient business model of car renting, namely carsharing, has emerged and flourished.

Around the year 2000, some carsharing companies started their business in Germany: Cars to share were available in some designated “resource pools”, which are usually some reserved slots in public parkings. From there, users can pick up and return the cars. People need to subscribe to a service plan to use shared cars. A subscriber will get an IC card, which can be used to open the doors of cars and account the mileage/rent time. Before using a car, you must do the reservation via service provider’s call centre or website. The carsharing business soon spread to many cities in Germany. Sometimes, there might not be enough cars in a certain resource pool. Such cases occur more often in small cities or villages. In big cities, cars and resource pools are ample, availability of the service is usually not a problem.

How the model works

A typical carsharing service plan usually requires an account opening fee and then monthly fee. Actual renting cost is calculated on mileage and rent time. It will be mailed to the users, in addition to the monthly base fee. The billing mode is quite similar to a mobile phone service plan.

In year 2007, my family moved to a small city in northern Germany, and used a carsharing service for a while. At that time, if I don’t remember wrong, monthly fee for a single subscriber was 6 Euros (all direct family members with drive licenses are qualified to use the service in a family plan). Each minute in use cost extra 0.27 Euro (the exact figure might be wrong, but the size should be right). If the mileage exceeds certain upper bound, such as 500km in one rent, added fee per kilometer will also occur.

So if you want to use the car for not a short while or for very long distance, carsharing can be very expensive. Renting a car for one or several days from operators such as Sixt will be more cost-effective. The fee-structure of the carsharing business encourages short-time-span, short-distance car renting, and implicitly increases the usage of the cars (less parking time) and diversified the users of a car (more people are served by a single car). I would say, this is also a good case of social engineering, where new business model helps the optimization of a variety of resources.

Big players getting in

In year 2008, Daimler launched its “car2go” business, an upgraded version of carsharing. “Upgraded” in the following senses:

* The picking-up and returning places of car2go cars are no longer restricted in designated resource pools. You can park a car in any public parking places and close a rent. Next user can use the car right from where you leave it.
* Privileged parking slots in big public places, such as airports or supermarkets. Yes Daimler has closed deals with such business entities to push the car2go business. It does offer convenience to the car2go users.
* Reservation is possible, but no longer necessary. You can use an available car nearest to you without any reservation.
* No monthly fee required. You pay only for what you use.

Success of the model

According to Wikipedia, as of February 2014, car2go operates over 10,000 vehicles, which serve eight countries and 25 cities worldwide with over 600,000 customers. As what I heard in October 2013, the car2go business in 3 of the 25 cities were already making profit. Car models in operation varies in different cities. In deepest markets such as Hamburg, Berlin, Düsseldorf, etc., both traditional gas cars and all-electric cars are in operation. In Stuttgart, where Daimler’s headquarter resides, the car2go business was introduced a bit later but with the latest generation of her all-electric Smart cars only. All car2go cars in Stuttgart are equipped with on board navigators, air conditioners and radios (Some background: the technical configuration of typical German family cars is still very conservative compared to the rest of the world. When you buy a new non-high end car in Germany, features such as air conditioner, radio, electric windows, etc., usually have to be required explicitly).

At the beginning, 300 e-Smarts were in service in Stuttgart. The figure has exceeded 500 by now. Charging stations are very easy to find. The business operator monitors real-time status data of the cars. If the power level of a not-in-use car is running low, a staff will drive it to the nearest charging station to ensure its usability.

How do they keep the cleanliness of the cars? Well, before you can start the car, you have to rate the cleanliness and tidiness of the car. If the previous renter has bad manners, the service operator will know and maybe extra fee for car maintenance will occur.

Car2go mobile apps are available on all major app stores. This app, can help user to locate available car2go cars nearby, display each car’s information such as remaining power level, technical configuration, etc. You can also reserve a car with this app. The current fee schema is like this: 0.29 Euro per minute, 0.19 Euro per minute for parking between drives. 14.90 Euro per hour, or 59 Euros per day. Mileage exceeding certain upper bound must be paid extra. Insurance included. Obviously, this schema still highly encourages short-time-span and short-distance drives.

In Germany, other players also provide services similar to car2go. BMW’s DriveNow is one of the choices. Friends from Düsseldorf told me, in his city, DriveNow is running Mini Coopers, which is an attraction to many style-aware people. BMW’s all-electric models are in the DriveNow game too. It is said that Daimler and BMW have closed a deal: without any administrative ado. A registered Car2Go member can use DriveNow’s service and vice versa.

Conclusion

Mathematicians must be able to construct a model to optimize the number of shared cars in a city, such that people’s logistic needs are met and at the same time, minimal cars are idle. Theoretically, such optimized carsharing model will offer many benefits to places where population is dense.

For individuals, they get the freedom and convenience of driving at low cost – the fixed and variable cost of owning a car is very high; For the society as a whole, more people are able to enjoy the freedom and convenience of driving while less cars must be produced, which is positive to our environment and reduces the need for parking places.

However, the other side of the coin is less demand for private cars. I don’t think every party want to see this, at least in the imminent future. The car industry is creating huge number of jobs in many places. In Germany it is a mainstay industry. In China, emotion for owning cars is still being created by mass media, as plants for building more cars are still being constructed. I have a mixed feeling for this.

Business models such as carsharing offer better economical/environmental sustainability to the society. If we look towards a further horizon, we could be braver and bolder to prepare ourselves for the structural change of the job market in the future. I may well be very wrong, but personally I do not see an extremely bright future of privately owned cars. Innovation is calling. Get ready.

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