Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jatropha-fuelled flight

From Jatropha-fuelled plane touches down after successful test flight :
"An Air New Zealand jumbo jet left Auckland just before midnight GMT with a 50-50 mix of jet fuel and oil from jatropha trees in one of its four engines. The two-hour test flight, which took the Boeing 747 over the Hauraki Gulf, showed that the jatropha biofuel was suitable for use in airplanes without the need for any modifications of the engines. It forms part of the airline's plan to source 10% of its fuel from sustainable sources by 2013.
Air New Zealand's biofuel was made from jatropha nuts, which are up to 40% oil, harvested from trees grown on marginal land in India, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania. The fuel was pre-tested to show that it was suitable for airplanes, freezing at -47C and burning at 38C.
"One of the reasons we chose algae and jatropha is that both are not food sources and can be grown in arid regions and virtually anywhere," said Leah Rayne, managing director of global affairs at Continental. "So they do not compete with food crops for water.""

After seeing Gaza pictures

of children, I am reminded of these lines from Arudra
"చిట్టీ పొట్టీ వరాల మూట గుమ్మడిపండు గో గి పూవు
నీకూ నాకూ ఏవేళైనా ఎడబాటే లేదమ్మా
ఏమంటావే బొమ్మా
ఊసులన్నీ నీతోనే ఆశలన్నీ నీ మీదే
నీవే దగ్గర లేకపొతే ఏమోతానోనమ్మా
నే నేమౌతానే బొమ్మా "

Monday, December 29, 2008

Native Place

Mark Tully in Rooting for Home from the series My Native Placein Outlook:
"But from my earliest childhood, although I was living in Calcutta, I was left under no illusions about where I ought to locate my native place. I was consistently reminded by my European nanny that I was a little English boy. She had been employed to ensure I didn’t come under the influence of "the servants".
But when I returned to India at the age of 30, more by chance than by intention, I soon discovered that my native place was in doubt. India came back from my subconscious with a bang. The very first day I returned, after being away for 20 of the most influential years of my life, I had a startling experience. When I smelt the smoke from malis cooking their lunch in the garden of my Delhi hotel, the whole of my childhood charged through my mind like a train rushing through a station at full speed. From that day I felt, like Hardy and Nehru, that my native place, the place I was born, was at least as important as any place I might have lived thereafter."
For me, it is also the sounds of Telugu which bring a rush of such memories.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Start growing your own food

From Food needs 'fundamental rethink' :
"Mr Blanc warned that food prices were likely to continue to rise in the future, which was likely to prompt more people to start growing their own food."
I have been haphazardly trying to do this more out of enthusiam for gardening than anything else. One problem is by the time you grow them, they seem cheaper in the market. Other is lack of expertise; the crops seem to depend more on the weather than any thing I do. Thirdly they need constant attention and water. Water is getting scarce and because they need almost daily attention, one cannot leave home for extended periods. But there are some successes so far. I have several varieties of chillies and they seem to go on for a few years. Some of the leafy vegetables loke silverbeet, spinach are easy to grow and do not need much attention. Many can be grown in the pots too and one can keep changing the position of the pots to suit their growth. One problem is glut. Possibly one has to make arrangements with neighbours or friends to share. Otherwise, it seems to be silverbeet every day for the present, the birds are getting the tomatoes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Do policies matter?

From the summary of a recent paper in the post It's the policies that matter?:
"Since their property rights and legal systems are virtually identical, recent theories of development cannot explain the divergence between Barbados and Jamaica. Differences in macroeconomic policy choices, not differences in institutions, account for the heterogeneous growth experiences of these two Caribbean nations."

Favourite Story of 2008?

Yves Smith has an open thread Favorite Story of 2008.
3quarksdaily links to 50 Things We Know Now (We Didn't Know This Time Last Year): 2008 Edition.
One of the comments in the first post links to Top 100 Stories of 2008 from Discover magazine.
An interesting remark that I came across today. From an economist's response to CAN SCIENCE HELP SOLVE THE ECONOMIC CRISIS?:
"Imagine that fires were devastating the world's forests and you came across this manifesto:

The forest crisis has to be stabilized immediately. This has to be carried out pragmatically, without undue ideology, and without reliance on the failed ideas and assumptions that led to the crisis. Complexity science can help here. For example, it is wrong to speak of "restoring the forests to equilibrium," because forests have never been in equilibrium. We are way ahead if we speak of "restoring forests to a stable, self-organizing critical state."

Would this convince you that only complexity science can prevent forest fires?

With one tweak, this is the first paragraph from the pull-quote for this piece. All I've done is change "market" to "forest." "

My favourite story (which developed over several years but I came to know about it this year)Can kids teach themselves?


Interview with Veeven of Lekhini fame తెలుగురత్నం వీవెన్‌ తో ముఖాముఖి (via Vizag Daily). It is a Telugu script generator which is making it possible to write in Telugu even for people like me who did not write Telugu for nearly forty years. Instructions on YouTube Telugu Lekhini. This may be more useful for the development of Telugu than many of the govt. commisions.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

David Brin on net effects

One of the smarter guys out there in Is the Web helping us evolve?:
"So, is the Google era empowering us to be better, smarter, more agile thinkers? Or devolving us into distracted, manic scatterbrains? Is technology-improved discourse going to turn us all into avid, participatory problem solvers? Or will the Web's centrifugal effects spin us all into little islands of shared conviction -- midget Nuremberg rallies -- where facts become irrelevant and any opinion can be a memic god?

Alas, both sides are right."
As they say, read the whole piece.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some articles on microfinance

India Development Blog has links and discussion about several articles on microfinance and has a post about CMF E-library and recommended articles. There are a couple of posts on a readable overall view by Tim HarfodThe battle for the soul of microfinance. One excerpt from Tim Harford's article:
"Microfinance is a way of harnessing market forces to bring basic financial services to the poor, but many microfinance institutions do much more than that. Using donor funds or reinvested profits, coupled with their reach into remote villages, they provide subsidised education, healthcare and business advice. There is a risk that commercial logic could threaten these subsidised services by repelling donors or poaching the best customers. There is also the risk that competition misfires, leaving the poor paying higher interest rates, rather than lower ones."
He also that there is lack of serious research in to what works and lack of tranparency about interest rates. However even APRs (annual percentage rates) as high as 200 perecent proved successful with some classes of customers. There is much more in the article. In another post Microfinance Must Reads there is link to a surveyHow Do Microfinance Clients Understand Their Loans?. Finally, the postOne Argument Against Microfinance discusses a follow up to Tim Harford's article by another economics professor Milford BatemanMicrofinance’s ‘iron law’ – local economies reduced to poverty which concludes "Economics 101 shows conclusively how critical savings are to development, but only if intermediated into growth- and productivity-enhancing projects. If it all goes into rickshaws, kiosks, 30 chicken farms, traders, and so on, then that country simply will not develop and sustainably reduce poverty." The post in 'India Development Blog' has also a response from Prfessor Bateman.
P.S. More discussion of bateman's remarks in The Problem With Microfinanceby Niranjan Rajadhyaksha and Lessons from Micro-finance II by Glulzar Natarajan.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A terrific project

says Jo about Inventor's 2020 vision: to help 1bn of the world's poorest see better:
"Silver has devised a pair of glasses which rely on the principle that the fatter a lens the more powerful it becomes. Inside the device's tough plastic lenses are two clear circular sacs filled with fluid, each of which is connected to a small syringe attached to either arm of the spectacles.

The wearer adjusts a dial on the syringe to add or reduce amount of fluid in the membrane, thus changing the power of the lens. When the wearer is happy with the strength of each lens the membrane is sealed by twisting a small screw, and the syringes removed. The principle is so simple, the team has discovered, that with very little guidance people are perfectly capable of creating glasses to their own prescription.
For the Indian project he has joined forces with Mehmood Khan, a businessman whose family trust runs a humanitarian programme based in 500 villages in the northern state of Haryana, from where he originates.

There will be no shortage of takers in the region, Khan says. "One million in one year is straightaway peanuts for me. In the districts where we are working, one district alone will have half a million people [who need the technology]." Khan's day job is as Global Leader of Innovation for Unilever, and though his employer will have no direct connection with the scheme, having contact with 150m consumers a day, as he points out, means he is used to dealing with large numbers.

But surely finding funding on this scale will be impossible? "I share a vision with Josh," says Khan. "A thing like this, once it works, you create awareness, you enrol governments and the UN, and the model becomes scaleable. People begin to believe." And from a business point of view, he notes wryly, when poor people become more economically developed they also become potential customers."
Wikipedia article on Joshua Silverandadaptive-eyecare site/.


Gulzar Natarajan summarizes in Oportunidades and the role of CCTs Tina Rosenberg's NYT article A Payoff Out of Poverty?. From Natarajan's summary:
"The program gives the poor cash, but unlike traditional welfare programs, it conditions the receipt of that cash on activities designed to break the culture of poverty and keep the poor from transmitting that culture to their children. Its success has catapulted Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) schemes to the forefront of poverty fighting strategies throughout the world.

Oportunidades focuses on providing cash grant to parents for sending children to school (and maintaining good attendance); basic food grant if children and ante-natal women attend regular health checkups, take nutrition supplements, besides attending a monthly workshop on a health topic, like purifying drinking water. The cash payments are made to the women, ... It forces the poor to imbibe many of the structural and behavioural traits that the middle class takes for granted. It seeks to offer the "new paternalism" of the State in the form of "tough love", instead of unconditional love of the old nanny state. It enforces outcomes and dispenses off with targets and impersonal subsidies. "
The original article says that "At least 30 countries have now adopted Oportunidades, most of them in Latin America, but not all: countries now using or experimenting with some form of conditional payments include Turkey, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Last year, officials from Indonesia, South Africa, Ethiopia and China contacted or visited Mexico to investigate. Perhaps the most startling iteration is in New York City. Opportunity NYC, a pilot program begun last year after Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Mexico, will test whether the Oportunidades model can help the New York neighborhoods where poverty is passed down from parent to child."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pedda cheruvu

A while ago, I posted about Dr. Prakasam Tata's efforts of water purification with Pedda cheruvu near Vizianagaram. The link to his article 'Dreaming in color' is no longer working but the article can be found in found in other places, for example,
here, on pages 6 onwards and and a few other places by googling 'Dreaming in Color- Dr. Prakasam Tata'.A felicitation for Dr. Tatarao and views of pedda cheruvu here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Popularity of Bollywood outside India

I have not seen many Bollywood movies after the fifties. Around 1988, I went to buy a second hand sofa from an old Greek lady who migrated to Melbourne and she started talking about Nargis and Raj Kapoor. Slowly, it became clear that Bollywood movies have been popular in many countries ouside India. It was not clear to me why since I did not like the few I saw that were made after the fifties. Amitav Ghosh met many Egptians who were familiar with Hindi movies and songs around 1980 and wonders whether this is due to non aligned movement.In Confessions Of A Xenophile he says "But it needs to be acknowledged here that neither I nor any of the other elements of India that were present in rural Beheira – the pumps and the Hindi film songs – would have been able to find a place there if not for the existence of the Non-aligned Movement." While not taking any thing away from the general thrust of Ghosh's essay, popularity of Bollywood films and songs in many countries seem to be due to other reasons. Brian Larkin says in Bollywood Comes To Nigeria "Ever since Lebanese distributors began importing Indian movies in the 1950s, though, Hausa viewers have recognized the strong visual, social and even political similarities between the two cultures. By the early 1960s, when television was first introduced, Hausa fans were already demanding (over British objections) that Indian movies be shown on TV." Apparently, this medium was first introduced by the British in Nigeria for 'propoganda' purposes : to show the supriority of their various projects for progress and thus partly justifying their rule. The introduction by Lebanese traders was a commercial move and Larkin sees the popularity of Bollywood as an unintended consequence which opened up space for many younger Husa. The corresponding transformations are described in much detail and depth in his recent book 'Signal and Noise'. Some pages of the book are available here. In Itineraries of Indian Cinema: African Videos,Bollywood and Global Media Larkin discusses the popularity of Bollywood in other countries (but mainly in Nigeria), but the paper was written in 2003 and the picture might have changed. I wonder whether one approach toPakistan is through films, cricket and more contacts.


I finally acquired from an internet acquintance a copy of 'Saraswatalokam'( సారస్వతా లోకము) by Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sarma, published by Triveni Publications in 1966. In the very first article 'Rayalanati rasikata'(రాయలనాటి రసికత) Rallapalli mentions 'gojjangi neeru' and 'gojjangi' on pages 6 and 12, (pages 4,5 are missing in the copy). On page 12, he says that it is not known what these flowers are and that some speculate that these may be roses. A quick google search shows that this may be 'mogali poovu' ketak:


• SANSKRIT • Ketak, Suchipushp, Ketaki
• HINDI • Kevda, Kewra
• BENGALI • Ketaki, Keya
• ENGLISH • Screw pine
• MALYALAM • Kaida-taddi, Pukkaita
• KANNADA • Kaida, Katthaale, Kedage, Kedige, Ketike, Mandige, Thaale, Kadige
• MARATHI • Kaeoda, Kaeora, Kaethaki, Kaevada, Paandar kaevda
• TAMIL • Thazhai, Tazhai
• TELGU • Gaajangi, Gedaji, Gedangimogali, Gojjangi, Kaethaki, Mogli chettu, Mugali"
From Ketaki’ — a cursed but useful flower by H.C. Gera:
"The male fluorscence's are valued for the fragrance emitted by the tender white spates covering the flowers. Valuable attar is obtained from them. The flowers are also used for hair decoration. The commercial use of this plant is mainly centered mostly around Kollapali, Meghra and Agrraran in Ganjam district of Orissa. Flowers are used for extraction of "kweda attar" and "kewra water" and kewda oil. It is estimated that there are 300 to 400 thousands trees in Ganjam district.

"Kewda attar" is one of the most popular perfumes extracted and used in India since ancient times. It blends well with almost all types of fancy perfumes and is used for scenting clothes, bouquets, lotions, cosmetics, soaps, hair oils, tobacco and agarbati. Kewda water is used for flavouring various foods, sweets syrups and soft drinks. The use of kewda water is very common on festival occasion, weddings and other social functions in North India."
Brown's dictionary says that gojjangi is the female version of ketaki but whether this distinction in names is maintained is not clear.
The google search lso led to some pleasant surprises:
kshetryya padaalu and nice Hindi songs like this and thenthis. These last ones may be due to an advertisement on the pages.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Can one trust proofs by mathematicians?

"Gonthier believes that ordinary mathematicians may start formally verifying their proofs within the decade" according to Julie Rehmeyer in How to (really) trust a mathematical proof .
I have given several false proofs myself. Here is a nice article by my guru John Stallings HOW NOT TO PROVE THE POINCARE CONJECTURE . Excerpts:
"I have committed the sin of falsely proving Poincare's Conjecture. But that was in another country; and besides, until now no one has known about it. Now, in hope of deterring others from making similar mistakes, I shall describe my mistaken proof....

There are two points about this incorrect proof worthy of note.

The first is that when we try to prove Theorem 0 in dimension two, we always run up against the problem of trying to simplify, by some geometric trick, the situation. But any little homotopy that would simplify the picture always in fact, greatly complicates it. This phenomenon has characterized every attempt that I have made or heard of to prove Poincare's Conjecture. This is the place to look for flaws in any asserted "proof".
The second point is that I was unable to find flaws in my 'proof" for quite a while, even though the error is very obvious. It was a psychological problem, a blindness, an excitement, an inhibition of reasoning by an underlying fear of being wrong. Techniques leading to the abandonment of such inhibitions should be
cultivated by every honest mathematician."
The first two sentences in the quote are a take off on lines from "The Jew of Malta" by Christopher Marlowe quoted by T.S. Eliot. Stallings originally wanted to be a poet but took some aptitude tests in school which suggested that he would do well in mathematics or physics.

Contagious research

From The happiness virus :
"It’s too good an idea to resist: Happiness is contagious. A new study published online Dec. 4 in the British Medical Journal shows it.

Maybe you’d be more inclined to resist these ideas, though: Headaches are contagious. Acne is contagious. Height is contagious.

According to another study published the same day in the same journal, by Ethan Cohen-Cole of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Jason Fletcher of Yale University, these latter claims are nearly as likely as the first. The researchers “proved” them using the same methodology."

Steven Shapin on today's scientists

From a long and thoughtful essay Who are the scientists of today? Where do they work? What motivates them? As science increasingly shapes our cultural moment, the identity of its practitioners is also evolving by Steven Shapin, some excerpts:
"The transformation of science from a calling to a job happened largely during the course of the past century.
Science is now widely understood as an engine of economic growth, so it is remarkable that there are still many who associate the scientific life with institutions of higher education conceived on the model of the Ivory Tower. This was not the case in the early part of the previous century, nor is it the case now. Today almost two-thirds of all American science and engineering degree-holders are working either in the forprofit sector or are self-employed; only 9 percent work for colleges or universities. Even pure science has long had a significant presence outside academia.
The dissolution of boundaries between academia and industry has given enormous strength to modern American science: resources to do what scientists want to do, time (substantially freed from academic teaching and administration) to do it, and the reputation that comes from aligning science with the concrete goods — better communications, better health, more energy-efficient products, and enhanced national security —  so evidently valued by citizens who may have little or no concern for the pursuit of knowledge "for its own sake." But two problems seem to flow from this success story.........
The second problem concerns the integrity associated with the scientific life and the authority of scientists. The increasing alignment of science with commercial institutions carries a risk: the loss in the public mind of the idea of an independent scientific voice — not truth speaking to power but power shaping what counts as truth. Thus, we have the Bush administration's attempt to muzzle one of its leading climate scientists, reports of routine political interference in the scientific work of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Big Pharma ghostwriting papers supporting the efficacy of new drugs. Yet the enfolding of science into institutions of wealth generation and power projection makes independence that much harder to recognize and to acknowledge. And when scientific knowledge becomes patentable property, a state secret, or a plaything of political ideology, then science loses its independence from civic institutions. We're still a long way from the general "corruption" of science —  witness the moral outrage attending stories about commercial or political incursions into science. But if it came to pass that these associations count as normal, then the scientific voice would no longer sound independent. The material utility of science that is a substantial basis for its success would then undermine itself. To be a modern scientist is to be an employee, but the job must have a degree of autonomy or scientists will be of no use — to the institutions that engage their services or to the public.
As we enter the 21st century, new institutional configurations for doing science emerge, together with new scientific agendas and new conceptions of what it is to be a scientist. Some participants and observers of the scene celebrate these changes; others are seriously worried about them. We can be sure of only one thing: The identity of the modern scientist is, in every possible sense, a work in progress."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From Telugu blogs-2

I just started growing a type of beans common in A.P. Just in time there is a recipe from a Telugu blog Nala Bheema Pakam సిక్కుడుకాయ కూర ఇదానంబెట్టిదనగా . The recipe may be from a different region than the one I come from; still trying to find what వెళ్లి రెబ్బలు means.

Even Sehwag needs some space

After India's remarkable cricket win over in Chennai(two of several reports:'People are enjoying cricket again' - Tendulkar and England's critics should hold their ire and hail India's triumph in a Test to celebrate ), Man of the Match, Verender Sehwag in an interview Just cannot keep Sehwag down :
"In this hour of glory, Sehwag pays glowing tribute to coach Gary Kirsten. “He is one of the best I have seen. He has supported me hugely and helped me raise my self-belief.

He helped me change my mindset. He told me he can’t teach me how to bat but can assure me my place in the side. He gave me space to shine and made sure that I did not feel insecure. Thanks Gary,” acknowledges Sehwag."
P.S. A collection of articles on the Sehwag special:Sehwag changes the course. A couple of previous posts on Sehwag :hereand here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Population movements and inequality

Two papers in VoxEU by Louis Putterman and David N. Weil. The first Post-Columbian population movements and the roots of world inequality has abstract:
"This column introduces a five century migration matrix indicating the 1500 countries of residence of ancestors of each country’s current population. The power of regional origins is illustrated by the fact that 44% of the variance in 2000 per capita GDPs is accounted for by the share of the population’s ancestors that lived in Europe in 1500."

The second Ancestors and incomes: More on the roots of world inequality has abstract:
"Inequality within countries is explained by the past history of populations more than by ethno-linguistic differences and linguistic distance. This column suggests what matters is the history of the people who live in a country today, more than the history of the country itself."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Opprtunity for developing countries

says Dani Rodrik in Let developing nations rule . Excerpts:
"First, they should push for new rules that make financial crises less likely and their consequences less severe. Left to their own devices, global financial markets provide too much credit at too cheap a price in good times, and too little credit in bad times. The only effective response is counter-cyclical capital-account management: discouraging foreign borrowing during economic upswings and preventing capital flight during downswings.

So, instead of frowning on capital controls and pushing for financial openness, the International Monetary Fund should be in the business of actively helping countries implement such policies. It should also enlarge its emergency credit lines to act more as a lender of last resort to developing nations hit by financial whiplash.

The crisis is an opportunity to achieve greater transparency on all fronts, including banking practices in rich countries that facilitate tax evasion in developing nations. Wealthy citizens in the developing world evade more than $100 billion worth of taxes in their home countries each year, thanks to bank accounts in Zurich, Miami, London, and elsewhere. Developing countries’ governments should request and be given information about their nationals’ accounts.

Developing nations should also push for a Tobin tax – a tax on global foreign currency transactions. Set at a low enough level – say, 0.25% – such a tax would have little adverse effect on the global economy while raising considerable revenue. At worst, the efficiency costs would be minor; at best, the tax would discourage excessive short-term speculation.

Developing nations also need to enshrine the notion of “policy space” in the World Trade Organization. The goal would be to ensure that developing countries can employ the kind of trade and industrial policies needed to restructure and diversify their economies and set the stage for economic growth. All countries that have successfully globalized have used such policies, many of which (e.g., subsidies, domestic-content rules, reverse engineering of patented products) are currently not allowed under WTO rules.

Policy space is also required to ensure that important social and political ends — such as food security — are compatible with international trade rules. Developing nations should argue that recognizing these economic and political realities makes the global trade regime not weaker and more susceptible to protectionism, but healthier and more sustainable.

....Developing countries should say no to obvious trade protectionism, but they should be willing to negotiate to avoid regulatory races to the bottom in such areas as labor standards or corporate taxation. This is in their long-term self-interest. Without support from the middle classes of rich nations, it will be difficult to maintain a global trade regime as open as the one we have had in recent years."

Keynes and stimilus packages

From ROBERT SKIDELSKY's The Remedist (via Steven Hsu's postKeynes):
"Keynes created an economics whose starting point was that not all future events could be reduced to measurable risk. There was a residue of genuine uncertainty, and this made disaster an ever-present possibility, not a once-in-a-lifetime “shock.” Investment was more an act of faith than a scientific calculation of probabilities. And in this fact lay the possibility of huge systemic mistakes.

The basic question Keynes asked was: How do rational people behave under conditions of uncertainty? The answer he gave was profound and extends far beyond economics. People fall back on “conventions,” which give them the assurance that they are doing the right thing. The chief of these are the assumptions that the future will be like the past (witness all the financial models that assumed housing prices wouldn’t fall) and that current prices correctly sum up “future prospects.” Above all, we run with the crowd. A master of aphorism, Keynes wrote that a “sound banker” is one who, “when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional and orthodox way.” (Today, you might add a further convention — the belief that mathematics can conjure certainty out of uncertainty.)

But any view of the future based on what Keynes called “so flimsy a foundation” is liable to “sudden and violent changes” when the news changes. Investors do not process new information efficiently because they don’t know which information is relevant. Conventional behavior easily turns into herd behavior. Financial markets are punctuated by alternating currents of euphoria and panic.

Keynes’s prescriptions were guided by his conception of money, which plays a disturbing role in his economics. Most economists have seen money simply as a means of payment, an improvement on barter. Keynes emphasized its role as a “store of value.” Why, he asked, should anyone outside a lunatic asylum wish to “hold” money? The answer he gave was that “holding” money was a way of postponing transactions. The “desire to hold money as a store of wealth is a barometer of the degree of our distrust of our own calculations and conventions concerning the future. . . . The possession of actual money lulls our disquietude; and the premium we require to make us part with money is a measure of the degree of our disquietude.” The same reliance on “conventional” thinking that leads investors to spend profligately at certain times leads them to be highly cautious at others. Even a relatively weak dollar may, at moments of high uncertainty, seem more “secure” than any other asset, as we are currently seeing.

It is this flight into cash that makes interest-rate policy such an uncertain agent of recovery. If the managers of banks and companies hold pessimistic views about the future, they will raise the price they charge for “giving up liquidity,” even though the central bank might be flooding the economy with cash. That is why Keynes did not think that cutting the central bank’s interest rate would necessarily — and certainly not quickly — lower the interest rates charged on different types of loans. This was his main argument for the use of government stimulus to fight a depression. There was only one sure way to get an increase in spending in the face of an extreme private-sector reluctance to spend, and that was for the government to spend the money itself. Spend on pyramids, spend on hospitals, but spend it must.

This, in a nutshell, was Keynes’s economics."

There is a discussion in Economist's View Which is Best, Monetary Policy, Government Spending, or Tax Cuts?

Several economists including Raj Chetty on The Ideal Stimulus Package for US (via V.K. Chetty).

Friday, December 12, 2008

The next US Secretary of Energy?

From the Cosmic Variance post Steven Chu Nominated to be Secretary of Energy :
" This is fantastic news. Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics for his work in laser cooling of atoms, has been nominated to be the next Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration. This post is enormously important for science in general and physics in particular, as the DOE is responsible for much of the funding in physics and a lot of other R&D work. It’s also, needless to say, a crucial position for determining the country’s energy policy at a time when strong and imaginative leadership in this area is crucial."

From an article in in WattHead :Energy News and Commentary. A sustainable, just, and prosperous energy future is possible. We can make it happen.

"Last year, Chu was the co-chair of an InterAcademic Council Paper entitled Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future. The report proposes "best practices for a global transition to a clean, affordable and sustainable energy supply in both developing and developed countries," focusing on policies to support the development and deployment of technologies "that can transform the landscape of energy supply and demand around the globe." If Lighting the Way is reflective of Chu's understanding of the energy challenge, he clearly sees it as a technology-driven global development challenge, a good sign that Chu is the right pick to head up DOE and it's many energy RD&D programs.

Speaking at this summer's National Clean Energy Summit convened by Senator Harry Reid, Dr. Chu also evidences a keen understanding of the potentials of energy efficiency and the need for breakthrough renewable energy technologies. "Another myth is [that] we have all the technologies we need to solve the energy challenge. It's only a matter of political will," he says. "I think political will is absolutely necessary... but we need new technologies to transform the [energy] landscape." "
The comments in The Oil Drum are also enthusiastic.

Mumbai 26/11 related articles

Juan Cole Does Obama understand his biggest foreign-policy challenge?
"A consensus is emerging among intelligence analysts and pundits that Pakistan may be President-elect Barack Obama's greatest policy challenge. A base for terrorist groups, the country has a fragile new civilian government and a long history of military coups. The dramatic attack on Mumbai by members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e Tayiba, the continued Taliban insurgency on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the frailty of the new civilian government, and the country's status as a nuclear-armed state have all put Islamabad on the incoming administration's front burner.

But does Obama understand what he's getting into? In his "Meet the Press" interview with Tom Brokaw on Sunday, Obama said, "We need a strategic partnership with all the parties in the region -- Pakistan and India and the Afghan government -- to stamp out the kind of militant, violent, terrorist extremists that have set up base camps and that are operating in ways that threaten the security of everybody in the international community." Obama's scenario assumes that the Pakistani government is a single, undifferentiated thing, and that all parts of the government would be willing to "stamp out" terrorists. Both of those assumptions are incorrect."

Ramachandra Guhs's India's Dangerous Divide has this Nehru quote:
"a Muslim minority who are so large in numbers that they cannot, even if they want, go anywhere else. That is a basic fact about which there can be no argument. Whatever the provocation from Pakistan and whatever the indignities and horrors inflicted on non-Muslims there, we have got to deal with this minority in a civilized manner. We must give them security and the rights of citizens in a democratic State."

The Immanent Frame has several articles in Mumbai 11/26 by Dipesh Chakraaorty, Arjun Appadurai and others.
The links are through 3quarksdaily, Anti-History / In Another Life and Chapati Mystery which have several links to articles on the topic. Suketu Mehta's "The Maximum City" also has much information.
P.S. Arundhati Roy: Mumbai was not our 9/11 (via Crazyfinger)

Nimble feet

Rajanala (Kalliah Naidu or Kaleswara Rao) as katikapari (also here )in Satya harischandra. For a heavy man, he seems quite nimble. See the feet movements around thirty seconds in to the video. I remember the screen lighting up when he entered but that is not too clear in this video. A Kannada version here (different actor).A few more songs from the Telugu version here .

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Indian edition of Rahul Banerjee's book

Recovering the Lost Tongue: Memoirs of a Romantic among the Bhils is now published by
Joshi PPC,
Prachee Publications,
3-3-859/1/A, lane opp. Arya samaj,
Kachiguda,Hyderabad 500 027
Phone:(O)040-2460 2009 (11:00 5:00 p.m.)
mobile 093466 89306

Monday, December 08, 2008

John Robert Stallings (1935-2008)

John R.Stallings passed away on november 24, 2008. He visited the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in 1967 and I was asked to wrote his lecture notes on 'Polyhedral Toplogy'. By that time my interests were established and I was planning to work in Algebraic Topology and Dufferential Toplogy. Before he came, I read many of his papers and during the two months of his stay, I was in contact with him almost daily discussing his lectures. Towards the end of his stay, he mentioned that Papakyriokopoulos did some great work in 3-dimensional topology, a topic which I never looked at before. After he left, I read half dozen papers in the topic and suddenly started working in that area. Working in relative isolation, I did not know what was relevant and just went on with problems that bugged me. Then over years, I found that whatever I did had some connection to Stallings' work. Perhaps, coming in to contact with a first rate mind early in my career unknowingly influenced me and I do not think that there is a single paper of mine not influenced by Stallings. Appropriately I am listed among his Ph.D. Students in the Mathematics Geneology project though I was never officially his student. My official guide was another wonderful mathematician M.S. Narasimhan who let me do whatever I liked and often entertained me with beer and insights about mathematics.
P.S. Photo here and more
My only published paper with a dedication (so far) here


Dude transports 22 bricks on his head via Accidental Blogger Brick by Brick

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Sukeu Mehta's Maximum City. The first few chapters seem to give a preview of what can happen in Mumbai(sample pages 154-170. Some excerpts from later pages are here). Here is a review by Amitava Kumar and here is Suketu Mehta's site. There is an interesting review by Panjaj Mishra Bombay: The Lower Depths but it needs subscription.
P.S. Another review and an interview
P.P.S. (December 6th) Completed the first reading. I think that it is a wonderful book. Though I spent 15 years in Bombay until 1979, I saw very little of what was in this book. I guess that my interests were well determined by that time and I was not too open to much outside mathematics.

Monday, December 01, 2008

From 'The Big Picture'

T.T. RAM MOHAN has a thoughtful post on Mumbai attack Mumbai attack and its aftermath :
"Key institutions of the state, notably the police and the judiciary, suffer from both corruption and poor governance. Strong anti-terror laws, in such a situation, will simply become weapons for persecution and extortion.

Without an overhaul of governance, without greater accountability, it is hard to see how terrorism can be fought effectively. It is the democratic process and the rule of law that need to be strengthened for these to happen.

The gloomy conclusion that emerges is that India will try to emulate the tough methods adopted by countries such as the US and Israel without having the commensurate governance or enforcement capability. This can only lead on to a downward spiral where terrorism is concerned."
Jo from UK forwards this article This was not global jihad. Its roots are far closer to home:
"The Mumbai attacks were not about global jihad. The attacks on foreign tourists at the Taj and the Oberoi, and on the Lubavitch centre, were designed to secure maximum publicity - a strategy that worked splendidly. Yet the roots of this nightmarish event are to be found elsewhere: in the deterioration in relations between Hindus and Muslims in Mumbai and India since the late 1980s, and in regional relations between India and Pakistan.

The operational key to the Mumbai attacks, however, is almost certainly held by D-Company, the sprawling and hugely effective organised criminal syndicate that is steered from the Pakistani port city of Karachi by the most powerful figure in Mumbai's fabled underworld, Dawood Ibrahim. It is virtually impossible that Dawood was unaware of the preparation of the attack, given the D-Company's extensive intelligence network (which in several past instances has proved more effective than the Indian state's intelligence capacity).

India's security services have begun investigating Dawood's possible role in the attack because he controls most of the smuggling routes into India's great commercial centre. In 1993, he put his network at the disposal of the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, to let it smuggle in huge amounts of the explosive RDX. As the Mumbai author, Hussain Zaidi, demonstrates in his extraordinary book, Black Friday, the RDX was then used for the terrorist attacks in March 1993, in which 257 people died, still the single highest death toll in any of the atrocities visited upon Mumbai in recent years. Dozens of co-conspirators have been convicted, largely thanks to the evidence of some bombers who became state witnesses, revealing the terrorist plans in minute detail."
Misha Glenny is the author of McMafia: Crime Without Frontiers reviewd here and here. There is an excellent review The International Crooks Now in Power in New York Review of Books but it needs subscription.
P.S. Another thoughtful post Thanksgiving weekend from Nomolical Net.
P.P.S. Bruce Riedel, one of Obama's policy advisors, in Terrorism in India and the Global Jihadsays " In December 2001 JeM, possibly with help from LeT, was behind an attack on the Indian parliament. This attack was designed to create a crisis between India and Pakistan by killing the senior echelon of the Indian government and legislators. It succeeded in provoking a tense standoff that would last over a year and during which more than a million Indian and Pakistani soldiers were deployed in forward positions along their border. By focusing Pakistan’s army on its eastern border with India the attack also left the western border with Afghanistan open to the retreating al Qaeda and Taliban leadership including bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mullah Omar who were fleeing the American Operation Enduring Freedom forces in Afghanistan. This was undoubtedly not a coincidence. Like LeT, Jaish has been outlawed in Pakistan but continues to operate under various cover names. The extent of its existing ties to the ISI is also much debated..... ... Al Qaeda and its allies like LeT and JeM would see this easing of tensions as a threat to their interests. They want conflict between India and Pakistan today just as they did in 2001. They thrive on the hatred the Indo-Pakistan conflict produces. If they are involved in the Mumbai attacks it would be in part to disrupt any chance at easing tensions in the subcontinent and perhaps also to divert Pakistan’s army away from the badlands along the border with Afghanistan to the border with India, again as in 2001."

Pankaj Mishra disagrees

in Hindi or Hinglish with Sanjay Subrahmanyam take on Adiga's 'The White Tiger' :
"Literary criticism may not be Subrahmanyam’s thing. But the ethnographic authority he invokes while describing the ‘falsity’ of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger doesn’t persuade either. He seems to think it wholly implausible that Adiga’s ‘subaltern’ narrator Balram Halwai (I would rather call him a shrewd member of globalising India’s lumpen proletariat) should know of books by James Hadley Chase, Kahlil Gibran and Hitler. He has clearly not visited Indian mofussil bookstalls where No Orchids for Miss Blandish, The Prophet and, alas, Mein Kampf have long been ubiquitous in Hindi translation, or in cheap English editions (Hadley Chase in especially lurid covers).

Subrahmanyam mocks Halwai, who cannot read Urdu, for claiming Mirza Ghalib as his favourite poet. But North Indians who cannot read Urdu have long had access to the great writers of that language in Devanagari script. According to Subrahmanyam, the expression ‘“kissing some god’s arse” . . . doesn’t exist in any North Indian language.’ How does he know? In actuality, millions of speakers of Hindi, or Hinglish, improvise such commonplace idioms daily, too prodigiously, perhaps, to be archived at the American university where Subrahmanyam teaches history."

Literary criticism is not my thing either but I read and liked 'The White Tiger'. Among several wonderful passages from Vikram Chandra's The Cult of Authenticity, I recall "Be fearless, speak fearlessly to your readers, wherever they are, and be aware that as you speak, you will inevitably be attacked by some critics for being not Indian enough, for being too Indian, too Westernized, too exoticized, too rich, for being a foreigner, an agent of the CIA. This is also wholly irrelevant."

Amar Bhide's new book

The Venturesome Economy: How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World is drawing good reviews from some quarters The Austrian Economists:
"This is a brilliant work and some be on everyone's reading list for the holidays. Seriously. Bhide demonstrates through detailed examinaton of the facts how the mechanisms of innovation actually work to spread knowledged, realize the gains from trade and realize the gains from innovation throughout the globe. His work seriously challenges the policy consensus in Washington about technological innovation. To put it bluntly, economic progress is a function not of state funded basic research, but of the development of technological applications in commercial endeavors."
Here is a more critical review from The Economist A gathering storm?:
"So does the relative decline of America as a technology powerhouse really amount to a threat to its prosperity? Nonsense, insists Amar Bhidé of Columbia Business School. In “The Venturesome Economy”, a provocative new book, he explains why he thinks this gloomy thesis misunderstands innovation in several fundamental ways.

First, he argues that the obsession with the number of doctorates and technical graduates is misplaced because the “high-level” inventions and ideas such boffins come up with travel easily across national borders. Even if China spends a fortune to train more scientists, it cannot prevent America from capitalising on their inventions with better business models.

That points to his next insight, that the commercialisation, diffusion and use of inventions is of more value to companies and societies than the initial bright spark. America’s sophisticated marketing, distribution, sales and customer-service systems have long given it a decisive advantage over rivals, such as Japan in the 1980s, that began to catch up with its technological prowess. For America to retain this sort of edge, then, what the country needs is better MBAs, not more PhDs.

America also has another advantage: the extraordinary willingness of its consumers to try new things. Mr Bhidé insists that such “venturesome consumption” is a vital counterpart to the country’s entrepreneurial business culture.

Is he right? The lack of long-term data means this has become “a quasi-theological dispute”, says Robert Litan of the Kauffman Foundation, a charity that provided some funding for Mr Bhidé’s work. But the contrarian should not be dismissed out of hand. For a start, he is right to argue against making a fetish of invention. Edison did not invent the light bulb and Ford did not think up the motor car, but both came up with the business-model innovations required to profit from those marvels."

Here is Amar Bhide's webpage with more links and an interesting article by him on current financial crisis An Accident Waiting to Happen.
Yves Smith of 'Naked Capitalism' says "the author of the research, Amar Bhide, is a friend of mine, and also unfailingly smart and provocative"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai Help

Mumbai Help has lists of the diceased and injured in the the recent Mumbai trajedy and links to other resources.
Report: Pak takes U-turn; to send representative instead of ISI chief
Comment by Moshin Hamid: Bound by sorrows
P.S. Rediff: Dawood provided logistics for terror attacks
Similar news from Outlook: The Gateway Of India
P.P.S. More on Dawood from Did a Criminal Mastermind Stage the Mumbai Nightmare? and Mahalo

Friday, November 28, 2008

High praise for Sehwag

Andrew Miller in Cricinfo:
"And then there were the Indians, for whom Virender Sehwag - more so even than the man of the moment, Yuvraj Singh - is a totemic influence. As Stuart MacGill once put it, after Sehwag had butchered 195 from 233 balls in the 2003 Melbourne Test, "It's not that he can't pick my bowling, it's just he doesn't care." Sehwag's last 11 Test centuries, dating back to that innings, have been gargantuan affairs: 195, 309, 155, 164, 173, 201, 254, 180, 151, 319, 201 not out, all scored at - or bloody close to - a run a ball. He deserves a place in history as the first truly postmodern cricketer, a player who has taken one tempo and extrapolated it to fit whatever length of contest is required."

And Rob Smyth in WisdenIndia’s Sehwag one of the greatest:
"Sehwag has been compared to Sachin Tendulkar, with whom he shares a bewitching little mastery, but a more relevant reference point is surely Lara. Like Lara, Sehwag scores monstrous hundreds at breakneck speed; like Lara, his form fluctuates wildly, surely a mark of the truest genius; like Lara, when the mood takes him there is absolutely nothing a bowler can do to avoid being pummeled.

In the eyes of many, those qualities elevate Lara above the other great batsmen of his generation – Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh – yet the fact that Sehwag has extended the Lara template ever so slightly seems to count against him, as if he has crossed the line between greatness and frivolousness. Quite the opposite. It is said of many sportsmen, but with Virender Sehwag it feels safe to opine that, truly, we will never see his like again. He’s not just great. He’s one of the greatest."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

They came by boats

says Outlook and
"In many was, this was India's 9/11, an attack on mainland India on a scale it has never witnessed. For a nation that has dealt with armed insurgency and terrorism soon after independence, this was still an unprecedented scale of attack. It was just not prepared for anything even remotely like it. "It is one thing to plant bombs and melt into the crowd. It is another to come in from the sea and launch an attack such as this," a senior intelligence official told Outlook."
It is difficult for me to think of any thing else today. I spent some of the best years of my life in this area, some of them about 200 meters from the Taj Hotel. Some of the visiting professors to TIFR used to stay there (those days the concessional rate was 2500 rupees for a month) and we visited the hotel often. It could have been there that Grothendieck attended a formal dinner barefoot but I am not sure. We used to wander around the second hand book stalls near CST (those days Victoria Terminus) and drench ourselves in the rains near Nariman Point when the monsoon started. It was like a second home to many of us who grew up professionally in Bombay. May the metroplois recover soon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some online books in Telugu

Vizag Daily gives a link to Alpajeevi by Rachakonda Viswanatha Sastry.
I have been hoping to make diditally available Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sharma's works. Some are already available though some pages on the first book are not too clear. Here are the links to Vemana an Shali Vahana Gatha Sapthashathi Saramu from the Digital Library of India (These were probably sent to me by Sri J.K.Mohana Rao long ago). Some four articles are in the 'vachana' section of Andhrabharati.
I read only two of his books long ago and feel that he combines deep traditional knowledge with modern scholaly approach. Another such person may be P.V. Parabrahma Sastry who studied Kotilingala coins from Satavahana period and also Kurkyala inscriptions.
See also తెలుగు పరిశోధన for links to Telugu digital books.

Peter Klein on universities

After quoting from an article Peter Wood What Ails College Teaching?, Peter Klein says in Education Quote of the Day:
"That’s from Peter Wood, whose subject is actually the division of labor at many large US universities between tenured/tenure-track faculty, who do research and teach small classes to graduate and advanced undergraduate students, and the specialized, non-tenured teaching specialists who handle the bulk of the undergraduate instruction, assisted by a “small army” of graduate and undergraduate TAs. Wood points out, rightly IMHO, that one day the universities may decide that the prestige and grant dollars and other bennies generated by the research faculty isn’t worth their high salaries, perhaps choosing to go the University of Phoenix route instead."
I think that there are not just two alternatives and as he says in an earlier article The University of Phoenix and the Economic Organization of Higher Education:
"Is the Phoenix model better or worse than the traditional model? Who knows. No one is compelled to attend the University of Phoenix. Why not let a thousand flowers bloom? Universities claim to promote experimentation, creativity, and diversity, but when it comes to experimentation and diversity in the production and delivery of higher education, the established universities express shock and alarm."

Monday, November 24, 2008

India Calling

From India Calling by Anand Giridharadas ( via 'Teeming Multitudes'):

"Countries like India once fretted about a “brain drain.” We are learning now that “brain circulation,” as some call it, may be more apt.

India did not export brains; it invested them. It sent millions away. In the freedom of new soil, they flowered. They seeded a new generation that, having blossomed, did what humans have always done: chase the frontier of the future.

Which just happened, for many of us, to be the frontier of our own pasts."

From Telugu blogs-1

Telangana Padakosam
from the main site
Discover Telangana

Prithvi Perepa

Prithvi has unusual background, he had his training in Kuchipudi dance for 18 years and then shifted to the study of autism perhaps after seeing a cousin and family suffering from the the effects of autism. He just completed his Ph.D and is currently in Melbourne attending a conference. He plans to return to India by 2010. A review of his primer on autism can be found here on page 12 and his papers by googling under 'Pridhvi Perepa'. He is the son of my friend Perepa P.C. Joshi.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

From Outlook 'Technology Special'

Top Indian Innovations :
"Bicycle Washing Machine, TV Remote-guided Robot, BioMass gassifier, Sanitary Napkin maker, Blind Man's stick", not much details or links. It is part pf their
Technology Special .
One of the articles is by Anil Gupta Real Science Is Humble . Excerpt:
"Another mentioned that radically new ideas are never allowed to grow, for the committees of senior experts—who know all the reasons why a new idea will not work—would make sure it does not get a fair chance. As if this wasn't enough, some added for good measure that they seldom got access to labs of excellence.

Is this the environment in which killer technological innovations or breakthroughs will come about? There are exceptions, of course, as many senior scientists (in government and outside) go out of their way in nurturing ideas from the formal and informal sector. Another reason to hope is the increasing irreverence among young Indian minds, which has taken long to emerge and is unlikely to be stifled by the mathadheesh (gatekeepers) of Indian science and technology."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Possibilities of an online English-Telugu dictionary?

This post రండి, రండి! Welcome of Chaduvari has useful information about Telugu resources on the net.
One example it gives is the site తెలుగుపదం where one can enquire or suggest the Telugu equivalents of frequently used English words (by Telugus in their everyday usage). Possibilities of a good online dictionary or one which may supplement the existing online dictionaries.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Links, Nov. 20

To be read again and ponder about.
Dani rodrik discussesMaury Obstfeld survey paper from Commission on Growth and Development in
International finance and economic growth:
Obstfeld thinks "There is also little systematic evidence that financial opening raises welfare indirectly by promoting collateral reforms of economic institutions or policies. At the same time, opening the financial account does appear to raise the frequency and severity of economic crises. Nonetheless, developing countries continue to move in the direction of further financial openness. ......A plausible explanation is that financial development is a concomitant of successful economic growth, and a growing financial sector in an economy open to trade cannot long be insulated from cross‐border financial flows. This survey discusses the policy framework in which financial globalization is most likely to prove beneficial for developing countries. The reforms developing countries need to carry out to make their economies safe for international asset trade are the same reforms they need to carry out to curtail the power of entrenched economic interests and liberate the economy’s productive potential." Dani Rodrik does not agree "This is an interesting hypothesis, but I am not sure I agree with the final sentence. Some of the most stupendous development successes of our time have been based on subsidized credit, a certain dose of financial repression, development banking, and managed exchange rates, all of which require controlled, rather than liberalized, finance. See South Korea, Taiwan (both of them during the 1960s and 1970s), and China, in particular."

Brad Setser This is the biggest financial crisis since the depression.
Brad Setser discusses The G-20 communique"
"It also reflects another reality: agreement on regulatory changes only required a deal among the G-7 countries, not a deal between the G-7 and the emerging world."
Is the US too big to fail?:
"Why are investors rushing to purchase US government securities when the US is the epicentre of the financial crisis? This column attributes the paradox to key emerging market economies’ exchange practices, which require reserves most often invested in US government securities. America’s exorbitant privilege comes with a cost and a responsibility that US policy makers should bear in mind as they handle the crisis."
Brad Setser says "The fall in demand for risky US assets was offset by a rise in demand for Treasuries and the sale of foreign assets by Americans. "
and "Of course, Treasuries aren’t entirely risk free. I don’t believe that there is a real risk the Treasury would default. Buying credit-default swap protection on the US is something by colleague Paul Swartz calls an end-of-the-world trade. But foreign investors holding long-term Treasuries are clearly taking a lot of currency risk — especially if they are buying in now, after the dollar has rallied …

The US is taking a risk too. The rising stock of short-term bills held abroad does potentially leave the US more exposed to a rollover crisis."

Sugata Mitra

whose TedTalk Can kids teach themselves? has been reported before has a profile in Wikipedia now. It has links to Hole-in-the-Wall site descring the spread of the experiment. I have been asking friends visiting Andhra Pradesh to envisage the feasibilty of this in A.P.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Telugu entertainment from old days

via Vizag Daily దిమిలి పొడుగు మనిషి ఆహ్లాద,అల్లరి పాటలు. Gives the link
Dimili Podugu Manishi,
apparently sent by somebody who heard the records in the 70's.
I do not remember these since I left A.P. in the 50's but they seem very interesting to me.
And Videos de Pather Panchali (1955) contains 'pather panchali theme' which I used as a lullaby for my children and now using for my grandchildren.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ethan Zuckerman on innovating from constraint

Innovating from constraint:
"I offered seven rules that appear to help explain how (some) developing world innovation proceeds:

- innovation (often) comes from constraint (If you’ve got very few resources, you’re forced to be very creative in using and reusing them.)

- don’t fight culture (If people cook by stirring their stews, they’re not going to use a solar oven, no matter what you do to market it. Make them a better stove instead.)

- embrace market mechanisms (Giving stuff away rarely works as well as selling it.)

- innovate on existing platforms (We’ve got bicycles and mobile phones in Africa, plus lots of metal to weld. Innovate using that stuff, rather than bringing in completely new tech.)

- problems are not always obvious from afar (You really have to live for a while in a society where no one has currency larger than a $1 bill to understand the importance of money via mobile phones.)

- what you have matters more than what you lack (If you’ve got a bicycle, consider what you can build based on that, rather than worrying about not having a car, a truck, a metal shop.)

- infrastructure can beget infrastructure (By building mobile phone infrastructure, we may be building power infrastructure for Africa - see my writings on incremental infrastructure.)"
and some examples from Africa in Innovation from Constraint (the extended dance mix): 'zeer pot', 'biomass charcoal', 'knife-sharpening bicycle'etc.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My favourite Telugu scholar: Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sarma

Spotlight on Rallapalli in The Hindu He turned the spotlight on Annamayya (via J.K. Mohana Rao in Racchabanda):
"Born on January 23, 1893, at Rallapalli in Anantapur District to Sanskrit and Telugu scholar Karnamadakala Krishnamacharyulu and Alamelumangamma, Sarma was initiated into Sanskrit, Telugu and music by his parents. Resenting unchavriti (ritual alms seeking) he ran away from home at the age of 13. Reaching Mysore, he placed himself under the guardianship of the chief of the Parakala Mutt. Guided by the seer, he studied Sanskrit and Prakrit at the Chamaraja Pathasala and became a master in both languages. He also studied music under the palace vidwans such as Chikka Rama Rao, Bidaram Krishnappa and Karigiri Rao. He could sing and also play the violin and the flute.

When Sarma was barely 18, his talent in Telugu was noticed by Sir Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy, the Principal of the Maharajah’s College, who appointed him Telugu Pundit. His love for teaching and his mastery over his subjects ensured he received the love and affection of his students. During his tenure there, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar, though many years his senior, often consulted him on the musical and lyrical aspects of the project that he was then working on – Chamundamba Ashtottara kritis. "
Rallapalli is one of my favourite Telugu scholars. I read his 'Vemana' and 'salivahanagathasaptasati' long ago but could not get hold of his other writings like 'rayalanati prajajeevitamu'. Some of his writings seem to be available in western libraries and I hope that efforts will be made to make them more accessible. I remember nice accounts of him in ‘Na Smritipadhamlo’ and “Sagutunna Yatra’ by Achanta Janakiram (Search for author "aachan't'a jaanakiraam"
at ), available digitally now from central libraries.
P.S. Krishnapriyan has kindly sent this:
Here is the list of books from the appendix of S. K. Ramachandrarao's
biography -

taaraadevi (1911) kaavya
raghuvaMsha kAvya anuvAda, svapnavAsavadatta anuvAda (1912) unpublished
mIraabaayi (1913) kaavya
liilAdEvi (1913) novel
shamiipUja kaavya (no date)
penugoMDa pATa kaavya (no date)
shrI kRUShNabhUpAlIyaM (1924) pariShkaraNa
shrI mahIshUru rAjyAbhyudayAdarshaH (1925) saMskRuta kAvya
bhArgavi paMchaviMshati (1926)
vEmana (upanyAsagaLu) (1929) vimarshe
shAlivAhana (hAla) gAthAsaptashatIsAramu (1932) prAkRutadiMda anuvAda
tALlapAka saMkIrtanamulu (1951-76) pariShkaraNa, saMpAdana
sAhitya mattu jIvanakale - (1954) kannaDa vimarshe
sArasvatAlOkamu - (1954) vimarshe
tenAlirAma virachita pAMDuraMgamAhAtmyaM (1967) pariShkaraNa, saMpAdana
jAyapa sEnAniya nRuttratnAvaLi (1969) pariShkaraNa, anuvAda
anaMta bhAratI (1977) saMkRuta kAvya
rALlapalli pIThikalu - (1978) munnunuDIgaLu,
mattu asaMkhya prakaTita kavanagaLu, munnuDigaLu, biDilEkhanagaLu

Friday, November 14, 2008

Christopher Ryan on Test Cricket

After the recent nonsense from Peter Roebuck and others, a welcome change Why ugly can be beautiful.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some science links

Evolution of the concept of gene, from abstract to concrete to diffuse and complex, by Carl Zimmer Now: The Rest of the Genome (via Shanti Gadde).

Related The Promise and Power of RNA (via 3quarksdaily).

Evolution's new wrinkle: Proteins with cruise control provide new perspective (via Evolutionary Psychology discussion group). Excerpt:
"The work also confirms an idea first floated in an 1858 essay by Alfred Wallace, who along with Charles Darwin co-discovered the theory of evolution. Wallace had suspected that certain systems undergoing natural selection can adjust their evolutionary course in a manner "exactly like that of the centrifugal governor of the steam engine, which checks and corrects any irregularities almost before they become evident." In Wallace's time, the steam engine operating with a centrifugal governor was one of the only examples of what is now referred to as feedback control. Examples abound, however, in modern technology, including cruise control in autos and thermostats in homes and offices.

The research, published in a recent edition of Physical Review Letters, provides corroborating data, Rabitz said, for Wallace's idea. "What we have found is that certain kinds of biological structures exist that are able to steer the process of evolution toward improved fitness," said Rabitz, the Charles Phelps Smyth '16 Professor of Chemistry. "The data just jumps off the page and implies we all have this wonderful piece of machinery inside that's responding optimally to evolutionary pressure.""

And a worrying development Neuroimaging Of Brain Shows Who Spoke To A Person And What Was Said(via Rajeev Ramachandran of 'Teeming Multitudes')

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Museum of Telugu inscriptions in Kadapa soon

Museum of Telugu inscriptions in Kadapa soon from The Hindu"
"A museum of Telugu inscriptions will be set up in Kadapa, besides establishing C.P. Brown Memorial Centre on Yogi Vemana University campus, its Vice-Chancellor A. Ramachandra Reddy said on Tuesday.

Speaking on the eve of C.P. Brown’s 210th birth anniversary at the C.P. Brown Language Research Centre (formerly Brown Memorial Library) here, he said the Brown memorial centre would function as an ancient language research centre in the wake of Telugu being declared as classical language. The varsity would modernise and digitize all the works of Brown. The centre would be expanded by acquiring land adjoining it at Yerrmukkapalle, Prof. Ramachandra Reddy said. Brown, second assistant to the then British Collector of Cuddapah, spent Rs. 2,714 from his salary in 1826 to cleanse the palm leaves containing the epic Mahabharatham, he recalled. He learnt Telugu to interact with local people in order to ensure an effective administration, propagated Yogi Vemana’s poems and compiled an English-Telugu dictionary."
Link viaఅవీ-ఇవీ .

Minister arrested for intimidating officer in India

Minister arrested for intimidating officer :
"The case arose when Mr.Pawar along with Mr.Verma went to meet Ms. Jain to complain that the Congress nominee from the Sonkatch, Sajjan Singh Verma, had not filed his ‘A’ and ‘B’ poll form in time. The two BJP men later had a heated argument with her on the issue and were seen on camera throwing a paper and banging the official’s table.

The administration has a video recording of the meeting, following which action was taken against the minister and his party colleague.

The Election Commission meanwhile ordered the transfer of Dewas Collector following laxity on his part in sending a report on the incident.

Ms. Jain also came in for praise from the Commission for performing her poll duties without any fear or favour and would be getting a letter of appreciation, official sources said."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Links, November 11

Economist's view discussion on Paul Krugman: Franklin Delano Obama?:
"What saved the economy, and the New Deal, was the enormous public works project known as World War II, which finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy’s needs." Interesting comments with Anne posting an open leyyer from J.M. Keynes to FDR.

Yves Smith :AIG: The Looting Continues (Banana Republic Watch).

Obama to ask for troops in 'war we need to win'.

Ahmadinejad's letter to Obama sparks storm in Iran:
"On Friday, Obama offered a public reaction to the letter in his first post-election news conference, saying that he would review it and respond appropriately. But he also said that Iranian "support for terrorist organizations has to ease" and that its suspected development of nuclear weapons was not acceptable."

Brad Setser discusses China's financial stimulus plan in Does a bigger boom imply a bigger bust?.

Can you resist financial globalization?:
"# Evidence from prices and quantities shows the most limited globalization in China, followed at a distance by India, followed in turn by Thailand and then Korea.
# The extent to which countries have been hit by the recent crisis follows this ranking (in reverse order) almost exactly. In particular, Korea has been the country hardest hit despite many other preventive policies (including large reserve build-up) before the onset of the turmoil."

Mandela mourns icon Miriam Makeba . I heard only one (video) song by her but it was mesmerizing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Credit cruch may be a boost for science in some countries

From Credit crunch could boost science sector: analysts (via 'Naked Capitalism'):
"With thousands of job cuts at investment banks and hiring freezes at others, school-leavers and maths and science graduates could be increasingly attracted to the world of research and development.

"The glamour of the Wall Street jobs is gone, and that leaves more room for science and technology," said Georges Haour, a professor of technology and innovation management at the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"Although the salaries are not the same, the salaries (in finance) are zero because people are being fired," he told AFP.

Britain's government has also marked the financial crisis as an opportunity to boost science and technology.

Science minister Lord Paul Drayson last month urged scientists who went to work in the City of London financial district to switch to teaching science subjects or science-related businesses."

Gender bias

Now that Lalita is in the hospital for delivering a baby, we have been taking care of Leila a lot of the time. Yesterday Jhansi gave her a bath and I helped a bit when Jhansi went to another bathroom to get soap. Later when her dad came Leila told him "Thatha gave me a bath".
Meanwhile I am browing through an arbitrary collection of books about Indian history. In the introduction 'Dravidian India' by T.R. Seaha Iyengar (1925, republished by Asia Educational Services, New Delhi, 1982), C.R Reddy said " The difficulty in distinguishing various factors of our composite civilization and giving them their due value. Such an analysis is bound to be largely speculative...'. A more recent book by Vinay Lal 'The History of History' seems to confirm this.

Views from Levittown

From The Transformation of Levittown :
"She thinks some of those who argued with her and insisted till the bitter end that they would vote for Mr. McCain just stubbornly did not want to acknowledge they had changed their minds. In the end, she believes they ended up voting out of a different kind of fear — fear for their own economic survival. Self-interest trumped racism. “They had to ask themselves if they wanted a really smart young black guy, or a stodgy old white guy from the same crowd who put us in this hole,” she said.

The people I met in Levittown were not on Mr. Obama’s e-mail list or among his donors, but they may be more likely than his younger supporters and more affluent ones to give him what he most desperately needs: time and patience. Like characters from the songs of one of Mr. Obama’s celebrity endorsers, Bruce Springsteen, many Levittowners have been weathered by life. They haven’t benefited from a lot of quick fixes. Others of his supporters say they’ll be patient, but I sensed these people really mean it. They were harder to sell, but they could end up being pretty loyal. "

Friday, November 07, 2008

Old Telugu songs back on YouTube

May be because of this protest

Monday, November 03, 2008

Stephen Kinsella recommends

Best Economics Book Evarr:
"In lectures today a student asked me by text message which economics book they should read to get acquainted with economics. I mentioned that this is, in my opinion, the best economics book ever written, by Robert Heilbroner. Buy it, read it, and get smarter."
The book:The Worldly Philosophers.
It is cerainly very readable. I bought it thrice and read it twice. I think that Partha Dasgupta's "Economics: A Very Short Introduction" is also very good but of a different flavour. Here is David Warsh's recommendation Economics for Adults. May be one should also look for books on alternative economics.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Interesting book

I started reading the recent book Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria by Brian Larkin, after seeing this 1997 article Bollywood Comes To Nigeria. The book turned out be very interesting and as this blurb says:
"Media technologies were introduced to Nigeria by colonial regimes as part of an attempt to shape political subjects and create modern, urban Africans. Larkin considers the introduction of media along with electric plants and railroads as part of the wider infrastructural project of colonial and postcolonial urbanism. Focusing on radio networks, mobile cinema units, and the building of cinema theaters, he argues that what media come to be in Kano is the outcome of technology’s encounter with the social formations of northern Nigeria and with norms shaped by colonialism, postcolonial nationalism, and Islam. Larkin examines how media technologies produce the modes of leisure and cultural forms of urban Africa by analyzing the circulation of Hindi films to Muslim Nigeria, the leisure practices of Hausa cinemagoers in Kano, and the dynamic emergence of Nigerian video films. His analysis highlights the diverse, unexpected media forms and practices that thrive in urban Africa. Signal and Noise brings anthropology and media together in an original analysis of media’s place in urban life."
Some of Brian Larkin's papers can be found at his Bernard College Faculty site and the book as well as the papers seem useful to those interested in development problems.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An exchange in 'Follow the money'

blog of Brad Setser:

"October 28th, 2008 at 10:44 pm
Twofish Says:

Where’s the money now?

It was never there.

October 29th, 2008 at 12:05 am
bsetser Says:

2fish — i lack your training in detecting anti-matter, but i would second your thought that “it was never there” … of course, lots of the street got paid as if what wasn’t there was, but that is a different story."

Some effects of the financial crisis on me

My pension is down and expected to go down further. Luckily, Jhansi has a small home run electronics business which mostly caters schools. During labor governments, funds to public schools increse here and the business seems to be doing ok. The funding will be reduced next year due to the crisis. There are other benefits that I have not been using; one can get some money from the government for babysitting for grandchildren. It seems that we will be ok for a while. I have been contributing a bit to charities here and in India. The instinct is to get rid of the money while I still have it since the poorer may be suffering more. Growing vegetables is an option but there are water restrictions. May have to spend more money to save rain water.
P.S. May be Obama will win and things will improve. But one had such hopes before with Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and others. there were changes but not as much improvement as one hoped.
P.P.S. Felix Salmon has a post The Financial Crisis Hits the World's Hungry.

From the comments

Derek Wall in the comments to an earlier post on 'Curbing Growth' links to this very readable post of his Growth is madness!. The post also has a link to a longer article of his broaching on possible solutions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Normalization of US-Cuba relations

at least in science can benefit both countries say scientists in Science Magazine:
"Restrictions on U.S.-Cuba scientific cooperation deprive both research communities of opportunities that could benefit our societies, as well as others in the hemisphere, particularly in the Caribbean. Cuba is scientifically proficient in disaster management and mitigation, vaccine production, and epidemiology. Cuban scientists could benefit from access to research facilities that are beyond the capabilities of any developing country, and the U.S. scientific community could benefit from high-quality science being done in Cuba. For example, Cuba typically sits in the path of hurricanes bound for the U.S. mainland that create great destruction, as was the case with Hurricane Katrina and again last month with Hurricane Ike. Cuban scientists and engineers have learned how to protect threatened populations and minimize damage. Despite the category 3 rating of Hurricane Ike when it struck Cuba, there was less loss of life after a 3-day pounding than that which occurred when it later struck Texas as a category 2 hurricane. Sharing knowledge in this area would benefit everybody."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why Oh Why Can't We Have Better Economics Blogs?

Echoes of Dean Baker's post from
David Warsh's What Just Happened:
"But you would never have a clue that any of this had happened from three of the most widely-read economists’ blogs, the Freakonomics site, J. Bradford Delong’s Semi-Daily Journal, or N. Gregory Mankiw’s blog. Why? Because they are economists, and not committed to “without fear or favor” news, though they deliver plenty of interesting tidbits over the course of a week. Besides, Shleifer is on the board of directors of the Becker Center on Price, where Freakonomics’ Steven Levitt teaches. DeLong, who worked under Summers at the Treasury Department, has been Shleifer’s friend since the two were college roommates. Mankiw regularly touts his colleague for a Nobel Prize.
But neither would you have known much about it from coverage in The New York Times, at least not until the bitter end; or from the Washington Post (except for a column by David Ignatius in 1999); and just barely from the Financial Times, where Summers now a star columnist; or, for that matter, would you have learned of it from Paul Krugman’s twice-weekly columns in the Times. Why the lack of interest in what was, after all, a pretty interesting story? Perhaps because newspapers are run at least partly for the benefit of their sources; editors are reluctant to bite the hand that feeds. (In contrast, The Wall Street Journal, which broke story, did an excellent job.)"

FT endorses Obama

Obama is the better choice:
"The challenges facing the next president will be extraordinary. We hesitate to wish it on anyone, but we hope that Mr Obama gets the job."

Curbing growth

at least in 'developed' countries. From Special report: Nothing to fear from curbing growth (via EconoSpeak):
"The absurdity of our situation is illustrated by the way our economy profits from selling back to us the pleasures that we have lost through overwork: the leisure and tourist companies that sell us "quality time"; the catering services that provide "home cooking"; the dating and care agencies that see to personal relations; the gyms where people pay to walk on treadmills because the car culture has made it unsafe or unpleasant to walk outside. As the economy continues to expand, consumer culture becomes ever more reliant on our willingness to accept this."
This article from New Scientist has links to several articles on sustainable growth one of which is Why politicians dare not limit economic growth:
"If we do not go out shopping, then factories stop producing, and if factories stop producing then people get laid off. If people get laid off, then they do not have any money. And if they don't have any money they cannot go shopping. A falling economy has no money in the public purse and no way to service public debt. It struggles to maintain competitiveness and it puts people's jobs at risk. A government that fails to respond appropriately will soon find itself out of office.

This is the logic of free-market capitalism: the economy must grow continuously or face an unpalatable collapse. With the environmental situation reaching crisis point, however, it is time to stop pretending that mindlessly chasing economic growth is compatible with sustainability. We need something more robust than a comfort blanket to protect us from the damage we are wreaking on the planet. Figuring out an alternative to this doomed model is now a priority before a global recession, an unstable climate, or a combination of the two forces itself upon us."
All this may be afterGathering Storm which is drawing a lot of comments in Naked Capitalism.
See also Is a Currency Crisis Next? in Economist's View.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Comments from two who predicted the crisis

Roubini says:
"... if - as likely - the capitulation panic continues today and in the next few days authorities may be forced - as I argued yesterday - to close down financial markets for a week or more in the next few days. We have reached the scary point where the dysfunctional behavior of financial markets has destructive effects on the financial system and - much worse - on the real economies. So it is time to think about more radical policy actions and government interventions of the type I discussed in my London talk yesterday."
Dean Baker says:
"In fact, the problem is not that "we" cannot see events that far in advance. The problem is that the Federal Reserve Board and the economics profession as a whole functions more like a fraternity than a real forum for debate and truth seeking. Those whose views are taken seriously mimic the views of those with status and power within the profession, they do not think independently.
The failure of the economics profession to recognize the bubble and the harm that it would cause was due to the sociology of the profession. For any competent economist, the bubble was easy to see and the damage that its collapse would cause was entirely predictable."