Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hinglaj

seems to be a meeting place of many threads ancient and modern. I came to know of Hinglaj through Lalita's post which owes a bit to my friend Kalyan's wonderful memory. From the Wikipedia article on Hinglaj: "Despite the partition and the increasing Islamic stance of the Pakistani Government and society, Hinglaj has survived and is in fact revered by local Muslims who call it 'Nani ki Mandir'. Muslims offer red or saffron clothes, incense, candles and a sweet preparation called 'Sirini' to the deity. The Muslims protected sites like Hinglaj which are the last vestiges of the Hindu society which once straddled the area.
Hingula means cinnabar (HgS Mercuric Sulphide). It was used in ancient India to cure snakebite and other poisonings and is still employed in traditional medicine. The Goddess Hingula is thus believed to possess powers which can cure poisoning and other diseases. The Muslim name 'Nani' is an abbreviation of the name of the ancient Goddess "Nanaia", whose Persian name is "Anahita"."

Some articles say that it is possibly a pre-Hindu place of worship. Lalita also links to this informative article on the connections to Bengal through a travelogue, a film and possibly due the presence a number of shaktipeethas in Bengal. Here are some wonderful photographs of a trip from Pakistan Animal Welfare Society and earlier photos from BBC News. Note the last one on bonded labourers.

Raguram Rajan's overview of Indian economic development

from ADB LLectures(via Bayesianheresy). From the concluding remarks of India: The Past and Its Future:
"Let me conclude with lessons I draw from India’s highly regulated past. First, India’s past policies relating to science and education, no matter how distorted, gave it capabilities in skilled manufacturing and in services, where its comparative advantage now lies. India should not sacrifice this advantage in a blind attempt to follow the East Asian path of unskilled, labor-intensive manufacturing. In particular, it should remove distortions that hold back its areas of strength: the overregulated higher education system and the sclerotic legal system. But it also needs to remove the disincentives for the creation of unskilled jobs, not just by getting rid of archaic job protection while building a genuine safety net for all workers, but also by improving infrastructure, especially in laggard states and rural areas so that they connect better to the larger economy.
Second, the government cannot simply legislate outcomes or achieve them by offering resources or subsidies, especially as the economy becomes more market-oriented. Indeed, such direction can be counterproductive. What the government intends and what materializes can be very different because of the way people react to policy. The government must focus instead on getting the environment right, and thus spread opportunity.
Third, the government, by and large, will not refocus in a vacuum. I do not believe that there will be a revolutionary change in government attitudes, because Indian society is not ready for it. Instead, I see a more evolutionary change⎯as more and more people in India obtain access and see opportunity in the market economy, they will press for a more enabling government, and Indian democracy will respond. The sooner this happens though⎯and reformers in government can play a role here in expanding access⎯the better it will be for India. For better governance and wider opportunity, rather than turning back from market-oriented reforms, will be the way to social justice and a more prosperous, fairer, India."

Bayesianheresy also links to Shanta Devarajan's post on "Why is service delivery particularly poor in India?". Excerpt:"First, especially compared with Bangladesh, India is an extremely heterogeneous society, with many castes, ethnic groups, languages and religions. There is some evidence that polarized societies find it more difficult to build political support for public goods. Second, to the extent that these services are transactions-intensive (a teacher has to spend time with students, docthttp://kufr.blogspot.com/2008/01/more-socialist-than-swedes.html#linksors with patients), caste or other differences may stand in the way of publicly-provided services working for some people. Low-caste people, for instance, have been excluded from some public schools and public clinics. They are able to obtain services in the private sector—because they pay for these services. Paradoxically, therefore, the fact that the Indian government mandated free and universal public education and health, and decided to finance and provide it from the public sector, may be the reason poor people are largely obtaining these services in the private sector."
P.S.(29th. Feb.) See Kuffir's response to Shanta Devarajan's post.And more here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

LanguageLog urges caution

while reading science articles and reports.From an article on Nature nurture studies of ToM:
"Theory of mind is a term introduced by Premack and Woodruff (1978) to refer to a set of abilities that may be uniquely human: to attribute mental states such as beliefs, knowledge and emotions to self and others; to recognize that the mental states of others many differ from one's own; to use these attributed states to explain and predict behavior; and to predict how such mental states would be affected by hypothetical actions.
....there are many reasons to be interested in "twin studies" that are designed to tease apart the genetic and environmental influences on ToM abilities. And if such studies are set up to distinguish ToM abilities from general verbal abilities, so much the better.
Unfortunately, as we've mentioned a number of times recently, such studies are quite difficult to interpret. And in the course of looking for something else, I recently stumbled over a really suprising example of these problems.
....
I'm going to leave the detailed analysis for another post. But today, I want to set the stage by quoting the quantitative conclusions of two studies with the same first author, published six years apart, which used the same experimental design (ToM and verbal IQ tests on monozygotic vs. dizogotic twins) and the same statistical method (analysis of variance), but came up with radically different estimates of the genetic contribution to individual differences in ToM abilities."

Change in play, change in kids

Alix Spiegel in Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills(via Evo. Psych. discussion group):
"But during the second half of the 20th century, Chudacoff argues, play changed radically. Instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts. Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch they played Star Wars with a toy light saber. Chudacoff calls this the commercialization and co-optation of child's play — a trend which begins to shrink the size of children's imaginative space.

But commercialization isn't the only reason imagination comes under siege. In the second half of the 20th century, Chudacoff says, parents became increasingly concerned about safety, and were driven to create play environments that were secure and could not be penetrated by threats of the outside world. Karate classes, gymnastics, summer camps — these create safe environments for children, Chudacoff says. And they also do something more: for middle-class parents increasingly worried about achievement, they offer to enrich a child's mind.

Change in Play, Change in Kids

Clearly the way that children spend their time has changed. Here's the issue: A growing number of psychologists believe that these changes in what children do has also changed kids' cognitive and emotional development.It turns out that all that time spent playing make-believe actually helped children develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function has a number of different elements, but a central one is the ability to self-regulate. Kids with good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.
....
Sad because self-regulation is incredibly important. Poor executive function is associated with high dropout rates, drug use and crime. In fact, good executive function is a better predictor of success in school than a child's IQ."
And much more.
See also Getting Serious About Play.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Economics of regret

From Learning with Regret:
"Marchiori and Warglien used neural network models that incorporate "regret" to predict the outcomes of games played by humans. In this context, regret refers to the difference between outcomes attained and the best outcomes that might have been attained if the actor had chosen differently. The models' predictions are based not on conventional, forward-looking expectations of gain, the notion so long at the heart of economic theorizing, but instead on the action propensities that develop through a backward-looking learning process that is driven by regret.

This is an important step in the development of a workable new synthesis. Marchiori and Warglien show that a very simple, parameter-free model can do an excellent job of fitting the long-run tendencies of players in 21 different economic gaming experiments."
Abstract of the Marchiori-Warglien paper here. Unfortunately both the papers need subscription.

Social interaction

Abstract of Mental Exercising Through Simple Socializing: Social Interaction Promotes General Cognitive Functioning:
"Social interaction is a central feature of people’s life and engages a variety of cognitive resources. Thus, social interaction should facilitate general cognitive functioning. Previous studies suggest such a link, but they used special populations (e.g., elderly with cognitive impairment), measured social interaction indirectly (e.g., via marital status), and only assessed effects of extended interaction in correlational designs. Here the relationbetween mental functioning and direct indicators of social interaction was examined in a younger and healthier population. Study 1 using survey methodology found a positive relationship between social interaction, assessed via amount of actual social contact, and cognitive functioning in people from three age groups including younger adults. Study 2 using an experimental design found that a small amount of social interaction (10 min) can facilitate cognitive performance. The findings are discussed in the context of the benefits social relationships have for so many aspects of people’s lives."

While the results are appealing, they seem to be depend on the choice of indicators for social interaction and cognitive performance. As the authors say towards the end "One issue that remains unclear from the present research is whether all types of social interaction can have a positive effect on cognitive performance. Some available research, although varying in method from the present research, suggests that some social interactions can be cognitively depleting (Finkel et al., 2006; Richeson & Trawalter, 2005; Richeson, Trawalter, &Shelton, 2005). For example, using a measure of inhibition, Richeson et al. (2005) showed that individualshigh in prejudice or who had concerns about being viewed as prejudiced were worse at inhibiting interfering responses on a Stroop task."

Another paper The effect of hours of work on social interaction on the decline of special types of social interaction has drawn several comments here and here."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Very Very Special

From Outlook:
"Hyderabad franchise too had wanted VVS Laxman as their icon player before withdrawing the demand a day before the players' auction. "Laxman has been named the captain of the Hyderabad team. He put the team interest before his own and gave away the icon status (which the franchise owners had demanded from the IPL Governing Council) as he wanted Hyderabad to have a larger budget (for buying players). He showed fine sportsman's spirit," P K Iyer, the managing director of franchise owners Deccan Chronicle, said after buying the veteran cricketer for USD 375,000."
Peter Roebuck: Franchises best for game in decline.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Abbas Raza writes about

Muhammad Ali. There are lots of links and poem (apparently Ali describing how he prepared for the 'rumble in the jungle')that I did not know:
"I have wrestled with an alligator,
I have tussled with a whale,
I have handcuffed lighting,
Thrown thunder in jail.
Yesterday, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick.
I'm so mean I make medicine sick!"

Special issue on cities

in Sciencemagazine. Unfortunately the articles need subscription, but one can read the abstracts by clicking on some of the the articles. For example, clicking on Urbanization and the Wealth of Nations gives:
"Urbanization and the Wealth of Nations
David E. Bloom,* David Canning, G√ľnther Fink
The proportion of a country's population living in urban areas is highly correlated with its level of income. Urban areas offer economies of scale and richer market structures, and there is strong evidence that workers in urban areas are individually more productive, and earn more, than rural workers. However, rapid urbanization is also associated with crowding, environmental degradation, and other impediments to productivity. Overall, we find no evidence that the level of urbanization affects the rate of economic growth. Our findings weaken the rationale for either encouraging or discouraging urbanization as part of a strategy for economic growth. "
and Urbanization and the Wealth of NationsGlobal Change and the Ecology of Cities gives:

"Global Change and the Ecology of Cities
Nancy B. Grimm,1* Stanley H. Faeth,1 Nancy E. Golubiewski,2 Charles L. Redman,3 Jianguo Wu,1,3 Xuemei Bai,4 John M. Briggs1
Urban areas are hot spots that drive environmental change at multiple scales. Material demands of production and human consumption alter land use and cover, biodiversity, and hydrosystems locally to regionally, and urban waste discharge affects local to global biogeochemical cycles and climate. For urbanites, however, global environmental changes are swamped by dramatic changes in the local environment. Urban ecology integrates natural and social sciences to study these radically altered local environments and their regional and global effects. Cities themselves present both the problems and solutions to sustainability challenges of an increasingly urbanized world. "

Monday, February 18, 2008

Patterns in corruption

Michael Moynihan writes about Ben Olken's work in 'The American' (via The Bayesian Heresy):
"In his paper “The Simple Economics of Extortion,” co-written with Patrick Barron of the World Bank, Olken again traveled to Indonesia to study “if the way in which we think about pric­ing for firms also applies to corrupt officials.” In other words, do the crooked respond to market forces in the way a corporation would? To test this, Olken and Barron looked at the number of roadside checkpoints—which act, essentially, as illegal toll booths where the motorist is required to pay a bribe—in Aceh, a region on the north­western tip of Sumatra long engaged in a guerilla war with separatist rebels.

“I looked at what happens when there is a change in the number of checkpoints along the road in Aceh. When I started data collection, you had to stop at, say, 90 checkpoints along a 600-kilome­ter route,” Olken says. “A lot of the checkpoints were associated with the military occupation. But when the peace agreement was signed [in 2005], the military pulled out, and the number of check­points declined. The question is: how do the prices at the remaining checkpoints change?”

There are three theories on how prices are set, he says. Is the bribe purely the product of cultural norms, influenced by customs specific to the region? Is the bribe simply an individual transaction, not affected by culture? Or is the bribe economy embedded within a bigger mar­ket? “Just as if there was a firm running a toll booth,” Olken says, “the firm would balance off how much revenue they are getting from the tolls, versus the fact that if they were charging more for the tolls there would be fewer cars driving through; they’ll be making an optimal trade-off. So, in fact, that bribe is the equi­librium of a firm’s price-setting decision.”

Olken and Barron found that when the number of checkpoints decreases, prices increase: “So it looks like the guys are behaving like a firm would behave.”

So what does all of this mean to institutions, like the World Bank, struggling against endemic corruption? There is often an understandable desire to go after “the big fish” in corrupt soci­eties, thus making an example of those whose pockets are fullest. “What this paper shows is that there is a potential cost of doing it that way. If corruption is decentralized, the model pre­dicts that the total amount of bribes is going to be higher than if there was a single, centralized person coordinating all the checkpoints.” Such results have broad implications for countries mired in corruption: “One policy that has been advocated in a lot of countries is simplifying the process of business registration. This the­ory predicts that that would be a good thing to do in reducing corruption because you would be moving from a decentralized corruption, where bribes are set independently, to a single, central­ized person, and the total amount you would pay would be less.”

Olken also has looked at graft and corruption in road projects in Indonesia. In his April 2007 paper, “Monitoring Corruption: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia,” he sought to determine the best method of reducing theft and graft in public works projects by doing controlled field experiments in 608 Indonesian villages.

Some village leaders involved in the building of roads were told that, upon completion of the project, they would be visited by government auditors, which increased “the probability of an external government audit in those villages from a baseline of about 4 percent to essentially 100 percent.” Other villages were chosen to partic­ipate in grassroots “accountability meetings,” during which project coordinators would pub­licly account for the use of government funds in a town-hall-like venue. Villagers would be offered anonymous forms to report graft.

Olken’s conclusion was that “increasing gov­ernment audits…reduced missing expenditures, as measured by discrepancies between official project costs and an independent engineer’s estimate of costs, by eight percentage points. By contrast, increasing grassroots participation in monitoring had little average impact…. Overall, the results suggest that traditional top-down monitoring can play an important role in reduc­ing corruption.” In short, to reduce the amount of corruption, it’s cost-effective to do more audits, not to trust the grassroots.

What’s the practical use of these results? Can they be applied to, say, corrupt countries in Africa? The study seems to suggest, Olken says, that, even in developing countries, “audit agen­cies might be more useful than people would have otherwise thought.” A widely held presumption was that auditors too were corrupt, and that they would only end up extracting more bribes, mak­ing the situation significantly worse.

The Indonesian study, he argues, might “sug­gest that that assumption is actually incorrect” and that when formulating an anti-corruption strategy, governments and institutions “shouldn’t dismiss the auditors out of hand.” Since mini­mizing corruption is often a key prerequisite in the development of democratic institutions, campaigners for clean government would do well to heed Olken’s advice."

Ben Olken has also written on whether leaders matter and on the effects of television on social capital. Links to Ben Olken's work discussed in popular press and Ben Olken's Home Page.

Donkey suicides?

From Chris Blattman's blog: http://chrisblattman.blogspot.com/2008/02/suicidal-donkeys-indian-peacekeepers-in.html

For Indian Army peacekeepers in the Sudan, the plight of the simple donkey has gone unnoticed by an international community preoccupied with ending mass killing and the destruction of a nation.

This neglect ended in tragedy this week with the unexpected suicide of two donkeys. A new UN mission report by Major Shambhu Saran Singh, reported by the Indian Express, describes the unfolding donkitarian crisis:



A donkey, who had decided to end his miserable and wretched life, ran towards the Nile. As he approached the banks, he plunged into the river and moved towards the current and the strong current of the mighty river swept it to a watery grave.

In a second instance reported by Major Singh, an overworked donkey preferred to be beaten to death by his master rather than pulling a heavily loaded cart through the market.

Indian army veterinarians are urging the people and government of Sudan to provide donkeys with a week's rest and a good diet of grain to drive away the “suicidal tendencies”. After 20 years of war and displacement, and amidst daily human rights violations , experts warn that donkey welfare will not get the attention it deserves.


Fortunately, Indian peacekeepers, who comprise close to one third of the 10,000-strong peacekeeping force in sourthern Sudan, appear to be making donkey welfare a chief priority

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Some micro finance beneficiaries

I have uploaded a few photographs of the beneficiaries of the microfinance programme organized by Benjamin Kaila and Rev. P. Sundar. Some of the work was described in earlier posts like 'A micro effort'.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A story from Baba Amte's life

Churumuri links to an article of L.C. Jain on Baba Amte at http://churumuri.wordpress.com/2008/02/14/the-sickening-weight-on-the-backs-of-outcasts/. I repeat their quote:
"He once organised a scavengers’ (night soil collectors) union, but when they struck for higher wages while he was still vice chairman of the municipality, he refused their demands because the town committee lacked funds. The strikers charged he was unsympathetic because he had never carried a pan of night soil on his head.
“Imagine our plight during the monsoon,” they pleaded.

They challenged him to do the job and then reconsider. Baba Amte accepted the challenge and was assigned 40 latrines. Daily he collected the steel pans of excrement from the backs of houses and carried them on his head to the disposal sites. It was revolting and sickening labour and affected him profoundly, deepening his regard for, and commitment to, these outcasts. The scavengers received their raise."

Why companies should hire female stars

From Harvard Business Review (via Evolutionary Psychology discussion group):
"About four years ago, with the war for talent in high gear, my colleagues and I wrote an article in these pages warning managers of the risks in hiring star performers away from competitors. After studying the fortunes of more than 1,000 star stock analysts, we found that when a star switches companies, not only does his performance plunge, but so does the market value of his new company. What’s more, these players don’t tend to stay with their new organizations for very long, despite the generous pay packages that lured them in. Everybody loses out.

But further analysis of the data, which I’ve done over the past three years, reveals that it’s not that simple. One group of analysts reliably maintained their stardom after changing employers: women. Unlike their male counterparts, female stars (189 star women, 18% of the star analysts in the original study) who switched firms performed just as well, in the aggregate, as those who stayed put. And while investors appear to believe that companies are overpaying for male stars or anticipate a drop in performance for men, this is not so for female stars. Firms acquiring male stars experienced a significant share-price loss of 0.93%, whereas the acquisitions of female stars generated a nonsignificant share-price increase of 0.07%."

Some reports on 'Sorry'

From ABC News:

"More than 1,000 people braved pouring rain to gather outside the local Community Centre in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern to watch the national apology to the Stolen Generations on a giant screen.

They were at the local community centre, not far from the Block and from where Paul Keating gave his famous speech on reconciliation back in 1992.

There was of course a heavy representation of Indigenous people in the crowd but there were also people of all ages and all ethnic mixes.

Some were dressed casually and some were in suits, presumably on their way to work.

Three schoolgirls travelled to Redfern from one of Sydney's more affluent areas.

"We study our regional studies and also it's a day of history," one said. "We want to be here to see it happening. We support it really."

"I personally think it is a really important issue and it has been a long time coming and I just think it is really important that everyone gets to come out see it happen," another said.

"I think it is definitely a starting point to head towards the future because at least now we are heading towards a common goal ... for reconciliation."


Redfern's history

Residents viewed today's apology through the suburb's place in Aboriginal history, particularly in relation to the landmark Redfern speech by Mr Keating, 16 years ago.

In 1992, Mr Keating admitted wrong. He did not say sorry but he prepared the way for saying sorry.

Resident Shireen Malamoo says Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should be applauded for building on Mr Keating's work.

"The Labor Party had a big hand in these previous policies towards Aboriginal people," she said.

"You know what, Aboriginal people have always wondered about this cautiousness about the truth."

However she says Mr Rudd came to terms with the truth today.

"I think that was marvellous, that was marvellous, and people would be content,' she said.

However she says there is still the issue of reparation, and she is concerned that Mr Rudd stopped short of offering compensation.

"To a lot of people, sorry means reparation too," she said."
Another report here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A new BPA study

From Science News:
"or the new study, scientists analyzed urine from some 2,500 people who had been recruited between 2003 and 2004 for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Roughly 92 percent of the individuals hosted measurable amounts of BPA, according to a report in the January Environmental Health Perspectives. It's the first study to measure the pollutant in a representative cross-section of the U.S. population."

Only known recording of a live Woody Guthrie performance restored

From Mathtrek :
"What she finally heard was a bootleg recording of her father singing a live performance in 1949. It was the first time she had ever heard him perform in front of a live audience. He had developed Huntington's chorea and stopped performing when she was a child, and she thought he had never been recorded live.
So she was determined to preserve the recording. For the first step, she and a team of engineers transferred it into digital format. It was a hair-raising experience. "The wire was really flimsy," says Jamie Howarth, a sound engineer on the job. "It was frustratingly, maddeningly fragile." It snapped over and over, and with every snap, a moment of the recording was lost. And when it didn't snap, it kinked and snarled.
.....
Fortunately, math can help. Howarth had developed algorithms to correct these recordings.
....
"When it was done, we were all just awed by this recording," Howarth says. "It was miraculous." Despite all the difficulties in the process, the wire recording was in many ways surprisingly good. "It sounds really, really, really good for its time," he says."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Michael Leunig on education

The Age cartoonist Michael Leunig has an article on education which is close to what I feel about education. Here is an excerpt from the article:
"Schooling does not necessarily foster wisdom or conscience, nor does it promise courage, compassion or integrity — in fact, it often diminishes such capacities because somewhere along the line, in spite of all the claims, a school may ever-so-nicely require a student to forsake their unique, intuitive joy: a developmental disaster that produces a frustrated, repressed and compliant swat in the system, a clever, "successful" and fearful seeker after status and security.

It is said that many people sell their souls and live with good conscience on the proceeds. I know for a fact there are rats in good schools.

But education excellence or not, intelligence suits us all, and intelligence may be just another word for sensitivity as far as I can understand.

You have to grow it whenever and wherever you can and sometimes you have to survive an education system, an academy or any web of convention, authority or conformity to do it. Life's a long time and that's the achievement, that's what matters in the end — to come through, not necessarily with excellence and brilliance, but with soul."
Links to some more articles by Leunig here.

Friday, February 08, 2008

News from Khasi society

From Freakonmics Blog:
"Their results are summarized as follows:

Our experimental results reveal interesting differences in competitiveness: in the patriarchal society women are less competitive than men, a result consistent with student data drawn from Western cultures. Yet, this result reverses in the matrilineal society, where we find that women are more competitive than men. Perhaps surprisingly, Khasi women are even slightly more competitive than Maasai men, but this difference is not statistically significant at conventional levels under any of our formal statistical tests."
Via BBC and Evolutionary Psychology group:
"An Indian politician has been stripped of his status as a tribesman and may be barred from contesting elections because he took his father's surname.
Leaders of the Khasi tribe in the north-east Indian state of Meghalaya have told Waibha Kyndiah that he has "ceased" to be a Khasi.
The Khasis are a matrilineal society and their legal code does not recognise anyone who uses a paternal surname.
Mr Kyndiah was planning to contest an assembly seat reserved for tribes."

Social monogamy

From http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080206/full/451617a.html:
By traditionalist standards, prairie-vole couples may enjoy the ideal relationship: the rodents form lifelong partnerships — a highly unusual practice in mammals. Males help raise the children; females help build the nest. As for their sex life, let's just say it far exceeds the efforts required for procreation.

But the respectable public behaviour of North American prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster ) may hide a bed-hopping double life. Paternity tests published last week indicate that the animals touted as paragons of monogamy frequently cheat on their partners (A. G. Ophir et al. Anim. Behav. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.09.022; 2008). “Ironically”, the study's authors conclude, “the dissociation of social and sexual fidelity leads us to suggest that prairie voles are even better models of human attachment than has been appreciated.”

Studies on prairie voles have led scientists to look at the role of hormones such as vasopressin and oxytocin in strengthening human relationships. Revelations of infidelity in the creatures will not change the significance of that research, but may make the voles a little less popular among political agitators for sexual abstinence. (Eric Keroack, who headed a government family-planning committee in the United States, even used the monogamous voles as evidence to support his view that people who have extramarital sex damage their oxytocin signalling mechanisms.)

“Humans want to believe in sexual monogamy.”
Over the past few decades researchers have learned to distinguish between 'social monogamy' — in which a pair lives and tends their young together — and 'sexual monogamy', in which a couple mates exclusively with each other. “You may have a partner you come home to every night,” says Alexander Ophir, a biologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, “but that's not necessarily the one that you're mating with.”

Ophir and his colleagues found that infidelity had no effect on reproductive success: a cheating vole was just as likely to reproduce as a faithful one, so long as the cheater maintained a socially monogamous relationship. Sue Carter, a biologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says that these findings highlight the importance of social bonding. “Humans want to believe in sexual monogamy,” says Carter. That focus may have distracted people from the relative importance of social monogamy, she says.

Carter has observed philandering voles in her own lab, and notes that the infidelity did not disrupt pre-existing partnerships. When a female initiates contact with an outside male, for example, the relationship remains strictly sexual. “She mated with him,” says Carter, “and then she attacked him, ran him off and went back to her established partner.”

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Gurram Jashua

Gurram Jashuva was one of father's favourite poets and I remeber attending with my father a 'kanakabhishekam' ceremony for him around 1952. Recently I went to study a micro finance project in Modukuru and was pleased to find that the only library in the village is named after himand is in the Dalit part of the village. Eecerpt from the Wikipedia article:

"Gurram Jashuva or G Joshua (b. 28 September 1895-d. 24 July 1971) was a popular Telugu poet, born into a poor Christian family in Vinukonda, Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh, India. He was discriminated as an untouchable in school, college and professional life.

Jashuva was born to Virayya and Lingamma. Because of the intercaste alliance of his parents, their poverty and their caste, his childhood was spent in alienation from close relatives, undergoing severe hardships and being subjected to inhuman treatment from the society which considered his caste untouchable. His parents raised him as a Christian. In spite of this, Jashuva often drew his inspiration from Hinduism and Hindu mythological epics. This angered his Christian society, which was quick to proscribe Jashuva's family from their community. This did not deter Jashuva who continued to write excellent poetry in Telugu."

Trying to see whether there is some follow up of his work, I found that his daughter Hemalata married Gora's son Lavanam and both Lavanam and Hamalata carried on their parents' work:
An autobiographical account of Lavanam and some of their work. Earlier posts with links to Gora and Gandhi.
A recent blog postabout Gurram Jashuva. Three poems including 'smasanavatika'
and Andhra mata
English translations of some of his poems by Velcheru Narayana Rao are in
'Hibiscus on the Lake'.

Monday, February 04, 2008

John Howard's parting gift?

From BBC News:
"To others, the award of extra points to fluent English speakers is more sinister, with shades of the monocultural "white Australia policy", the umbrella term for a swathe of policies and laws engineered to limit non-white immigration which finally petered out in the early 1970s.

"I do see this as an attack on multiculturalism," complains Kate Gauthier, from the group A Just Australia.
................
Australia claims to be the most successfully multicultural country in the world. According to the 2001 census, 23% of the population were born overseas, while 43% of the population were either born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas.

But gaining citizenship is just about to get tougher, and applicants will be soon required to take a test on the country's history and values.
......
For British applicants, Australia is about to become more welcoming - but is it at the cost of migrants from other countries? "

Tabula Rasa looks back

In the post 'Rear-view', Tabula Rasa contemplates on some of his favourite posts. I missed some of them but remember fondly this and this. Some of the travel posts are on my reading list.

A link to the past

and may be to the future too. Following up a post in 'churumuri' on R.K. Karnanjia, I came across three interesting articles by Alexander Cockburn in the series 'Travels with Sainath'. I seem to have been in the some of the places travelled by Sainath at different times: coastal Andhra, Madras Layola College, Bombay and Delhi. Anyway, here are the pieces.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

'Dark Hope' by David Dean Shulman

Avishai Margalit's reviews David Shulman's 'Dark Hope' in New York Review of Books. Excerpt from the book:
"There is something infuriating about the notion that we can go on as usual,teaching our irrelevancies, drinking coffee in the faculty club, reading Telugu poetry, sitting on committees, whatever, and next door to us - a Palestian ghetto of our own - that is, the army's - making."
Another review of different books about Israel.
Here is a list of books by David Dean Shulman and a couple of articles in Hindu about him
here and here.
P.S.Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman won theA.K. Ramanujam tranlation prize in 2004 for their"Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology".