Thursday, December 31, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Recovering from Chikungunya

Apparently, recovering from Chikungunya may take a long time for some. A friend from Hyderabad hsays that he recovered quickly after suffering for a couple of months using some unani medicine. It is available from shop called Arammasala kirana grocery (approximate name) near Nampalli station and is close to Arastu Lodge. Apparently one can ask for packets with a list of the ingredients and perhaps check for toxicity.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In the season of giving

a discussion on giving by Peter Singer and William Easterly on via Christmas Charity Gift-Giving Video Edition: Peter Singer and I on Questions like too much establishment costs of some organizations, keeping track of whether the money is spent for the causes given and the results are discussed and there are links to some reliable efforts (but what is reliable now may not be reliable tomorrow)and links to organizations which evaluate charities.
My own small efforts are through organizations in places I know where I can get feedback through friends and relatives and can visit once in a while. Two such I know which work mostly in Andhra Pradsh are:, the first organized by Benjamin Kaila and friends and the second by Mrs Krishnarao and friends. Mrs. Krishnarao lives in Maryland and wants to start a blog to attract more people to their efforts and inform of the ongoing efforts. If any dody can help please contact her.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Lok Satta on A.P. agitation

has several posts on the A.P. agiatation, suggestive of 'subsidiarity', including this Lok Satta pities Chiranjeevi’s ignorance. Excerpt:
"Talking to the media, party spokesmen Mr. Katari Srinivasa Rao, Mr. V.Laxman Balaji, Mrs. K.Geeta Murthy said that what all the Lok Satta had been agitating for is in accordance with the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution which envisaged transfer of powers, responsibilities, resources and personnel to local governments. The Lok Satta stand is in tune with Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of gram swaraj.

The Lok Satta has all along fought for empowerment of panchayats, mandal parishads, zilla parishads, municipalities and municipal corporations so that they would be at the service of citizens who are sovereign in a democracy. Governments existed for people and not the other way round. The era of power vesting in the PM, CM and the DM (prime minister, chief minister and district magistrate) should give way for power in the hands of governments elected at the local level.....
The traditional political parties should realize that the formation of a Telangana State is merely a means and not an end. There will not be any transformation in the lives of people unless they are empowered and corruption eliminated, and quality education, healthcare and livelihood opportunities provided to all without reference to the accident of their birth in a particular caste or religion or region."
See alsoTv9 Special Interview with Jayaprakash Narayana on Present Crisis :

Thursday, December 24, 2009

SRI blog

started recently: Global News and Views - System of Rice Intensification (SRI) . The latest post mentions introduction of SRI in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Obama Ain't It

Who Will Be A Champion Of The Left We Can Believe In? As Bush-lite, Obama Ain't It
By Evert Cilliers

See also Glenn Greenwald's Greg Craig and Obama's worsening civil liberties record
(both via 3queaksdaily)
P.S. See also He’s not perfect but Obama deserves at least a B

Joan Mencher on sustainable agriculture

Interviw in Frontline The right to food .Excerpt:
"There were three processes that destroyed the traditional face of Indian agriculture. First, the Green Revolution; second, the 1991 liberalisation of the Indian economy; and third, the George Bush-Manmohan Singh summit in July 2005 [U.S.-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture], which really gave free entry to large American food corporations into India.

But there are people trying to revive ways of traditional forms of agriculture. One of the important things to be aware of is that large corporations are spreading the idea that anyone who tries to oppose all these scientific innovations is anti-science, anti-technology, [and] anti-modern, whereas I would argue that what they are calling modernity is not modernity and, furthermore, they ignore the much more complicated discipline of eco-science completely. Colleges have a big deal of knowledge about what works, but they do not support ecological sciences. Even eco-sciences are often pressured to do absolutely simple research. Eco-scientists are testing only one part of a thing when they do research on it without understanding the larger implications of such work. It’s the synergy between various parts that matters. Research in the ecological sciences needs to be improved."

Arun Shrivastava has been saying similar things: Links to some of his articles.

As John Little quotes in Merton's Sociology Science "Scientists often choose problems for investigation that are vitally linked with major values and interests of the time." May be the recent financial crisis will bring a shift in the paradigms.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A tax on short-term debt instead of Tobin tax

suggests Luigi Zingales in A tax on short-term debt would stabilise the system .

Arvind Subramanian blogs an aid and Dutch Disease

Arvind Subramanian in The Effects of Foreign Aid: Dutch Disease:
"Manufacturing exports has been the predominant mode for escape from underdevelopment for many developing countries, especially in Asia. So, what aid does to manufacturing exports can be one key piece of the puzzle in understanding the aggregate effect of aid.

In this paper forthcoming in the Journal of Development Economics, Raghuram Rajan and I show that aid tends to depress the growth of exportable goods. This will not be the last word on the subject because the methodology in this paper, as in much of the aid literature, could be improved.

But the innovation in this paper is not to look at the variation in the data across countries (which is what almost the entire aid literature does) but at the variation within countries across sectors. We categorize goods by how exportable they could be for low-income countries, and find that in countries that receive more aid, more exportable sectors grow substantially more slowly than less exportable ones. The numbers suggest that in countries that receive additional aid of 1 percent of GDP, exportable sectors grow more slowly by 0.5 percent per year (and clothing and footwear sectors that are particularly exportable in low-income countries grow slower by 1 percent per year).

We also provide suggestive evidence that the channel through which this effect is felt is the exchange rate. In other words, aid tends to make a country less competitive (reflected in an overvalued exchange rate) which in turn depresses the prospects of the more exportable sectors. In the jargon, this is the famous “Dutch Disease” effect of aid."

Further discussion by David Roodman of Center for Global Development Does Aid Cause Dutch Disease? and Subramanian's response:
"Whether and how manufacturing exports can be an engine of overall growth is still debated. But the historical experience is strongly suggestive that if export sectors grow slowly or grow slower than other sectors, overall growth is affected. So, our paper could be interpreted not as a lament about the effects of aid on export sectors but as a celebration of its effects on non-export sectors. But, in my view and also in the historical record, between export and non-export sectors as an engine of growth, there is no contest."

Friday, December 18, 2009

More on Telangana

Tarunabh Khaitan in Subsidiarity and State Formation links to several interesting articles related to the current discussions on Telangana and says "What is striking in all of these commentaries is that they ignore sub-nationalism as a possible basis for further state-formation. Instead, each of them analyses different aspects of democratic representation and efficiency---the twin pillars that underpin the principle of subsidiarity. The Telengana issue could well trigger the second wave of state formation in India: if this happens, subsidiarity should be a useful guide for the second states reorganisation commission. Of course, subsidiarity will also require far stronger local governments than we have at the moment--will our policy makers travel that far?"
The article about subsidiarity mentioned by Khaitan is behind a firewall. According to the Wikipedia article:
"Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields of government, political science, cybernetics, management, military (Mission Command) and, metaphorically, in the distribution of software module responsibilities in object-oriented programming (according to the Information expert design guideline). Subsidiarity is, ideally or in principle, one of the features of federalism, where it asserts the rights of the parts over the whole.

The word subsidiarity is derived from the Latin word subsidiarius and has its origins in Catholic social teaching (see Subsidiarity (Catholicism)).[1] The concept or principle is found in several constitutions around the world (see for example the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which asserts States rights.

It is presently best known as a fundamental principle of European Union law."

From the first of the articles mentioned From 27 to 45? by Bibek Debroi:
" First, India’s present organisation into states (and UTs) isn’t rational, if rationality is interpreted as delivering better governance. The word governance is much abused and different people mean different things when they use it. Governance is a process and it is also about delivering public goods and services (law and order, primary health, school education, roads, drinking and irrigation water, electricity). These are still areas characterised by some degree of market failure. In addition, there are anti-poverty programmes. In all these, trading off economies (of scale and scope) with diseconomies, there is an optimal level of administration at which these can be delivered. While there is a case for centralisation for defence and national security, there is a case for decentralisation for public goods. As a rough rule of the thumb, at least in India’s heartland, optimal governance requires population sizes smaller than 50 million (25 million is more like it) and geographical expanse less than 35,000 sq km.
Second, there is an empirical proposition. Across India’s 28 states and its UTs, work co-authored with Laveesh Bhandari shows smaller states perform better than larger states — on an average. Small states perform better than large states on physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, law and order and anti-poverty programmes. However, this is on an average and isn’t a finding specific to Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand or Uttarakhand. Nor is it the case that administrative restructuring alone solves all governance problems. For instance, the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir have issues that administrative restructuring alone cannot solve. What of the three newly-formed states? A long enough data time-series doesn’t exist. Subject to that, the answer depends on indicators used. Across indicators, Uttarakhand performs better than UP. The Chhattisgarh-MP comparison is iffy, with Chhattisgarh performing better on some indicators and worse on others. For Bihar-Jharkhand, Bihar generally performs better than Jharkhand. If an argument about optimal administrative level is accepted, the question shouldn’t only be about carved-out states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand. Governance should also improve in what remains — MP, Bihar, UP. Since one cannot control for other variables, there is a post hoc ergo propter hoc danger. With this caveat, governance (however defined) has improved in MP, Bihar, UP....
In this controversy over Telangana, there is an impression that there is a great deal of controversy. However, if one thinks about it, there should be complete consensus on these seven propositions. Unfortunately, in its preference towards setting up commissions right, left and centre, the UPA didn’t set up the one it should have and the whirlwind is being reaped now.

Perhaps there is a moral there too. Governments are reluctant to delegate decision-making to commissions. Instead, there is a preference for arbitrary exercise of centralised power, exactly the opposite of what the Constitution intended."

Karthik Muralidharan in Too small to fail :
"As states get more involved in large-scale social protection programmes like the NREGA and RSBY, it may be desirable to increase investment in state capacity to deliver services effectively and one way of doing this may be to create new state administrations with more manageable jurisdictions. Smaller states can also experiment more easily with innovations in governance and service delivery, which can be replicated across states if found to be successful."

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in Sizeable matters :
"Two issues in particular need attention. The first is dealing with legitimate concerns over state size. Mayawati’s proposal for further dividing UP merits serious consideration for a number of reasons that have been reiterated on several occasions. But more than creating states, the focus should be on building states. The success of a state depends not on size, but on state capacity. This varies widely across India. But we understand little about the conditions under which different states are likely to acquire the requisite state capacity."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some links 16th December, 2009

Jeffry Sachs on climate financing for the poor How to hold the rich to their word. Similar plans for Telangana and other 'underdeveloped' regions?
Felix Salmon reports on recent article As Microfinance Grows in India, So Do Its Rivals . The evidence seems to be mostly from Mahaboobnagar district and it seems that people are borrowing money from traditional lender to repay their micro loans.
Brenda Rosser on Bernanke's Saving's Glut Hypothesis. Contradiction Number One.
All the above links via Economist's View .
3qurksdaily discusses a Boston Globe article on the sacking of Uk's top drug advisor for saying that alcohol is more hazardous than many banned substancesYou can't handle the truth . One of the comments: "Anyone who has spent ANY time in the UK can attest to the extraordinary "enabling" social role that alcohol plays (for many people). I wonder if this was factored into the calculations? When Jim wanders down to his local pub after work to socialize and meet new friends, does this count as a "social benefit"? It had better count."
P.S. see also Gulzar Natarajan's post Are MFIs and moneylenders complements?

Human Genetic Diversity in Asia

Report on the recent paper Mapping Human Genetic Diversity in Asia in BBC News Genetic 'map' of Asia's diversity . Excerpts:
"The study found that, as expected, individuals who were from the same region, or who shared a common language also had a great deal in common genetically.

But it also answered a question about the origin of Asia's population. It showed that the continent was likely populated primarily through a single migration event from the south.

Previously, there has been some debate about whether Asia was populated in two waves - one to South East Asia, and a later one to central and north-east Asia, or whether only a single migration occurred."
More detailed discussion and links in Rajib Khan's post Are Chinese subsets of Southeast Asians? .

Sunday, December 13, 2009

From the blogs

Brad DeLong in "Anyone Telling You Uncertainty About Climate Change Is a Reason for Inaction Is Either a Fool or a Scoundrel":
"There is one set of circumstances in which uncertainty is a reason for inaction: (a) the measures you would take would be expensive, (b) the measures you would take will be irreversible, and (c) you will get a lot of new information soon to help you judge the situation better.

That set of circumstances does not apply here."

What the wealth of nations is really built upon:
"Relying on game theory analysis, Dasgupta reached two conclusions. The first is that stable societies – that is, where cheats can be found and punished, if only by a refusal to do business with them in future – are a precondition for successful institutions. If every interaction is a one-off, co-operation is impossible, and all those wonderful investments in machinery, education and innovation will simply never happen.

The second conclusion was that co-operation is extremely fragile. Dasgupta’s game theory suggested that even a successful, co-operative society is always at risk of breaking down. “It is easier to destroy institutions than to build them,” he argued, and cited the Watts riots and the decline of many pre-modern civilisations. The credit crisis is, arguably, another example.

If true, this is very disturbing: it suggests that we should perhaps spend less effort thinking about how to develop poor countries, and more effort holding together our own fragile societies.

I was not totally convinced. Perhaps I am complacent, but the past 200 years of economic history contain far more examples of poor countries becoming rich than of rich countries becoming poor.

As Sir Partha patiently explained his algebra to a gaggle of admiring schoolchildren, I was left with more questions than answers about why we trust each other and our institutions, and how such trust is created and destroyed. That, I think, was exactly his aim."

Soutik Biswas in Does India need more states?:
"Also, many say, if you have nine "Hindi-speaking" states, why can't you have two "Telugu speaking ones"?

Others say new states don't serve any purpose. They end up benefiting entrenched local elites and the middle class, and leave the poor in the lurch. They point to Jharkhand which was carved out of southern Bihar in 2000 - nine years on, many of its people have turned to Maoists, and its politicians are embroiled in some of India's worst corruption.

A number of north-eastern states carved out of Assam are accused of becoming fiefs of local elites or kleptocracies. The issues of lack of development and growing corruption are untouched. Creating financially unstable states, critics say, can lead to even more problems.

Others say new states remain works in progress - among them Uttarkhand and Chattisgarh, despite the latter's current woes and a strong Maoist presence. It has taken some four decades for Haryana and Himachal Pradesh to turn into successful states. And India still has relatively few states given the size of its population: with some 300 million people, the US has 50 states; India with its billion-plus people has only 28."

Tarunabh Khaitan in Law and Other Things:
"Indeed, what ought to be the basis of devolving power? Nick Barber's excellent paper 'The Limited Modesty of Subsidiarity' compares subsidiarity and nationalism as two distinct reasons for doing so. Simply put, subsidiarity requires that power should be exercised at the smallest unit that can exercise it efficiently. There is a presumption in favour of smaller units, with the rider of efficiency. An important implication of subsidiarity is that one size need not fit all, that different regions can have different ways of sharing power (even our federal constitution admits and accommodates idiosyncratic circumstances of certain states under the provisions in Part XXI)."
P.S. A Telugu article by muppalla Ranganayakamma is reproduced in this blog and also in తెలంగాణ పై రంగనాయకమ్మ గారి వ్యాసమ్

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Indian consul-general in Melbourne

Anita Nayar interviewd. Portarait and interview in The Age The joy of the envoy.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Ramachandra Guha says Telangana isn’t scary. From the Wikipedia article on Telangana :
"The States Reorganization Commission (SRC) was not in favour of merging the Telangana region with the then Andhra state. Para 382 of States Reorganization Commission Report (SRC) said "..opinion in Andhra is overwhelmingly in favour of the larger unit, public opinion in Telangana has still to crystallize itself. Important leaders of public opinion in Andhra themselves seem to appreciate that the unification of Telangana with Andhra, though desirable, should be based on a voluntary and willing association of the people and that it is primarily for the people of Telangana to take a decision about their future...". The concerns of Telanganas were manifold . The region had a less developed economy than Andhra, but with a larger revenue base (mostly because it taxed rather than prohibited alcoholic beverages), which Telanganas feared might be diverted for use in Andhra. They also feared that planned dam projects on the Krishna and Godavari rivers would not benefit Telangana proportionately even though Telanganas controlled the headwaters of the rivers. Telanganas feared too that the people of Andhra would have the advantage in jobs, particularly in government and education. Para 386 of States Reorganization Commission Report (SRC) said "After taking all these factors into consideration we have come to the conclusions that it will be in the interests of Andhra as well as Telangana area is to constitute into a separate State, which may be known as the Hyderabad State with provision for its unification with Andhra after the general elections likely to be held in or about 1961 if by a two thirds majority the legislature of the residency Hyderabad State expresses itself in favor of such unification."

The central government decided to ignore the SRC recommendations and established unified Andhra Pradesh on November 1, 1956. However, a "Gentlemen's agreement" provided reassurances to the Telangana people as well to Andhra people in terms of power sharing as well as administrative domicile rules and distribution of expenses of various regions. This agreement is known as Gentlemen's agreement of Andhra Pradesh (1956)."
From Gentlemen's agreement of Andhra Pradesh (1956):
"1. There will be one legislature for the whole of Andhra Pradesh which will be the sole law making body for the entire state and there be one Governor for the State aided and advised by the Council of Ministers responsible to the State Assembly for the entire field of Administration.

2. For the more convenient transaction of the business of Government with regard to some specified matters the Telangana area will be treated as one region.

3. For the Telangana region there will be a Regional Standing Committee of the state assembly consisting of the members of the State Assembly belonging to that region including the Ministers from that region but not including the Chief Minister.

4. Legislation relating to specified matters will be referred to the Regional committee. In respect of specified matters proposals may also be made by the Regional Committee to the State Government for legislation or with regard to the question of general policy not involving any financial commitments other than expenditure of a routine and incidental character.

5. The advice tendered by the Regional Committee will normally be accepted by the Government and the State Legislature. In case of difference of opinion, reference will be made to the Governor whose decision will be binding.

6. The Regional Committee will deal with following matters:
--Development and economic planning within the framework of the general development plans formulated by the State Legislature.

--Local Self Government, that is to say, the Constitutional powers of Municipal Corporations, Improvement Trusts, District Boards and district authorities for the purpose of Local Self Government or Village Administration.

--Public health and sanitation, local hospitals and dispensaries.

--Primary and secondary education.

--Regulation of admission to the educational institutions in the telangana region.

--Prohibition—Sale of agricultural lands.

--Cottage and small scale Industries, and Agriculture, Cooperative Societies, Markets and Fairs. Unless revised by agreement earlier this arrangement will be reviewed after ten years.

7. Domicile Rules : A temporary provision be made to ensure that for a period of five years, Telangana is regarded as a unit as far as recruitment to subordinate services is concerned; posts borne on the cadre of these services may be reserved for being filled up by persons who satisfy the domicile conditions as prescribed under the existing Hyderabad Mulki Rules. ( 12 years of Stay in Telangana area)

8. Distribution of expenditure between Telangana and Andhra Regions--- Allocation of expenditure with the resources of the state is a matter which falls within the purview of the State Government and the State Legislature.. Since , however, it has been agreed to the representatives of Andhra and Telangana that the expenditure of the new state on central and general administration should be borne proportionately by the two regions and the balance of income should be reserved for expenditure on the development of Telangana area, it is open to the state government to act in accordance with the terms of agreement in making budgetary allocations. The Government of India propose to invite the attention of the Chief Minister of Andhra to this particular understanding and to express the hope that it will be implemented.

9. The existing educational facilities including Technical Education in Telangana should be secured to the students of Telangana and further improved---

10. The cabinet will consist of members in proportion of 60:40 percent for Andhra and Telangana respectively, out of 40 % of Telangana ministers, one will be a Muslim from Telangana. If the Chief Minister is from one region the other region should be given Dy Chief Ministership."
It seems that at least some of these conditions have not been met, hence the continuing agatation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

College education in USA

While the article by David Orr What Is Education For? mentioned in a previous post calls for new paradigms in education, That Old College Lie by Kevin Carey considers the failures of the American education with the existing paradigms about learning and training. Some passages:
"The near-total lack of useful information about teaching and learning has three main effects, all bad for students. First, it creates distortions in the higher-education market that drive up prices. Second, it gives colleges free rein to ignore their teaching obligations in favor of a mad contest for status and self-gratification. Third, it leaves colleges that serve the most disadvantaged students with the fewest resources.

The information deficit turns college into what economists call a "reputational good." If you go to the store and buy a shirt, you can learn pretty much everything you need to know before you buy it: the material, where it was made, how to clean it, and so on. College is different. You’re paying up-front for professors you’ve never met and degree programs you probably haven’t even chosen yet. Instead, you rely on what other people think of the college. Of course, some students simply have to go the college that’s nearest to them or least expensive. But if you have the luxury of choosing, in all likelihood, you choose based on reputation.......
Ten percent of the U.S. News rankings are based on spending per student, with additional points for high faculty salaries and other costly items. If an innovative college found a way to become more efficient and charge less while maintaining academic quality, its U.S. News ranking would actually go down.......
The information deficit also acts as a powerful impediment to reform. Anyone who has ever attended college knows that many college teachers are terrible at their jobs. Universities like to pretend that great scholars make great instructors, but one indifferent, outdated lecture from a tenured professor is enough to conclude otherwise. Because scholarly outcomes are visible, in the form of publications and citations, while teaching outcomes are currently not, colleges privilege the former above the latter. Tenure-track professors are routinely discouraged from spending too much time teaching, lest students distract from the mandate to publish. Legitimate evaluations of professorial teaching skill are practically unknown.

Putting the scholarly and teaching missions in better balance would require a confrontation with traditionally autonomous academic departments. That inevitably creates controversy, and controversy is poisonous in a market that depends so heavily on hazy, decades-old reputations."
Hr goes on to suggest some solutions and lobbies standing in the way of reform. Link via Felix Salmon who discussed the article in America’s broken colleges.

Paper batteries

Batteries made from nanotubes ... and paper :
"Scientists have made batteries and supercapacitors with little more than ordinary office paper and some carbon and silver nanomaterials. The research, published online December 7 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, brings scientists closer to lightweight printable batteries that may one day be molded into computers, cell phones or solar panels."
See also the first comment. There is also a BBC report on the topic Battery made of paper charges up .

David Orr on education

From an old article by David W. Orr on education What Is Education For? (via Anil Kumar):
". No student should graduate from this or any other educational institution without a basic comprehension of: • the laws of thermodynamics • the basic principles of ecology • carrying capacity • energetics • least-cost, end-use analysis • how to live well in a place • limits of technology • appropriate scale • sustainable agriculture and forestry • steady-state economics • environmental ethics

Do graduates of this college, in Aldo Leopold's words, know that "they are only cogs in an ecological mechanism such that, if they will work with that mechanism, their mental wealth and material wealth can expand indefinitely (and) if they refuse to work with it, it will ultimately grind them to dust." Leopold asked: "If education does not teach us these things, then what is education for?""

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Two articles on development

Daniel Little in Alleviating rural poverty:
"We need to put the poor first. However, I also believe that our ability to achieve this goal is highly sensitive to the distributive structures and property systems that exist in poor countries. The property institutions of developing countries have enormous impact on the full human development of the poor. As a result, ethically desirable human development goals are difficult to attain within any social system in which the antecedent property relations are highly stratified and in which political power is largely in the hands of the existing elites."
He goes on to give the example of distribution of benefits during the green revolution in Malayasia. More detailed discussion in Institutions,Inequality and Well-being Distributive Determinants of Rural Development
Abstract of Is Relative Size of Minority Population Linked to Underdevelopment? by Mohd Sanjeer Alam:
"West Bengal provides a good context to examine whether the relative size of a minority population is linked to underdevelopment. The association between the size of the Muslim population and deficiency in social and physical infrastructure remains consistent at all levels in the state. No matter what the scale or context, the relative size of the Muslim population is inversely associated with the availability of amenities, a pattern that defies theoretical expectations and calls for further investigation."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Weather and growth of plants

We consume a lot of coriander leaves and for the past few years I have been trying to grow coriander in all kinds of seasons; generally summer is supposed to be the good season for vegetables in Melbourne. One year I sowed the seeds in the middle of April so that the plants were established before the onset of winter. Generally they have been lasting until November. Thet start seeding in Ocober but the lower leaves are edible until the middle of November. Generally they seem to grow quite big, some were about 6-7 feet tall this year. Those I sowed in November grew only one foot tall and have seeded already. Time to sow the coriander seeds again.

Cosanguinity marriage and depression

may be related according to a pilot study Relationship between consanguinity and depression in a south Indian population published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry.
P.S. I found this journal through a link in MindHacks. At the moment it is freely available online.

Heat Meditation

From g Tum-mo heat meditation:
"Monks in Tibet-that mountainous country so blessed with oddities-can consciously raise the temperature in their hands and feet 6-7º C (10-12º F), in laboratory conditions (Benson, et al., 1982). There appear to be several methods of g Tum-mo meditation, as described by Alexandra David-Neel (1965), but all seem to involve the visualization of oneself filled with fire. Whether, for adepts, such visualization is necessary for control of body temperature is not clear to me, because Benson reports that one of his research participants began undergoing g-Tummo changes every time he sat down. Monks will even have little contests where they spend a night on a river bank, repeatedly draping themselves with wet sheets, and seeing who can dry the most. I get cold just thinking about it.

It presumably takes some time to develop this ability, but apparently not so much that it is rare in Tibet: David-Neel claims that most Tibetans have the knowledge of how to do it, and that they put it to practical use.

What interests me about this is not simply that the mind has considerable control over the body-that is a familiar refrain from many areas of research. What interests me is that we could have this ability and not know it unless someone teaches us. No one had to teach me how to shiver, or to raise little body hairs, or to contract my blood vessels. So, if we are capable of mentally warming our extremities, why should we not automatically know how to do it? It seems that boundary in the temperature regulation system between what is automatic and what is susceptible to willed intervention is strangely situated."

Friday, December 04, 2009

I hope that this report is not true

Twenty five years after the Bhopal ragedy , this reort India absolves US N-suppliers of damages:
NEW DELHI: The Indian government has absolved American nuclear companies of liability in case of a possible accident during the building and installation of nuclear reactors and facilities in India. A Civil Nuclear Liability bill cleared by the Union Cabinet late on Thursday presents India’s desire to work with the American firms. Washington has been asking New Delhi that the nuclear deal the two countries signed last year would be futile as the American companies, and most Western firms, would not do business with India unless the liability law was promulgated. Most American companies see huge investment potential in India and only want it to have a law to limit the claims for damages in the wake of an accident that may occur before they hand over a nuclear plant to the country. In the bill, the Indian government is seeking to bear the entire compensation for any nuclear accident. iftikhar gilani

Update 14th Dec. 09 Capping nuclear liability is a non-starter :
"The government proposes to introduce a Civil Nuclear Liability Bill to appease foreign investors. Any legislation that attempts to dilute the Polluter Pays and Precautionary Principle and imposes a cap on liability will be in blatant defiance of Supreme Court judgments and is likely to be struck down."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A new book about structures

John Levi Marin's Social Structures is drawing some attention from academics RIP levi-strauss, long live structuralism. A nice review by Gagan Sood appeared in the Science Magazine Asking About Origins, but is behind the paywall. Here is the conclusion of Sood's review:
"It is too early to tell whether Martin's explanation of where structures come from will stand. "But if we are to see whether structural analysis can make a contribution to a general sociology, even simple initial accounts are encouraging." From this vantage, there are many reasons to be encouraged by—and to applaud—this work. The value of the book and of its larger research agenda might, thus, lie not in having produced clear answers to the questions posed at its outset but in suggesting powerful and promising ways in which that fundamental topic might be approached. For this alone, Social Structures deserves a wide readership and its ideas a sympathetic hearing."