Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lapata on authenticity in Indian English fiction

From Flyover Country:
"To my mind, the so-called “authenticity debate” is a red-herring. Authenticity is a slippery quality that seems better suited to descriptions of food (“that restaurant serves a truly authentic Paella”) or artisanal crafts (“her wall-hangings are made with authentic Native American wools and dyes”) than for characterization and dialogue in fiction-writing. What seems to me to be at stake, beyond the upper class guilt of his accusers that Chandra cites, or the exile’s distanced perspective that troubles Kumar, is the art and craft of creating a realist narrative. Kumar seems to move just shy of this conclusion when he continues:

"Unlike Chandra, I don’t think there is freedom at hand from the entire question of authenticity, largely because there is no escape from the yearning for the real. The painfully real, the brilliantly, euphorically real, the emphatically real. Either in our lives, or in our writing."

Realism is not reportage, and even in a novel such as Home Products, which is told from the narrative perspective of a reporter, the inclusion of Binod’s journalistic assignments, his reactions to them, his interviews with subjects of his stories is a form of realistic (meaning in the realist mode) writing. In Kumar’s critique of Adiga’s stereotyped portrayals of Biharis in The White Tiger, he is not saying that these portrayals are ‘inauthentic,’ he is saying that in their obvious cartoonishness, they are unsuccessful (and in their de-humanizing stereotyping, also offensive) in the art of realism.

Writing realism set in India is a special challenge, and the arguments about authenticity as well as ongoing discussions about whether or not an author has ‘captured’ (as a snapshot) a particular slice of life successfully seem more to do with the endless obstacles in using one language spoken by a relative few to create the illusion of even just one small corner of a society that is deeply multi-layered in terms of language, culture and class. Like a bas-relief sculptor, an author must make us feel that we are seeing multiple dimensions while using what amounts to a possibly limiting single layer of language. Even if words from Indian languages are thrown in, there are limits to how much this can be done before the narration gets bogged down under the weight of too many words from other languages.

I don’t wish to end on a note that implies that one kind of story-telling, or one kind of aesthetic, is objectively better than another. Reading literature is not running a science experiment and ultimately we will read whatever books subjectively please us. On the other hand, a novel like Home Products is not only an excellent read, but it also avoids reifying the dehumanizing and possibly dangerous stereotypes about an under-privileged area, while simultaneously opening up for readers all around the world the complexities of the every day lives of people living in the flyover country that is Bihar. If you like that sort of thing."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Another urban legend?

Variants of this appear in several places including newspapers Discover hockey's answer to Pele:
"The people of Vienna paid tribute to Chand by erecting a statue of him. The statue has four hands and four sticks to signify his awesome ball."
But I have not seen a single photo of the supposed statue of Dhyan Chand.

Subbaramaiah Minakshisundaram

is considered one of the best Indian mathematicians of the last century. His ancestors migrated from Andhra to Kerala, he grew up in Kerala and Madras and worked in Andhra university through most of his working career. Through one of his granddaughters, I came to know of this website started by his family members:
Dr. S. Minakshisundaram
There are several articles about his work by and his life by scientists and his family members. There are also interesting photographs and copies of some correspondence about his stay in Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Like many who studied in Madras in the late thirties and later, there seems to be some influence of Fr. C. Racine . His contemporary Komaravolu Chandrasekharan might have played a role in his visit to Princeton. I remember reading somewhere that G.Kallianpur visited Guntur and stayed for a month or so to learn about summability from Minakshi.


Veeven started in వీవెనుడి టెక్కునిక్కులు a new series of posts మీ రోజువారి సమాచార/విషయ వినిమయంలో తెలుగు శాతం ఎంత?,
రోజువారీ సమాచార వినియోగంలో తెలుగు — నా ఆకాంక్షలు with the aims:

"రెండు రోజుల క్రితం నేను మొదలుపెట్టిన తెలుగు సమాచార వినియోగంపై అభిప్రాయ సేకరణలో అడిగిన ప్రశ్నలు ఇవీ:

మీ సమాచారం వినియోగంలో తెలుగు శాతం పెరగాలనుకుంటున్నారా? లేదా, మీ తెలుగు వినియోగ ధోరణితో (నెమ్మదిగా అయినా పెరుగుతుందనే అనుకుంటున్నాను) మీరు సంతృప్తిగా ఉన్నారా?

ఇంకా మీరు తెలుగులో ఏయే సమాచారం/విషయాల్ని (ప్రత్యేకించి జాలంలో) చూడాలనుకుంటున్నారు? మరో రకంగా, మీకు తెలుగులో దొరకని సమాచారం ఏముంది?
వాటికి సంబంధించి నా జవాబులూ ఆకాంక్షలు ఇవీ:

నేను బ్లాగులోకంలో అడుగుపెట్టినప్పటికీ ఇప్పటికీ జాలంలో తెలుగు సమాచారం చాలా పెరిగింది. పెరుగుదల రేటు కూడా గణణీయంగానే ఉంది. ఏదైనా విషయం గురించి తెలుసుకోవాల్సివచ్చినప్పుడు, నేను ముందుగా తెలుగులో గూగిలిస్తున్నాను. మొన్నామధ్య హెపటైటిస్ బీ గురించి తెసుకుందామని సందేహిస్తూనే (అనగా, నేరుగా ఇంగ్లీషు వికీపీడియాకి వెళ్ళకుండా) తెలుగులో వెతికాను. నాక్కావలసిన సమాచారం తెవికీలో దొరికింది. కానీ ఇంకా చాలా విషయాల్లో తెలుగులో సమాచారం అందుబాటులో ఉండాలనుకుంటున్నాను. వివిధ రంగాల వారీగా చూద్దాం:...."

Veeven is the originator of lekhini and initiated several e-efforts in Telugu, many of them of aggregator nature which allow diversity of opinion and efforts. In my opinion Veeven is doing much more for increasing the effective uses of Telugu than many arbiters of taste and government officials. Have a look. Some of the efforts in which Veeven participates are mentioned on the right in the above blog.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Martin Wolf is Very Gloomy, and With Good Reason
from Naked Capitalism. Excerpt:
"The implicit conclusion of what Wolf and Johnson write is that we going forward need dirigiste economies and national and regional scale of types and magnitude that we have not seen before (or at least not in a very long time). In addition, the dirigisme would have to be closely co-ordinated globally."

Laura Freschi in Paying for school on $2 a day reminds us of James Tooley's work which has been discussed by several people before, for example, in India Together:School choice looms for poor students . Some seem to be using Tooley's book to push for privatization of primary education but there seem to be various choices and or a mixture of choices. From the comment by Chris Prottas in Aid Watch:
"I agree with the general enthusiasm for independent schools accountable to parents. I do have two points to be made based on the experience of private/non-profit schools in India. First, local market research (series of qualitative interviews) has shown that the “market” for education is not highly functional. Many parents equate quality with price, and will send their child to the most expensive school they can. Otherwise, they might judge a school’s quality by the amount of English the child speaks at home. While parents do realize that public schools are inferior to private schools, parents do not have good tools for sorting between different private school options. Presumably, the market would be more robust and cost-competitive if there were cost-neutral school performance (or student improvement) metrics accessible for the parents: it would certainly be better than now.

Second, while private education has the potential to greatly help many in India, I disagree with Mr Tooley that it is a solution for India’s poorest. 70% of India’s population has a per capita daily income of $ 1/ day or less. For many of these families, even school fees above 30-50 Rs a month are too much.

In order to reach these students, either NGOs or the government needs to provide schooling free of charge (either directly or through vouchers).

Private schools are truly important. However, poor countries should not be seen as markets for private-school advocates to exploit, but rather as societies with variable abilities to pay that may or may not be able to pay for an education. Private school have a place, but the emphasis should be on increasing school choice, school autonomy, and information on performance while ensuring access."
There seem to new projects being studied by James Tooley himself in colloboration with Sugata Mitra (of 'Hole in the Wall' fame) and others:
Competition, Innovation and Change in Education Markets for the Poor in Developing Countries. A preliminary article of a different nature on distance learning in post primary education here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Getting the hang of the game after 20 years

From 'The Australian'Sachin Tendulkar first to score one-day international double ton
"Is it possible that after 20 years in international cricket, Tendulkar, the darling of Mumbai and scorer of more than 30,000 runs for India, is just getting the hang of the game? Since entering his third decade at the top in November, Tendulkar has a batting average of more than 90 from 13 international matches."

More reactions here

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fact and fiction

Lapata says in Particularities of Partition II "But fiction does not fill the gaps in the historical record, good historiography does."

Chandra Latha says in ఇనుప గజ్జెల తల్లి 3 "Let us now examine the realistic nature of these discourses.
We understand that in fiction , it is not possible to narrate the reality as in formal or scientific language The language used in the narrative is not transparent that can carry a single meaning , as compare to that of scientific discourse. In the other words, language used in reality fiction is not neutral but polyphonic. This plurality helps both writer and the reader for whom language is more than ‘just a medium of thought’ .
Story is art of fiction .Art of narration.
Can the reality fiction over come the hyperbole of the creativity? Can transparent language make fiction into reality ? Can we agree that the narrative , with usage of plural, complex and aesthetic language or simply ,literary language ,be classified as reality fiction ?
This has been discussed in detail by literary critics.
” It does not mean the all writing is absolutely transparent, but rather that the narration , the dominant discourse , is able to establish itself as a truth .The narration does not appear to be the voice of an author ,its source appears to be a true reality which speaks.”" And much more.

Whatever Historiography is, as a layman, I would like to get some feel in a limited amount of time for what happened as a guide to what might happen, and perhaps as a guide to action. Possibly academic studies, with their emphasis on clear meanings, categorization, reduction etc loose some of the power that language shows in fiction. The story Mahesh by Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, conveys so much about the practices of caste, religion,about drought and the existing extractive systems during certain period in parts of India which seems to be to be difficult to covey in any academic study of similar length. Of course then the problem is to recognize such fiction. It is possible that these days very few read this story of Sarat.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Recommendations from 'The Bayesian Heresy '

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses
Natural Experiments of History edited by Jarred Diamond and James Robinson. Both have links to free chapters.
There is also a link David Warsh's comments on the book with special emphasis on What Can Be Done for Haiti?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Two stories

Translation of Mahesh by Sarat Chandra Chatterjee
Toba Tek Singh
by Sadat Hasan Manto
(via Particularities of Partition Literature I by Lapata)

P.S. From Particularities of Partition II by Lapata:
"Manto’s Siya Hashiye and Yashpal’s Jhutha Sac may in some ways capture the experience of pain or cope with the tragedy of the Partition, but it is also important to look at the imperatives of the individual narratives and those of their authorial and literary contexts. Much of the current movement toward scholarship on the Partition and writing about Partition literature is driven by the very real urgency of the political and social climate of communalism today in South Asia. Many authors write of the shocking repetition of patterns of violence which have spurred on their work: Godra, the Babri Masjid, the 1974 anti-Sikh violence, all of these inform our understanding of the legacy of Partition today. But as we seek to inform, remember and educate about the Partition, we should also try not to lose the specificity of individual voices. Partition literature does not bear witness to the events of 1947 in the same way as eyewitness accounts, journalism and oral histories. While “Toba Tek Singh” and other works of fiction may be an excellent way to open up discussion in the classroom, they are not shortcuts to grasping the trauma of displacement and violence during the Partition.

Major historical events lend themselves to fictional narratives precisely because massive population displacements caused by war or other disasters open up spaces in which to experiment with rearranging social hierarchies and imagining unexpected combinations of characters. Such events also bring out the extremes of human behavior, both the valorous and the base. The American Civil War, the Holocaust and the French Revolution, just to name a few, have all inspired a rich and various literature as well. This is not to impugn the motivations or the importance of the growing body of literature set during the Partition, or to imply that the works of Yashpal, for example, should be seen in the same category as some potboiler Civil War romance. But fiction does not fill the gaps in the historical record, good historiography does."

On smell

From The sweet smell of morality
How scent can shape our thinking
(via 3quarksdaily):
"The idea that a smell can affect something as complex as ethical behavior seems surprising, not least because smell has long been seen as a “lower” sense, playing on our emotions and instincts while our reason and judgment operate on another plane. But research increasingly shows that smell doesn’t just affect how we feel: It affects how we think, in ways that are just beginning to be understood."

I remember that some of the books published by MIR in the 50's had some strong unpleasant smell and so I never read the collected works of Marx and Engels. Perhaps one can experiment with children's books to make study more appetizing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

David Brin on climate change

From The Real Struggle Behind Climate Change - A War on Expertise:
"-- all the major recommended actions to deal with Global Climate Change are things we should be doing, anyway."

P.S. David Brin has also comments on the decline of civilizations and mentions Toynbee's view:
"...Arnold Toynbee, who I believe got it right. After studying dozens of past cycles, he declared that civilizations thrive when they invest faith and hope in their creative minorities. When they see the future as a destination and willingly adapt new ways to reach it.
Toynbee -- after surveying many tales of rise and fall -- concluded that cultures start to fail when those creative minorities become distrusted, or are starved of capital, or left out in the cold. Or when they are shunned by those in power."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

తెలుగు మీద చిన్న చిన్న ఆలోచనలు

నా సంగతి. నాకు భాషలను గురించి పెద్దగా తెలియదు; నలుగురితితో మాట్లాడుకోటానికి, నాకు అవసరమయినవి రాసులోటానికీ, ఏరాయి ఐతే ఏమి అన్నట్లుగా ఉంటూ ఉండేవాడిని. చేసేది లెక్కలు కాబట్టి ఆంగ్లమే ఎక్కువ అలవాటయ్యింది. కాని చిన్నప్పుడు తెలుగు మీడియంలో చదువుకున్నాము. వయస్సు ఎక్కువైన తరువాత ఉన్నట్లుండి చిన్నప్పుడు విన్న తెలుగు పాటలు గుర్తుకు రావటం మొదలు పెత్తయి. ఇవి ఎక్కువగా తెలుగుపదాలు ఉన్న పాటలు (ఆరుద్ర, మల్లాది సినిమా పాటలు, వేమన, కొన్ని చిన్న పిల్లల పాటలు, జానపద గేయాలు..). ఛిన్నఫ్ఫుడు బట్టీపట్టిన పద్యాలు కూడా కొన్ని గుర్తుకుకు వచ్చినయ్యి; మను చరిత్రలో 'అటజని కాంచె భూమీసురుడు..'. కాని తరువాత అంతా సంస్క్రుతంలో ఉంది. అర్థం కాదు. కొన్ని అన్నమాచార్యులు పదాలు, శ్రీనాధుడి చాటు పద్యాలు తేలికగా ఉన్నయ్యి కాని మిగతా క్లాసిక్స్ చాలా వరకు సంస్క్రుత మయం. అర్థం కావు. శ్రీశ్రీ కూడా కొన్ని పద్యాల్లో శబ్దాలు వింటానికి బాగుంటయ్యి కాని అర్థం కావు. విశ్వనాథ చెప్పవసరం లేదు (చెలియలికట్ట లాంటివి తప్పిస్తే). ఈమధ్య ఒక మాదిగ పాతల పుస్తకం చదివితే మళ్ళి బాగానే అర్థమయింది.ఎక్కడో ప్రజలు మట్లాడే భాషకూ పేరున్న రచయతలు రాసే భాషకు తేడాలు వచ్చినట్లున్నాయ్యి.

నా సంగతి వదిలేయండి. కొంతమంది తాము మాములుగా వాడే పదాలకి తెలుగు మాటలు ఏమిటా అని 'తెలుగుపదం' అనే సైటులో ప్రయత్నిస్తున్నారు. వీళ్లు బాగా చదువుకున్నవాళ్ళు తెలుగుకి సంబధించని ఉద్యోగాలలో ఉన్నవాళ్ళు. మరి ఎందుకో తెలుగుమీద ప్రేమ ఉన్నామని చెప్పేవాళ్ళు చాలామంది అలాంటి సైట్లు జోలికి రారు. ఈతెలియని వాళ్ళతో చర్చలు చేస్తే కాలం పాడు ఔతందనేమో ?

ఈచదువుకున్న ఎలైట్ల మాట వదిలేసి, మాములు రైతులు కూలీల విషయం ఆలోచించండి. ప్రొద్దుటినుంచీ బ్యాంకులు, ఆఫీసులు, కోర్టులు, అప్ప్లికేషనులు, ఫోనులు అన్నిట్లో కొద్దో గొప్పో ఆంగ్లం కావాలిసి వస్తుంది. ప్రభుత్వం ఏమి చేయపొతూందో తెలిసుకోవాలంటే పేపర్లు చూడాలి. ఇందులో చాలా పదాలు ఆంగ్లంలో ఉంటాయి. బూదరాజు రాధా క్రిష్నలాంటి వారు కష్టపడి కొంతవరకు పదాలు సేకరించారు. కాని అంత త్రుప్తికరంగాలేవు. తరువాత కొన్ని బ్లాగులొలోనే (తెలుగుపదం, తెలుగుథీసిస్, తాడేపల్లి వగైరా) ప్రయత్నాలు కనపడుతున్నవి. ఇంతకీ చెప్పొచిందేంటటే ప్రజలు రోజూ మాట్లడే, అవసరమైన భాషకూ, రచయితల భాషకూ విచ్చేదనము ఉంది. కొంతవరకూ బ్లాగులు వంతెనలాగ ఉపయోపడుతున్నవి. పండితులేమి చేస్తున్నారో నాకు తెలియదు.

పూర్వకాలంలో పరిస్తితులు ఎలా ఉండేవో? నన్నయకు పుర్వం లీలగా కుర్క్యాల శాసనాలవల్ల తెలుస్తున్నవి. తరువాత రాయలనాటి వైభవం, నాయకులనాటి సంగతులు విన్నాము. రాజుల ఆదరణ లేక భాష వ్రుద్ధి కాలేంటారు. కాని ప్రజలు ఏదొ ఒక రకం తెలుగు మాట్లాడూనే ఉన్నారు. అది చాలాబాగుందని విదేశీయులు నిఘంటువులు వగైరా రాయటం మొదలెట్టారు. ఉర్దూ, ఆంగ్లం లాంటి భాషలనుంచి చాల మాటలు తెలుగులోకి వచ్చాయి. నేననుకోటం అందరకూ ఇతర భాషలు పూర్తిగా నేర్చుకొవటం కష్టం. కాని కొంచెం కొంచెం మారుతూ తెలుగు నిలుస్తూనే ఉంది. గోరాటి వెంకన్న లాంటివారు వస్తూనే ఉంటారు. తెలుగు ఎలాగోలా కొనసాగుతూనే ఉంటుంది.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Interesting papers on colonial legacies

The first "History, Institutions and Economic Performance: The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure Systems in India" by A. Banerjee and L. Iyer available from
Abhijit Banerjee's Home Page.
Summary from a review paper The Importance of History
for Economic Development
by Nathan Nunn (section 2.2):
"Like Dell (2008), Banerjee & Iyer (2005) also analyze the long-term effects of colonial institutions, but they examine differences in revenue collection institutions across districts within colonial India. The authors compared districts where revenue was historically collected directly by British officials against districts where revenue was collected by native landlords. They found that, after independence, districts with nonlandlord systems have higher levels of health, education, and agricultural technology investments relative to those levels in landlord systems.
Although the analysis of Banerjee & Iyer(2005)and Dell(2008)provide evidence of the long-term impacts of initial colonial institutions, the studies do differ from that by Acemoglu et al. (2001) because the transmission mechanism is not the persistence of these initially implemented institutions. In Dell (2008), the hypothesized mechanism is the concentration of wealth and power and the resulting provision of public goods. Similarly, in the analysis by Banerjee & Iyer the transmission mechanism is not through the persistence of these initially implemented institutions, because the differences in colonial land revenue collection systems no longer exist."
The other work mentioned is "The Persistent Effects of Peru's Mining Mita" by Melissa Dell which is also available online ( but the later discussion towards the end of section 2.3 by Nunn of Dell's work does not seem to be correct) or

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kuffir discusses data

in these learned purveyors of bazaar gossip. From a comment in the post:
"Given that amongst the signatories there are knowledgeable social scientists, doubt if they have cooked up the figures."
We have from a recent post Problems with data "In a highly influential study, Acs found that the average high impact firm was about 20 years old and came in all sizes, small, medium, and large. Schramm, on the other hand, using a Census Bureau study, found that firms less than five years old created almost all of the jobs independent of size. They both cannot be right."
See also Can You Trust Census Data? By JUSTIN WOLFERS
After the recent economic crisis, we have respected economists, some of them Nobel prize winners, still arguing about causes and remedies. I feel that all should be quesioned and analyzed. One of the good things emerging out of the current debate in A.P. is the discussion about data and its connection with the ground realities. I hope that these discussions will continue.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Some posts on BT brinjal

A Brinjal Brouhaha By Sujata in 'An Accidental Blogger'. Several detailed posts in Telugu are in Chandra Latha's Telugu blog మడత పేజీ . Two of the posts have many details in English:
మీరు ఏమి చేయ గలరు? has excerpts of a letter from from S.Panini of Emory University School of Medicine,Atlanta, Georgia. He also discusses BTcorn.
The second వారేమన్నారంటే has excerpts of a letter from Dr.Sitaramayya Ari, Professor of Chemistry,Oakland University. He also discusses BT soyabeen.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Madhukar Shukla on three maps of India

and Chidambaram's offer of Suspending all memorandums of understanding with mining companies in a bid to persuade Maiosts to lay down their weapons Mao-ists vs. MoU-ists .

25 mm rain in a couple of hours and this can happen

City streets flooded, commuter delays as storms sweep through city . Our trains also fail if the temoerature goes to mid thirties or above. I remember a day with 22 inches of rain, most of it in the night, in Bombay.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Indian students, racism and a debate spiralling out of control

Says Paul Austin in The Age Opinion Column:
"John Brumby has lost control of the violence-against-Indians debate. That's scary for a premier who likes to be in control. Scarier still that it's happening in an election year.

Brumby wants to play down the idea that the recent spate of bashings and stabbings of Indians is evidence that racism is on the rise in Victoria.

He adopts this position for three main reasons. First, and fundamentally, he thinks the idea is wrong and repugnant.

But there are also financial and political considerations.

The multibillion-dollar international student industry is a big earner for Victoria - a state not blessed with mineral resources like Queensland and Western Australia - and, naturally, Brumby wants to protect it.

And the political interest of any premier is best served if their community has a self-image as a safe, welcoming, tolerant place.

The problem for Brumby is that a growing list of people are refusing to adopt his sotto voce approach. The danger for the Premier is that as more people speak out about the problem of racism in Victoria, and accuse the government of an inadequate response, he will be seen as unrealistic and isolated."

Meanwhile Police keep lid on stats for Indians :
"POLICE Chief Commissioner Simon Overland has admitted there are ''limitations'' in the statistics he and Premier John Brumby have been relying on to inform the public about Indians as victims of crime - and he won't release them.

He said information about a victim's race was based on a subjective assessment of their appearance - and Indians were included in the broad category of ''south Asian appearance''. Such a category could also include those from countries other than India such as Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Mr Overland is refusing to release the statistics on the grounds that they are ''subjective and open to interpretation''."
Update (Feb.13th)
The politics of violence by Sushi Das
Brumby, Baillieu clash over state's crime level
From Victoria in a state of denial
"Professor Marginson, who has studied similar targeting of foreign students in other countries, said Victoria had been far slower to recognise the race issue than was New Zealand when it faced attacks on Chinese students and the US with students of Middle Eastern origin.

Mr Overland said recently that the police had been aware of the unusually high level of attacks on Indians for the past two years. However, it was only when the issue received widespread coverage in the middle of last year that the Brumby government and the police launched a series of visible initiatives to try to stop the attacks. Since then, measures have been steadily introduced, ranging from sentencing laws for hate crimes, a 24-hour student care service and a targeting of hot spots. Yet Mr Brumby has not given Mr Overland what he needs most to combat the problem: a surge in police numbers to enable officers to be stationed permanently at night at train stations, on trains and in the streets of poorer suburbs where the attacks are taking place. Mr Brumby last year announced he would lift police numbers by 120 officers, barely enough to combat the general rise in violent crime across Melbourne, much less crimes specifically directed against Indian students.

"The chief commissioner is clearly not getting the resources to manage the situation," Mr Gupta said. "I think this will come back to haunt the government at the next election.""

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Abdul Qadir's Australian sojourn

Abbamania from Cricinfo. ( Missed it until it is linked in Chapati Mystery). Excerpt:
""Great," Larkin thought, "I'm off the mark and I've seen his wrong'un. I'll be right from here."

Qadir's second ball was faster; wicketkeeper Micky Butera rocked back instinctively on his heels. It was also wider. "Very close to the edge of the pitch," says Larkin. It was too wide to make mayhem, so wide that the umpire cleared his throat and gave a preliminary twitch of his arms. Larkin flung his own arms high, his bat even higher - "to allow the ball to travel through harmlessly".

Instead the ball dipped - swooped, more like - as if by remote control. It landed, veered headlong in the wrong direction, then hit middle stump, like Shane Warne dumbfounding Mike Gatting all over again. In reverse.

"Abdul spun this wrong'un one and a half feet," gasps Butera. "Sounds ridiculous when you say it."

"I would play that ball the same way a hundred times out of a hundred," believes Larkin.

"There was an element of luck in the Warne ball," Cook points out. "Whereas Abdul's was absolutely contrived."

The only person not surprised was the contriver himself. Deep down, Qadir knew that by rights he should have been in Peshawar that Saturday, playing for his country not a suburb. His Carlton team-mates knew that he knew it. He did not need to say so; though sometimes he said it anyway. There was and remained only one wonder of Pakistani spin."
P.S. A couple of friends liked the above piece by Christian Ryan:
One of them writes that Sunil Gavaskar got his only test wicket by imitatating Abdul Qadir:
"It was during a Bangalore Test in 84 coming to a pointless and boring draw; Gavaskar was given the ball 15 minutes before the end and he bowled the first ball with a 40 yard runup and it was a wide. For the second ball he mimicked the peculiar dancing gait of Abdul Qadir coming in to bowl and probably in his efforts to
not burst out laughing Zaheer missed an innocuous and straight ball and was bowled."

Another writes "Christian Ryan seems to be in the finest tradition of writers on cricket and the story of Abdul Qadir is splendid."
My response to the second:
"There seem to be some Australian writers who come up with pieces like that. There are usually not prolific, usually going about some business or other, then come up with such pieces and do not really seem to care about building a career as writers. I read a book "Roads to Xanadu" about China by John Merson who apparently teaches history in some college. Lot of the time he takes part in some local environmental activities and probably a family man. The book is not publicized, it is not available any more. He might have written one or two more books but instead of career pursues life I guess. I remember another writer Matt Price who writes about politics and suddenly come up with pieces like that about cricket and does not even bother to make books out of them."
I learnt that Matt Price passed away in 2007 and there is a published book of some of his writings.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Dirac too

seems to be a victim of his intellectual prejudices. From the review Silent Quantum Genius By Freeman Dyson
"The doctrine of mathematical beauty is itself beautiful, and there is no doubt that Dirac believed it to be true. But it does not agree well with the historical facts. During the wonder years when he was making his great discoveries, his thinking was more concerned with practical details and less with abstract beauty. And during the long second half of Dirac's life, when he was preaching the doctrine of mathematical beauty, it did not lead him to important new discoveries.

During Dirac's middle years, the grand edifice of modern particle physics was growing up around him, with discoveries of new particles and new symmetries bursting out in rapid succession. Nature was screaming at him to pay attention to her revelations. But his love for abstract beauty told him to stay aloof. He ignored the new discoveries of particles and symmetries, because he judged them to be too complicated, not beautiful enough to be true. Instead of listening to Nature, he was telling Nature how to behave. As a result, the second half of his life was comparatively sterile."

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Ellen Langer on aging

BBC article Can the power of thought stop you ageing? . A review of her book Counterclockwise
Let's Live Forever!, with a link to the first chapter. Her website and blog.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Regional disturbances and internet

In a 2001 article Regional Disturbances, Richard asks:
"Americans get anorexia. Nigerians get 'brain fag.' Malaysians suffer from 'hyperstartle syndrome.' How culturally specific is mental illness?"
He goes on to discuss a Malay malady latah among other maladies and says:
"There is one thing that remains constant for all latah sufferers. Upon becoming afflicted, latahs become permanently sensitive to startling. It is a lifetime condition. Scholars have only encountered a few latahs who have overcome their symptoms. Even if latah is spread primarily by culture, then, it is a potent virus.

Indeed, the power of culture to propagate mental illness has become a subject of increasing fascination in the West. In recent years, scholars have seen mysterious maladies proliferate in a way that echoes the spread of latah. Multiple-personality disorder, for example, flourished among white, middle-class American women in the 1980's. And more recently, American and European psychologists have begun tracking apotemnophilia -- a new, disturbing condition in which sufferers desire to amputate one of their own limbs. The Internet, medical anthropologists say, is helping spread the condition globally. As with latah, there is no cure. "

I came across latah in an post by Justin Smith who has been promisiing to write about Indian Philosophy(?). There are beginnings in one post What Is 'Non-Western' Philosophy?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sam Bowles

Corey Pein on Sam Bowles. Excerpt:
"Among other projects, Community Action lobbies the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission on behalf of low-income residents, opposing rate increases by the Public Services Company of New Mexico. “Constantly,” Porter says, “it’s our voice against the suits.”

Her on-the-ground experience supports a message Bowles has pushed all these years in academia.

“Inequality,” she says, “really holds us back.”

Bowles offers a key reason why this is so. “Inequality breeds conflict, and conflict breeds wasted resources,” he says.

In short, in a very unequal society, the people at the top have to spend a lot of time and energy keeping the lower classes obedient and productive.

Inequality leads to an excess of what Bowles calls “guard labor.” In a 2007 paper on the subject, he and co-author Arjun Jayadev, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, make an astonishing claim: Roughly 1 in 4 Americans is employed to keep fellow citizens in line and protect private wealth from would-be Robin Hoods."
Link via Profile of Sam Bowlesin MR which has more links and comments. There is also discussion in Crooked Timber.
SFI webpage of Sam Bowles
Webpage of his longtime collaborator Herbert Gintis

Problems with data

Browsing through the links in Economist's View, I find these two articles.
From Entrepreneurship and the Economy:
"So what does entrepreneurship have to do with the recession? If we take what we know today, entrepreneurs and innovation play a vital role in the economy. But can they help us in the great recession? In other words, what policy should we be pursuing to move the unemployment rate below 10 percent and back into the neighborhood of 5 percent? We know that new firms are important. They create most of the net jobs. However, only a small percent, perhaps 4 percent, create almost all of the jobs in any given four-year period. And this seems to hold up in different times, different countries, and different industries.

So how do we forge a policy? Two stories are told out there. First we know that age and size are important variables. And we know that age appears to be more important than size. In other words, we should target firms based on age not size. The two stories out there are one by Zoltan Acs and the other by Carl Shramm. In a highly influential study, Acs found that the average high impact firm was about 20 years old and came in all sizes, small, medium, and large. Schramm, on the other hand, using a Census Bureau study, found that firms less than five years old created almost all of the jobs independent of size. They both cannot be right."

In a different context, from Can You Trust Census Data?By JUSTIN WOLFERS:
"The whole research community is waiting for the Census Bureau to do something about these problems."
Once, when I pointed out some data Kuffirsaid somethinglike "But the ground realities are different". Wise man!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Some of Michael Artin's teaching experiences

from Recountings: Conversations with MIT Mathematicians edited by Joel Segel:
"I taught calculus in small classes for years, starting when I was a graduate student in Harvard. But the first time I tried to lecture one of the freshman calculus classes, it didn't work very well. I was too formal, probably. You're in front of 250 people or so. It's a short of show game, and I had a hard time. The last time I did it, it was fine, but I'd learned a lot. Before trying it again, I attended Arthur Mattuck's lectures for an entire semester, and I leaned a lot from him.
Another thing that really helped me was being videotaped. The first time I was videotaped it wasn't in the calculus, though I've been taped teaching those courses. It was an upper-class course. I looked at it, and I saw that I was doing something terrible. I avoided looking at the class. Even when I turned around, my gaze was down. It just stared at you in the face when you watched me. I decided that the reason was that looking at the class would break my concentration on what I was saying, I'm pretty sure that's what it was. But it was extremely difficult to stop doing it. I probably still do it, but not as much. One of my brothers-in-law suggested just programming looking at the class into my preparation. It was a good idea....
There was another problem that also I can't do anything about. When Arthur sees my tapes, he is very critical, because I sometimes skip steps. The reason I can't do anything about it is because it's really a brain function-my brain has skipped the step. But that's one reason that I prepare very carefully. I've written down everything out exactly the way it's going to go on the board, for instance, so my board has gotten pretty good. I still have this skipping steps, but it's probably not as bad as not turning around often enough to look at the class. I get reasonably good ratings, so these aren't terrible. It's just that you want to be perfect".

Interestingly, his father Emil Artin is a Feynman like figure in mathematics. Here is the Wikipedia article on Emil Artin .

The book has also an interview with Arthur Mattuck and his experiences with Emil Artin's teaching and guidance.
I won't to say anything about my teaching except that one of the first students remarked that I was whispering endearments to the blackboard and I do not think that it improved much.
I briefly met Michael Artin 1966 when he was visiting Bombay for conference and I was a graduate student. It was partly because Emil Artin's 'Galois Theory' was one of the first non-prescribed math. books that I read and probably never got out of that thrall of beautiful theories without examples. Then I saw Michael again in a conference in Japan around 1973 and was very surprised that he remembered me and introduced me to his mother as the Swarup from India.