Saturday, July 31, 2010

Two articles on cuisine

In a wide ranging book review Down to the Last Cream Puff Steven Shapin says:
"In standard histories of the rise of the French restaurant, chefs to aristocratic houses, cut loose from their ancien régime patrons by the Revolution, went in successful search of a bourgeois clientele. The business of fine dining was therefore underpinned by an expansion of the public seeking good things to eat. Steinberger, however, seems to think that French social democracy eroded the economic inequalities on which the haute cuisine business necessarily depends: ‘Chefs need prosperous patrons. Notwithstanding their other effects, the Reagan and Thatcher eras made the rich richer and spawned vast new wealth, money that bankrolled gastronomic revolutions in the United States and Britain.'
In Mirchi Maestros Anvar Alikhan says:
"To be accurate, however, one should not speak of Andhra cuisine, one should speak of cuisines—in the plural—for there are actually three different sub-cuisines: from Telangana, coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, respectively. The first is influenced by Hyderabad’s Muslim cuisine; the second places an emphasis on the region’s wonderful seafood; the third is even more fiery than the other two, in keeping perhaps with the aggressive, macho culture of that region. Unlike Hyderabadi cuisine, Andhra cuisine never had the advantage of court patronage, which played an important role in the evolution of certain Indian cuisines. Instead, it was always essentially the food of the common man—which is why it remained so simple, earthy and robust. (It is interesting to wonder what would have happened if, for example, the aristocracy of Telangana had asserted more culinary independence, instead of adopting Mughlai cuisine? Or if the intrinsically Telugu Vijayanagara empire had survived a couple of centuries longer?)

Some years ago Camellia Panjabi had set up an interesting new restaurant in Hyderabad, called Dakhni, which attempted to recreate the old cuisines of the Deccan, from places like Telangana and Bijapur. An exciting concept but, alas, it never took off. Today, Andhra cuisine is on an upswing, as is obvious from the growing popularity of Andhra restaurants in other parts of India, as well. Hyderabadi cuisine, on the other hand, is in slow decline. It was never available in eating houses, only in people’s homes. But the traditional cooks in those homes are now fading into the sunset, and the women of the house are no longer able to pursue the cuisine with the time and commitment that it requires. The result is that the everyday food that’s eaten today is increasingly of the generic dal-chawal-chicken-curry variety. In a decade or so, one of India’s great cuisines may well be extinct. And that is the pity."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Links July 30

'Not exactly Rocket Science' has a thread On the Origin of Science Writers in which some excellent science writers like Carl Zimmer responded. One of the reasons given by many is "I was always interested in science". In contrast with some science writers in Telugu, the reasons seem to be 'to fight superstition' or 'it is good for developmemt'.
Brad Delong has an interesting post being discussed in Economist's View "John Stewart Mill vs. the European Central Bank". An excerpt: "Unlike economists, biologists, for example, know that every cell functions according to instructions for protein synthesis encoded in its DNA. Chemists begin with what the Heisenberg and Pauli principles, plus the three-dimensionality of space, tell us about stable electron configurations. Physicists start with the four fundamental forces of nature.

Economists have none of that. The “economic principles” underpinning their theories are a fraud – not fundamental truths but mere knobs that are twiddled and tuned so that the “right” conclusions come out of the analysis."

Crooked Timber discusses increasing inequality in Why Is Economic Inequality Higher in English Speaking Industrialized Democracies? and What Produced the Inequality Boom?

Social Ties Boost Survival by 50 Percent (via 3quarksdaily)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Preschool in the news again

There is a discussion in Economist's view on the long range effectis of kindergarten following a recent study of Raj Chetty and others Do Kindergarten Teachers Matter?. There is an earlier such teport on Perry Preschool program Early Lessons by Emily Hanford and a report by economists here.
On the otherhand, there have been apparently contrasting studies like Benezet experiments here. It would be interesting to see which components worked. It seems to me that emphasis on cognitive development and caring environment rather than rote learning might have played a role in the Perry Preschool experiments.

Some earlier posts on the topic here and here.
P.S.Rajib Khan starts analysing Investing in a nanny state for social returns.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vaclav Smil on forecasting

From The Perils of Long-Range Energy Forecasting: Reflections on Looking Far Ahead via Farnam Street:
"...a new century will make little difference to our ability of making point forecasts: we will spend more time and money on playing the future game—but our predictions will continue to be wrong.

But acknowledging these realities is not the same as advocating a complete abstention from looking far ahead. There is a fundamental difference between decisions that are good only if a particular prediction turns out to be correct—and the ones that are good for a range of alternative futures: scenarios, rather than point forecasts, are thus much more valuable, both from heuristic and from practical points of view. As the future is inherently unpredictable, it is the decision analysis or contingency planning under a range of alternative scenarios that should be pursued most diligently. Techniques comprising this approach range from narrative and normative scenarios to Monte Carlo simulations and to stochastic programming."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Links, July 26

Gulzar Natarajan discusses the role of private engineering colleges in the development of software industry Software industry and engineering colleges;
"It is the role of private engineering colleges which is the key the puzzle. Simply put, states which allowed private engineering colleges to enter early were able to get a head start and, this early advantage has persisted for nearly a decade and a half."

From India unveils prototype for $35 touch-screen computer:
"Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said a manufacturer was being sought for the gadget, which was developed by India's top IT colleges.

An earlier cheap laptop plan by the same ministry came to nothing.

The device unveiled on Thursday has no hard disk, using a memory card instead, like a mobile phone, and can run on solar power, according to reports."

Another article on the influence of language Lost in Translation . Possibly there will be comments in the Language Log at some stage ( A short post here).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pre Legislative Briefing Service

From 'Law and Other Things' about a new group PLBS: "Styling themselves as the Pre Legislative Briefing Service (PLBS), these young turks have begun engaging with the Indian law making process in a fairly intense way. They pick up drafts of recent bills that are before Parliament, study it extensively and come up with nuanced reports on the various legal/policy implications of the bill" in the post Alternative Thinking Outside the "Law Firm" Box?. Aims:
"The Pre-Legislative Briefing Service (PLBS)

i) To provide rigorous, independent and non-partisan legal and policy analysis of Bills introduced in Parliament

ii) To suggest appropriate legal reform to enable bills to pass tests of constitutionality if challenged

iii) To suggest appropriate policy reform if the legislative policy is to be sound in principle and efficacious in practice."
They have done a study of the Nuclear Liability bill and the report is posted in SSRN document
A Briefing Document on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010: Questions of Constitutionality and Legislative Options Open to Parliament .
The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill, 2010 (hereinafter “the Bill”) introduced in the Lok Sabha, Parliament of India, on 7th May, 2010 is a complex piece of parliamentary legislation. While there has been a vibrant public debate surrounding a few aspects of this Bill, in this Report we seek to provide a more comprehensive and reasoned legal analysis of this Bill and its implications. The touchstone on which we seek to test this Bill is the Constitution of India. Our conclusions, the reasons supporting which are provided in this report, indicate a range of further actions the government could take. Some provisions are salutary and require little in the way of amendment, others may be struck down for being contrary to the constitutional provisions as interpreted by the Supreme Court and require modification. Yet others, albeit not unconstitutional, are deeply problematic given the ambiguity of the draft text and necessitate clarification.

Small states

in the USA have more popular governors says Andrew Gelman in Popular governor, small state. According to one of the comments, small states have less unemployment. Nay be this is point to ponder about in India too. According to Bibek Debrai the results are mixed in India but he says in From 28 to 45?:
"In principle, transparency and accountability should improve with smaller states. But even if this doesn’t happen, there is a geographical shift in location of administrative costs and leakage. They occur in Darjeeling rather than Kolkata, with consequent multiplier benefits also changing geographically. Since Planning Commission (including Central sector and Centrally-sponsored schemes) and Finance Commission transfers have failed to develop backward regions, backward region development through localisation of administrative costs and corruption is hardly unmitigated disaster."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ethnographic books as compelling as fiction

Off and on I google to find what others think of the books that I like. Googling about Amitav Ghosh's "In an Antique Land" , I found this post Ethnographic fiction: "Here’s what I came up with: Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic; Lila Abu-Lughod, Writing Women’s Worlds; Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, Guests of the Sheikh (not precisely an ethnography, more a memoir); Paul Willis, Learning to Labor; Philippe Bourgois, In Search of Respect; Amitav Ghosh, In an Antique Land; Joao Biehl, Vita; Levi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques; and the book I’m reading now, by one of the Levi-Strauss’s students, Pierre Clastres’ Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians." And many more. I read only two of them. The post is more than two years old. May be Alice Albinia's "Empires of the Indus" can be added.

Photographs from Benjamin Kaila's trip to India

here These show many of his projects and I am involved in some of them. Clicking on each photograph leads to some more; for example, clicking on 201006-Nadimpalli leads to
which has a photograph of my mother in the background. 201005-Visiting Microloans project has photographs of Gurram Jashua Library in the Dalit part of Velur.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vamsi Vakulabharanam on Inequality in India

Does Class Matter? Class Structure and Worsening Inequality in India. Abstract:
"Does class structure matter in understanding the increasing inequality in India during the period of economic liberalisation? There is now clear evidence from the National Sample Survey quinquennial household consumer expenditure surveys conducted in 1993-94 and 2004-05 that increased distance between urban elites (owners, managers and professionals), rural rentier classes (such as moneylenders and absentee landlords) that are more stratified at the top, and unskilled urban workers, marginal farmers and agricultural workers, who are increasingly more stratified at the bottom, helps us understand the distributional dynamics of the Indian growth story. This paper analyses the class structures in India and decomposes the overall inequality into inter-class and intra-class terms. It explains these changes by analysing the Indian policies during this period."

There seem to be some similarities with Matthew Yglesias's comments that Bruce Wilder quotes in the post Economic Conditions and Election Outcomes :
". . . the only items that make it onto the public agenda are ones that feature a rough balance of money and lobbying clout. That means that if you want to do something that’s helpful to low-income people—something like the Affordable Care Act—the only way to do it is to structure it as something that’s very helpful to a subset of business interests. Well-intentioned politicians can and do shape this dynamic in a way that’s more helpful to the little guy, but they don’t fundamentally alter the dynamic."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Andrew Gelman writes about David Blackwell

David Blackwell . I do not know the relevant areas but the name is familiar because of Rao-Blackwell theorem. Here is a quote that I liked:
"Basically, I'm not interested in doing research and I never have been, I'm interested in understanding, which is quite a different thing. And often to understand something you have to work it out yourself because no one else has done it."
There are more links in comments like this very interesting David Blackwell, 'Superstar' and . See also Rajiv Seth's blog
Again, he is quoted in the first article:
“I like understanding things and explaining them,” he said. “And sometimes when you’re trying to understand something, you see something new, and they call that research.”
The 'helping line' mentioned in the article is explained in the second article in the interview with Donald Albers.
P.P.S. Aside on Rao-blackwell from Earliest Known Uses of Some of the Words of Mathematics:
RAO-BLACKWELL THEOREM and RAO-BLACKWELLIZATION in the theory of statistical estimation. The "Rao-Blackwell theorem" recognises independent work by C. R. Rao (1945 Bull. Calcutta Math. Soc. 37, 81-91) and David Blackwell (1947 Ann. Math. Stat., 18, 105-110). The name dates from the 1960s for previously the theorem had been referred to as "Blackwell's theorem" or the "Blackwell-Rao theorem." The term "Rao-Blackwellization" appears in Berkson (J. Amer. Stat Assoc. 1955) ((From David (1995).)

In an ET Interview (p. 346) Rao shares some reminiscences about getting his name attached to the result, which may reflect more generally on the practice of EPONYMY. When Rao objected to Berkson’s use of Blackwellization Berkson replied that Raoization by itself "does not sound nice." The other memory was of an exchange with D. V. Lindley who had attributed the result to Blackwell. When Rao wrote to Lindley pointing out his priority, Lindley replied, "Yes, I read your paper. Although the result was in your paper, you did not realize its importance because you did not mention it in the introduction to your paper." Rao replied, saying that it was his first full-length paper and that he did not know that the introduction is written for the benefit of those who read only the introduction and do not go through the paper!

In Russia the name Rao-Blackwell-Kolmogorov theorem is used in deference to a 1950 article by Kolmogorov.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Some news links

Afghanistan and Pakistan agree key trade agreement :
"Afghanistan and Pakistan have signed a key trade agreement allowing Afghan lorries to use a land route through Pakistan to carry goods to India.
The deal also gives landlocked Afghanistan access to Pakistani ports to boost its trade with other nations."
But "ndia's long-standing demand for allowing Afghanistan-bound Indian goods to transit through Pakistan through Wagah has been rejected once again. As per the contours of the understanding reached between Afghanistan and Pakistan on Sunday evening for transit trade, Afghanistan can export into India via Wagah but cannot import through the same route." according to The Hindu

Netanyahu admits on video he deceived US to destroy Oslo accord (via 3quarksdaily)

Turmeric, a recipe for trouble too?:
"Contrary to conventional wisdom about the rhizome, the main molecular component in turmeric, curcumin, actually boosts up certain pathogens such as the typhoid bacteria to fight off the body's defence mechanism, says a research paper published in the latest edition of PLoS ONE, a scientific journal published by the U.S. Public Library of Science."
The rest from 'The Outlook'.

Who Is Not A Kafir?
The Islamic faultlines in the state widens with extremists attacking minority sects

The Spooled Alleyways.
Peshawar preserves a Bollywood in its midst: the ancestral homes of the Kapoors, Dilip Kumar and Shahrukh

Writing On The Menhir.
Random violence and humiliation are stoking a new anger in Kashmiri youth against Indian oppression, renewing the call for azadi

Two blogs on Telugu words

Brown Dictionary - Some Interesting Words
And there is a discussion group తెలుగుపదం

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Two articles on animal care

Jonah Lehrer in Cages and Cancer:
"In short, the paper demonstrates that mice living in an enriched environments - those spaces filled with toys, running wheels and social interactions - are less likely to get tumors, and better able to fight off the tumors if they appear.

The experiment itself was simple. A large group of mice were injected with melanoma cells. After six weeks, the mice living in enriched environments had tumors that were approximately 75 percent smaller than mice raised in standard lab cages. Furthermore, while every mouse in the standard cages developed cancerous growths, 17 percent of the mice in the enriched enclosures showed no sign of cancer at all."
Jesse Berring in Cur cognition: Do stray dogs have qualitatively different kinds of canine minds? (via 3quarksdaily):
"...when dogs are housed in an animal shelter, they usually experience a severe form of psychological stress caused by exposure to novel or threatening surroundings, separation from attachment objects, unpredictability of external events, lack or loss of control over the environment, and so on. This stress activates their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and pumps out explosive levels of cortisol, which is the major hormonal indicator of response to stress. Coppola and her colleagues found that, regardless of breed, age of dog and sex, those shelter dogs that received a pleasant “human interaction session” on Day 2 of their incarceration had significantly lower cortisol levels on Day 9—that is to say, the benefits of this simple pet and play session were found a week later, even without any subsequent interaction with human beings during the intervening days."

The second article is more about the perceived cognitive abilities of dogs:
"Udell and her group in Florida, however, say that these impressive social cognitive abilities in dogs may not represent the “default” canine cognitive system. In their review of this literature on dog social cognition, the authors point out that:

The currently available data suggest that populations of dogs differing in [breeding] and in environmental and lifetime pressures might display different behavioral responses to the actions of humans. Despite this fact, the great majority of subjects in studies of the origins of domestic dogs’ human-compatible social cognition have been pet dogs living in human homes, with human-oriented working dogs representing the remainder of the subject pool.

In other words, Udell and her coauthors’ contention is similar to arguments made by many researchers studying human psychological evolution—that our ability to make claims about “human nature” are seriously limited by the fact that the data upon which such claims are made are derived almost entirely from middleclass American undergraduate students between 18-22 years of age and recruited from a psychology department subject pool. She’s basically arguing that existing social cognition research on Canis lupus familiaris has largely neglected large demographic swells of the species and therefore does not necessarily paint an entirely accurate portrait of this species’ natural (default) psychological stance."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sambaru karamu

is a kind of chilli powder mixed with various spices and garlic used by some farming families (mostly Kammas I think) in coastal Andhra. It is one of those that I cannot do without and used to carry with me on trips to countries other than in India. In 1996 I stayed in the house of a mathematician in Utah and generally sprinkled my food with 'sambaru karamu' much to the annoyance of his wife. I even used it in France with restaurant food. Now this friend is visiting India for a conference and wants to know whether it is available in the market. Unfortnately I do not think that it is available. Priya Pickles make a pale approximation to it called 'koora karamu'. Ramoji Rao, who is from the land of sambaru karamu should know better and I hope that he realizes its export potential. First he should send a few like me abroad to develop the tastes of the natives.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Malaria-Proof Mosquito

From Independent
Jeremy Laurance: Eradicating this biblical plague is becoming possible
"The achievement of Michael Riehle and his team at the University of Arizona is impressive. But by their own admission, they have done the easy bit – create a genetically modified mosquito that cannot transmit malaria.
To help with controlling the disease, the GM mosquito must first be proved safe for release into the wild and, second, must be given some advantage that renders it superior to natural populations so it can drive them out. That is much harder to do."
More details in Science Daily First Malaria-Proof Mosquito: Genetic Manipulation Renders Them Completely Immune to the Parasite

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Carl Zimmer on microbes in us

How Microbes Defend and Define Us . Excerpts in reverse order:
"We continue to be colonized every day of our lives. “Surrounding us and infusing us is this cloud of microbes,” said Jeffrey Gordon of Washington University. We end up with different species, but those species generally carry out the same essential chemistry that we need to survive. One of those tasks is breaking down complex plant molecules. “We have a pathetic number of enzymes encoded in the human genome, whereas microbes have a large arsenal,” said Dr. Gordon.

In addition to helping us digest, the microbiome helps us in many other ways. The microbes in our nose, for example, make antibiotics that can kill the dangerous pathogens we sniff. Our bodies wait for signals from microbes in order to fully develop. When scientists rear mice without any germ in their bodies, the mice end up with stunted intestines.

In order to co-exist with our microbiome, our immune system has to be able to tolerate thousands of harmless species, while attacking pathogens. Scientists are finding that the microbiome itself guides the immune system to the proper balance."
"Some microbes can only survive in one part of the body, while others are more cosmopolitan. And the species found in one person’s body may be missing from another’s. Out of the 500 to 1,000 species of microbes identified in people’s mouths, for example, only about 100 to 200 live in any one person’s mouth at any given moment. Only 13 percent of the species on two people’s hands are the same. Only 17 percent of the species living on one person’s left hand also live on the right one."
And a case history:
"In 2008, Dr. Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota, took on a patient suffering from a vicious gut infection of Clostridium difficile. She was crippled by constant diarrhea, which had left her in a wheelchair wearing diapers. Dr. Khoruts treated her with an assortment of antibiotics, but nothing could stop the bacteria. His patient was wasting away, losing 60 pounds over the course of eight months. “She was just dwindling down the drain, and she probably would have died,” Dr. Khoruts said.

Dr. Khoruts decided his patient needed a transplant. But he didn’t give her a piece of someone else’s intestines, or a stomach, or any other organ. Instead, he gave her some of her husband’s bacteria.

Dr. Khoruts mixed a small sample of her husband’s stool with saline solution and delivered it into her colon. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology last month, Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues reported that her diarrhea vanished in a day. Her Clostridium difficile infection disappeared as well and has not returned since."
P.S. More in Everyone poops his or her own viruses .
P.P.S. Related : The Evolution of Cooperation by Dave Munger

Update from Carl Zimmer on July 20 The Microbiome Never Ceases to Amaze
It is surprising that nobody metioned Morarji Desai so far.

Afridi on leading Pakistan cricket team

From The Age report Afridi trying to keep team happy :

"With a smile on his face, Afridi agreed it was a difficult task leading Pakistan.

"It is, it is," he said.

"Especially players from the different cultures and from the different cities.""

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Miscellaneous links, July 13

Is population a problem? (From Seed Magazine)
The Creativity Crisis via MindHacks post Creative Beginnings. Torrance tasks indicate that American creativity is decreasing. The problem may be: "Plucker recently toured a number of such schools in Shanghai and Beijing. He was amazed by a boy who, for a class science project, rigged a tracking device for his moped with parts from a cell phone. When faculty of a major Chinese university asked Plucker to identify trends in American education, he described our focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing. “After my answer was translated, they just started laughing out loud,” Plucker says. “They said, ‘You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model, as fast as we can.’ ”"
Paruchuri Sreenivas on the origins and changes in the meaning of the word 'gentoo':
"Tracing the origin of the word, Yule in his Hobson-Jobson, explains the
term "Gentile" and how it came to mean Telugu people specifically. When the Portugese arrived in India, the Vijayanagara Empire was at the height of its glory. The officials were Telugus and for the Portugese, they were "par excellance 'Gentiles' and their language the 'Gentile' language." Yule mentions that Gentoo as a name of the Telugu people was first used in 1648 in a book printed in Amsterdam. But, really speaking the meaning did not stick to these people since then. The travellers continued to use the word to mean Hindus in general.

The government of Fort St. George used the word "Gentue" to mean the Hindus in general, as a record from 1685 shows. The same can be deduced from the writings of Edward Carleyan (1697), John Fryer (who travelled for nine years in the East between 1672 and 1681) and Alexander Hamilton (travelled as a trader between 1688 and 1723).

The word denoting the people is used to denote the language of the people towards the end of the 17th century by the Government. When the East Indies Company wanted to raise an amount of 100,000 pounds streling at 6%, it was ordered that this matter be translated into 'Portuguez', 'Gentue', 'Mallabar' and 'Moores'. The word was used on more than one occasion to mean the language as well as the people.

For a period of time the meaning of the word was given as Tamil. cf. Talboys J Wheelr, A History of the English settlements in India as told in the govt. records, 1878, p. 128, or La Croze and Ziegenbalg, who were active in Tamil country, spoke of the local Hindus as 'Gentiles' speaking Tamule or Malabare.

There are also references from Bengal in which the "orginal language of the country" was mentioned as 'Bengala' or 'Gentoo'.

Then the word appeared in Portugese literature also. Etha M. Pope, whenever he made a reference to the Hindu mythology mentioned the 'Gentios de India oriental'.

Towards the end of the 18th century Colonel Mackenzie used 'Gentoo' as a synonym for Telugu language. In 1800 Dr. J. Webbe suggested to Munro about the 'Gentoo' translation of the Regulations as an answer for the Ceded Districts for even the most ordinary of them understood 'Gentoo'. Later, as I cited yesterday, A.D. Campbell used it in the title to his Telugu Grammar (1816) and later also to his Dictionary (1821). William Brown did the same in 1818. The last we see the use of this word is from 1839. Later the specific meaning of the word as Telugu receded in the same way as it had appeared."

Ed Yong on The secret history of X and Z – how sex chromosomes from humans and chickens found common ground. More links to earlier posts and some clarifications by the author of the study Daniel Bellot in the post.

Antiaging protein also boosts learning and memory from Science News.

Mahmud of Ghazni had Hindu generals. From comments in the post The Daughter of Islam of Chapati Mystery.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pratap Bhanu Mehta on some protests in India

Protest, but softly (via Qalander). An excerpt:
"As a result of growth, more people do have more assets and more complex economic interests. Even though, there is good reason to be dissatisfied with government performance, the uncertainties produced by social protest seem to put more at risk. Hence the argument that the economic consequences of social protest are not desirable has more traction.

But there might also be a deeper story to be told about class and protest. It is often said that the privileged influence public policy while the poor don’t. There is much truth in this claim. But it can also be misleading in some sense. It disguises the fact that the ability of the privileged to collectively shape and reform the culture of the state in the direction of the public good is severely circumscribed. But the privileged have considerably more adaptive power. All their efforts are going towards private adaptation to the state’s deficiencies rather than public goods (private security, private electricity, private education, and private health). For them social protest is essentially an imposition of costs with no gain, since they do not really believe the state can be made to serve public good."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kashmir in the news

Some background from a review and another article by William Darlymple Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer and At war with luck :Is poker a game of skill or chance? (both via Chapati Mystery).
A recent post by Rahul Siddharthan

An article on Poker

I have some interest in poker since my son makes a living playing poker, though he now says that it has become boring and that he wants to move to something else. From a recent article At war with luck :Is poker a game of skill or chance? :
"...Garry Kasparov, a chess grandmaster, argues that poker offers lessons on chance and risk management that even his beloved game cannot. .....

Yet perhaps the clearest argument in favour of poker being skill- rather than chance-dependent comes from Mr Sklansky, and it has to do with losing rather than winning. Imagine trying intentionally to lose at a game of pure chance, like roulette or baccarat. It would be impossible. At the beginning of a deal or a roll you have to bet on something. You can no more deliberately play badly than you can deliberately play well. The same is not true for poker, which offers multiple opportunities to make sure you lose."
More links to gamling and poker from MindHacks post Gambling on our cognitive biases

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Interesting article on the joy of children

or lack of it All Joy and No Fun (via MindHacks). An excerpt from the end of the article:
"But for many of us, purpose is happiness—particularly those of us who find moment-to-moment happiness a bit elusive to begin with. Martin Seligman, the positive-psychology pioneer who is, famously, not a natural optimist, has always taken the view that happiness is best defined in the ancient Greek sense: leading a productive, purposeful life. And the way we take stock of that life, in the end, isn’t by how much fun we had, but what we did with it. (Seligman has seven children.)

About twenty years ago, Tom Gilovich, a psychologist at Cornell, made a striking contribution to the field of psychology, showing that people are far more apt to regret things they haven’t done than things they have. In one instance, he followed up on the men and women from the Terman study, the famous collection of high-IQ students from California who were singled out in 1921 for a life of greatness. Not one told him of regretting having children, but ten told him they regretted not having a family.

“I think this boils down to a philosophical question, rather than a psychological one,” says Gilovich. “Should you value moment-to-moment happiness more than retrospective evaluations of your life?” He says he has no answer for this, but the example he offers suggests a bias. He recalls watching TV with his children at three in the morning when they were sick. “I wouldn’t have said it was too fun at the time,” he says. “But now I look back on it and say, ‘Ah, remember the time we used to wake up and watch cartoons?’ ” The very things that in the moment dampen our moods can later be sources of intense gratification, nostalgia, delight.

It’s a lovely magic trick of the memory, this gilding of hard times. Perhaps it’s just the necessary alchemy we need to keep the species going. But for parents, this sleight of the mind and spell on the heart is the very definition of enchantment."
And the article did not discuss grandchildren.

Monday, July 05, 2010

"Xenophobia in Seventeenth Century India"

is available online here and review here. Contents:
Acknowledgements. viii
Introduction: The Ethics of Writing the Precolonial. 1
1. A Dutch Painter in Bijapur: National Sentiment and European-ness as Reflected in the Relation between the Dutch and the Portuguese in the Early Century. 18
2. The Queen and the Usurper: Deccanis vs. Westerners in Bijapur around 1636. 74
3. The Right and Left Hand Disputes in Chennapatnam 1652-55: A Minimal Group Experiment in Seventeenth-Century India? 105
4. Saying One Thing, Doing Another? Shivaji and Deccani Patriotism 1674-80. 153
5. Anxiety in Aurangzeb’s Deccan: Marathas, Sidis and Keigwin’s Rebellion 1683-4. 191
6. Madanna, Akkanna and the Brahmin Revolution in Golkonda 1674-86. 224
Conclusion. Human Nature in a Seventeenth-Century Environment. 256
Epilogue. Aurangzeb/Shivaji and the Eighteenth Century. 265
Appendix 1: Dutch Usage for Muslim and Hindu. 285
Appendix 2: Aurangzeb on Stratagem. 287
Appendix 3: On the Authenticity of Shivaji’s and Sidi Mas‘ud’s Letters to Maloji Ghorpade. 289
A Note on Usage. 292
List of Abbreviated References. 293
Repositories of Unpublished Sources. 294
Select Bibliography. 295
Index (also serving as glossary and who is who). 306

P.S. A surprising passage (to me since I did not know that slave trade existed on any scale in India)from page 188 (In the passage, VOC stands for Dutch East India Company):
"A final example of the intimate connection of Shivaji’s ideologies to his practices, or of the nigh impossibility to separate the two, is the following passage from his qaul granted to VOC ambassador Herbert de Jager in 1677. In it Shivaji puts his proscription of the slave trade discussed above in the context of a radical (and ideological) break with the past:

In the days of the Moorish government it was allowed for you to buy male slaves and female slaves here [the Karnatak], and to transport the same, without anyone
preventing that. But now you may not, as long as I am master of these lands, buy
male or female slaves, nor transport them. And in case you were to do the same, and would want to bring [slaves] aboard, my men will oppose that and prevent it in all ways and also not allow that they be brought back in your house; this you must as such observe and comply with.92

Even if Shivaji’s measure was motivated, as Herbert de Jager suggests, by a concern about revenues (which would be less if there were fewer inhabitants) rather than a concern for the welfare of the potential slaves, it is quite impossible to distinguish in this passage the practical measure from the patriotic appeal conveyed by it, directed as it is against Muslim rulers allowing the slave trade and Europeans carrying slaves off to foreign parts, unless one would want to argue that Shivaji was not planning to enforce the measure despite his assurance that his men would do so “in all ways.” "

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Perelman speaks

From A Math Problem Solver Declines a $1 Million Prize:
"Dr. Perelman said Dr. Hamilton deserved as much credit as he did, Interfax reported. “To put it short,” he said, “the main reason is my disagreement with the organized mathematical community. I don’t like their decisions; I consider them unjust.” "

Felix Salmon on studying math

How blogging is like being bad at math:
"For reasons which today elude me, I decided when I was doing my A-levels in England to do what they call “double maths” — essentially taking two mathematics exams (Maths and Further Maths), in the same two years you’d normally spend studying for just one. As a result, we had a highly accelerated mathematics curriculum, and there was no time to circle back and make sure the class had understood something before moving on to the next thing. It was all rather sink-or-swim.

And at any given point in time, I was sinking — along, I think, with most of the rest of my class. I was pretty fuzzy about what we’d been taught in previous weeks, and I was very unlikely to understand what the teacher was trying to say at any given time. Maths class, for me, was a combination of panic and incomprehension, combined with a desperate attempt to bluff my way through as much as I could. (Needless to say, if you’re reduced to trying to bluff, mathematics is not the best subject to choose.)

Yet somehow my classmates and I all did very well, at the end of the two years, when it came time to taking the actual exams. As I recall, nearly everybody taking double maths wound up getting an A in their Maths A-level, and most of us got an A or a B in Further Maths as well. Somehow we had managed to gain a pretty good grasp of the subject by dint of sheer velocity: the mechanism, I think, was that a desperate attempt to understand a new concept had the effect of making earlier ideas drop into place. And that the best way of mastering the Maths curriculum was not so much to study it directly, but rather to try to study the Further Maths curriculum: even getting halfway there would bring you pretty much up to speed on the stuff that went before."
Sounds right to me. Sometimes this happens during exam time when one has to study the whole thing in a few days.

Studying GM seeds does not seem easy

From Seed magazine Wanted: GM Seeds for Study :
"A battle is quietly being waged between the industry that produces genetically modified seeds and scientists trying to investigate the environmental impacts of engineered crops. Although companies have recently given ground, researchers say these firms are still loath to allow independent analyses of their patented — and profitable."

Friday, July 02, 2010

Two science blogs in Telugu

శాస్త్ర విజ్ఞానము
సైన్స్ కబుర్లు
Both cover a wide variety of topics. The current posts are about tickling in the first and Bernoulli Effect (Paradox) in the second.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Vivek Wadhva on Roshini girls

Vivek Wadhva writes about Roshini girls:
"The Roshni formula is simple: empower smart girls with self confidence, critical thinking skills, basic social skills, and life skills—and make them realize that they can succeed by working hard and taking risks. Roshni girls, all of whom live below the poverty line yet maintain top academic standing, undergo intensive education through three training modules over a six-month period. The curriculum covers 25 subjects, ranging from public speaking to conflict management to hygiene. Students are also taught computer and internet basics. At the end of each training season, 60 top-performing students are granted scholarships by the Nurul Hasan Foundation to pursue their secondary and higher education."