Monday, October 31, 2011

Nandita Das inducted into the International Women's Forum Hall of Fame

From The Hindu article ‘My work is motivated by the realities around me':
"Will the award impact her future work? “The motivation for that [my work] is life and the disturbing realities we live in, and not recognition. I deeply care about issues concerning women and much of my work, be it acting, writing, directing or speaking, is about advocating these concerns. It is but half a drop in the ocean. Still, we all need to do our little bit,” says she."

Teen batti char rasta

is apparently a film about national integration Teen Batti Char Rasta (1953). Browsing through YouTube songs, I found this
Multilingual song. Another multilingual song Shamshad Begum singing multilingual song for P.Bhanumathi in Nishan 1949 . In the Telugu and Tamil versions (Apurvasahodarulu) Bhanumati sings for herself.

Friday, October 28, 2011

IMF Book Forum: "Lost Decades: The Making of America's Debt Crisis and the Long Recovery"

IMF Book Forum Video and transcript on Lost Decades: The Making of America's Debt Crisis and the Long Recovery.
Menzie Chin says "...a lot of the ideas that we have here, I think, resonate strongly with Professor Akerlof’s paper with Paul Romer about how distortions in one part of the economy, particularly incentives to extract or loot, can distort a whole financial and economic system." George Akerlof and Paul Romer paper:
Looting:The Economic Underworld of bankruptcy for Profit

Daniel Kahneman and Gary Klein on conditions for intuitive expertise

Conclusions from
Conditions for Intutive Expertise :

"In an effort that spanned several years, we attempted to answer one basic question:
Under what conditions are the intuitions of professionals worthy of trust? We do not
claim that the conclusions we reached are surprising (many were anticipated by Shanteau, 1992, Hogarth, 2001, and Myers, 2002, among others),but we believe that they add up to a coherent view of expert intuition, which is more than we expected to achieve when we began.

Our starting point is that intuitive judgments can arise from genuine skill—the focus of the NDM [Naturalitic Decision Making] approach—but that they can also arise
from inappropriate application of the heuristic processes on which students of the HB [Heuristics and Biases] tradition have focused.
Skilled judges are often unaware of the cues that guide them, and individuals whose intuitions are not skilled are even less likely to know where their judgments come
True experts, it is said, know when they don’t know. However, nonexperts (whether or
not they think they are) certainly do not know when they don’t know. Subjective confidence is therefore an unreliable indication of the validity of intuitive judgments and decisions.
The determination of whether intuitive judgments can be trusted requires an examination of the environment in which the judgment is made and of the opportunity
that the judge has had to learn the regularities of that environment.
We describe task environments as “high-validity” if there are stable relationships between objectively identifiable cues and subsequent events or between cues and the
outcomes of possible actions. Medicine and firefighting are practiced in environments of fairly high validity. In contrast, outcomes are effectively unpredictable in zero-validity environments. To a good approximation, predictions
of the future value of individual stocks and long-term forecasts of political events
are made in a zero-validity environment.
Validity and uncertainty are not incompatible. Some environments are both highly valid and substantially uncertain. Poker and warfare are examples. The best moves in
such situations reliably increase the potential for success.
An environment of high validity is a necessary condition for the development of
skilled intuitions. Other necessary conditions include adequate opportunities for
learning the environment (prolonged practice and feedback that is both rapid and
unequivocal). If an environment provides valid cues and good feedback, skill and expert intuition will eventually develop in individuals of sufficient talent.
Although true skill cannot develop in irregular or unpredictable environments,
individuals will some-times make judgments and decisions that are successful by
chance. These “lucky” individuals will be susceptible to an illusion of skill and to
overconfidence (Arkes, 2001). The financial industry is a rich source of examples.
The situation that we have labeled fractionation of skill is another source of overconfidence. Professionals who have expertise in some tasks are sometimes called upon to make judgments in areas in which they have no real skill. (For example, financial analysts may be skilled at evaluating the likely commercial success of a
firm, but this skill does not extend to the judgment of whether the stock of that firm is underpriced.) It is difficult both for the professionals and for those who
observe them to determine the boundaries of their true expertise.
We agree that the weak regularities available in low-validity situations can sometimes support the development of algorithms that do better than chance. These
algorithms only achieve limited accuracy, but they outperform humans because of their advantage of consistency. However, the introduction of algorithms to replace
human judgment is likely to evoke substantial resistance and sometimes has undesirable side effects.

Another conclusion that we both accept is that the approaches of our respective communities have built-in limitations. For historical and methodological reasons, HB researchers generally find errors more interesting and instructive than correct performance; but a psychology of judgment and decision making that ignores intuitive skill is seriously blinkered. Because their intellectual attitudes developed in reaction to the HB tradition, members of the NDM community have an aversion to the word bias and to the corresponding concept; but a psychology of professional judgment that neglects predictable errors cannot be adequate. Although we agree with both of these conclusions, we have yet to move much beyond recognition of the problem. DK is still fascinated by persistent errors, and GK still recoils when biases are mentioned. We hope, however, that our effort may help others do more than we have been able to do in bringing the insights of both communities to bear on their common subject. "

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Street songs from films

Through Minai's Cinema Nritya Gharana, I have come across wonderful blgs like Dances on the Footpath which made it easier to spend the last few weeks pleasantly through two bouts of flu. I do not have any knowledge of classical music or dance though I heard my mother singing some carnatic music and various film songs from different languages. From early days I could not stand lots of carnatic music or bharatanatyam; lot of it seemed gymnastics to me and not too natural unless one had some training in its various intricacies. But north Indian classical music seemed more melodious but overall film songs and some of the dances where themes and movements seemed natural and graceful appealed to me. Even now, it is the same except I am enjoying some shorter bits of classical stuff. It seems to me that films, for whatever reason (possibly for the money at the bottom of the pyramid) adopted more to what appealed to common people. As Stephen Putnam Hughes says in Music in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Drama, Gramophone, and the Beginnings of Tamil Cinema:
"To contemporaries, the rise of Tamil cinema and the ubiquity of films songs both offered a democratic promise to make music accessible for everyone and threatened to upset the social and cultural hierarchies of professional drama and classical Karnatic music. These sources also mark the shift from the music boom of the 1920s and early 1930s as it transformed into a cinema-based mass culture of music by the 1940s. This collaboration around film songs produced a new form and institutionalization of popular music at the center of an emergent cultural industry of Tamil cinema, which, in many ways, is still with us and still dominates to this day."
It is possible that the shifts in dance appreciation took a different trajectory but it is still the street dances from many films which appeal to me more. There are lots from Hindi films like Ramayya Vastawaiyya ; here are a couple from Telugu films:
Vagaloy Vagalu
Ithihasam Vinnaara
eruvaka sagaroo rannoo chinnananna
kulamulo emudira
(Kannada version Kuladalli Melyavudo )

Happy Deepavali

Deepavali Deepavali from Shavukaru

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An old Tamil song

I remember my mother singing this around 1947-48, she even had the lyrics written in Telugu script in her song book (a book which I inherited and lost). She learnt it from the daughters of Tamilian teacher in Gudavalli who lived near us. The tune and a few Tamil words is all I remembered. Apparently, it is well known as I found in this wonderful blog yesterday: the song from 5:36 onwards

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Some papers on economic development

Browsing through Natural Experiments in History edited by Jarred Diamond and James Robinson, I find several of these articles are available online. Some of these and similar papers have also been discussed in
The Importance of History in Economic Development by Nathan Nunn. Here are links to some of the papers; the others may also be available online.

History, Institutions and Ebonomic Development: The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure System in India by Abhijit Banerjee and Lakshmi Iyer
From Ancien Regime to Capitalismby Darren Acegmolu and others
Politics of Financial Debelopment: Evidence from New World Economies by Stephen Haber
Schackled to the Past: The Causes and Consequences of African Slave trade by Nathan Nunn

P.S. Some of these links have been mentioned before in a link to, See also the Haiti links in this post

Friday, October 14, 2011

John Quiggin on Australian Carbon Tax

Carbon tax in Australia and A long time coming …
"Australia’s House of Representatives has just passed legislation for a carbon tax[1]. Passage by the Senate is assured, so that, as long as the government can survive another year (it needs the support of three independents to muster a one-vote majority), the tax will come into effect in mid-2012. The political history of this proposal is too complicated to recount, but is symbolised by the current Prime Minister (who previously dumped the policy, but has now succeeded in bringing it into effect) receiving a congratulatory kiss from the previous Prime Minister (who supported the policy but was unable to get it passed into law, and was replaced as a result of this)" and
"Getting this legislation passed was a big achievement, but a great many voters will never forgive Gillard for the promises she made before the election (and semantic disputes about whether it’s a price or a tax won’t convince anyone who doesn’t want to be convinced). I remain of the view that she could do most to salvage her place in history by gracefully stepping aside once the bill passes the Senate."

Another review of 'Country Driving'

by David King. Except:
"While it is possible to look at descriptive statistics and analysis to understand what is happening, a work like Country Driving provides valuable insights into how economics, incentives, and cultural factors play out among people"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Three hundred Ramayanas

by A.K. Ramanujan (link to the article) has been removed from Delhi University syllabi says Sepoy in Transformative Texts:
"Ramanujan’s essay is, in my view, one of the best pieces of scholarship the discipline of South Asian Studies has produced – theoretically rich, innovative and amazingly perceptive about the lived ways in which texts continue to exist – the importance of reading, of listening. It ought to be, if it already isn’t, required reading for anyone working on epic or performative texts in any historical or geographical period.

So, when I hear that the Delhi University has removed the essay from History syllabi, I feel the urge to grab my print copy, a chair, walk to the busiest intersection on campus, stand on the chair and start reading out loud his essay. Every word. Make them listen. They will be transformed."

Eeroju bhale roju

and several other songs from Chandirani here. These seem to cheer me up during flu season.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Interviw with Thomas Sargent

wide ranging and seems partly understandable here
via a comment by Ashwin Parameswaran in the MR post Thomas Sargent, Nobel Laureate
The same interviewer Arthur Rolnick interviews the other 2011 Nobel prize winner Christopher Sims (The interview is from 2007 and the first one from 2010)
P.S. See also Three cheers for Sargent & Sims, one and a half for the "Economics Nobel" :
"Macroeconomies all over the world are doing some really weird stuff. There are lots of ideas, but little consensus, about which theories we should be using to understand events like the financial crisis, Little Depression, and current relapse, not to mention globalization and China. In times like these, it is best to look to the data first. Pruning the idea tree is more important now than ever. If today's award to Sargent and Sims has a political message, it is that.

But in the long run, I think it would be better if the Bank of Sweden adopted more stringent criteria for the awarding of the prize, more akin to the criteria for the Nobel in Medicine. That may mean fewer winners - perhaps only one a year, or even some years of "no recipient." It will certainly tilt the award toward microeconomists. But so be it. If you're going to call it the "Prize in Economic Sciences," then my opinion is that you should back that up."
P.S. A more recent (phone) intrview


I remember Mahan Maharaj feeling sad about the waste of money and space caused by the atrium in his university building. Apparently well planned atriums can be useful:
Steve Jobs: “Technology Alone Is Not Enough”
(via Rajeev Ramachandran again)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Old Indian records

Listening to old Hindi songs on YouTube, I came across Miss Wazir Jan - Chhum Chhananana Bichhua Baaje [Raag Jaunpuri] , the date of which seems uncertain. Google search led to
The Gramaphone Company's first Indian recordings, 1899-1908 By Michael S. Kinnear. Many of the pages are available and the list at the end indicates that it was recorded in between 1906 and 1907 but the quality is surprisingly good.

Rajiv Sethi on worldly philosophers

Rajiv Sethi in Notes on a Worldly Philosopher:
"The very first book on economics that I remember reading was Robert Heilbroner's majesterial history of thought The Worldly Philosophers. I'm sure that I'm not the only person who was drawn to the study of economics by that wonderfully lucid work. Heilbroner managed to convey the complexity of the subject matter, the depth of the great ideas, and the enormous social value that the discipline at its best is capable of generating.

I was reminded of Heilbroner's book by Robert Solow's review of Sylvia Nasar's Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius. Solow begins by arguing that the book does not quite deliver on the promise of its subtitle, and then goes on to fill the gap by providing his own encapsulated history of ideas. Like Heilbroner before him, he manages to convey with great lucidity the essence of some pathbreaking contributions. I was especially struck by the following passages on Keynes:"

Robert Solow's review Working in the Dark

Discussion of Solow review Solow: Keynesian Economics Has Become Dramatically Relevant Again Today as well as a discussion of Rajiv Sethi's post in Economist's View.

P.S. A quick summary of the part in Solow's review on Keynes
Solow on Keynes and Uncertainty by Donald Marron
Another readable book introducing economic ideas which I read along with Heilbrinner's book is "Man's Worldly Goods" by Leo Huberman. Two books of comletely different nature which look at economics and development in practice "North of South" by Shiva Naipaul and "Country Driving" by Peter Hessler.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Drug prices in different countries

I just noticed this blog post (after hearing from a relative that a cancer drug which costs 100,000 dollars in USA costs about 500 dollars in India and the price comparisons for bone marrow transplants do not seem any better)
The author is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Technology in Andhra University, Visakhapatnam. This seems to be one of the several blogs in
P.S. Correction March 8, 2012:From a further enquiry; it is 10,000 dollars and not 100,000.
See also

The formidable Steve Jobs

From Close Encounters of the Steve Kind:

"I was sitting in Steve's office when Lynn Takahashi, Steve's assistant, announced Knuth's arrival. Steve bounced out of his chair, bounded over to the door and extended a welcoming hand.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Professor Knuth," Steve said. "I've read all of your books."

"You're full of shit," Knuth responded."

(via Rajeev Ramachandran's Google Reader)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Climbing ladders

Recently I was told by some Indian friends that I should not climb ladders at my age (70). But my neighbour Frank Burke climbed a ladder when he was eighty to make temporary repairs to our roof after a heavy downpour. So yestereday I brought out our ladder to spray some fruit trees but then left it outside for further spraying. When my granddaughter Ava arrived, she decided that it was fun climbing ladders. But each time she climbed and got down she decided that it was my turn to climb. It turned out quite tiring after about ten times. May be climbing ladders is not so bad but leaving then outside seems to a bad idea.

Links, October 5th

From The Hidu news From barren land to rose fields, a success story:
"There are over 1,000 acres of agricultural land in the village and it is mostly rain-fed. With poor access to water, farmers had to be content with a single crop during kharif season. Annual average rainfall here is about 700 mm and during a good monsoon, the excess rainwater used to drain away without serving any purpose.

Pepsico, under its corporate social responsibility activity, in association with the ADI conducted a water resource assessment study in 2009. Check-dams were constructed on three rivulets that pass through the village and over 100 water recharge structures in the locality, to facilitate better water access to the farming community, says Vaishakh Palsodkar of ADI.

With check-dams, the groundwater levels have improved over the last two years. Most 30-40 feet deep wells in the vicinity are now filled to the brim. With adequate water, farmers are now also cultivating sweet lime and other crops in the Rabi season, which was once a rarity, points out the former sarpanch, Laxman Bobade."

From The Hibdu opinion Chinese herbal garden leads the way:
"More than 40 years ago, amidst the upheaval and turmoil of the Cultural Revolution in China, and against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, hundreds of Chinese scientists embarked on an ambitious effort to find a drug that would conquer drug-resistant malaria. The result was the discovery of artemisinin, a compound found in plants, which, with its derivatives, is now widely used around the world to treat the disease.

This year, a highly prestigious Lasker Award went to Youyou Tu, an 81-year-old Chinese scientist who played a key part in that discovery."

Concensus seems to emerge quickly in mathematics.From Big News (via Rajeev Ramachandran's google reader):
"Just to be clear, here: That’s Ed Nelson cheerfully acknowledging that the book-length argument he’s been painstakingly constructing for (probably) years, and which was intended to shake the mathematical world to its foundations, doesn’t work. This says so many good things about the culture of mathematics, and so many good things about the Internet, and so many good things about the way they interact (see here and here for more examples), and it says those things so eloquently, that I see no further need for comment." See also The (in)consistency of PA and consensus in mathematics .

From Darwinian Tax Reform via Adam Smith's Lost Legacy :
"Frank observes a similar pattern of arms race-like competition in the quest to obtain social status through luxury purchases. As the wealthiest acquire status symbols so too do the middle and lower classes race to keep up by spending money in a never ending competition for prestige. The result is a society living beyond its means. Whereas elk “voting” to change their antler size is a fantasy, we can use policy to alter wasteful spending patterns and increase savings by replacing our progressive income tax with a progressive consumption tax. This is not to be confused with a valued added tax, national sales tax or flat tax endorsed by some libertarians, which he recognizes is rightly decried as regressive. Frank’s formula goes like this:

Taxes Paid = (Adjusted Gross Income – Annual Savings) * (Progressive Rate Structure)

The result of implanting this tax structure, Frank writes, would be that the wealthiest would reign in excessive spending on status goods to avoid the consumption tax. This would relax the pressure to “keep up with the Jones,” prompting the middle and lower classes to follow suit. Of course, there would still be competition for prestige expressed in consumer goods, cars, and real estate, but everything would be scaled back. The progressive consumption tax would generate an economic surplus at the household level. It is the tax structure Charles Darwin would have endorsed and Adam Smith never would have thought of."
The point of the review seems to be that robert Frank did not understand Darwin well but not really a critique of Frank's ideas. Ideas similar to 'Frank's weird ideas about social prstige' have been proposed along ago by Fred Hirsch:

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Enjoying one's own cooking

I noticed that I do not enjoy my own cooking, at least soon after cooking. Some of them which last (like pappucharu, chicken curry etc) seem ok the next day though sometimes I got high praise for my cooking on the day the food was cooked. It seems that this may not be uncommon according to this MR post Why Do Sandwiches Taste Better When Someone Else Makes Them?

Slime molds

According to the Wikipedia article on Slime mold :
"Professor John Tyler Bonner, who has spent a lifetime studying slime moulds argues that Slime molds are "no more than a bag of amoebae encased in a thin slime sheath, yet they manage to have various behaviors that are equal to those of animals who possess muscles and nerves with ganglia -- that is, simple brains.""
See also the videos ohn Bonner's slime mold movies ", Slime mold form a map of the Tokyo-area railway system and Rebuilding Iberian motorways with slime mould .

Carl Zimmer wonders Can Answers to Evolution Be Found in Slime?. See also his post .

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Kuffir on Paramakudi killings

Manufacturing complicity: Paramakudi killings via Kuffir's post lessons from paramakudi for telangana
An earlier incident in Tamilnadu Justice, at last . Justice faster than in the Karamchedu case.

Food may tweak our genes

From New Scientist editorial The good news about how food tweaks our genes ( via Ed Yong I’ve got your missing links right here (1 October 2011)):
"EVER since we began farming some 10,000 years ago, we have been genetically modifying the plants we eat. Now it seems that plants have been toggling our genetic switches too, by slipping bits of RNA into our intestines and bloodstreams (see "Eating your greens alters your genes" )."

From the article "Eating your greens alters your genes":
"In what is the strongest evidence yet that the genetic material in food survives digestion and circulates through the body, fragments of plant RNA have been found swimming in the bloodstreams of people and cows. What's more the study by Chen-Yu Zhang of Nanjing University in China and his colleagues shows that some of these plant RNAs muffle gene expression and raise cholesterol levels in mice. The discovery opens up a new way to turn food into medicine: we may be able to design plants that change our genes for the better."
It also suggests that further studies are needed for GM foods and the possibility of concocting useful GM foods.