Saturday, January 31, 2009

Longest Banana Cluster?

Longest Banana Cluster!via ఇంత పెద్ద "అరటి పళ్ళ గెల" ఎప్పుడయినా చూశారా? . For some reason, only the second allows enlargement.

Thinking about science

in 24 episodes how to think about science (via 3quarksdaily):
"Modern societies have tended to take science for granted as a way of knowing, ordering and controlling the world. Everything was subject to science, but science itself largely escaped scrutiny. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years. Historians, sociologists, philosophers and sometimes scientists themselves have begun to ask fundamental questions about how the institution of science is structured and how it knows what it knows. David Cayley talks to some of the leading lights of this new field of study.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Arunn Narasimhan and others have started a science blog in Tamil Ariviyal (via Abi). Arunn says "Visit, bookmark, subscribe to feed, read, comment, participate, suggest, support, spread the word - particularly inside Tamil Nadu among high school students and teachers."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Month of birth and children's health in India

Summary of a recent working paper from the World Bank Month of birth and children's health in India (viaMTEF is The Bayesian Heresy .
Summary: The authors use data from three waves of the India National Family Health Survey to explore the relationship between the month of birth and the health outcomes of young children in India. They find that children born during the monsoon months have lower anthropometric scores compared with children born during the fall and winter months. The authors propose and test four hypotheses that could explain such a correlation. The results emphasize the importance of seasonal variations in affecting environmental conditions at the time of birth and determining the health outcomes of young children in India. Policy interventions that affect these conditions could effectively impact the health and achievement of these children, in a manner similar to nutrition and micronutrient supplementation programs.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Some good out of Satyam

V Chowdary Jampala reports inRacchabanda:
"I did get a chance to visit Emergency Medicine Reseach Institute (EMRI), the not-for-profit organization founded by Ramalinga Raju that operates the 108 service which is similar to the US 911 service (as it was mentioned in this forum before, my brother is part of the leadership of this organization from the very begining). Actually, I had to call 108 a few days ago myself when I witnessed a scooteraccident with minor injuries (it turned out that I was not the only one to make the call).

When my brother first discussed this concept with me exactly four years ago, I was quite skeptical about the utility and feasibility of such a service in India. Now, I find that the use of this number has become ubiquitous throughout the state. The 108 ambulances at the ready are visible at major junctions and urban sites. The service which started about August 2005, now operates about 1650 ambulances and expanded to eight states through out the nation.

EMRI Headquarters is located near Kompalli, and exurb of Hyderabad in a large campus. It houses the corporate headquarters, the Call center for AP, and the national training center for EMTs. The call center has five physicians at any given time who are available to guide the EMTs regarding medical management of these emergencies (our 911 service does not have this). The call center handles about 65,000 calls per day including medical, police and fire emergencies with automated dispatch systems. It has excellent quality control and data gathering mechanisms in place as well as a system for feedback to callers regarding what happened with the incident that was called about. I got to see operatives taking calls and dispatching
ambulances and their case-report forms. In one of the incidents I reviewed, a person that attempted suicide by ingesting acid was taken by the ambulance and handed over to a teaching hospital that was 30 kilometers away within 60 minutes of the initial call - quite impressive by any standards. Both the call center and the ambulances meet the accreditation standards of international bodies. I got to examine both the well designed and well equipped ambulances as well as the training center for the EMTs. I am quite impressed. EMRI is an excellent operation and is an example of what
we are capable of achieving with the right vision and leadership and not compromising with mediocrity.

The truth about Ramalingaraju's actions and culpability with regards to the Satyam debacle will eventually emerge and the rumors and charges floating around may eventually be proven right. However, his contributions to the Indian society with EMRI certainly deserves commendation. His family has contributed about 10 million dollars to start up this operation and keep it running. Even after the state governments began to take over 95% of the cost of maintaining the ambulances, Satyam and Ramalingaraju's foundations were funding about 5% of the costs. Besides the monetary contibution itself, it was Ramalingaraju's insistence that this has to be a state of the art operation meeting the highest international standards that everybody at EMRI credits as being the key for this operation.

Now, it is not clear how that 5% would be made up with contributions from Satyam likely to be unavailable. For the sake of every citizen and resident of India, I hope that EMRI and 108 services continue to go on at the same level of quality."

A readable book on brain plasticity

I finally completed reading The Brain That Changes Itself nearly two months after starting it. It seemed like an exciting new area with lots of real life examples and reports of actual research. Some of it seemed too good to be true and sometimes it seemed like a theory which explains everything. I thought that I should take it slowly and started googling some of the reports. Some of my misgivings are similar to those expressed in the review by Ruth Douillette:
"While it’s encouraging to realize that we do in fact have the ability to control and even manipulate brain function, it’s not quite as simple as that. The title suggests that the brain “changes itself.” It would be more accurate to say that the brain can be changed by significant intervention—therapy, self-talk, electronic devices—but left to itself most likely will continue in whatever rut it has settled into. Habits are hard to break.

Michael Merzenich, whom Doidge quotes liberally, has been studying the brain’s plasticity for nearly thirty years, according to his website. Merzenich leads a company, Posit Science, and we learn from Doidge the tremendous benefits he’s brought to his patients. What Doidge doesn’t mention, but a quick Google search discovers, is that Merzenich’s revolutionary program is quite pricey. Doidge stops just short of an infomercial."
The Wikipedia article onFast ForWord indicates that the resuts are not as consistently good as anticipated. But I still think that it is a wonderful book to explore the possibities of the power of the mind. More about brain plasticity here.
It will go on my list for rereading of some other popular science books : Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's "Mother Nature", Dan Gilbert's "Stumbling on Happiness", Matt Ridley's "The Red Queen", Frans de Waal's "Our Inner Ape" and of course Richard Dawkins.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Misc. links January 23rd

Abi at Nanopoitan has a series on Leelaavati's Daughters. One of the moving stories Lilavati's Daughters: 2. Dr. Anandibai Joshi .

Pakistan in Peril By William Dalrymple.

Steve Waldman has several links to nationalization (of banks) debates in Nationalize like real capitalists.

A New Meme: Blame It on Beijing (and Seoul, and Riyadh...) and Chinese Growth Plunges from Econbrowser.
How Far Can You Throw an Economist?from Mark Thoma's "Economist's View"
Global imbalances and the Triffin dilemma by John Kemp.

And a favourite topic. In The Last Professor Staney Fish reviews the book The Last Professors:The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities by Frank Donaghue. Discussion at Language Log Pure Fish (link via Abi of Nanopolitan). Strangely nobody mentions William Clark's "Academic Charisma and the origins of the Research University" reviewed in The Nutty Professorsor David Labaree's Understanding the Rise of American Higher Education....
Some speculations about future research by Freeman Dyson and David Brin.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Interesting thought

Excerpt from a comment in the post తెలుగు హిందూమతం : ఈనాటి చారిత్రిక అవసరం :
"సంస్కృతం రోజూ పావుగంట చదివితే చాలా వ్యాధులు కూడా నిరోధించబడతాయని శాస్త్రీయంగా పరిశోధనలద్వారా తెలుస్తున్నది."
Rough transation: "One learns from scientific investigations that reading Samskrit for fifteen minutes a day prevents many diseases"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An interesting book about medieval Andhra

I have read only a few history books and do not know where Precolonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra by Cynthia Talbot stands but I found it engrossing.
She chose Andhra region since she felt that its historic experience is more representative of the historic experience of the subcontinent as a whole compared to the well studied core regions like Gangetic pains and Kaveri detlta (page 10) and the medieval period (in this case 1000-1650 and more often the Kakatiya period 1175-1325) because this period corresponds to the era during which the geographic contours of the modern linguistic region was established (page 4). The 1995 article Emergence of Regional Identity and Vernacular Literature: a Case Study in Telugu by S. Nagaraju seems reated. Off and on, I was aso reminded of Peter Turchin's book "War, Peace and War".

Friday, January 16, 2009

A few of my favourite Hindi songs

After the Noor Jajan dhamaal, I started browsing the net for some of the Hindi (Urdu?) songs that I used to listen in the forties and fifties, some from my mother. Here is a variant of Meera bhajan sung by Lata from Nau Bahar AE RI MAIN TO PREM DEEWANI MERA DARD and the bhajan itself by Geeta Roy (Dutt)from Jogan AERI MAIN TO PREM DEEWANI. I still remember vividly some of the Jhoola scenes from this song in Ratan rhimjhim barse badarwa and my mother used to sing this Sawan Ke Badalo. This one from Madhosh with traces of rap(?) Meri Dil Ki Nagariya Mein Aana . And hundreds more though I do not understand Hindi well. These from Kismet Dheere Dheere Aa Re Badal - Amirbai, Dheere Dheere Aa Re Badal - duet spawned a few songs in Telugu films. Unfortunately Telugu film songs from nearly the same period are frequently removed from YouTube.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Noor Jahan Dhamaal

I have been listening to variants of LAL MERI PAT after seeing it in Crazyfinger a few days ago.
More Noor Jahan dhamaals including Sufi dances here.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan version Laal Meri Patt Rakhi Bala Jhoole Lal. Another version by him here. I cannot get rid of it yet.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Various Ramayanas

Many Ramayanas:The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia edited by Paula Richman is available online.
From google books excerpts from Questioning Ramayanas edited by Paula Richman are available. In particular, most of Velcheru Narayana Rao's "the Politics of Telugu Ramanayas: Colonialism, Print Culture, and Literary Movements" is avaible except for references which are in the translation తెలుగు రామాయణాల రాజకీయాలు: తెలుగు రామాయణాల రాజకీయాలు: బ్రిటీష్‌ పాలన, ముద్రణ సంస్కృతి, సాహితీ ఉద్యమాలు publishhed in EemaaTa. The first book has "A Ramayana of Their Own: Women's Oral Tradition in Telugu" by Velcheru Narayana Rao.
I came across these while trying to follow a discussion on Viswanatha Satyanarayana in దీప్తి ధార . Part of the discussion was about Viswanatha's Ramayana and Velcheru's articles seem to put it in a broader context.

Monday, January 12, 2009

And another wonderful link from Chapati Mystery

NAKED LUNCH: Blow daddy from the post Zionists made me forget my Arabic. Beginning of the poem:
Yes, son.
Are we going to have a war with India?
Oh, goody. We will thrash them, right? Like we did in 1857!
It wasn’t in 1857, son.
Oh, okay. But whom did we thrash in 1857?
The British, son…
And the Hindus too, right?
The comments give a link to The Nadeem F. Paracha Work(s) Archive.

Reading recommendations from Chris Blattman

I have only read bits and pieces of these. All of them look very interesting.
Science:Conjectures and Refutations by Karl Popper from the post What do Marx, Freud, and Adler have in common?

The Analysis of Household Surveys: A Microeconometric Approach to Development Policy by Angus Deaton from the post Only read this post if "development" and "econometrics" make you warm and tingly

New Development Economics:We Shall Experiment But How Shall We Learn by Dani Rodrik from the post So you want to be an impact evaluator? A cautionary tale

Endogeneous Presidentialism by James A. Robinson and Ragnar Torvik from the post The rise of Presidentialism

Apparently Chris Blattman spends only about half an hour a day blogging but it will take me a few monthe to learn some of this material.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Interview with Sirivennela

I found this interview, in a form of English not uncommon in Andhra, fascinating : Interview with Sirivennela Seeta Rama Sastry by Jeevi . An excerpt:
"Checkout our Telugu Samethalu (idioms). Each Sametha is like a bullet in a gun. When it comes out, it does with a force that leaves its impact. Each Sametha is a totality of an excellent poem. Can you tell me who wrote those Samethalu? Nobody knows about that! But they are all very dear to us. When you write something that is very near to the life of a common man, he would adapt it in no time. This is the secret of success of Sirivennela Seetarama Sastry. Why do people accept me? I am no way superior to any body among my contemporaries or elders. There is a touch of reality in my songs. Somebody or the other would identify themselves with the feelings in my lyrics."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Some Telugu related material online

at leat today
Classical Telugu Poetry, An Anthology TRANSLATED, EDITED, AND WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman
Buddhism in Modern Andhra: Literary Representations from Telugu by Velcheru Narayana Rao:
Abstract "This essay explores the hermeneutics of modern Buddhism in colonial and post-colonial Andhra, the Telugu speaking area of India. Using four literary works in Telugu: Buddhacaritramu by Chellapilla Venkata Sastri and Divakarla Tirupati Sastri (known as the Twin Poets), Saundaranandamu by Pingali and Katuri, a play Tisyaraksita by Buccibabu, and a short poem entitled ‘A Jataka Tale’ by Viswanatha Satyanarayana, the essay attempts to interpret each of the works in view of the social, political, and cultural background in which they were written. Each writer is introduced with brief information about his life and works, and each of the works is analysed for its literary ideology and impact. None of the writers were Buddhists and their works did not lead to a revival of Buddhism as a religion either.

The essay argues that two of the above works, Buddhacaritramu and Saundaranandamu, written under the influence of Edwin Arnold and Mahatma Gandhi, create a modern version of Buddhism that blends into a modern Hinduism. The essay also describes how the Nehruvian ideology of Indian nationalism incorporates both religions as integral parts of India’s great culture. The play by Buccibabu and ‘A Jataka Tale’ by Viswanatha Satyanarayana attempt a critique of Buddhism from a modernist and Brahminic point of view respectively, but they have not made a serious difference to the general nationalist approval of Buddhism."
Notes on political Thought in medieval and early Modern South India by Velcheru Narayana rao and Sanjay Subrahmanyam (This link does not seem to work, perhaps googling directly may)

Disclaimer: I enjoy reading Velcheru narayana Rao's writings. As with much work on hisory, sociology, anthropolgy etc, I do not have the competence to judge the material and am not always covinced. Some more links to Telugu related articles in cluding one article by Velcheru are in an earlier post.
P.S. I googled "velcheru on budhist plays in telugu" and found the above article by Velcheru and Sanjay Subrahmanyam on page 3 under "Notes on Political Thought in Medieval and Early Modern South India". If I click on it, the paper appears but if I save the URL and try again, it does not appear. I wonder whether somebody knows how to give the link in this situation.
P.P.S. Sreenivas Paruchuri gives this link in Racchabanda and says that the article of Velcheru and Sanjay Subrahmanyam can be downloaded until the end of February 28.

Best and worst jobs in US

Doing the Math to Find the Good Jobs :
"The study, to be released Tuesday from, a new job site, evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress.
According to the study, mathematicians fared best in part because they typically work in favorable conditions -- indoors and in places free of toxic fumes or noise -- unlike those toward the bottom of the list like sewage-plant operator, painter and bricklayer. They also aren't expected to do any heavy lifting, crawling or crouching -- attributes associated with occupations such as firefighter, auto mechanic and plumber."
Part of the chart:
The Best The Worst
1. Mathematician 200. Lumberjack
2. Actuary 199. Dairy Farmer
3. Statistician 198. Taxi Driver
4. Biologist 197. Seaman
5. Software Engineer 196. EMT
6. Computer Systems Analyst 195. Garbage Collector
7. Historian 194. Welder
8. Sociologist 193. Roustabout
9. Industrial Designer 192. Ironworker
10. Accountant 191. Construction Worker
11. Economist 190. Mail Carrier
12. Philosopher 189. Sheet Metal Worker
13. Physicist
(via Felix Salmon )

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A view from Pakistan

From Violence without limits and Pakistan's challenge (via 3quarksdaily):
"Put simply, to effectively meet the Islamist challenge, the Pakistani state must finally accept and fully exercise its responsibility to maintain peace, provide justice, foster democracy and participation, and make available in an equitable manner the resources necessary for economic and social development. Pakistan’s neighbours and the world will need to help."
P.S. (8th January) Amitav Kumar links to an article by Mohammed Hanif Ten myths about Pakistan which presents a very different picture. This does not mention any thing about Dawood's stay in Pakistan or the status of minorities. It is possible that for certain groups life is 'normal' in Pakistan like in many other countries

A Glenn Greenwald quote

More oddities in the U.S. "debate" over Israel/Gaza:
"I have little appreciation for those who believe, one way or the other, that they can reliably predict what Obama is going to do -- either on this issue or others. That requires a clairvoyance which I believe people lack."

Lazy journalism?

In The Next World Order Gurucharan Das states "The speed with which India is creating world-class companies is also a shock to the Chinese, whose corporate structure is based on state-owned and foreign companies.
I have no satisfactory explanation for all this, but I think it may have something to do with India’s much-reviled caste system. Vaishyas, members of the merchant caste, who have learned over generations how to accumulate capital, give the nation a competitive advantage. Classical liberals may be right in thinking that commerce is a natural trait, but it helps if there is a devoted group of risk-taking entrepreneurs around to take advantage of the opportunity. Not surprisingly, Vaishyas still dominate the Forbes list of Indian billionaires."
This sounds plausible but I wish that he has given some numbers, sources and more evidence instead of just a list of billionaires. One could have also said that Indian democracy unleashed entrepreneurial forces kept in check under colonialism or caste system or whatever. In any case, browsing through an old paper of John Harriss (THE GREAT TRADITION GLOBALIZES: REFLECTIONS ON TWO STUDIES OF .THE INDUSTRIAL LEADERS. OF MADRAS ), I find:
"Much in the business world of Madras/Chennai appears to be little changed. Most of the major companies of Singer's time are still important today; and the pre-eminence
of Brahman families amongst the business leaders of Chennai is as marked as it was in 19641. Amongst his 17 industrial leaders Singer found nine Tamil Brahmans(seven Smarta Brahmans, or Iyers; and two Srivaisnava Brahmans, or Iyengars); four Chettiars; one Mudaliar; one Kamma; two Muslims; one from a Gujarati merchant Hindu family; and one from a Syrian Christian family. The nineteen family or other ownership groups. which I identified amongst the 31 leading companies include: eight Tamil Brahmans (six Iyers and two Iyengars); three Chettiars; three Reddys; one Saiva Mudaliar (not the same as in 1964); one Kamma (the same family as in 1964); one Syrian Christian (the same as in 1964); one Raja and one Marwari. The Brahman-
owned family businesses of 1964 have, with only one exception (that of the ill-fated
Standard Motor Company), consolidated their positions; and they have been joined by
highly successful new companies, in software products and in chemicals, also owned
by Brahmans. The largest single group of the new software entrepreneurs is constituted by Brahmans. This new generation of Brahman entrepreneurs comes generally from a different social background, however, from that of the first
generation of Brahman industrialists. Singer referred to the fact that Four of the
Brahman families had come from such localities of Tirunelveli District as
Kallidaikkuricci and Alvarkkuricci, where Brahmans have been noted as traders and
bankers for more than 300 years, and others also came from relatively privileged backgrounds. The new generation of Brahman entrepreneurs comes, however, from families of white collar workers, minor officials, or smaller business."
This was a 2003 preprint published later. There is a more recent book by Harish damodaran India's new capitalists: Caste, Business, and Industry in a Modern Nation which I have not read. From the index here, it appears to be more of study of south and west India.
Businessworld reviewhere, The Hindu review here and
The Telegraph review here. The last review was discussed in Entertaining Research.
According to the Businessworld review "The Central Statistical Organisation’s 1998 economic census (that reviewed business ownership) provides some startling data. The census itself was enormous — it covered over 30 million businesses engaged in all forms of business activity except hard-core agriculture — construction, trading, hospitality, finance and other services. Other backward castes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes owned almost 45 per cent of all business enterprises."
An interview with Harish Damodaran here.Excerpt: "Simply put, what I saw was a diversity of ownership by caste in the South, unlike in the North where every industrialist is a Bania or Khatri. In the South, the farmer could be Gounder or a Kamma, as much an industrialist could be from these castes. All this set me thinking and, around mid-2004, I started researching and examining the database of BSE-listed companies to try and trace the caste origins of the promoters. I ended up creating a database of around 5,000 companies and all this eventually led to my writing the book." Much more in the interview.

Imamuddin Khan Babi

From Indogram article Death of a Patriot by Rupa Abdi :
"On the 24th of February, 2008, the body of a 94 year old poet prince was led to rest. He was Imamuddin Khan Babi, who wrote poetry by the pen name of Ruswa Mazloom, and was the erstwhile ruler of Pajod, a small jagir in Junagadh district of Gujarat. Few in India have heard his name, and even fewer know that in spite of being the jagirdaar of one of the smallest princely states in India he towered above the other princes of pre-independence India.
During the communal riots of 1947, a dargah in Pajod, was destroyed by rioters. Instead of rebuilding the dargah, Imamuddin Khan chose to build a library there. This library stands today as a lesson to every Indian who talks about destroying or rebuilding temples and mosques in disputed areas.
During his brief rule of twelve years, Imamuddin Khan provided his subjects with electricity, established a full fledged hospital in his mother, Zenab Bibi’s name. The doctors of this hospital would offer free services to their patients and even visit them at home. Imamuddin Khan also established a school for Harijans, started a sports club by the name of ‘Isharat’. He appointed a Harijan woman as its secretary. He also formed a volley ball team of his state and trained two Harijans to become a part of this team. At the time when the king was the owner of the entire land of his kingdom, Imamuddin Khan introduced a law whereby the farmer who tilled the land became its sole owner.
After independence, he became a member of Congress Seva Dal and continued to work for the progress of his erstwhile state."

Friday, January 02, 2009

V.S. Ramachandran on self awareness

"• Even odder is a phenomenon called "The telephone syndrome". The patient (I'll call him John) will display akinetic mutism—no visual consciousness—when seeing his (say) father in person. But if he receives a phone call from his father he suddenly becomes conscious and starts conversing with him normally. (S. Sriram and Orrin Devinsky, personal communication.) It's as if there are two Johns—the visual John who is only partially conscious and the auditory John (with his own self) who talks over the phone. This implies a degree of segregation of selves—all the way from sensory areas to motor output—that no one would have suspected.

We will now consider two aspects of self that are considered almost axiomatic. First its essentially private nature. You can empathise with someone but never to the point of experiencing her sensations or dissolving into her (except in pathological states like folie a duex and romantic love). Second, it is aware of its own existence. A self that negates itself is an oxymoron. Yet both these axioms can fall apart in disease; without affecting other aspects of self. An amputee can literally feel his phantom limb being touched when he merely watches a normal person being touched. A person with Cotard's syndrome will deny that he exists; claiming that his body is a mere empty shell. Explaining these disorders in neural terms can help illuminate how the normal self is constructed.

To account for some of these syndromes we need to invoke mirror neurons discovered by Giacomo Rizzolatti, Victorio Gallase and Marco Iacoboni."
The thesis seems to be that the problem of self can be studied empirically and mirror neurons "could be the neural basis of introspection, and of the reciprocity of self awareness and other awareness."
Readable essay and there is a discussion at the end with Marc Hauser.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Planting flowers and vegetables together

may not be such a bad idea (I have been doing this) says Buzzing bees protect plant leaves :
"In tents with bees flying over plants without fruit, caterpillars did less damage to leaves than in quiet tents, the researchers report.
Whatever the history, it makes a good example of hard-to-spot indirect relationships between species in ecosystems, Tautz says.

Also, he says he can imagine that gardeners might someday take advantage of this effect. “Alternating rows of vegetables and flowers not only look beautiful, they may reduce the use of pesticides,” he says."

Book recommenations from Chapati Mystery

In State of the field, Sepoy lists significant books published since 2000 about Indian history. More recommendations in comments. I read only two of them and just planning to read Cynthia Talbot's book after reading some excerpts on the internet.