Friday, December 30, 2011

Atul reminiscences his first exposure to Binaca Geetmala

in 1971 Zindagi ek safar hai suhaana. I enjoyed reading this very much since my experiences of villages, towns, cities and travel are similar. My exposure to Binaca Geetmalais less vivid, nor did I know the name of the host Ameen Sayani. I think that it was in the early fifties and if I remember right, the last song would be one by K.L. Saigal. Normally we would leave then but after a while, Saigal's voice grew on me to the stage where he became my favourite singer ( after Ghantasala of course as is common with many Telugus). I left home for college in 1954 and do not remember much more of Binaca Geetmala. It may be one of those programs which contributed a bit to national integration.
P.S. Atul says "The programme where K L Saigal’s song was the last song was a daily programme called “Puraani filmon ke geet” and it was broadcast in the morning between 7-30 AM to 8 AM." See and other posts in the above blog for more informatio on “Puraani filmon ke geet”. See also Unni at Hamara forums and Geethamanian's post with links to several songs and tunes Growing Up With Magical Melodies.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Two articles on transparency

The Destruction of Economic Facts by Hernando de Soto The Real Housewives of Wall Street by Matt Taibbi
(The above two via The Browser's Best of 2011

Steve Waldman has a different take:
Why is finance so complex?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Improving memory for sea snails

From Science News article Staggered lessons may work better :
"Kandel and others have worked out a lot of the biochemical details of how sea snails learn and form memories. When the creatures start to learn something, two major molecular cascades kick off in nerve cells. Genes jump into action, churning out proteins that then spur other genes into action. One of these cascades happens quickly, and the other one is sluggish, but both need to deliver their products at the same time for a memory to stick.

Byrne and his team used this knowledge to make a mathematical model of how best to deliver this biochemical double-hit. The team asked the computer how to spread out five shocks over a period of several hours. Instead of evenly spacing the five at 20-minute intervals, the model suggested a completely different pattern: Give three doses 10 minutes apart, followed by a fourth dose five minutes later, wait a half hour, and then give a final dose.

“You have these irregular intervals between the treatments,” Byrne says. “That’s the very nonintuitive part of it that you couldn’t have predicted.”

When Byrne and his team tried this training protocol, it worked better than the standard 20-minutes-apart training doses. With the standard protocol, the sea snails forgot what they’d learned after five days. But on the enhanced protocol, the sea snails remembered five days later."

Discussion on India's low scores in Pisa rankings

with relevant links in Tyler Cowen's post Why is India so low in the Pisa rankings?
Edward Berman pointed some of these problems in 1983 "...this emphasis on higher education has led to reduced levels of support for primary education, particularly in rural areas."

Tendulkar sizzles

Tendulkar's brilliance again reflects the Don
If Tendulkar keeps batting like this who cares whether he scores another century or not? Perhaps that is too much to expect.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Kuffir interviews Ambedkar

Imaginary interview What does Dr.Ambedkar say about the Bhagvat Gita? . Having struggled with Rig Veda and some other books before, I found this very reasable and quick introduction to some of the 'mimamsa' systems.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An interesting Indian dance

Apparently famous but I missed it until I saw it inMinai's post Choreographer/Dancer Jack Cole and "Hindu Swing":
The Creation of Woman
Video here
Bhaskar was the son of Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury whose sculpture Triumph of labour (also here. A write up about MODERN INDIAN SCULPTURE ), I saw often on the Marina beach in Madras in my student days.
A part of Bhaskar Roy Chowdury's interestin life here.

Two books on education

Just browsing through John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education which is available online. Apparently a successful teacher "In 1991, he wrote a letter announcing his retirement, titled I Quit, I Think, to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, saying that he no longer wished to "hurt kids to make a living."". Chapter 1 has three sections about "How Hindu Schooling Came To America". An excerpt:
"In 1797, [Andrew]Bell, now forty-two, published an account of what he had seen and done. Pulling no punches, he praised Hindu drill as an effective impediment to learning writing and ciphering, an efficient controlon reading development. A twenty-year-old Quaker, Joseph Lancaster, read Bell’s pamphlet, thought deeply on the method, and concluded, ironically, it would be a cheap way to awaken intellect in the lower classes, ignoring the Anglican’s observation (and Hindu experience) that it did just the opposite."

Another book which I read in parts is "Against Scooling" again by successful teacher Stanley Aronowitz reviewdin TLS Against Schooling: For an Education that Matters
. Much of the criticism seems justified but the solutions seemed vague to me.

Some science links

From Lessons from Plants in Pain, or What We Talk About When We Talk to Ourselves (via Ed Yong's Sunday Links)
"It was in the early 1980s that a few scientists first began to report on trees that seemed to send each other stress signals. One was a zoologist named David Rhoades, at the time studying Red alder (Alnus rubra) and Sitka willow (Salix sitchensis) defense mechanisms at the University of Washington. Rhoades fed caterpillars leaves from trees their brethren had previously attacked. He found that they began to lose their appetites, and often died prematurely. Presumably this was because of some chemical compound the trees were able to release into their leaves as a form of rapid resistance—precisely the kind of thing he’d been looking for.

But Rhoades was surprised to discover that the very same thing happened to caterpillars fed the leaves of undamaged control trees, planted a little distance away. ......
At this point, the evidence that plants can receive, act on, and benefit from specific signals produced by their distressed coequals is pretty compelling."
The post also links to an article on J.C. Bose Lessons from Plants in Pain, or What We Talk About When We Talk to Ourselves

Carl Zimmer on McGurk Effect and related work The Brain Sewing Audio to Video, and Rubber Hands Onto People

Razib Khan discusses a paper on Promiscuity and vaginal bacterial diversity in mice.

From Science News Uncommitted newbies can foil forceful few

From Science Daily Major Step Forward Towards Drought Tolerance in Crops

Monday, December 19, 2011

On the work of some philanthropic foundations

From David Warsh' review How Business Schools Got to Be the Way They Are of "The Roots, Rituals, and Rhetorics of Change: North American Business Schools after the Second World War" by Mie Augier and James G. March:
"Augier and March begin their account with a chapter on Abraham Flexner. It was Flexner’s 1910 report on medical education in the United States and Canada, Bulletin Number Four, from the Carnegie Foundation, that guided foundations’ investment in medical schools for a crucial twenty years after it appeared. The US was suffering from “a century of overproduction of cheap doctors,” Flexner wrote. Universities, not commercial establishments, should train physicians. Fundamental knowledge of science and medicine, not apprenticeships, should be the basis for their education. Professionalism, meaning peer review, should be the rule.

It worked. Within a decade of Flexner’s prescription, the number of medical schools declined dramatically; the quality of students, faculty and instruction in the remaining schools substantially improved; and science, biochemistry in particular, became pervasive in the curriculum. Not surprisingly, in the 1950s and ’60s, the Flexner Report became a model for foundations wishing to reshape the business schools.
It was RAND Corp. that provided the most stimulating incubator of change in the years after World War Two. An acronym for Research And Development, RAND was a private facility originally chartered by the US Air Force to explore ways of organizing scientific and technological knowledge for military purposes. Its first Pentagon boss was Gen. Curtis LeMay. But RAND’s Southern California headquarters, across the street from the Santa Monica pier, quickly grew into a kind of universal think-tank, spinning out important work on strategic thinking, decision making, organization theory and economics of all sorts, much of which found its way into business school curricula.
None of it would have happened the way it did without the Ford Foundation. Chartered in 1936, the philanthropy in the 1950s supported a number of liberal causes, among them public broadcasting in the United States, nation-building in Asia and support for the social and behavioral sciences. ....And so it was that the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh – a small, unranked, and unaccredited school at a second-tier engineering institute, as the authors put it – became a poster- child of the new management education.
There is, after all, a distinct possibility that the attempt to improve the intellectual environment of the business schools overshot and produced something else instead. In any event, the book ends on a note of disappointment:

"As the scholars and policy makers who grew up during the Great Depression and the Second World War and launched their careers in the 1950s and 1960s were gradually removed from the scene, they were replaced by individuals who grew up in different times and were imbued with different, less academic, and more self-interest-oriented perspectives. The “golden age” was transformed to a significant extent into an era of the glorification of huge fortunes and of those who accumulated them, the anointing of greed as a social virtue, and the substitution of the lessons of experience for the lessons of analysis and research.

But, briefly, there was a Camelot.""
Reading this review, I was reminded of Edward H. Bernan's book The Ideology of Philanthropy: The influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller foundations on American foreign policy which takes a less charitable view of the vision of these foundations. A recent discussion of the book by ichael Barker at 'Dissident Voice' The Ideology of Philanthropy says "Seen through the eyes of their elitist foundation executives, democracy only functions when it is ran by the few for the many. Education thus takes a key place in the successful promotion of elite governance both on domestic and international planes of action; and although not well known, Edward Berman, professor emeritus of the University of Louisville, has written an important book that examines just this subject. By reviewing Berman’s study The Influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations on American Foreign Policy: The Ideology of Philanthropy (State University of New York Press, 1983), this article aims to publicize his vitally important, though oft neglected, ideas on the anti-democratic nature of liberal philanthropy."

An interview with Edward Berman and an excerpt from the book with references to education in India

A Rafi song

with dance by Asha Parekh Rafi - Nache Man Mora Magan - Meri Surat Teri Ankhen [1963] which I camw across (possibly) only yeasterday. Music by S.D. Burman.
And a Mannay Dey-Kishore Kumar duet from a different film Ek Chatur Nar

Mark Thoma hosts a discussion

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Robert H. Frank, The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good. From the introductory remarks:
"When households engage in an arms race for positional goods, behavior that benefits individuals can be damaging to the group as a whole. Thus, the presence of positional goods gives markets a way to fail over and above the traditional sources of market failure discussed in textbooks. I do have a few questions and mild disagreements, we’ll get to those in the discussion, but the main idea in the book – understanding the relationship between individual maximizing behavior and aggregate outcomes – is essential in determining when and how governments ought to be involved in economic affairs. When individual behavior aggregates into what’s best for the community, there is no need for government to intervene. But when that’s not true – and this book adds to the list or reasons to suspect there are important cases when it’s not – there’s a role for government to play."

An earlier discussion of the book in Savage Minds Darwinian Tax Reform.

The Continuing Relevance of Fred Horsch's Insights on Markets and Morality.
The Role of Public Sector in Development... by Vernon Ruttan
Bombay Plan

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lyla's take on Ramayana

Via జానుతెనుగు సొగసులు , from a comment of Lyla Yerneni
Re: Some more on the raamaayaNa debate.... :

"Rama simply was looking for a missing wife. Rama did not go looking for his wife, because he is worried what other people may say on CNN, if he doesn't. He went after her because he loved her. It is as simple as that. Is it so hard to believe, :-)if not now, that once there was a man who loved his wife?:-)"

It seems that Lyla's creativity was not stilled by teachers Teachers Don’t Like Creative Students.

Lekhini may be used to convert some of the passages to Telugu.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How do doctors die?

Having come to that age when old friends are falling one by one or ill and looking for alternative medical treatments and being constantly bombared with advertisements about funeral expenses, it is reassuring to see this artcle How Doctors Die via Ed Yong's Sunday links:

Friday, December 09, 2011

Links, Dec. 9, 2011

From Virender Sehwag's vision of the future, and David Warner:
"And there is something more important here than just a mindshift, than changes in tactics or techniques. The game must always move forwards and renew itself. Essentially it must accelerate to match the speed of the culture in which it exists. Test cricket of the 1950s is as distant now as the rest of that decade, with its housewives and its radio plays and its music hall conservatism. Warner may or may not succeed as a Test match opener – do you want to bet against Viru? – but plenty like him will. At some point or other they will be the norm, and they will be standing on Sehwag's shoulders, the shoulders of a giant. If he is not the best batsman of his time (and he might be), he is the most significant; a genius and a visionary with it."

From The idea of Dev Anand:
"The intellectual rigour of Hollywood has mostly eluded mainstream Indian cinema, which largely depended on capable writers and musicians to sustain the films.
Dev Anand was fortunate to have Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh, Shailendra and Sachin Dev Burman to bail him out. Without them, the idea of Dev Anand and the middle classes he wooed would be jostling with real life, just as Urdu has been battling for
survival in today’s cinema halls and outside."

Two discussions on Gita with some interesting and some strange comments:
The Agenda of the Gita by Bhpinder Singh
The Bhagavad Gita Revisited - Part 1 by Namit Arora

From "A Bluesy Road-Novel with a Lot of Economic Theory and Analysis":
"Q: Why teach The Grapes of Wrath and not some other novel?
A: Good question. First and foremost, it’s an incredibly moving novel that—I openly admit—continues to make me laugh and cry. Now laughing and crying are not necessary for good pedagogy. But it seems to me that if a fact-based story about economic history can make a grown man and professor of economics cry, it must have something important to say. The visible hand of class conflict needs to be aired and this novel does it."

Ed yong on Henrik Ehrsson,The master of illusions with a link to Ed Yong's article in Nature Out-of-body experience: Master of illusion. From the Nature article:
"Yet Ehrsson's illusions have shown that such certainties, built on a lifetime of experience, can be disrupted with just ten seconds of visual and tactile deception. This surprising malleability suggests that the brain continuously constructs its feeling of body ownership using information from the senses — a finding that has earned Ehrsson publications in Science and other top journals, along with the attention of other neuroscientists.......
At the time, some scientists and members of the public were openly sceptical that the illusion really worked. But on a trip to Ehrsson's lab this September, I was convinced. The goggles I wore displayed the view from a camera pointing at my back (see 'Out-of-body experience'). Ehrsson tapped my chest with one plastic rod while using a second one to synchronously prod at the camera. I saw and felt my chest being prodded at the same time as I saw a picture of myself from behind. Within ten seconds, I felt as if I was being pulled out of my real body and was floating several feet behind it."

Images of coastal Andhra

in this series Coast Under Attack - Part 1 (Telugu language) by Saraswati Kavula. A write up about her in The Hindu Rooted to the ground. I just came across this videos and was mainly fascinated by the images of an area in which I grew up and thrilled to hear the spoken Telugu from different parts of the region.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Doing nothing helps

sometimes When Nothing Works:
"I'd had tendinitis in my elbow for over a year. Even something as gentle as twisting a doorknob made me wince in pain. I went to see my brother, Bertie, who also happens to be my doctor.

As Bertie examined my elbow, I reminded him of everything I had done to try to fix my problem. When it began to hurt, I used ibuprofen. When that didn't work, we tried two injections of cortisone, six months apart. Meanwhile, I did physical therapy, tried ultrasound, used a brace, performed daily exercises, applied ice, and went to acupuncture and massage. Pushed to the edge, I even did an experimental therapy — a platelet-rich plasma injection, which had gained media attention because some high-profile athletes had used it. The shot was incredibly painful and only made my problem worse.

"Nothing has helped!" I complained.

"I have an idea," Bertie said. "Something we haven't yet tried."

"What?" I hoped it wouldn't be too time-consuming or expensive.

"You just said it yourself," he replied. "Nothing."

He suggested I stop all treatments for the next six months. "All your attempts to fix your elbow might just be agitating it," he told me. "I bet after a few months of doing nothing the pain will just go away."

I was skeptical but game. Sure enough, within a few months, my pain had disappeared."

Possibly related The Evolved Self-Management System by Nicholas Humphrey (via 3quarksdaily)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Future of small farmers

Chris Blattman has a post Questions more important than you might think: Are small farms in India inefficient? wondering about the efficiency of small farms in India. I remember Katapati Muahari Rao tellings me that future of farming in India is in large farms of the order of 2000-3000 acres, leasing land from small farmers and bringing in technology. It was a brief conversation and the role of the small farmers was not clear to me. There is a model from Latin America 'Grobocopatel' mentioned in an earlier post Agriculture Process Outsourcing by an Argentine Patel ; again the role of small farmers is not explicit in this description. In a brief newspaper report World’s ‘biggest farmer’ says future is in outsourcing Gustavo Grobocopatel says:
“What they (farmers) could possibly do—as my experience in Latin America tells me—is that villages can pool together the land and run it like cooperatives.”

This, according to Grobocopatel, “is agribusiness in the new era of knowledge society” and would further help the farmers do well in times when input costs are swelling, thereby forcing many to quit farming as returns don’t match to the costs.

“You work according to your strengths: you good at driving trucks, be in transportation; you good in getting people on to the fields, be in the harvesting,” he says.
In an interview , Gustavo Grobocopatel talks of vertical as well as horizantal integration. Their organization Grupo Los Grobo uses GM seeds and many of their methods seem to avoid the degradation of land. Most of the articles about Grupo Los Grobo and Gustavo Grobocopatel I could find are in Spanish and I am not able to find any more details. But their methods seem worth looking into.
P.S. On the other hand Vamsi Vakulabharanam and others describe a situation in Andhra Pradesh Understanding the Andhra Crop Holiday movement (the article will be available free online for a month) where any kind of solution seems fraught with political problems.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A Walk-Out in Harvard

The repost of a Peter Dorman's post with comments by Mark Thoma "Mankiw’s Reply to the Walk-Out". Peter Dorman says
"That’s a bias. ... There is a reason why exposure to economics, and especially the worldview-defining core of microeconomics, tends to shift student views, on average, in a libertarian direction."
with a link to the 1993 article Does Studying Economice Inhibit Cooperation?
Marion Foucarde in The construction of a Global Profession: The Transnationalization of Economics(2006) points to the influence of US trained economists in various developing countries.
A recent post by Jeff Frankel The Hour of Technocrats mentions "Among current heads of state who could be considered technocrats are President Felipe Calderónof Mexico, President Sebastián Piñeraof Chile, and President Ellen Johnson Sirleafof Liberia. Nobody could accuse these three of having led sheltered lives or being unaccustomed to making difficult decisions. But it happens that all three received their ivory tower training at the Harvard."
It seems that what is taught in Harvard concerns all of us.

Songs from Dev Anand films

Dev Anand passed away a few days ago in London. Following the lives and loves of heros like Dev Anand was a part of our growing up. He always struck me as a decent man and I think that he will be remembered for a long time for the songs from his films. He seems to have been extraordinarily lucky in this respect with several singers and music directors contributing to the success of his films. atul's bollywood song a day- with full lyrics has several posts starting with this to several of his popular songs. I will just link to two which are not probably so well known, one with Suraiya and another with Sheila Ramani(?):
Tum Meet Mere Tum Praan Mere
Funtoosh - O G O Humne Aaj Koina

This seems to be from a journalist who knew him for a few years. Noticed in the links in one of Outlook blogs

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Freeman Dyson reviews Kahnenman

in How to Dispel Your Illusions and regrets the omission of Freud and William James:
" Admirers of Freud and James may hope that the time may come when they will stand together with Kahneman as three great explorers of the human psyche, Freud and James as explorers of our deeper emotions, Kahneman as the explorer of our more humdrum cognitive processes. But that time has not yet come. Meanwhile, we must be grateful to Kahneman for giving us in this book a joyful understanding of the practical side of our personalities."

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Some children songs from Hindi films

Now that Jhansi is away in India, I have to do do more baby sitting than usual. IPad seems to be a great help and apart from the games, I plat to Ava (3) and Leila (5) songs like these:
Bolree Kathputli
Chhun Chhun Karti Aayee Chidiya
chali kaun se des Boot Polish
LATA-GEETA DUTT DUET from Toofan Aur Diya (1956).

None of us know Hindi but they seem to like the first two or three and then get bored unless I dance along which causes much amusement if anyobe else is around. I think that dances should be natural like the first few steps Nain so Nain Naahi Milaao but many dances seem to involve too much gymnastics without much gracs. Possibly this 'naturalness' and 'grace' are very subjective depending on one's exposure and may be some naturalness comes only to the well trained.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Tom Ferguson interview

Tom Ferguson: Democratic Governance Is Becoming Discredited.
A recent article by him Posted Prices and the Capitol Hill Stalemate Machine
via Naked Capotalism

Another site for old telugu songs

I found a few songs heredesibantu that I could not find (quickly) in the other sites I visit like:
Tamil sites seem more comprehensive and some times I find interesting Telugu songs in some Tamil sites, usually via google search.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A TANA program

Telugu Assosciation of North America has several programs for the benefit of the poor in India as well as USA. One of the recent programs is Be a part in Feeding the Orphans. I became aware of some of TANA programs through the organizers of Breadsocietyindia. Apparently, it was a struggling organization until TANA helped them substantially. I also heard of various health and other programs initiated and funded by TANA. My impression is that TANA and many other organizations are doing useful work. Sometimes most of what one contributes and may be more (Breadsocietyindia is not a part of TANA but I found that organizers do not take any salaries and even for organizational work, they try to combine with their own work so as NOT to use any organizational funds). It seems that TANA often finds such people for their work in India and I feel that programs such as above may be considered for supporting.

Andhra Pradesh announces interest free loans to Self Help Groups

Interest-free loans for SHG members from January:
"The members of Self Help Groups in the Andhra Pradesh will get interest-free loans up to Rs 5 lakh from January 1.
This was announced by the Chief Minister, Mr N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, in the Rachabanda programme at Shadnagar in Mahabubnagar district on Friday. However, women would be eligible for interest waiver only if they ensure prompt repayment.
As banks were now charging 14 per cent interest on loans to self help groups, the interest-free loans would cause a financial burden of Rs 1,400 crore on the State Government, the Chief Minister said. .................
The Govt had a target of disbursing Rs 10,000 crore loans to poor women this year. The self help groups in the rural areas would be given Rs 9,000 crore loans while those in the urban areas would get Rs 1,000 crore. In the last five years, Rs 800 crore was given to the poor women under the scheme, he added. There are 1.11 crore women in the State in self help groups."
Guljar Natarajan says in Negative interest rate for microloans :
"Given the nearly 10% rate of inflation, the state government would actually be lending at minus 10% to these SHGs. It would form the most generous bank-lending program in scale anywhere (possibly anytime) in the world."
The following post Multiple Borrowing: One, Two, Three…..How many loans are enough? from India Development blog gives some ideas of the amounts borrowed. The largest group seem to borrow about 5000-15000 rupees at a given time. In a small microloan group I am familiar with, the usual loans are about five to eight thousand rupees. Even though these amounts are very small ( some middle class people with whom I went to school now claim to have assests worth several crores, a few upto thousand crores), they seem to help the getting by though they may not get out of poverty or may not lead to investment and growth.
Rohini Mohan in a quick write up on the microfinance crisis in AP wrote about the genesis of SHGs in AP Money for nothing. And misery for free :
"Two decades ago — around the same time that Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunus was setting up the Grameen Bank model of microfinance in Bangladesh — post-liberalisation India too was mulling over a staggering figure. Sixty percent of the country did not have access to bank savings or credit. Yunus was turning the rules of banking upside down, giving millions of small loans without collateral to people normal banks thought least creditworthy: poor rural women. India’s pilot project came in 1992, when NABARD created the SHG-Bank Linkage Programme, involving 255 SHGs across the country.

In the SHG programme, women form groups of 11-20 members. Every member must first save at least Rs. 30 a month, which collectively acts as the collateral against which the group can avail bank loans at 12-15 percent interest. The group then relends to its members at 16-25 percent interest, factoring in possibilities of default.

“As a group, low-income women not only get access to bank credit, but also become more creditworthy with every full repayment, eligible for bigger loans,” says Reddy. Since the creditworthiness of the group rides on repayment, each woman in the group exerts pressure on the other to invest the loan in productive activities.

Of the 11 million SHGs, AP has the largest number (9,75,362 SHGs), with close to 90 percent of the state’s rural women as members. “AP has been the most active state in rural microcredit,” says Reddy. “The number of SHGs has increased 10- fold in the past decade.” However, in mid-2010, Hyderabad’s Centre for Economic and Social Studies published a study that shows SHG microcredit is popular, but members get three-fourths of their credit from other sources. So who was meeting this demand?"

My impression is that SHG were only able to help a fraction of the needy but their success laid the ground work for the entry of MFIs and their easy credit policiesslowly led to the later disaster in AP. Probably, we will hear more from
fractured earth and David Roodman's Microfinance Open Book Blog , though Rajshekhar's interests seem to be shifting a bit.

Kotapati Murahari Rao RIP

From Telugu newspapers I understand that Murahari Rao Passed away a few days ago మురహరిరావు కన్నుమూత. Here is a description of his work from Wikipedia Kotapati Murahari Rao.
He was one of the first students of my father Gadde Veera Raghaviah who was Head Master of M.N.M. High School, Gudavalli upto 1951, I think. He was the first Head Master and I think that he was chosen because he was from a farmers' caste. It seems that those days some of the students would not come to school during busy farming days. Apparently, the first Head Master would go to the farms and persuade the farmers to send the students to school. I do not know how far the stories are true but the caste affiliation probably helped my father to do well in that village. I remember him visiting colleges for students' admissions and cities for jobs for students and relatives. Most of those students treated with great affection when my father was alive. Medical treatment was free and there were times when trains and buses were delayed for his arrival. Murahari Rao was one of those who treated him with most affection throughout my father's life. Though Murahari Rao has been part of our lives through out, I started meeting him again only during the last few years. He might have seen some role for me in AP and started introducing me to some bigwigs but I shied away from that sort of life which is not too familar to me now. He leaves behind a very talented daughter Chandra Latha. I was told that at least one of the characters in her novels, her father was the model and we may here more from her in her blog మడత పేజీ (See Remembering Sri Murahari Rao by Babu Gogineni).

P.S.1 From Babu Gogineni's article:
"...he helped bring about improved seed varieties and yet, at the same time, fought along side Dr. P.M. Bhargava, the business practices of Monsanto seeds in India. To do this, he broke up his association with that company at considerable personal financial disadvantage. He was an advocate of modern technology, but not of ancient exploitation."

P.S. 2 A memorial meeting to pay homage to Sri.Kotapati Murahari Rao , Former President Seedsmen Association , Managing Director Pravardhan Seeds Pvt Ltd .
Meeting will be held on 4th December Sunday at Sundarayya Vijnana Kendram , Baghlingampally , Hyderabad at 10.30 AM.
Honour lunch follows at his residence near-by.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

An early Vijayantimala dance

After starting on Minai's Cinema Nritya Gharana and Dances on the Footpath, I have been wtching more dance-songs than usual. Here is one I recently watched by Vijatantimala Pyar Ki Bahar Leke Dil Ka Karar Leke BAHAR (1951). I think that the singer is Shamshad Begum and Padmini appears towards the wnd of the dance. It is from Bahar 195i, a remake of (possibly with quite a few changes) of Vazhkai / Jeevitham. I am not sure whether the dance is in the Tamil or Telugu versions; I saw Jeevitham long ago but remember only a few of the songs. Watching dances seem to be due to the exposure to the above blogs. P.S. The link for the dance is not working but it is available at other places like Richard points out in the comments below that the second dancer too is Vi(y)jayantimala.

From science news and blogs

Leonardo’s Formula Explains Why Trees Don’t Splinter(via Ed Yong)

Coffee delivers jolt deep in the brain

UCSC professor captures video of tool use by fish: Orange-dotted tuskfish cracks clams on rocks
See also the omments by Eric Charles in Tool Use in Fish = Good, Future Planning in Fish = Bad . Similarl points are repeatedly made in Louise Barrett's book 'Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds". Eric Charles has several posts on this book.

Review of 'Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding' by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy It Does Take a Village

Reviews of The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life. By Robert Trivers. Basic Books; 397 pages; $28. Published in Britain as "Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others" by Allen Lane:One by Bryan Appleyard here and another from 'The Guardian' here

Monday, November 21, 2011

A new book on the great divergence

Dan Little discusses in Beyond divergence a new book on the great divergence Before and Beyond Divergence: The Politics of Economic Change in China and Europe by R. Bin Wong and Jean-Laurent Rosenthal.
Apart from covering a much longer period, one of the several new points seems to be:
"The competing states of Europe were frequently drawn into conflict; and conflict often resulted in warfare. R&W argue that this fact of competition had a fateful unintended consequence. It made fortified cities much safer places than open countryside. And this in turn changed the calculation about where "manufacture" could occur at lowest cost. Labor costs were higher in cities, so absent warfare, producers were well advised to pursue a putting-out system involving peasant workers (proto-industrialization; link). But with the threat of marauding armies, European producers were pushed into urban locations. And this in turn gave them incentives to develop labor-saving, capital-intensive techniques. Putting the point bluntly: China didn't have an industrial revolution because it was too safe an environment for labor-intensive production."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Links, November 16, 2011

It seems to be one of those days when several articles look interesting and connect with stuff read earlier.
NY times article Hispanics Reviving Faded Towns on the Plains
From a comment in Guljar Natarajan's post The Eurozone crisis in perspective
"Indian union has no danger of falling apart precisely because the rajasthanis have the option to seamlessly migrate to Maha/TN/Gujarat and send remittances back home. needless to say Greeks cannot do so in Germany."
An earlier post with links on the benefits of labour mobility Evidence for a development idea

MindHacks post on Challenges to the 'death of free will idea' The free will rebellion

More on faecal diet from Ed Yong Faecal diet gives bumblebees defensive bacteria that protect them from parasites
From Louise Barrett's "Beyond the Brain" reviewed here, I see that faecal diet is common among mice too. May be Morarji Desai had a point. A post from few years ago by Tara Smith Fecal transplants to cure Clostridium difficile infection

From Science News Dirty air fosters precipitation extremes and Magic trick reveals unconscious knowledge

And some fun stuff from 'Savage Minds' Buffalaxing in Reverse in Taiwan

Monday, November 14, 2011

The bard of summer gone

I started reading Peter Roebuck's columns in 1989 after moving to Australia and the first difficult years were made bearable (now I would not like to live anywhere else) by his writings and gardening. Here are some obituaries:
Peter Roebuck: a gifted writer and a complex man with a brilliant mind by Vic Marks who knew him from school days at 'The Guardian',
Cricket loses a gifted all-rounder by Greg Baum at 'The Age',
Voice that became part of our summer by Tim Lane at 'The Age'.
P.S. Possible reason for death Peter Roebuck 'faced sexual assault charge'
A sharp mind, a tormented soul
Peter Roebuck ... a tribute from his first African son PSYCHOLOGY MAZIWISA

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Some articles on Hardwick, Vt, USA

A recent post in 'The Automatic Earth' November 12 2011: Bail Out or Revitalize? has an interesting article by Nathan Carey on "The Revitalization of Rural Economies:Profiling Small-Scale Agriculture". In part, it describes the efforts in Hardwich, Vermont:
"The best way to conceive of this revolution is by illustrating a place where the challenge of rebuilding our food systems from the soil up has begun in earnest - Hardwick, Vermont (pop. 3000). The town had its best days in the 1920s, as it was a primary source for granite. When Granite was replaced by concrete as a building material, the industry collapsed. Therefore, the town has been in a sort of stasis for generations. .....
However, there's a growing and well publicized movement happening in Vermont that could provide some clues to the rest of us on how to proceed in a systemic process of revitalizing rural economies. There are many small and medium sized agricultural businesses in Hardwick that popped up within a short time frame and have been growing and making their positive influence felt."
The town was profiled in a 2008 NY Times article Uniting Around Food to Save an Ailing Town and a 2010 book The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food by Ben Hewitt. A review here.

From the NPR article Vermont Town's Food Focus Still A Growing Concept:
"Maybe the same thing can't happen in bigger towns, or major cities. Maybe Hardwick is different. But in this small town, at least, food is moving from the fringes of local life back toward its heart"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dreze and Sen on growth and development

in India. Dreze and Sen observe in Putting Growth In Its Place that eventhough India's economic growth in recent years has been impressive "India has started falling behind every other South Asian country (with the partial exception of Pakistan) in terms of social indicators." Some of the reasons may be "The neglect of elementary education, healthcare, social security and related matters in Indian planning fits into a general pattern of pervasive imbalance of political and economic power that leads to a massive neglect of the interests of the unprivileged. Other glaring manifestations of this pattern include disregard for agriculture and rural development, environmental plunder for private gain with huge social losses, large-scale displacement of rural communities without adequate compensation, and the odd tolerance of human rights violations when the victims come from the underdogs of society."
Thet also note that three states Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Himachal Pradesh which have followed comprehensive social policies in education, health care, child care and some other areas have best social indicatorsamong Indian states.
They conclude
"There is probably no other example in the history of world development of an economy growing so fast for so long with such limited results in terms of broad-based social progress.

There is no mystery in this contrast, or in the limited reach of India’s development efforts. Both reflect the nature of policy priorities in this period. But as we have argued, these priorities can change through democratic engagement—as has already happened to some extent in specific states. However, this requires a radical broadening of public discussion in India to development-related matters—rather than keeping it confined to simple comparisons of the growth of the gnp, and naive admiration (implicit or explicit) of the high living standards of a relatively small part of the population. An exaggerated concentration on the lives of the minority of the better-off, fed strongly by media interest, gives an unreal picture of the rosiness of what is happening to Indians in general, and stifles public dialogue of other issues. Imaginative democratic practice, we have argued, is essential for broadening and enhancing India’s development achievements."

Worth reading in full.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Interview with L.Vijayalakshmi

My granddaughter Ava who is just three has been making me listen to these two songs jalakalatalalo , Varinchi Vachina (on some days quite a few times)for the last two years. One of the four actresses that appear B. Saroja Devi is well known. I found out another L.Vijayalakshmi was a popular dancer and actress who married at the peak of her career and left films. Apparently she was inspired by the dances of Kamala Laxman. Vijayantimala and others and her father transferred to Madras for her training and after a film career of around 7-8 years married following parents' advice and is now a chatered accountant working for Virginia Polytechnic. Here are a couple of dances by her L Vijayalakshmi-Dance & Music-Gundamma Kadha-2in1

A brief biography in the article MGR learnt Bangra for a month to dance with L. Vijayalakshmi and two podcasts of interviews in Telugu and English ( a few minutes in Tamil with a cameo appearence bit of an interview with Chakrapni)
Mohana Murali Interviews Legendary Dancer Smt L. Vijayalakshmi 1 of 2
Mohana Murali Interviews Legendary Dancer Smt L. Vijayalakshmi 2 of 2
and some videos at the same site like NTR, L Vijayalakshmi: Andaala Naaraaja Alukelara.

There are links to some of her dances among other things in cinemachat (the blog seems to have some links to Melbourne).

Aside: In the second interview, at one point, she says 'it is classical but (kaani) graceful'. She seemed to enjoy her dancing and (to my untrained eyes)as good as many of the more famous dancers of those days.

Monday, November 07, 2011

A Japanese bread making experiment

From the Wikipedia aricle on Tacit Knowledge:
"As apprentices learn the craft of their masters through observation, imitation, and practice, so do employees of a firm learn new skills through on-the-job training. When Matsushita started developing its automatic home bread-making machine in 1985, an early problem was how to mechanize the dough-kneading process, a process that takes a master baker years of practice to perfect. To learn this tacit knowledge, a member of the software development team, Ikuko Tanaka, decided to volunteer herself as an apprentice to the head baker of the Osaka International Hotel, who was reputed to produce the area’s best bread. After a period of imitation and practice, one day she observed that the baker was not only stretching but also twisting the dough in a particular fashion (“twisting stretch”), which turned out to be the secret for making tasty bread. The Matsushita home bakery team drew together eleven members from completely different specializations and cultures: product planning, mechanical engineering, control systems, and software development. The “twisting stretch” motion was finally materialized in a prototype after a year of iterative experimentation by the engineers and team members working closely together, combining their explicit knowledge. For example, the engineers added ribs to the inside of the dough case in order to hold the dough better as it is being churned. Another team member suggested a method (later patented) to add yeast at a later stage in the process, thereby preventing the yeast from over-fermenting in high temperatures."
This was popolularized by Nonaka and colloborators and a survey article on related researchresearch
Tacit Knoeldge and Knowledge Conversion:Controversy and Advancement in Organizational Knowledge Creation Theory by Nonaka and Krogh.

Some psychology articles

Via The appliance of psychological science Psychology to the rescue has a 'series of articles from well-known psychologists that describe how psychology has helped them out in everyday life'. More impoertantly, all the articles are about 200 words long. One completeltly new to me
The Zeigarnik effect .

Some books online by Nataraja Ramakrishna

From Nataraja Ramakrishna:
"He was the architect of the revival of the Andhra Natyam dance form, a devotional temple dance tradition performed in Andhra Pradesh for over 400 years until virtually extinct.[3].He is also known for reviving Perini Shivatandavam, 700 year old dance form and brought international fame to it along with Kuchipudi -another traditional dance form. On request of the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy he established Nritya Niketan - a dance school at Hyderabad. "

A semiauto biagraphical bookARDASHATABDI ANDRA NATYAM. syllabus for a course
ANDHRA NATYAM-SILABAS-VAKYANAM and a few more books by him here and here. All in Telugu. I browsed through the first and found them quite interesting with lots of information about great dancers of yesteryears, discussion on various forms of dances in Andhra as well as other parts of India, lines from a number of songs...
Obituaryin Narthaki and 'The Hindu'. I hope that somebody like Paruchuri Sreenivas will write about him som day and put his work in perspective.

Thursday, November 03, 2011


It Happens only in India !! Genius Cow... .

Eemaata November issue

has several interesting articles including a Telugu translation of A.K. Ramanujan's essay on three hundred ramayanas విషయ సూచిక: నవంబర్ 2011. Interestingly, there is 1978 Telugu book by Arudra covering some of the same ground Ramudiki Sita Yemautundi? or Are ye' sure, Sita was his wife. In any case, Delhi University seems to be doing its bit to popularize Ramanujan's excellent article ( I find that two posts about Ramanujan in my blog are getting a large number of hits recently).
There is also an article by the very erudite Paruchuri Sreenivas on 'Visual Culture:Cinema Posters' దృశ్య సంస్కృతి: సినిమా పోస్టర్లు.
There are also continuationsof the series of articles by Suresh Kolichala, Kodavatiganti Rohiniprasad, J.K. Mohana Rao and many more. Some of the links take to English articles and Hindi/Urdu songs. A wonderful e-magazine.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Saadat Hasan Manto's book on Bolloywood stars

Reviewed here Stars From Another Sky . Though I do not know Hindi, I watched some Hindi films in the fifties and always enjoyed Hindi film songs. More recently, I watched several clips on the net. Hindi film songs and dances (from films)seems to be a strong part of my background. I enjoyed these pieces from Manto's book (the two seem seem very different; one gentle with genuine affection and the other difficult to describe; the first of which I came across though Qalander's twitter feed).
Ashok Kumar: The Evergreen Hero
Nur Jehan: One in a million

Vilasini Natyam

Fascinated by a dance from an old Pakistani film, I started browsing the net on the origins of some of these dances and found that there is a revival in my home state of some of the devadasi dances under the name 'vilasini natyam' Dancing like the devadasis. Apparently, Arudra started the revival and encouraged the dancer Swapnasundari who has a book on the topic Vilasini Natyam : Bharatam of Telugu Temple and Court Dancers .
Here is a quick write upon the topic:

"VILASINI NATYAM refers to the Bharatham or solo dance- tradition which prevailed in those regions of Peninsular India where Telugu cultural forms were practiced for many centuries. Andhra Bharatham’s past and present history was initially researched by the renowned Telugu cultural historian , late Dr.Arudra .

Noted dancer Swapnasundari had taken up independent pursuit of the Telugu people’ Bharatham from the early ‘nineties, by directly learning from the descendants of erstwhile temple & court dancers of Telugu regions.

From 1994, Dr. Arudra guided Swapnasundari by monitored her dance-training under the hereditary Telugu hereditary female dancers while simultaneously guiding her in the historical aspects of Andhra Bharatham. The successful reclamation of Andhra Bharatham and its recasting as Vilasini Natyam is the result of their pioneering efforts."

The names Arudraand his son in law Kalyan Mukherjea appeared a few times in this blog.
P.S. A nice article about dvadasi type dances in films here

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

More music from Pakistani films

Classical Music Competition from a Pakistani film..
The MD seems to be the same as that of a film mentioned in an earlier post A Pakistani flm song

Growing luffa in Melbourne

My efforts to grow beerakaaya (బీరకాయ, Luffa acutangula)in Melbourne seem to be taking a beating for a second year. They take about four-five months to yield mature vegetables (For the Love of Luffa, or is it Loufah?)and last year the winter was long and by the time I got one luffa, the summer was over. So this year I decided to grow the seedlings indoor and plant them outside as soon as it got warm. But as soon as I took them outside, they were eaten by insects.
I should try to consult some experts before next year.

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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Too much medicine?

Recent experiences with doctors made me wonder whether we are getting too much medical care by the way testing, treatment, follow ups ad so on ( I had some minor discomfort while chewing for a few months and one of the doctors I visit for arthritic problems immediately suspected temporal arteritis and after a battery of preliminary tests wanted me to go for an invasive biopsy near the jaw. I decided that I had enough and resisted for a few weeks ad later blood tests indicated that there was probably an error in the diagnosis. But the doubts linger on. Just as with cars, I decided not to go to doctors, particularly specialists unless the system seems near breakdown). The result is that I googled 'too much medicine' and found various reports like this:
Patients get too much medical care, doctors say:28% of doctors say they overtreat their patients
Too Much Medicine: A Doctor's Guide to Better and More Affordable Health Care
both about US but I have heard similar stories here in Australia and in India. A recent article of Atul Gawande Cowboys and Pit Crews suggests that the problem may be even more basic:
"The doctors of former generations lament what medicine has become. If they could start over, the surveys tell us, they wouldn’t choose the profession today. They recall a simpler past without insurance-company hassles, government regulations, malpractice litigation, not to mention nurses and doctors bearing tattoos and talking of wanting “balance” in their lives. These are not the cause of their unease, however. They are symptoms of a deeper condition—which is the reality that medicine’s complexity has exceeded our individual capabilities as doctors."

In the case of mental illnesses, problems may be even worse suggests Ethan Watters in Crazy like us: the globalization of the American psyche. Compare the third chapter on Schizophrenia in Zanzibar summarized here and the recent report in Neurosceptic Schizophrenia And The Developing World Revisited.