Thursday, January 31, 2013

Migrants' transfers three times more than aid budgets

From The Guardian "The amount has tripled in a decade and is now more than three times larger than total global aid budgets, sparking serious debate as to whether migration and the money it generates is a realistic alternative to just doling out aid. If remittances at the level recorded by the World Bank were a single economy, it would be the 22nd largest in the world, bigger than Iran or Argentina."
The real figure may be larger since many bypass banks and transfer companies from which the data is recorded by the World Bank. The transfer companies swallow quite a bit of money "At present, the average fee is about 9%, meaning an average of $18 for every $200 sent, but in some parts it tops 20%." I find that in transferring money to India by banks, about three banks, one here and two in India have been charging money, but overall it came to about six percent for a transfer of a thousand Australian dollars. For smaller amounts, the percentage gets higher.

Duncan Green reviewed a book "a distillation of 6000 interviews carried out from 2005-9 with people who have received or been involved in aid......And it’s an uncomfortable read: it had me squirming on multiple levels, because of its highly convincing criticisms of the aid business, the crassness of its generalizations, and its tendency to suggest what we already know to be true (and are trying to put into practice), not to mention wondering whether my negative reactions were just defensiveness. But the book’s origins – giving a voice to those on the receiving end of aid – means it is particularly worth reading, and some of it is unexpected and (I think) new."
Possibly, the aid by the kith and kin gets closer to the real needs of the recipients.

Old people's problems

Jarred Diamond on the danger of taking showers That Daily Shower Can be a Killer via 3quarksdaily where the suggested solutions by commentators are using stools or grab bars.
A less dangerous problem is with the bladder. According to Sadat Manto ""Out here, many Mullah types after urinating pick up a stone and with one hand inside their untied shalwar, use the stone to absorb the after-drops of urine as they resume their walk." I have not heard of modern solutions. May be some sort of diapers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Articles on Mali

Trying to follow the events in Mali, I came across a site which has several articles like this Mali War: The Wages of Sin.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review of 'The World Until Yesterday'

in The Guardian by Wade Davis.Forget the book and read the review.  Brilliant as Vaughan Bell comments in the renewed Spike Activity.

Sign of aging or infection?

The Hindu article Could it be an infection? has some advice to older people and doctors. From my experience, it may be also good to avoid some doctors, particularly those who send us for too many  expensive tests and make us come regularly to visit them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Buddy scheme in U.K.

Guardian article 'Buddy' scheme to give more multinationals access to ministers :
"The government is expanding a controversial scheme which pairs dozens of multinational companies with a ministerial "buddy", giving them privileged access to the heart of government,...
Analysis of official registers reveals the 38 companies in the first wave of the initiative – more than two-thirds of which are based overseas – have collectively had 698 face-to-face meetings with ministers under the current government, prompting accusations of an over-cosy relationship between corporations and ministers.
The full degree of contact between the chosen companies and the government is not known as telephone calls, emails, and meetings with officials are not recorded on the registers."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wazir Jan song?

The Wazir Jan song mentioned before, possibly from around 1906, has disappeared at that link but is now available at
uploaded by Shalin Bhatt whose uploads I found via Songs on the Footpath.
P.S. See Shalin Bhatt's comment at the above YouTube link. Apparently, the removed video was also his and was removed by himself when he realized that it was sung by Dipali Nag.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ed Yong on fecal and pseudo-fecal transplants

From Fecal transplants beat antibiotics in clinical trial "The infusions of faeces cured 94 percent of patients who received it (15 out of 16), all of whom had already suffered at least one relapse of C.difficile. By comparison, the standard antibiotic—vancomycin—only cured 27 percent of patients (7 out of 26). The difference was so great that the Dutch team behind the study had to stop the trial early. Everyone eventually received the faecal transplants."

See also his article in Nature News. His earlier article on pseudo-poo cures. An earlier post with links to various articles including one about Australian studies which showed promise in the treatment of Crohn's disease.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The British Queen's veto powers

From The Guardian article Ministers accused of exploiting royal veto to block embarrassing legislation: "Tam Dalyell, the sponsor of a 1999 parliamentary bill that aimed to give MPs a vote on military action against Saddam Hussein, said he is "incandescent and angry" that it was blocked by the Queen under apparent influence from Tony Blair's government. It also emerged that Harold Wilson used the Queen's power to kill off politically embarrassing bills about Zimbabwe and peerages."
I wonder how many antiquated colonial laws are still on the books and whether they are being used in countries like India.
P.S. The above link attributes it Dipali Nag where as the disappeared YouTube attributed it to Wazir Jan. It does appear in Michael Kinnear's book on page 182 with attribution to Wazir Jan of Benares. May be it is in the repertoire of several singers for a long time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Use Toilet! & Get Money!

From Scope (via Professor Shiv Shankar in Chennai) "The reason for paying money for the users is to impress on them the high nutrient value of human excreta, which is collected in the toilet is used for farming."

More information here,  here, and here.

Hindustani Music in Dharwad

Earlier Ramachandra Guha said that "How and why Dharwad became a nucleus of shastriya sangeet awaits explanation." Tejaswani Niranjana attempts an answer in "Music in the Balance: Language, Modernity and Hindustani Sangeet in Dharwad"  (via Guru  . The EPW articles usually available for a month without subscription). Abstract:
"The paper examines the social role of Hindustani music in the Dharwad-Hubli region, situating the music's early 20th century emergence and proliferation against and within the debates on language that were central to cultural transformation in that area. What was the problem of Kannada and more broadly the language question in the mid to late 19th and early 20th centuries? What might have been the role of vocal music in negotiating the language conflict? The paper suggests that Hindustani music is part of the cultural labour undertaken in the region during the rise of Kannada "nationalism". The phrase draws attention to the nature of the work involved in cultural practice and performance, and the nature of performers' activity, through teaching, singing, playing, evaluating and arguing about music. Cultural labour references a visible aspect of social transformation and social process, the latter to be seen as marked by elusive shifts in ways of living, thinking and creating. The formation of the taste for Hindustani sangeet in Dharwad is one result of such shifts."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dean Baker on Aaron Swartz

In "Aaron Swartz: A Tragic Early Death":
"Here is an administration that could find nothing to prosecute at the Wall Street banks who enriched themselves by passing on hundreds of billions of dollars of fraudulent mortgages in mortgage backed securities and complex derivative instruments, but found the time and resources to prosecute a young man who wanted to make academic research freely available to the world.
It would be an appropriate tribute to Aaron if his death prompted a re-examination of copyright and patent laws. These laws are clearly acting as an impediment to innovation and progress. If economists had the allegiance to efficiency that they claim, and not just serving the rich and powerful, the profession would be devoting its energies to finding more modern mechanisms for promoting creative work and innovation.
Unfortunately most economists are comfortable with the status quo, regardless of how corrupt it might be. Let's hope that Aaron's tragic death can be an inspiration to revamping intellectual property and making a better world."

Michal Kalecki's 1944 essay on unemployment

seems to making rounds again. The essay "Political Aspects of Full Employment" says among other things: "The reasons for the opposition of the 'industrial leaders' to full employment achieved by government spending may be subdivided into three categories: (i) dislike of government interference in the problem of employment as such; (ii) dislike of the direction of government spending (public investment and subsidizing consumption); (iii) dislike of the social and political changes resulting from the maintenance of full employment.  We shall examine each of these three categories of objections to the government expansion policy in detail."
Earlier, Richard Williamson highlighted another quote from the paper to discuss US unemployment and said "There is little I have ever said or thought about economics that Kalecki hadn’t said or thought better in this short and very readable essay." More recently Aditya Chakraborty has an article in The Guardianm titled "To understand the deepening mess we are in now, it is worth looking to the words of a Polish economist in 1944" 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Harmless Economics

An interesting article 'The Naural Experimenter' on the work of Joshua Angrist, coauthor of Mostly Harmless Economics: An Empiricists's Companion. Discussion at Economist's View, Some praise and criticism from Noam Sheiber Freaks and Geeks and response from Angrist.
Earlier posts on natural experiments here and here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Messiness in research

The Guardian has an article Scientists take to Twitter to reveal their less than scientific methods:
"Scientists are a precise bunch. Our experiments are carefully planned down to the last detail, the methods we use are selected with great care and forethought and our sample sizes are perfectly calibrated to ensure statistically valid results. But first our hypotheses are constructed only after carefully reading our peers' work. You can see evidence of this clearly spelled out in any research paper which will invariably present a logical series experiments that lead to a nice clear conclusion all carefully referenced to all the relevant prior-art. So if a reaction was left for 60 minutes there must be a sound scientific reason for this. And of course the equipment we use is carefully built from only the highest quality parts.
At least these stereotypes are what we wanted you to believe in. That is until a couple of days ago. Since then, scientists from all four corners of the twitterverse have not just dismantled that pure-of-thought image but demolished it with repeated 140-character salvos all bearing the hashtag#overlyhonestmethods. Most of these tweets are jokes that rail against the stuffy and sometimes unclear way that scientific papers are written, but there is certainly more than a grain of truth in most of them."
I am reminded of my own messiness in research which pursued me in retirement. In 2003 I had a long paper with Peter Scott after several years of work. We were exhausted and about to give up when we found the final piece and wrote up the paper over an year. Even though the overall picture seemed clear for many years there were too many details and lot of mistakes crept in. Now the lisy of corrections is about thirty pages long, still in progress, and meanwhile simpler approaches appeared. One of the mistakes was the proof of Theorem 7.11 in the paper which was needed for crucial result on the finiteness of some Boolean algebras. I knew the result since 1995 and convinced Peter of my arguments. But a few years ago, Vincent Guirardel pointed out some examples (not counter examples) which suggested that the result may not be correct. After correcting several other mistakes, we finally came to 7.11 and found our proof wrong and could not prove it. Peter started looking for counter examples, I kept saying that I was not convinced that it was wrong. Then the problem started bugging Peter and after several weeks of exhausting work, he found a correct argument a few weeks ago. Though this had a happy ending, the whole process seemed messy and perhaps many of the published results are wrong but may be get sorted out eventually. Anyway, these mistakes made earlier still keep me thinking about some mathematics off and on. It also helps to have brilliant collaborators.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A nice mathematical exposition

of the Recent Progress in 3-manifolds mentioned earlier by Erica Klarreich

Getting Into Shapes: From Hyperbolic Geometry to Cube Complexes and Back

(via Jo)
More expository artcles by Erica Klarreich at and her research papers here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Links.... January 8th 2013

Vaughan Bell on DSM-5 A depressing financial justification "But bias, as you can find out from picking up any social psychology paper from the past century, is where incentives change our behaviour usually without us having insight into the presence or effect of the influencer.....We’re all susceptible to them. The trick is to recognise they exist and put measures in place to account for them."

Justin Smith My Faith: A Cofession. In the comments Justin Smith says "It is my personal blog, and what I say here has no bearing on my scholarship. As I explicitly said above, this is not an argument for a position, but a profession of faith. " More discussion at 3quarksdaily.

India gang rape victim's father  tells The Sunday People he hopes revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived such attacks.

C.P. Chandrasekhar India's Triumph in Rice "So, if Yingluck Shinawatra is sacrificing exports in order to improve the lot of Thai farmers, India’s rice export success partly occurs at the expense of its poor and needy who are still to be delivered the promised food security."

Minai writes about the iconic dancer Ram Gopal.

Velchru Narayana Rao at eighty, possibly the best writer writing about Telugu in English.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Saigal's Tamil Songs

Possibly wellknown, but I came to know about them only today in a book by V.A.K. Rangarao and

Telugu at Alphabet Olympics

Korean script 'wins' Controversial 'Alphabet Olympics' with Telugu winning the second prize. Discussion at Language Log.

C.Ramachandra as a singer

From an interview with V.A.K. Rangarao:
"Of the Indian male and female singers you have heard, who are your favourites?

When it comes to the male voice, it is unquestionably Singer-Music DirectorChitalkar Ramchandra. I have around one hundred of his songs, both solos and duets. Actually, not many know that his first two films were in Tamil. He told me that he sang only when he could not get the singers he wanted. There is something delightfully off-the-cuff and spontaneous about his singing. In his own words, he never wished to polish a song to a jewel.
Of the female singers, my favourite is Geeta Dutt, even though she was not always on the sharp edge of sruti."
Here is one when Talat  was not availavle:
P.S. The above link is gone. Another

Saturday, January 05, 2013

K. Jamuna Rani still singing

A Jamuna Rani song from 2012 (via a post in oldtelugusongs).
Jamuna Rani remembers her first song from 1944 in this interview:

P.S. Moving stories of Jikki and Leela in fourth episode.
Another series starting here. Candid and very appreciative of her co-singers. Somhow an unusual song and one of my favourites was not mentioned anywhere:
The Telugu version link is not working but the song seems available at sites like pathabangaram.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Susan Bayly om 'saints, goddesses, and kings...'

I have been reading 'Saints, Goddesses and Kings: Muslims and Christians in South Indian Society, 1700-1900' off and on. It is interesting and seems to explain some rituals that puzzled me. It seems available for downloading at some sites. I am not sure whether there are different editions and what is available is an earlier edition. She has also written 'Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age' which also looks interesting but I have only read a few pages of it.
P.S. Both are available to buy or read at
I do not know any thing about the site but Vamsi Mohan Maganti comments that quite a few good reads are available at that site.

Arunkumar Deshmukh on the arrival of the golden age of Hindi Film Music

in Atul's blog (as usual short, comprehensive seems generally correct to me):
"The fifth decade gave us musical films like, Khazanchi, Basant, Khandan, Ratan, Shehnai, Anmol Ghadi, Andaz, Badi Behan, Ek thi ladki, Patanga, Barsat, Mahal etc etc. Almost every alternate film was musical.
The Golden Era had arrived.
Filmistan’s popular film Shehnai-47 also played an important role in the history of HFM.
C.Ramchandra came into his own with this film. As newer experiments were made in HFM, the next big contribution ,after Ghulam Hyder(Khazanchi),came from C.Ramchandra. "

Paula Stephan

a labor economist is chosen as the person of the year by Science Careers. Her work highlighted in the article seems to be mostly about American science:
 "In numerous articles and books, and as a member of scholarly bodies and study commissions examining the situation and prospects of young scientists, Stephan has long expounded the view that the current graduate and postdoctoral training system constitutes, in her words, a “pyramid scheme.” This system, she has repeatedly shown, uses young and aspiring scientists as cheap labor for professors’ grant-funded research and then fails to provide the career opportunities that have been implicitly or explicitly promised."

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Obama about himself

From a post in Economist's View:
Said Obama, "The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican."