Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dan Little describes some commercial farms in China

I do not think that there is any one model of farming which suits different areas in India. In some fertile areas a family can manage with two to three acres of land. In some other areas which are not so fertile or weather factos play a substantial role, possibly combining expertise, outside capital and local resources may be useful.  Once a commercial farmer Kotapati Murahari Rao was describing schemes of renting two to three thousand acres, using some machanization and modern seeds (he was also seed merchant who had some fights with Monsanto) for farming which he saw as the future of agriculture in some areas. Dan Little on his trip to China saw some commercial farms which seem similar. From his recent post:
"As part of this trip I was able to take a short excursion to Henan Province to get exposure to some important developments in Chinese agriculture. We visited two large commercial farms specializing in organic vegetables. The first farm occupies about two thousand acres, assembled through agreements with peasant farmers and local government. The corporation does not "own" the land but has rights of use for five-year periods. It employs about one thousand farm workers, often from the families of the original farms that gave been consolidated. (I estimated about two hundred people working in the fields we saw.) The produce is of high quality and farm management is highly professional. It also produces wheat on rotation with vegetable fields. This farm is one of about eight farms of similar size owned by the company in different provinces "to balance risk and seasonality". The company is actively exploring establishment of a similar farm in California. The other farm was similar in size but was described as a cooperative in which peasant farmers maintained a larger degree of involvement in the farm process. This farm will produce specialty items including fruit, vegetables, and blueberries. 

This seems like a good indication of one likely future for Chinese agriculture: consolidated land, moderate level of mechanization, expert management, high productivity. Our group was able to talk with a local man in a nearby village, the uncle of one of the faculty hosts. He was a former headmaster of the village school who had returned to farming after retirement. His home in the village was concrete block, nicely furnished with five rooms and a small courtyard. We asked him whether the peasants whose land had been absorbed by the consolidation for these large farms were satisfied. He was adamant they were because it permitted some level of income from the lease while permitting young people to leave the village for higher income in the urban sector (as part of China's large class of migrant workers in urban industry and construction).'

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Amma canteens in Tamilnadu

Frontline last month "Women’s self-help groups from the local areas run the canteens. They cook the food and sell them; the government provides the rice, dhal and vegetables. Deepam Women’s Self-Help Group of Rajeev Gandhi Nagar manages the budget restaurant on Santhome High Road with the help of Asha Nivas, a non-governmental organisation.
S. Santhisri, group leader, said: “We were doing social work. So we were given the job here. I am the supervisor.” Sixteen women are employed in this canteen. “All of us work unitedly,” said Violet Mary, one of them. Another employee, D. Ponni, said they sell at least 3,000 idlis now, up from the 1,000 they sold initially. Eight hundred portions of sambar rice and 400 of curd rice were snapped up, she added.
The sanitary inspector, the junior engineer and the tax collector from the local Corporation division monitor the working of these establishments."
The details of subsidies and government help are not very clear from the reports.The scheme is being expanded to other cities and more items "Jayalalithaa said the decision to add new items followed requests from the public. The rotis would take a little longer to get on the menu as the government had to float tenders for procuring machines to make them. But, from September, roti with dal will be offered at the canteens. "
Devinder Sharma is enthusiastic. Gulzar Natarajan wonders about long-term management challenges.

Repairing broken hearts

"The problem with broken hearts is that they just keep breaking. While organs like your liver or skin excel at regenerating themselves after injuries, the heart is the class dunce. If its muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, die during a heart attack, they are replaced by scar tissue rather than fresh muscle. This temporarily supports the damaged tissue but in the long term, it weakens the heart and increases the risk of more heart attacks. It’s no wonder that heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. By 2030, it’s estimated that failing hearts will kill more than 23 million people every year." says Ed Yong. There is some progress by Deepak Srivatsava who transformed some cells in the scar tissue into heart muscle says Ed Yong.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Two on inequality

This experiment must be depressing for Marxists:
"However, attacks by the poor on the rich were only a minority of all attacks - 619 of the 2346. Almost as often (509 times), the poor class attacked their fellow poor, with most of those attacks being upon people poorer than themselves. And most of the attacks upon the rich came from other rich folk."
From a study reported in VoxEU:
"Two-hundred years ago, cross-country differences in income were relatively small. European countries and Western offshoots, what Maddison (2004) called Western countries, were on average 90% richer than the rest.1 By 2000, this income gap had grown to 750%." 
The paper suggests that this may be due to slowness in the adoption and penetration of technology.

Apple taxes

Some Americans worry that Apple is not paying enough taxes in USA. Thet seem to be disappearing somewhere in South China Sea according to Felix Salmon:
"When Apple ships product from its factories in China to its stores in Singapore, the stores in Singapore don’t make much if any profit. That’s because somewhere in the South China Sea, ASI takes ownership of that product at a very low cost, before selling it on to Apple Singapore at much higher cost. The hardware never goes anywhere near Ireland, but title to the hardware changes hands, and substantially all of the profit associated with that hardware thereby ends up being taxed at friendly Irish rates, somewhere south of 2%, rather than at whatever the government of Singapore might charge. "

TMS impact on a fan

An article on how TMS sustained a fan during his younger days
T M Soundararajan -Singer of the People
Hints of the effects of film music on many ordinary people and the enduring popularity of some of the film singers. There must be similar articles about Saigal, Ghantasala and others.

Monday, May 27, 2013

On the breadth of functions?

I do not understand any of this.The author says "One of my projects in life is to (i) become “fluent in mathematics” in the sense that my intuition should incorporate the objects and relationships of 20th-century mathematical discoveries, and (ii) share that feeling with people who are interested in doing the same in a shorter timeframe."

Ceramic Traditions of Pakistan

From the review "The cladding of brick walls with glazed ceramic tiles in shades of azure blue, turquoise, cobalt and white soon became widespread in the Muslim world......Surprisingly, ceramic tile work was not the favourite form of decorative art in Mughal India. Unlike the brick-built architecture of Iran, most imperial Mughal mosques and minarets, palaces and mausoleums were made of red-mauve sandstone and decorated with white marble. Thus the fabulous Taj Mahal, the epitome of Mughal art, is clad in luminous marble inlaid in the pietra dura style with precious and semi-precious stones. Ceramic revetment was extensively used only in the alluvial plain of the Indus Valley, in the western areas of the Mughal Empire bordering Iran, where buildings were constructed out of brick and there was an abundance of clay."
"Curated by Nasreen Askari and Akhund, this landmark exhibition featuring over 400 objects showcased the history and development of ceramic crafts in Pakistan from Mehrgarh (circa 7,000 BC) and the Indus Valley civilisation (circa 3,500 BC) to the present day. Objects on display included shards, vessels, tiles and architectural elements from Mehrgarh, Multan, Jhang, Uch, Sitpur, Lahore, Sehwan, Kamarro Sharif, Thatta and Hala and contemporary ceramics by the noted ceramist Mian Salahuddin."
The video of the exhibition in seven parts is on Youtube; here is the first part

The above quotes are from a Farida M. Said review of the book  'The Tales of the Tile: Ceramic Traditions of Pakistan' by  Abdul Hamid Akhund and Nasreen Askari (via 3quarksdaily).  It is also reviewed in The Dawn.

Austerity controversy in USA continues

David Warsh essentially attributes it Krugman's ambition and jealousy. Krugman responds to the latest salvo from Rogoff. Angry Bear says "But there is something they [Renhart-Rogoff] can, and really should, do.  If politicians are misusing their work, they can denounce those politicians by name."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

T.M.Soundararajan RIP

Obituary from The Hindu "His robust and full-throated singing perfectly suited MGR and Sivaji, who had their roots in Tamil theatre. A versatile singer, he modulated his voice to suit the two stars perfectly. A listener could identify the star in the movie through TMS’ songs, even without watching the film. He also acted and sang in a few films. He had a voice that could catch the nuances and majesty of the Tamil language, but could not replicate his success in other languages."
A song, not particularly melodious, but shows his skills with Tamil 
Here is Soundarajan-Jikki duet which is from an Ajit Merchant tune in a 1949 Gujarati film which traveled to Telugu and Tamil by 1961 (Soundarajan himself is from a Saurashtrian family in Madurai)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Paul Krugman on Abenomics

in Japan the Model "As I said at the beginning, at this point the Western world has seemingly succumbed to a severe case of economic defeatism; we’re not even trying to solve our problems. That needs to change — and maybe, just maybe, Japan can be the instrument of that change."
There is a discussion starting in Economist's View.

A tune which travelled from Gujarati to Telugu

From a post in 'Songs of Yore' this 1949-1950 Ajit Merchant tune from a Gujarati film Divadandi seems to have traveled from Gujarati to Telugu via Hindi
Hindi version by the same MD from 1959
There was also a duet by Manna Dey and Suman Kalyanpur same year with the same MD
Finally, a Telugu version from 1961 version from the film 'velugu needalu'
( Most of the information is from Shri Arunkumar Deshmukh and the last one from Shri J.K. Mohana Rao)
One which was adapted more than once in several languages seems to be a Carmen Miranda song, probably first by Rajeswararao in a 1941 Tamil film
_links to more adaptions of the song in

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ava and I like this

I am learning about modern Hindi films from my four year old granddaughter Ava. I have not watched a single movie of Rajesh Khanna or Amitab Bachan or Shah Rukh Khan but I and Ava watch Hindi dance-songs together. When I asked her who the actor was she looked at me as if I were stupid and said 'Shaukkan' and the dance-song is 'dola re dola' about which Sangita Shresthova has written effusively in "Dancing to an Indian Beat:"Dola" Goes my Diasporic Heart". Here is it which both Ava and I like
P.S. Sangita Shreshtova's paper is behind a firewall but her thesis is accessible

A British site on education

I read the first two articles from this site
 It seems to be a non-profit site devote to education. Does anybody know more about it? I came across it accidentally while looking for reviews of Micheal Mann's 'The Sources of Social Power' volume 4. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Unknown mathematician proves an anlogue of the twin prime conjecture

namely that there is number N less than 70 million, such that you can find arbitrarily large prime differing by N. More from Erica Klarreich:
"Since that time, the intrinsic appeal of these conjectures has given them the status of a mathematical holy grail, even though they have no known applications. But despite many efforts at proving them, mathematicians weren’t able to rule out the possibility that the gaps between primes grow and grow, eventually exceeding any particular bound.
Now Zhang has broken through this barrier. His paper shows that there is some number N smaller than 70 million such that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that differ by N. No matter how far you go into the deserts of the truly gargantuan prime numbers — no matter how sparse the primes become — you will keep finding prime pairs that differ by less than 70 million."
(via J.K. Mohana Rao)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Two discussions of Marx

One by Robert Skidelsky in 'Keynes, Hobson, Marx'
"I want to sum up what we can gain from all three of the thinkers I have been discussing.
From Keynes, it goes without saying, an analytic precision, lacking in Hobson and Marx, and the exposure of an irreducible problem for all forms of social interaction, not limited to economics: our lack of knowledge of any but the most immediate consequences of our actions. So, as he put, it wealth was a highly unsuitable object for the methods of the classical economist.
From Hobson, an understanding that structures of wealth and distribution can aggravate or mitigate the Keynes problem of unstable investment. Collapses due to uncertainty are more likely and more likely to be severe the more unequal is the distribution of wealth and incomes, and recoveries feebler.
From Marx we get an analysis of how unequal structures of wealth and incomes arise. This was lacking from Hobson: he never explained how savings got to be piled up in one place. And he could not do so, as long as he accepted that workers were paid their marginal product. Hobson did of course talk about monopoly, administered prices, and other distortions, but these contingent factors might be dealt with by reforms, and did not impugn the integrity of the classical theory of markets.
Marx did better by dropping the assumption that workers are paid their marginal products. If productivity growth outstrips wage growth, the gap between production and consumption will grow, resulting in an automatic rise in the savings ratio.
The ability of capitalists to pay workers less than they were worth and themselves more than they were worth rested, in Marx'v view, on their ownership of the means of production. This gave them power in the economy; and governments were subservient to that power.
Recent events have persuaded me that there is something intuitively right about the Marxist analysis."

The second is a discussion of Dan Little's post 'What about Marx?' in Economist;s View where Dan Little oulines  " a small handful of key theoretical frameworks that Marx advocated." The second is:

"Emphasis on the primacy of property and class. Sociologists and historians want to explain processes of social change. Marx puts it forward that the economic interests created by the property system in a given society create powerful foundations for collective social action.  Those who occupy positions of advantage within a given set of property relations want to do what they can to preserve those relations; and those who are disadvantaged by the property relations have a latent interest in mobilizing to change those relations. Persons who share a location in the property system constitute a class, and their interests are systematically different from those in other such positions."
I wonder just as 'contradictions of capitalism', the above points to a contradiction in any state organization since it always involves some in positions of advantage. In any case, Marx does not seem to go away and after any sort of crisis, there seems to some resurgence of his ideas.
P.S. Why read Marx today? by Jonathan Wolff free online

A report about traditional education for the underprivileged

There are reports that some variations of traditional education like those practiced in Finland work better even in terms of economic returns. There is a report about traditional education of those belonging to scheduled castes and another about those who were ranked in IIT/JEE. From the website of Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (APSWREI) "APSWREI Society running 289 residential institutions conducting free residential education to SC/ST/BC communities from 5th class to Intermediate classes" From the first report above 
"Coming to the statistical scrutiny, there are 210 colleges spread across the 23 districts of the State. Of these, 18 colleges secured cent percent results. A total number of 14,195 students have appeared and 12,034 succeeded. The overall pass percentage of these poor students is 84.78% as against 74.95% last year — a rise of 9.83% which is notable and truly praiseworthy. Girls secured 85.34% and boys secure 83.67%. The pass percentage is considered to be brilliant as such a jump had never occurred in the past. Hence this deserves greater commendation.
The highest marks secured in each group are: Prashanthdevathi, an MPC student secured 976 marks; Akulapally Ashok, a BPC student got 951; Korepu Santhoshini a CEC student 899 and Sandepogu Jyothi, aa HEC student 869 marks."

It is interesting to compare these reports with the studies of Hoff and Pandey. This seems to correspond to their 'revealed segregates' case and does not seem to correspond to their result. Perhaps short term experiments differ from long term experiences where daily discrimination over a long period and other economic disadvantages can be sapping. I remember some dalit classmates who were at the top of the class in the sixth grade but declined to very average scores by the eleventh standard.
P.S. As expressed above, I am beginning to have doubts about the applicability of studies such as those by Huff and Pandey. Kuffir on Facebook suggested looking at primary sources like the Roundtable. In an interview "Separate Panchayats for Dalits shall ensure security and development: Sivakami".  P. Sivakami, ex-IAS officer, writer and politician who founded the political party, the 'Samuga Samatuva Padai', to work 'on the principles ofDr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, as a forum for social equality'. She is also the founder of the Dalit Land Rights Movement in Tamil Nadu. So, may be, sometimes seperate works.eparate Panchayats for Dalits shall ensure security and development: Sivakami

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lots of Hindi film tunes in this Telugu film

Agni Pareeksha 1951 (thanks to Paruchuri Sreenivas) The site has many more songs from old Telugu films.

Friday, May 17, 2013

More from Krugman on ausrerity

The Smith/Klein/Kalecki Theory of Austerity "And the lineage goes back even further. Two and a half years ago Mike Konczal reminded us of a classic 1943 (!) essay by Michal Kalecki, who suggested that business interests hate Keynesian economics because they fear that it might work — and in so doing mean that politicians would no longer have to abase themselves before businessmen in the name of preserving confidence. This is pretty close to the argument that we must have austerity, because stimulus might remove the incentive for structural reform that, you guessed it, gives businesses the confidence they need before deigning to produce recovery."
Sandwichman responds Wild Things: Question Mark and Austerians. Four years ago Sandwichman said "Sixty-seven years ago, Michal Kalecki nailed it. The economics of full employment is not rocket science. It's the politics, stupid." He is not so sure now "I wonder, though, whether Kalecki went too far or spoke too subtly when he observed that "obstinate ignorance is usually a manifestation of underlying political motives." That might indeed be true when we include as "political" the rather mundane motivation of fitting in with one's colleagues. But I suspect it is misleading if we take "political motives" to refer to some larger purpose. Thus the controversy between the self-proclaimed Keynesians, like Krugman, and the austerians may be a bit of a phony war." I do not quite understand this; perhaps he is suggesting deeper structural reforms ( check also the next paragraph about ' Faustian bargain that settles for half the treasure in return for the whole soul').

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Krugman on austerity

Krugman has a readable account on the austerity craze in How the casre for austerity has crumbled? Though hje notes that "It’s also worth noting that while economic policy since the financial crisis looks like a dismal failure by most measures, it hasn’t been so bad for the wealthy. ", but does not mention Kalecki. 
From Aditya Chakrabort's account of Klechi's 1944 paper Political aspects of full employment
"His article, Political Aspects of Full Employment, explains with an almost eery prescience why the coalition is attacking our wages, our working terms and conditions and our welfare state. The tone is exhilaratingly brisk. "A solid majority of economists" agree on how to solve a slump, Kalecki says. The government borrows more and invests the cash either in building schools and hospitals or in providing benefits and tax cuts; this boosts demand and generates employment. Ta-da! Two pages in, and he has both fixed the problem of recessions and despatched most of the arguments against public borrowing that we have heard with such tedious frequency in the past five years.
What if savers become wary of lending to the state? Then, Kalecki says, the Treasury pays higher interest rates – and, since most of its lenders are British (just like now), the money will still flow back into the economy. But he notes that Churchill's war coalition has run "astronomical budget deficits", while "the rate of interest has shown no rise since the beginning of 1940". What if it becomes too costly to keep on top of the national debt? Then ministers should raise more funds, not by taxing ordinary pay or spending, which would slow the economy, but with a levy on idle wealth."

Krugman too notes "But a funny thing happened to other countries with high debt levels, including Japan, the United States, and Britain: despite large deficits and rapidly rising debt, their borrowing costs remained very low. The crucial difference, as the Belgian economist Paul DeGrauwe pointed out, seemed to be whether countries had their own currencies, and borrowed in those currencies. Such countries can’t run out of money because they can print it if needed, and absent the risk of a cash squeeze, advanced nations are evidently able to carry quite high levels of debt without crisis."
P.S. Recessions can hurt, but austerity kills

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tom Stafford on ASMR

in MindHacks
"Presumably the feeling has existed for all of human history. Each person discovered the experience, treasured it or ignored it, and kept the feeling to themselves. That there wasn’t a name for it until 2010 suggests that most people who had this feeling hadn’t talked about it. It’s amazing that it got this far without getting a name. In scientific terms, it didn’t exist.
But then, of course, along came the 21st Century and, like they say, even if you’re one in a million there’s thousands of you on the internet. Now there’s websites, discussion forums, even a Wikipedia page. And a name. In fact, many names – “Attention Induced Euphoria”, “braingasm”, or “the unnamed feeling” are all competing labels that haven’t caught on in the same way as ASMR."
More here.

Links 14th May 2013

Possibly to some changes in the offing
Russia's Plan for BRICs to dismantle the dollar system
BRICS Development Bank
Dealing with TNC's
Changes in Japan "In my view, Abenomics has been remarkably centered on the domestic economy."
See also Noahpinion "Will Abe address Japan's number one problem after all?
George Osborne will step up his campaign to toughen developed countries' stance on tax havens and company tax transparency
and from Britain's dirty secret “We couldn’t believe it when the UK put tax on the agenda. For years, whenever we tried to put even a sentence on tax into communiques, the British got out their red pen. And now it is they who are leading the call for action. So thanks to them, to you NGOs … and to Starbucks.”

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Harvard Ph.D
The last paragraph "The last word in this story goes a study published in 2012 the journal Psychological Science. “In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874),” the researchers wrote, “we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood.”"
I have seen a few mathematics dissertations from prestigious universities of USA (and India too) which are nor correct. In the Us cases I know, the committee members, all from the same department, just went along with the adviser, who was very reputed but careless. In one Indian case, I told the candidate that there was a mistake at the very beginning which invalidates the whole thesis and he got his degree anyway. When I requested for a copy of the thesis through inter library loan, there was no response. In another case, I excused myself since the thesis was very weak and the candidate was in our department. Later he got his Ph.D but I did not see for which thesis. I heard that he could not answer a question in his oral examinations and was beaten up by his adviser. Some Indian oral examinations seem more serious than the American ones.
P.S. where Borjas says that Richard Zackhauser was the chairman of the thesis committee but the thesis is posted at Huffington Post

Prison sentences for scientists

for fraudulent research are rare but beginning to happen "These researchers, however, remain among the few of an undoubtedly large number of crooked scientists to face a court and be punished for their crimes."

Links, 13th May 2013

Robert Frank on teaching economics "The assignment is my response to the distressing finding that six months after having completed a standard introductory economics course, students are no better able to answer questions about basic economic principles than others who have never even taken economics."
Dean Baker " As a rule economists are not very good at economics"
Paul Krugman on Economics blogs "The overall effect is that we’re having a conversation in which issues get hashed over with a cycle time of months or even weeks, not the years characteristic of conventional academic discourse."
Brad DeLong on Money Ben
10 questions for Raj Chetty

Discussion on Copying and plagiarism
and another plagiarism discussion

What you do is who you are
Race perception is not automatic
Psychologists against psychiatrists
DSM being eased out

Friday, May 10, 2013

Blogs may have some effect

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism has been going systematically at some of injustices in the American system and has built up a group of blog audience who appreciate her efforts and help her along. She has some success recently: "Anyway, thank you for staying on top of this issue. Could not have done this without the work you do."
Congratulation to Yves Smith and the Naked Capitalism gang.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Transfer pricing litigations

According to a Financial Times report by James Crabtree and Victor Mallet “Seventy per cent of all global transfer pricing litigation is in India”. Here is  Khan Academy tutorial on transfer pricing. Then there is a problem if they want to bring the money back to the parent country in which case they have to pay repatriation tax. Apparently there are ways to avoid this. One is show losses in the parent country . Another is to bring it as foreign investment; apparently Mauritius is the biggest foreign investor in India; all this is supposed to be Indian money which escaped taxes. Another way is to wait for some employment crisis and pressurize the government for repatriation tax relief to bring investment to the country. Apparently this was done in USA in 2004 without much success and there seems to be currently pressure again
 I do not know which of these or some other strategy is playing a part in the Indian litigations.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Dani Rodrik on what is wrong *and right) about economics

Errors in mathematics literature

From Errors and Corrections in Mathematics Literature (via Mark Thoma) a quote from Newton:
“There are a number of gray areas in which the experts know that the proofs are not complete or are partly incorrect. Since they are experts they know exactly what you can take; in a sense they are the happy few. This situation is definitely not acceptable, and we have to fight that results are really available (and not by jumping over this statement, which is not true, but you can take the next one, and so on). In recent years,
for many reasons [competition, complexity, and proliferating duties which reduce the time for careful peer review], the gray areas have been growing, and if they reach a certain level, then mathematical development will be injured.”
The most minute errors are not in mathematical matters to be scorned.11
— Isaac Newton [40, pp. 124–125]
referring to fluxions

In conclusion, the article states "In summary, the mathematics literature observably has low correction rates, yet systemic considerations suggest that mathematicians do not have lower error rates than other researchers. This mismatch may stem from a cultural emphasis on perfection that discourages discussing mistakes.The consequences are an absurdly high expectation for peer review to catch all errors and a neglect of policies to correct the literature once published."

In my own case, I and a collaborator are still finding mistakes in a paper published in 2003 and still writing a list of corrections.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

On Quitting

Chris Blattman links to an essay 'On Quitting' by Keiguro Macharia, which is a sometimes obscure meditation about his quitting an academic job in USA to go back to Kenya. It leads Blattman to meditate about his own career:
"His words bite. I remember a summer after my first year in grad school, working in rural Kenya alongside a cluster of ridiculously hardworking, intense academics whose names you would all recognize, thinking, “I do not want my life to be like this”.
Fast forward 10 years: I’m not sure if I was simply socialized by the PhD and my peers to change my preferences, or if I simply grew to love my work like a vocation, not a job. I think a little of both.
Either way, I am now the living caricature of what I once maligned. More days than not I love it. But the temptation of quitting–or at least crossing to the slow lane–never goes away. All I will say for now: not this year."
Off and on Macharia talked of 'precarity'.A specialist on 'precariat', Guy Standing( has a book  on the topic) and has a long discussion in a new article 'Defining the precariat':
"To understand why the precariat is growing one must appreciate the nature of the Global Transformation. The globalization era (1975-2008) was a period when the economy was "disembedded" from society as financiers and neo-liberal economists sought to create a global market economy based on competitiveness and individualism.....A central aspect of globalization can be summed up in one intimidating word, "commodification". This involves treating everything as a commodity, to be bought and sold, subject to market forces, with prices set by demand and supply, without effective "agency" (a capacity to resist). Commodification has been extended to every aspect of life – the family, education system, firm, labour institutions, social protection policy, unemployment, disability, occupational communities and politics."
I do not really understand what is bothering Macharia, drugs, race, commodification or what else. It seems to me that it is possible to play along in an institution and retain one's identity and interests, if one does not crave to be too successful. May be that was possible for earlier generations like mine and getting difficult now.