Friday, April 17

Another d’oh study?

So this study basically says that if you sleep for the usual 7 hours, you will be ok, but if you sleep for an hour more, you will be happier. well, excuse me, Captain Obvious.

 

Sleep is an important part of life, with an individual spending an estimated 32 years of her life asleep. Despite this importance, little is known about life satisfaction and sleep duration. Using German panel data, it is shown that sleep is an important factor for life satisfaction and that maximal life satisfaction is associated with about eight hours of sleep on a typical weekday. This figure represents, on average, an hour more than people currently sleep suggesting that more sleep would lead to a higher reported satisfaction with life.

Thursday, April 16

Ants and Crickets

So here’s the basic story.

  Once upon a time... one hot summer, a cricket sang cheerfully on the branch
of a tree, while down below, a long line of ants struggled damely under the
weight of their load of grains; and between one song and the next, the cricket spoke to the ants. "Why are you working so hard? Come into the shade, away from the sun, and sing a song with me." But the tireless ants went on with the work... "We can't do that," they said, "We must store away food for the winter.
When the weather`s cold and the ground white with snow, there's nothing to eat, and we'll survive the winter only if the pantry is full."
"There's plenty of summer to come," replied the cricket, "and lots of time to fill the pantry before winter. I'd rather sing! How can anione work in this heat and sun?"
And so all summer, the cricket sang while the ants laboured. But the days
turned into weeks and the weeks into months. Autumn came, the leaves began to
fall and the cricket left the bare tree. The grass too was turning thun and
yellow. One morning, the cricket woke shivering with cold. An early frost
tinged the fields with white and turned the last of the green leaves brown:
winter had come at last. The cricket wandered, feeding on the few dry stalks
left on the hard frozen ground. Then the snow fell and she could find nothing
at all to eat. Trembling and famished, she thought sadly of the warmth and her
summer songs. One evening, she saw a speck of light in the distance, and
trampling through the thick snow, made her way towards it.
"Open the door! Please open the door! I'm starving. Give me some food!" An
ant leant out of the window.
"Who's there? Who is it?"
"It's me - the cricket. I'm cold and hungry, with no roof over my head."
"The cricket? Ah, yes! I remember you. And what were you doing all summer
while we were getting ready for winter?"
"Me? I was singing and filling the whole earth and sky with my song!"
"Singing, eh?" said the ant. "Well, try dancing now!"
Well, so now you know the basic story, its obviously a metaphor and life lesson so that people should work hard and save. I used to be a cricket but with kids and the wife, its a bit ant(sy) now. Sometimes one uses the grasshopper instead of the cricket. Check out the link, its fascinating, I never understood so many angles to this story. I loved this indian take


An Old Story – The ant and the grasshopper story

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away.

Come winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

——————–

Indian Version:

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter.
The Grasshopper thinks the Ant’s a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering Grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the Ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

NDTV, BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

The World is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor Grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the Ant’s house.

Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter.

Mayawati states this as `injustice’ done on Minorities.

Amnesty International and Koffi Annan criticize the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper.

The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the Grasshopper

Opposition MPs stage a walkout. Left parties call for ‘Bengal Bandh’ in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Inquiry.

CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers.

Lalu Prasad allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian Railway Trains, aptly named as the ‘Grasshopper Rath’.

Finally, the Judicial Committee drafts the ‘ Prevention of Terrorism Against Grasshoppers Act’ [POTAGA], with effect from the beginning of the winter.

Arjun Singh makes ‘Special Reservation ‘ for Grasshoppers in Educational Institutions & in Government Services.
The Ant is fined for failing to comply with POTAGA and having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, it’s home is confiscated by the Government and handed over to the Grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV.

Arundhati Roy calls it ‘ A Triumph of Justice’.

Lalu calls it ‘Socialistic Justice ‘.

CPM calls it the ‘ Revolutionary Resurgence of the Downtrodden ‘

Koffi Annan invites the Grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly.

Many years later…

The Ant has since migrated to the US and set up a multi-billion dollar
company in Silicon Valley, 100s of Grasshoppers still die of starvation despite reservation somewhere in India,

AND

As a result of losing a lot of hard working Ants and feeding the lazy grasshoppers,

India is still a developing country…!!!


And the american version.


With what looks like imminent passage of the Mother of All Bailouts (following on the heels of a year’s worth of government-funded rescues of private homeowners, lenders, insurers, and the automakers), Washington has turned Aesop’s famous fable about prudence and hard work on its head. The time is ripe for a revised 2008 edition of “The Ant and the Grasshopper:”

In a meadow on a hot summer’s day, a Grasshopper was chirping and carousing his time away. He watched scornfully as an Ant nearby struggled to store up large kernels of food and build a secure nest. The Ant pulled overtime shifts to pay off his loans and accumulate retirement funds for the future.

“Give it a rest,” the Grasshopper said. “Why bother saving and slaving and toiling and moiling? Let’s party!” The Ant demurred: “I am planning ahead for winter and you should do the same.” The Grasshopper blew off the Ant, squandered his supplies the rest of the season, and abandoned his home while on vacation (paid for by tapping every last cent of his home equity gain) instead of holding down a job.

When winter came, the Grasshopper’s pantry was empty and his shelter ruined from neglect. The Ant, weary from planting, harvesting, and stocking up for months, was dining comfortably in his nest.

Cold, hungry, jobless, facing foreclosure, and up to his two pairs of eyeballs in debt, the Grasshopper limped to the Association of Community Winged Insects for Rescue Now and demanded recourse. The office was swamped with thousands just like him. ACWIRN immediately put the Grasshopper to work registering dead ants as new voters.

Funded with tax dollars from the rest of the meadow’s residents, ACWIRN organized mass protests at the Bank of Antamerica, ambushed its top officials at their private homes, harassed their children, and demanded that the meadow’s politicians halt all foreclosures (“We must keep Grasshoppers in their houses!”) and outlaw discriminatory lending practices against starving, homeless Grasshoppers (“Well-stocked shelters are basic insect rights!”)

The banking industry capitulated; the Orthoptera Lobby secured hundreds of millions of dollars in housing earmarks and grants and counseling subsidies to support the Grasshoppers with the shadiest credit and employment histories. Antie Mae, the meadow’s government-backed home lending giant, fueled the push for increased insect homeownership in the name of biodiversity. Its executives cooked the books and headed for the hills. Katie Cricket and the Mainstream Meadow Media joined the grievance-for-profit circus, profiling Grasshopper sob stories and drumming up ratings as bewildered Ants wondered who was looking out for them.

The banks drowned in toxic debt. More Grasshoppers fell behind on their mortgage payments. Bailout mania and panic gripped the meadow.

Our little Ant, minding his own business, heard a knock on his door one late winter night a year later. It was his old, sneering Grasshopper neighbor. With ACWIRN’s presidential candidate, Barack Cicada, now in office, the Grasshopper had been hired by the meadow as a tax collector.

“I’m here to take your provisions,” the Grasshopper cackled.

But it was the Ant who had the last laugh. “I’ve learned my lesson,” he told his shiftless friend. “Why bother saving and slaving and toiling and moiling? I’ve spent all my savings. I’m walking away from my mortgage. Thrift is for suckers,” the Ant said as he headed out the door, leaving the Grasshopper empty-handed.


But there’s this rather interesting economics paper on how we still keep on seeing grasshoppers and ants.


Savings behaviour seems to exhibit heterogeneity across nations, and within nations, too. Large changes in saving rates have been observed in the last decades that can be viewed as signs of the arbitrariness of saving. There is a long tradition in the savings literature that separates people into two groups: those who behave soberly (ants), and those who act in an extremely short-sighted fashion (crickets). A puzzle remains: why does an apparently inferior behavioural pattern persist? Our aim is to provide a model that exhibits the arbitrariness of savings by exploring the two-types idea, and also makes intelligible why both types can coexist in the long run. Our approach consists in setting up an agent-based model starting from a traditional production and factor market framework. The model features an evolutionary mechanism that promotes the behaviour conducive to the highest satisfaction of the consumption goal. Our main findings include the prevalence of non-ergodicity, and the genericity of non-stationarity. The model becomes stationary when the selection pressure is very high, and crickets are eliminated. Though in general ants have somewhat higher per capita consumption than crickets, and are less indebted, we have found cases where the total average consumption is higher with many crickets than without them.


So if you want people to save, crank up the selection pressure…funny, eh?

If your country is heterogeneous, then you have less social capital

Makes sense, doesn't it? Here’s the abstract.

Motivated by theoretical arguments (see e.g. Putnam, 2007) that assert a negative impact of ethnolinguistic diversity on social capital, this paper aims to provide some empirical evidence on the relationship between the two variables. In particular, using a cross section sample of 68 developed and developing countries, this paper has found a significant negative effect of ethnolinguistic diversity on social capital. Countries with fractionalized ethnic and linguistic groups as captured by both log number of languages and Desmet et al. (2012) and La Porta et al. (1999)’s measures on linguistic diversity tend to have lower levels of social trust, fewer memberships in social organizations, deteriorated social norms and structure, hence, lower overall social capital stock.

if you look at successful countries with high social capital, then they were more homogenous…interesting evidence.

Wednesday, April 15

When we were bombed

IMG_2871

Can you see the depression? the regular rectangular depression on the green? this is the green in front of our house. And this depression shows that there was an air raid shelter during World War 2 times here. Why you ask its needed? well, London was pretty much heavily bombed during the blitz.

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So got this amazing graphic from this site.

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This is Harrow…pretty hairy, eh? you can make out the patterns of the bombs..as the German bombers would drop their bombs in a stick, so they will form a line pattern. Fascinating, eh?

image

And further zooming in, saw that a bomb had fallen just outside the green, on the house behind the house I can see in front of my house. A high explosive bomb fell here sometime between Oct 7 1940 and June 6 1941, no more precise dating. But I found out from this link that the first bombs in the war actually fell in Harrow.

Records have always shown that at 0330hrs on the morning of August 22nd 1940, the first bombs to be dropped on London were at Harrow…..I do recall seeing an item in the past that the Luftwaffe used a guiding point in Harrow which was a sewerage works ( large round cleaning pond) next to the large Kodak works.

Did you know, we also were hit by a V2 Rocket? This hit less than 300 meters from my home and just behind Diya and Kannu’s School.

Harrow Cemetery

Information from Malcolm Hutton:
The V2 rocket map doesn’t show the location of the V2 which fell in North Harrow. It came down next to the cemetery gates. We were living about a mile away and I well remember sitting in our dining room with my mother and father. (at Durley Avenue). It was very eerie at first. Our heavy velvet curtains suddenly billowed out and rose to the ceiling and then came the explosion followed by a fading sound of the rocket. It cracked one of our windows, but that was the only damage we suffered.
Corroborated here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/33/a7999933.shtml

image

So how was it to live through a bombing in Harrow? We have this story.

The raids started. The siren wailing up and down made my tummy turn over. Nearby we had Northolt Aerodrome, so the noise of planes taking off became commonplace. We used to count them going out, and count them returning, always hoping it would be the same number…. We had an Anderson shelter in the garden. The lady next door with small children had a Morrison shelter indoors, which was like a big reinforced rabbit hutch. They used the top as a table. Every night after I was in my pyjamas I would be sent down the garden to the shelter, and when no-one was looking, I would get up and go down the back alley to play with my friends. Raids were frequent at this time. Every day the children would go out looking for shrapnel, and the competition was quite keen to find the biggest bit..
My father was working in London on something that he was not allowed to discuss with us. We later found out it was to do with the construction of the amphibious craft used in the invasion. As he was a well-qualified St. John first aider, he was also required to help with rescue work. He was always so tired.
While on his rescue duties, he would sometimes find an unexploded shell, or incendiary bomb, which had to be thrown in the water tanks on the streets. I have an unexploded shell, which he made into a table lighter, having made it safe!
I remember the bomb disposal crews on their lorry having completed a job. Sometimes they would actually sit on the land mine or bomb that they had disarmed. They always received a cheer. - Just, as aircrew would not be charged for admission into our local cinema. Everyone felt they had done more than enough for us. During daytime raids we could often watch the dogfights above us as our planes intercepted the Germans. We could always tell the difference between our aircraft and the German’s even at night. Our planes had a steady hum and the German planes made a pulsating noise.
Our house remained intact, but a nearby house had a landmine suspended inside it. The parachute had caught on the roof, and it was hanging suspended a couple of inches off the floor! We had to evacuate our house while the brave disposal team came and made it safe. They drove off with it on the back of the lorry. I was told the German bombers would take Harrow-on-the Hill church as a landmark
And drop a stick of bombs, hoping to hit Northolt Aerodrome. This meant they passed close to us.

The raids became intense. Our Anderson shelter had flooded, and we had to go to the nearest communal shelter. During the day if the siren sounded on our way to school, we were told to run home if we were nearest to home, or carry on to school if that was the nearest. We had a large underground shelter built on the playing fields at school, and we spent a lot of time sitting on the hard benches around the walls. At home we had decided we were tired of running to air raid shelters at night, so we decided that if the bomb had our name on it, we would get it! We stayed in our own beds.

Well, d’oh, if you are more religious, then you are less innovative

File this under the label of stating the bleeding obvious.

In earlier work (Bénabou, Ticchi and Vindigni 2013) we uncovered a robust negative association between religiosity and patents per capita, holding across countries as well as US states, with and without controls. In this paper we turn to the individual level, examining the relationship between religiosity and a broad set of pro- or anti-innovation attitudes in all five waves of the World Values Survey (1980 to 2005). We thus relate eleven indicators of individual openness to innovation, broadly defined (e.g., attitudes toward science and technology, new versus old ideas, change, risk taking, personal agency, imagination and independence in children) to five different measures of religiosity, including beliefs and attendance. We control for all standard socio-demographics as well as country, year and denomination fixed effects. Across the fifty-two estimated specifications, greater religiosity is almost uniformly and very significantly associated to less favorable views of innovation.

Religion is a way of control, a way for safety, traditionalism and the like, why on earth would you be open?

Tuesday, April 14

HMS Erebus

tumblr_nl0b9vKamx1qzix81o1_540[1] HMS ‘Erebus’ Passing Through the Chain of Bergs,1842 by Richard Brydges Beechey || Oil on canvas, 78.8 x 111.76 cm || Collection: National Maritime Museum

I have talked about this episode separately when I went to see the exhibition in the British Museum (haven't blogged the photos yet…) but when I saw this painting, it was truly earth shattering.

Here’s the story of HMS Erebus. What an extraordinary story of exploration and discovery and and the truly tragic end of the brave ship and its men.

Salutations.

Monday, April 13

Living standards and plague in London, 1560–1665

First the abstract

This article uses individual records of 930,000 burials and 630,000 baptisms to reconstruct the spatial and temporal patterns of birth and death in London from 1560 to 1665, a period dominated by recurrent plague. The plagues of 1563, 1603, 1625, and 1665 appear of roughly equal magnitude, with deaths running at five to six times their usual rate, but the impact on wealthier central parishes falls markedly through time. Tracking the weekly spread of plague, we find no evidence that plague emerged first in the docks, and in many cases elevated mortality emerges first in the poor northern suburbs. Looking at the seasonal pattern of mortality, we find that the characteristic autumn spike associated with plague continued into the early 1700s. Natural increase improved as smaller crises disappeared after 1590, but fewer than half of those born survived childhood.

A story of London.

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These are the mortality graphs in London plague years by parish relative to median mortality in the preceding five years. What is very clear is that the deaths happened in North London..actually near where we live. Fascinating behaviour. It was quite interesting to imagine how these outbreaks and epidemics would grow through time, can you imagine deaths at 5-6 times normal rampaging through the crowded, dirty tenements of London? fascinating.

Friday, April 10

The British and their pen

Some maps which show the very long term implications of the British and their blasted pens.

Durand_line_crop[1]

The Durand Line

sykes_picot_by_FT[1]

The Sykes Picot Treaty line.

asianbordmap1[1]

The McMahon Line in East India. There are debates about loads of little pockets between India and Bangladesh.

Thursday, April 9

Noodles were made in Italy first? :O

What a fascinating story. So the origin of noodles was always known to be in China and was thought to be brought to Europe by Marco Polo. But looks like noodles were made even before.

 

16615_d554009b[1]

I quote

An unusual coin type recently sold at auction depicts an ancient industry, hitherto unrecorded on coinage or sculptural reliefs: the production of noodles. The coin, which fetched 30,000 GBP at the London-based Ceres Auction House, was minted at Ephesus in the reign of the Roman emperor Geta (209-212) and depicts two figures using an ancient form of noodle machine.

As clearly depicted on the coin, one figure feeds the device, which is shaped like a goddess, with dough while the other lays the finished product out to dry (although a recent theory put forth by Dr. Brett Teigleman of the University of Lower Minnesota has proposed the theory that the figure on the right is scraping spätzle from a board by hand, just as is done today in Southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria). We can see that the dough is forced out of the machine at high pressure in regularly shaped portions.
Although it is commonly held that noodles originated in China before being brought to Italy by Marco Polo, they were in fact widely enjoyed throughout the ancient world: the geographer Strabo and Pliny the Elder describe the production of alicia or chondroi from spelt in Campania (Natural History 18.8), although the earliest reference to chondroi occurs in an unfortunately largely unintelligible fragment of Aristophanes’ comedy Mageiroi, “The Cooks”, from 414 B.C. (Kock, Frag. 496b). This coin suggests that the production of spätzle was widespread in the grain-rich districts of Ionia, and epigraphic evidence also records the presence of guilds of ‘Hypochondroi’ or artisan noodle-makers there and their worship of Artemis Chondriates, to whom they offered sacred dough products (IG 2.II,40 (Ionia), 570-572b, ll. 2,8).

Life at the time of Ibn Batuta

Reading about the old man in this book by Ross Dunn, there’s a new theory which was mentioned, Marshall Hodgson and William McNeill developed this Ecumene model, the belt of agrarian land from the Med basin to China, where the major civilisations arose, most cities sprang up and most important cultural and technological innovations were made.

He would have travelled during the Abbasid Caliphate and here’s a map of the Caliphate when it was at the greatest around 850 AD

Abbasids850[1]

Before that was the Ummayad Caliphate and this is how it related to the rest of the world in 750AD

height_of_omayyad_caliphate_cropped[1]

Fascinating the range of empires which was around when the Ummayad’s were pootling around..