Saturday, June 20

Let my universities go! Set them free from government control

And yet another piece of evidence that Universities perform better when the dead hand of the government is removed from them. I quote:

We investigate how university governance affects research output, measured by patenting and international university research rankings. For both European and U.S. universities, we generate several measures of autonomy, governance, and competition for research funding. We show that university autonomy and competition are positively correlated with university output, both among European countries and among U.S. public universities. We then identity a (political) source of exogenous shocks to funding of U.S. universities. We demonstrate that, when a state's universities receive a positive funding shock, they produce more patents if they are more autonomous and face more competition from private research universities. Finally, we show that during periods when merit-based competitions for federal research funding have been most prominent, universities produce more patents when they receive an exogenous funding shock, suggesting that routine participation in such competitions hones research skill.

The power of words

Now this I liked:

A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: 'I am blind, please help.' There were only a few coins in the hat.
A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words.
He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.

Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, 'Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?'
The man said, 'I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.'

What he had written was: 'Today is a beautiful day and I cannot see it.'

Saudi Mufti: Execute Ahmadinejad

My sister forwarded this to me. This is just bizarre. And there is some irony as well as poetic justice in here. The people who gave the fatwa on Salman Rushdie for his Satanic Versus are themselves accused of blasphemy and have a death fatwa put on them. I quote:

Saudi Mufti: Execute Ahmadinejad

Yousef bin Abdallah Al-Ahmad, a mufti from Al-Imam University in Riyadh, said in a fatwa that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be executed, following his June 14 accusation that several of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad were heretics.

Source:, June 17, 2009

I can well see a nice little fight brewing up again, lol. How amusing. Just shows how frankly silly these religious nuts cases can be…I wonder if we can put them all into a stadium to beat each other up with various fatwas?? And I can sell tickets…and hot dogs…and non-alcoholic beer, and fajitas…goes off in a trance

Wednesday, June 17

Economic performance of the Arabic book translation industry in Arab countries

One of the quotes that caught my eye while reading the Arab Human Development Report back in 2003 was:

  • Spain translates in one year the number of books that have been translated into Arabic in the past 1000 years and
  • For every one million Arabs only one book is translated into Arabic each year

While the latter is difficult to compare and contrast, but then the first one is particularly poignant. The Arab world being what it is, getting them out of the rut of ignorance and misery is important. As before, education is a vital component in getting these people out of their current state and for what, they need books. And if the books haven't been translated into Arabic, then you have an issue. See here for a good step in fixing this issue.

Then I saw this paper (the abstract is at the bottom). Pretty good detailed research with some good recommendations. There are serious points to be raised here which the Abstract talks about so I am not going to belabour the point. I quote some important bits that the abstract missed out:

Next Page Foundation conducted the first readership survey in five Arab countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia) in 2005. The main conclusions of this survey can be summarised as follows:

  • With the exception of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a share larger than expected of the literates in the other countries surveyed does not read.
  • Among those who read the share of infrequent (up to 30 minutes per day) and low readers (31-60 minutes per day) makes up the majority.
  • Reading is something children learn at school; there is almost no reading support by family members.
  • Reading is stopped at ages 15-19; it is closely linked to leaving school or other institutions of education.
  • Most who decrease or stop reading do not return to reading at all.
  • School does not initiate reading for life but limits this to school only; deficits must be seen in school manuals and in the absence of young adult literature.
  • Arabic is the preferred language of reading.
  • More books in this language on topics of interest would make a considerable part of readers read more.
  • There is a high religious-mindedness in terms of content and topics of reading.
  • Interests professed for certain topics do not necessarily translate into the reading of such topics. (From Next Page Foundation Home Page:

And these Arab Countries can be considered to be the top of the list of Arab countries. If this is the level at the top, then you can well imagine the situation lower down the list. But the authors missed out on the biggest factor (the religious establishment) and was very light on the second biggest factor (the government sector). The first bit relates to the second last aspect in the previous list. If most if not all what you read is religious pap, then knowledge generation will be challenging. After all, blind faith sits very uneasily with ever questioning knowledge generation. And the religious establishment is extremely tight in all these countries.

To let the common man be educated and questioning will directly hit them. Secondly, none of these countries are exactly free. Their method of control of their population is to keep them ignorant or in the bit of the somnolent daze. An example is their tight control over the media. If your media isn't free, how on earth do you expect your book publication and translation industry to be free and break its bounds? You cannot simultaneously have a free and open reading society while your political system, your educational and your religious establishment is under chains.

That said, the recommendations that the authors give can only do good. I quote:

The first such role is that of improving the quality and availability of the generalised inputs that publishing companies draw on, such as educated human resources (qualified translators and other specialized personal), physical and technological infrastructure (hardware and software for information communication technology) and capital.

Second, government should encourage upgrading and innovation with the aid of rules, regulations, and incentives. Through regulations, tax policies, the enforcement of IPR, antitrust laws, and many other measures, governments influence the climate in which publishing companies compete. That influence should be used to encourage investment, innovations, and other determinants of economic performance.

Third, government should leverage its investment in skills, research capabilities and infrastructure to facilitate the process by which all local clusters form and develop. Such investment feeds whole groups of firms and industries. Thinking in terms of clusters rather than industries also encourages publishing companies to work closely with suppliers and customers.

Fourth, and perhaps most subtly, government leaders should challenge local companies and people in their regions to raise their sights and strive for greater competitiveness. The ability of government to signal the future fosters economic upgrading.

Policies affecting production factor conditions:

  • Improve the documentation of Arabic translation needs. This can be achieved by creating a regional Internet-based database that would constitute an information base on what has been translated, what is being translated, and what will be translated from foreign languages into Arabic.
  • Design and implement translation support programs on a sustainable basis. This would create and maintain a critical mass of translators and publishing companies. The supply side of the translation industry would be strengthened.
  • Invest in human resources by building a strong basic education system for all citizens, thus eradicating illiteracy; by setting high educational standards; by supporting institutions that develop specialised skills (such as specialised professional translators); and last, but not least, by creating incentives for company investment in training.
  • Support science and technology by creating incentives for private research and development (for example, in the area of electronic publishing, e-commerce, machine translation software development, and so forth) and for promoting wide dissemination of basic scientific knowledge in areas that affect the development of the Arabic translation industry.
  • Invest in physical infrastructure; the special needs of the Arabic translation industry should also be taken into consideration.
  • Create some sort of accreditation body for translators to control for good quality and to lessen the costs of asymmetric information in the Arabic translation industry.

Policies affecting demand conditions:

  • Support readership surveys. This would help to identify the real needs of the reading public, as well as to monitor whether reading promotion policies in general and translation support programs in particular have a measurable impact, especially on young people.
  • Stimulate early demand for translated books in Arabic; for instance, for public schools, universities, and public administration.
  • Act as a sophisticated buyer in purchasing (ask for high quality of translated books).
  • Promote translation quality assessment programs. To enhance demand for translated books, programs for translation quality control are needed.

Policies affecting related and supporting industries:

  • Facilitate cluster development along the lines of the value chain of the book industry.
  • Promote training programs among professional of the Arabic translation industry in the fields of marketing and distribution.
  • Improve distribution outlets.
  • Promote the role of nongovernmental professional publishing and translation associations in disseminating knowledge and mobilising resources, thus creating positive externalities in the Arabic translation industry.

Policies affecting strategy, structure and rivalry:

  • Promote local competition by deregulating the structure of industry and strictly enforcing antitrust policy and IPRs.
  • Expand interregional and international trade and investment by opening book markets, promoting exports, and attracting appropriate foreign investment in those markets.

My only objection is, these recommendations are effectively asking for a complete rejig of how their societies work. If one doesnt do that, then it would be like providing a pan of makeup to a person suffering skin cancer.

Knowledge has always been at the heart of economic growth and development. It is disseminated chiefly through the different stages of education, R&D, the mass media and the translation industry. In Arab countries there has been a widespread impression that there is a low level of translation activities, which in turn has led to a low output of the translation industry in those countries. This paper addresses this issue; its overall objectives are: (1) to describe the economic performance of the Arabic book translation industry in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Syria; (2) to understand empirically the economic performance of that industry, the focus here being on qualitatively analysing the major determinants (positive and negative factors) affecting the growth process of that industry; and (3) to provide policy makers and business leaders in the Arab region with theoretically sound and evidence-based advice on the issues analysed in the project.
To provide an empirical base for answering those questions, both published data and fresh new data have been used. For the latter purpose, a questionnaire-based survey was conducted in the year 2005 among 190 experts, covering firm representatives and experts in industry and government. The Porter (Diamond) model has been used as a theoretical background. The empirical results were incorporated in five national case studies. This paper synthesises the results of the national reports, giving a comparative account of the performance of the Arabic book translation industry in the five Arab countries.
The overall results suggest that the Arabic book translation industry in these Arab countries has not yet achieved the level of development of other developing and developed countries. Underperformance of the Arabic book translation industry is attributable to (among other factors) severe coordination failures. This is a state of affairs in which the inability of the different agents (translators, book publishers, suppliers, customers, and supporting organisations, state, and so forth) to coordinate their behaviour (choices) leads to suboptimal outcomes. Since the economic performance of the translation industry often involves complementary investments whose return depends on other investments being made by other agents, coordination is crucial. Obviously, neither market forces nor the state have undertaken this coordination activity sufficiently. The Arabic book translation industry seems to suffer from both market failure and government failure.
In light of these results the Arabic book translation industry offers great economic potential that should be mobilised systematically in the future. This paper discusses how this can be achieved, based on a well-designed and implemented process of upgrading and innovation in companies, industries, and clusters related to translation activities. Public policy, properly understood and adequately implemented, can play an important role in this process.

Keywords: Economics of translation; Arabic translation; Arab World; translation industry; Morocco; Egypt; Saudi Arabia; Lebanon; Syria

Tuesday, June 16

Brave men and timid women? A review of the gender differences in fear and anxiety

This paper was very informational about the basic differences between men and women, what’s the nurture aspects and what are genetic aspects and what are hormonal aspects and what are societal aspects in terms of the differences. Let me quote the main bits.

Substantial evidence points to a preponderance of women demonstrating greater fear
and anxiety than men across the life span. Many of the risk factors for developing anxiety form the basis for the expected gender differences. For example, women tend to score higher on higher-order vulnerability factors including negative affectivity and trait anxiety. Further, genetic research suggests that these factors are more heritable among women for reasons that are still unclear. One possibility is that environmental factors counteract anxious tendencies among boys but support them among girls. Although few temperamental differences are observed in very young infants, there is a shift toward greater negative affectivity among girls during the developmental period at which gender socialization becomes evident. Timing of this shift implicates environmental influences such as gender socialization.

This tends to suggest that its mostly social and cultural factors which leads women to be more fearful and anxiety ridden than men despite the fact that you can actually inherit these behavioural factors? I was not very clear as to how genetics would capture this. Does this mean that we have genetically transmittable bio-chemical indicators of emotions just like we have inter-generational transfers of eye and skin colour? Hmmm, makes one think. How about intelligence? hmmm.

Much of the hormonal and physiological data for gender differences appear contradictory. Several studies suggest that men are somewhat more physiologically reactive than women in response to acute stressors. While seemingly inconsistent with broad gender differences in anxiety, this finding is consistent with women’s greater tendency to worry, which is known to decrease physiological reactivity. It is also consistent with evidence that oxytocin production among women leads to lower arousal and stress responding. Evidence that
men are more responsive to acute threat, whereas women are more distressed by potential
threat also fits well with the tend-and-befriend stress response articulated by Taylor et al.
(2000). However, through hypervigilance to threat and prioritizing social networks, the tend and-befriend response may lower women’s perceived coping ability and encourage avoidance.

This further indicates that the social networks, your friends, your parents, your social network actually assist in increasing your vulnerability to anxiety and fear. So you feed off others. Simple answer, spend more time with boys :)

Although women are not more prone to experience traumas overall, they are more
likely to experience certain types of trauma, including sexual abuse and social network crises, which may be particularly potent risk factors for anxiety. Further, in response to aversive events, women are more likely to use emotion-focused coping which is less effective in reducing distress than problem-focused coping strategies.

Hmmm, ok, I accept this point.

Through lower parent-child synchronicity and caregiver overprotection, girls may have
less opportunity to exert control over their environment. As a result, women may perceive
themselves as less capable of coping with potentially threatening situations. Lower self efficacy may, in turn, motivate women to rely on a threat-based style of responding and to cope with uncertainty through avoidance. Avoidant coping among women is consistent with
traditional gender roles, in which men and women are expected to respond to potential threat differently. Thus, the female stress response, as viewed from an evolutionary perspective that emphasizes the need to protect and nurture offspring, may be reinforced by gender socialization processes that support worry, sensitivity to socially-transmitted information, and avoidant coping.

So because its tough for women to break out of their peer and social grouping, they are less able to cope with fear and anxiety. This isn't a happy ending, I am afraid and my flippant answer above, to be more with boys, seems to be more appropriate than ever…

Monday, June 15

Another tiny step forward

You might remember that I wrote a photo essay on the Bhopal Charity some time back. I was so pleased to see an email ping into my in-box today morning. Indeed God is great, he sent another good Samaritan down to help those lovely kids. See she wrote a response on the above mentioned link.

This is something I would like to contribute to financially, how do I get in touch with the administrators?

Small steps, indeed small steps :)

Extraordinary Advertisement

Very good, heart tugging!

The fact that its an advertisement seems like its an afterthought. Very nice.

Intraday value at risk (IVaR) using tick-by-tick data with application to the Toronto stock exchange

Its been a long time that I reviewed one of these papers before but reading about it made a frisson of excitement run down my spine. Ok ok, so call me sad!. Once upon a time in the dim and distant past, I used to muck around on the trading floor. One of the main problems that people on the trading side is that its tough to find out the amount of losses that you might occur. In other words, you make money when you exit a position, not when you enter a position. So you want to know when you can exit the position. So one of the biggest pieces of information that you can have is the potential level of losses that you can suffer given certain parameters such as the confidence intervals, time periods, etc.

So if somebody can sit, like Jimminy Cricket, on your shoulder, while you are trading, and keep on telling you the potential maximum loss you can suffer, then that provides you with an independent way of judging how much risk you can take. Putting it in another way, if you were a racing driver and you had a small voice in the back of your helmet constantly calculating the probability of doing a skid or ruining your tyres, then you know how much you can push your car.

Value At Risk or VaR for short, does this for you. It has faults and deficiencies, but by and large, its a good market risk management indicator. But the major problem from an operational perspective is that its a pigging pig to run and execute. It is highly data intensive and takes a bit of time to calculate, which means that you are lucky if you get it calculated on an overnight basis for large portfolio’s. So for intra-day traders, market makers and the like who operate on a tick by tick basis, its almost impossible to determine it. But this paper seems to present a good solution to this problem.

What I found interesting (and it makes perfect sense) is that there is informational content in the time distance between ticks. And its perfectly intuitive, more the difference, less is the depth and density of the market, liquidity risk has arisen (because you are missing one side or both sides of the spread) and therefore the price formation process is coasting a bit. Now how much it coasts is perhaps a discussion and research for another day. Microstructure buggering around is so much fun and just think about the sheer amount of data that you have to play around with. Nice paper, makes me go all nostalgic for the days of LISP programming and tick by tick terrabytes of data :)


Intradaynext term value at risk (IVaR) using tick-by-tick data with application to the previous termtorontonext term stock exchange

This paper investigates the use of tick-by-tick data for previous termintradaynext term market risk measurement. We propose a method to compute an previous termIntradaynext term Value at Risk based on irregularly spaced high-frequency data and an previous termintradaynext term Monte Carlo simulation. A log-ACD-ARMA-EGARCH model is used to specify the joint density of the marked point process of durations and high-frequency returns. We apply our methodology to transaction data for three stocks actively traded on the previous termTorontonext term Stock Exchange. Compared to traditional techniques applied to previous termintradaynext term data, our methodology has two main advantages. First, our risk measure has a higher informational content as it takes into account all observations. On the total risk measure, our method allows for distinguishing the effect of random trade durations from the effect of random returns, and for analyzing the interaction between these factors. Thus, we find that the information contained in the time between transactions is relevant to risk analysis, which is consistent with predictions from asymmetric-information models in the market microstructure literature. Second, once the model has been estimated, the IVaR can be computed by any trader for any time horizon based on the same information and with no need of sampling the data and estimating the model again when the horizon changes. Backtesting results show that our approach constitutes reliable means of measuring previous termintradaynext term risk for traders who are very active in the market.

Academics uneasy with ban on beards

Bang goes my idea of retiring to Turkey to be an academic. See this


Still unable to find a solution to the controversial and long-standing ban on the Islamic headscarf, Turkish universities are now facing a ban on instructors having a beard or moustache, the Sabah daily reported yesterday.

A draft disciplinary regulation prepared by the Higher Education Board (YÖK) for instructors at universities would require university faculty to shave every day and wear ties on campus. A similar obligation is also mentioned in an existing regulation on attire for university staff, but has not been enforced for several years. The new draft regulation has sparked heated debate amongst instructors who believe university staff should be free to decide what to wear.

According to the draft regulation, male instructors at universities have to be clean shaven every day and are not allowed to wear sweaters that may fully hide their ties.

Ok, so I understand ties, you want to show a professional face to the chaps, but beards and moustaches? Crikey! I wonder what the background is? Must be something to do with religion, lol.

Sunday, June 14

How low you are when even other far right parties shun you

What I loved in this particular interview with Geert Wilders is that even he, a committed right winger Islamophobist hates the BNP. His conversations around Islam are ludicrous anyway, and see my previous related note. but this was the best bit, I quote:

In the European Parliament his four MEPs will not ally with the British National party, he said, claiming he had never met a BNP Member. "I understand they talk a lot about blacks and whites. This is disgusting," he said.

Its such a tragedy when even fellow right wingers hate you. I was near dying from laughing at this. How amusing. And this is the party you guys voted for. lol lol lol. How absolutely amusing.

And the racism pours forth

Typically, you can take the man out of the slimy end and put them into the European Parliament but you cannot take the slime out of the man. The man and all what he represents is racist. See his latest utterances.

Mr Brons, who began his political life as a member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, said he rejected the notion that Black or Asian members of the community could be British, even if they were born here.

He said: "I don't accept the term Black British or Asian British. Britons are the indigenous peoples of these isles."

Asked about someone like Dame Kelly, who was born in Kent of a white English mother and Jamaican father, and served for several years in the Army before becoming one of this country's most successful athletes, he said: "Kelly Holmes is only partially from this country, even if she is an integrated member of the community."

Mr Brons, 61, went on to reject the idea that black footballers, such as Emile Heskey and Jermain Defoe, who represented England against Andorra last Wednesday, could be regarded as British.

He said: "They are British citizens – which is a legal concept – but not British by identity. That's not a pejorative description, it is just stating a fact about their racial identity."

The BNP's ultimate aim – as laid down in its constitution – is a return to a predominately white Britain that existed before the 1948 Nationality Act.

Mr Brons, who well into the 1980s was still praising the NF's skinhead supporters, used to advocate mass forced repatriation of all non-whites. He says he now accepts repatriation would have to be voluntary.

He said: "Compulsory repatriation is not practical now because communities have put down roots. My views have matured and changed."

Quite interesting. I was speaking to few of the BNP supporters on a Tory list and found it very interesting that one cannot split up the issue of race with immigration. Its pretty much clear that its a racist policy if you are against mass immigration but happy to employ white Europeans. This incoherence is so amusing, and when you scratch the surface, you find bewilderment and amazement. Just ask, what does it mean by identity or race? No answer or a blind alley like, people who are born here. Or what we are part of Germanic races. HA! silly sods, you mean Aryan? If so, by language, most of the Indo Germanic linguistic family is also European. More I see and read their utterances, the funnier I find them.

What’s more important is that I am now seeing the BNP supporters realising what kind of animal they have voted for. This veneer of respectability is being removed and the underlying ugliness of their position is being exposed. But on the other hand, the political parties have to do something about immigration and crack down on it. Otherwise this cancer will keep on spreading. But to let perfectly respectable people understand what the BNP are up to, they need to be constantly asked about their positions and policies. Its obvious that the incoherence of their positions will constantly be made into a laughing stock. They cannot help it, they have to be steadfast to their manifesto otherwise they will get accused of being liars and untrustworthy, and if they do remain steadfast, they are racist. Heh. Lovely place to be in, eh?