Friday, September 18

Leaving Books Open

My mum used to tell me when I was a kid never to leave books open because that shows disrespect to the Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning. Apparently, if you leave the book open, then the knowledge flies off. When I saw this picture, I remembered the story….


Thursday, September 17

Those who cant, teach

Having grown up in a family which has had teachers back tens of generations, I naturally grew up venerating teachers and became one myself. There are also cultural factors which cause me to venerate teachers. So it was quite a shock when I came to the west and heard the adage, “those who can’t, teach”. In fact, one of the government campaigns to get teachers into the profession takes off on this, by calling it as “those who can, teach” like below:

So when I came across this paper, it was very interesting. I teach finance and I also invest in the markets. My style can be said to be the following. Active investment, 60% in blue chip stocks which are underpriced / undervalued according to P/E ratio’s (anything less than 6 is dramatically undervalued, anything over 20 is overvalued etc. etc.), 10 year investment horizon at the moment, 20% in emerging markets and 20% in cash or cash equivalents. Doing reasonably well, 20-25% average returns although some investments have been stinkers (Woolworths, Cattles..). Firmly believe in market efficiency with some eddies but that over the long run, you revert back to mean reversion to efficient frontier. So what do other finance professors think? I quote the abstract:

We identify finance professors’ opinions on the efficiency of the stock markets in the United States and assess whether their views on efficiency influence their investing behavior. Employing a survey distributed to over 4,000 professors, we obtain four main results. First, most professors believe the market is weak to semi-strong efficient. Second, twice as many professors passively invest than actively invest. Third, our respondents’ perceptions regarding market efficiency are almost entirely unrelated to their trading behavior. Fourth, the investment objectives of professors are, instead, largely driven by the same behavioral factor as for amateur investors – one's confidence in his own abilities to beat the market, independent of his opinion of market efficiency.

Seems like the finance professors dont adapt their investment decisions to their beliefs and studies about the market efficiency but instead rely on self confidence. So when these teachers teach students about finance, we seem to have a bit of a dichotomy in answers…

Christianity and Untouchability

I was sent this email by this All India Christian Council (dont ask, strange are the ways of mailing lists).

All India Christian  Council

Dalit News Update

A coalition birthed in 1998 to protect and serve the Christian Community, Minorities, and the Oppressed Castes

Vol. II, Issue No. 19, 14 September 2009

Dear Friend of AICC,

Greeting to you from All India Christian Council ,

We are glad to give you the information on the stories of Dalit Issues time to time, We hope to recieve your feed-backs and suggestions on the different Issues in regard to Dalit plight. Thanks again for your involvement in helping the down trodden specially the dalits in our country and hope to bring freedom and dignity to the Dalits of India.

We are sending the five most recent articles on our website, we want to keep you informed, and hope you will visit our website:- regularly or subscribe to a feed in order to get the latest information. We appreciate your partnership and interest in down trodden in India.

With Best Wishes,


"Caste-based discrimination eclipses democracy"

Unsociability is result of State’s failure to provide equality to Dalits: Brinda  
CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat addressing a meeting on `Unsociability and Implementation of Legal Provisions,’ held in Madurai on Friday.

SC/ST Act brings little relief to victims, say Dalit activists

JAIPUR: Dalit activists attending a State-level dialogue on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, here on Wednesday suggested several amendments to the Rules of 1995 framed under the legislation to ensure a prompt and fair probe into crimes against Dalits and render speedy justice to the victims of persecution.
Speakers at the dialogue, organised by the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights and other Dalit groups, expressed concern over the abysmally low conviction rate under the SC/ST Act and noted that no change in the condition of Dalits had been witnessed during the past 20 years of the statute being in force primarily due to its “weak implementation”.

So I wrote back to them (I desisted from pointing out spelling mistakes on their email anyway, lol):

why are you guys sending news of Dalit's? Curious that you want to speak about Hindu Dalilts...Or do you mention Christian Dalits? and if the later, how can they be Christian Dalits? Christianity doesnt believe in untouchability.

Pretty confusing of these Christians, no? Either they aren't Christians or they are not dalits or if they are, then they are Hindu Dalits. While there is no problem at all with a Christian organisation standing up for anybody, but why call them as Christian Dalits? I am not clear about this organisation at all, very shady. Lets see what they respond back…

Wednesday, September 16

Limit of 30% foreigners in a classroom?

The Italian Government is proposing to have a limit of 30% immigrant students in a school class. The argument seems to be that any more than this % of students in a classroom has an adverse impact on integration. Not this is an interesting argument.

On the anti side, i dislike this purely on the basis that its against individual choice and I hate the government buggering around with school life.


Then you have the flip side. Remember the forces busing of black students to white schools to make sure diversity is achieved? Its called as Desegregation policies where black students are sent to white schools to make sure that racial diversity is maintained. We have affirmative action to make sure that minorities are benefited. And so on and so forth. If the objective is to have well balanced school, just like elsewhere in the world, we positively discriminate, surely this 30% limit also makes sense?

Needs more thought…

Sky Burial – (dont open links if sensitive…)

I didn't know this at all, first I heard about it. I knew about the Parsi Towers of Silence, but this came as a surprise. In effect, you lay the body out in the open, let the vultures feed on the dead body based upon Buddhist rituals. The argument behind disposing of bodies in this fashion is pretty interesting and completely makes sense. But for sensitive souls for whom death is a very civilised affair, this can be shocking.


Here’s a site with some very graphic images,  viewer discretion is very strongly advised. 


Tuesday, September 15

How the government steals your money

Its your government, its your public sector, its your wallet. Here’s what it takes from the cost of a visit to a salon.


Almost 50% of the damn bill goes to the various tax authorities. Here’s some horrifying numbers from the other staple: Petrol:

Here’s another way to show this:

If you like your pie charts, here’s another view:


Here’s another graphic from BP.

Same kind of tax robbery with spirits and ciggies. That is not including the impact of corporate, individual and other indirect taxes. Another way of looking at it is to see the first day of the year in which a country has earned enough to fund its annual tax burden and then the citizen is free to do what they want with their money. Its the tax freedom day. For the United Kingdom, the damn government sucks our blood till 14th May! And this is going to go up even more.

Parasites! To top it all, the tax code becomes even longer and larger. I quote:

The UK now has the longest tax code in the world according to LexisNexis, the publishers of Tolley's tax guide. The handbook of tax legislation now runs to 11,520 pages, a 10pc increase on last year and more then double the number of pages from 12 years ago.

Buggers cant just stop tinkering around with our lives.

Monday, September 14

Students of unionised teachers do worse

This blew me away. I quote:

This paper examines the relationship between teacher unionization, student achievement and teachers’ pay using a cross-section of data from private schools in India. We use differences in student mark across subjects to identify within-pupil variation in achievement and find that union membership of the teacher is associated with reduced pupil achievement. We find no evidence this could be due to the unobservables not controlled for by this procedure. A school fixed effects equation of teacher pay shows that union membership raises pay and in this case too we find that remaining unobservables are unlikely to explain this outcome. We discuss the policy implications of the findings and show that the effectiveness of teacher credentials in improving teacher performance is linked to unionization.

Yes, this is in India, and that too in private schools, which are spasmodically governed. Now the results are fairly worrying for all people who are interested in improving education. Forget about government funded schooling, that’s neither the appropriate mechanism nor the argument here. The sample is important to note, mainly
English Medium private secondary schools in India which are generally the more privileged fee-charging
secondary schools
. Many factors jump out.

  • The negative impact of unionised teachers is less in states where the state government is also left oriented.
  • If there is more competition in the form of more schools nearby, the negative impact is much larger.
  • Higher teacher educational qualifications seem to only make a difference in the non unionised schools.
  • Higher teacher salary and lower school classes make a bigger difference in non unionised schools rather than unionised schools.

What is the impact on the student? I quote the bloody amazing result:

we find that the achievement level of a student in a subject that is taught by a unionized teacher is about a quarter of a standard deviation lower than his/her achievement in a subject that is taught by a non-unionized teacher

What was shocking is that the authors point to a (unsubstantiated) conclusion, that only poor teachers join unions. Kindda makes sense, no?

Sunday, September 13

Some refugees are more equal than others

So we have the United Nations, supposedly the saviour of all the refugees all over the world, being upset with the Sri Lankans about the Tamil Refugee Camp. It says that it cannot indefinitely fund the refugee camp. On the other hand, the UNRWA camps have been running merrily for 60 years now. Whether the fault lies with the donor countries or with that giant bureaucracy called as United Nations is an argument for another time, but no doubt that some refugees are more worthy of help compared to others, no? Mind you, some people like keeping the Palestinians as refugees, but that’s another argument.

Also see this data table, quite an interesting way of looking at how refugee populations have shifted and moved around.

nice equality there, old chap.