Saturday, August 27

Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to his son

This book, was one which we had while I was growing up. I dont even know how we managed to get hold of a copy. I suspect it comes down to us from my mother’s uncle. He was a doctor in Allahabad and an extremely well read man. He had hundreds of books in his library and used to sit down on his teak recliner and read and read and read. Amongst the various influences on me, he is one of the biggest ones. He (and my uncle) are the two biggest influences on me as far as my bibliography goes. When he died too young, I inherited quite a ton of his books by Agatha Christie, Pearl S. Buck, Peter Cheney, Peter Mason, and and and. Anyway, amongst all those books, was this book, Lord Chesterfield’s letters to his son. I quote the blurb from Amazon:

`My object is to have you fit to live; which, if you are not, I do not desire that you should live at all.' So wrote Lord Chesterfield in one of the most celebrated and controversial correspondences between a father and son. Chesterfield wrote almost daily to his natural son, Philip, from 1737 onwards, providing him with instruction in etiquette and the worldly arts. Praised in their day as a complete manual of education, and despised by Samuel Johnson for teaching `the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing-master', these letters reflect the political craft of a leading statesman and the urbane wit of a man who associated with Pope, Addison, and Swift. The letters reveal Chesterfield's political cynicism and his belief that his country had `always been goverened by the only two or three people, out of two or three millions, totally incapable of governing', as well as his views on good breeding. Not originally intended for publication, this entertaining correspondence illuminates fascinating aspects of eighteenth-century life and manners.

I liked that idea, to write to your son, to ensure that he gets the benefit of your experience. he doesnt need to follow them, but at least we have done our bit to pass on our thoughts. So as per my plan, I wanted to do something similar to my eldest cost centre from his 15th year onwards, which is this year. Why 15th? Well, it was a judgement call, whether or not he would be receptive to some of the more philosophical questions and points that one is raising. Is he an adult to appreciate the points? Furthermore, I dont have that much time to write to him daily, but what I can do is to pick up long essays or notes from the net, add few lines to it and chuck it across to him.

While on holiday, it turns out that he is reading them but not reacting to me by email. That’s fine, I understand, as long as he reads it, that’s the best I think I can hope for now. He can then debate, masticate, ignore, review, whatever. I am reminded of Sir Francis Bacon’s quote:

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

Same with my missives. And then I figured, might as well as blog them, that can perhaps be used by others and they can also give me guidance on what I might have missed. Or add further advice or guidance. So will start posting them one by one every now and then.

Friday, August 26

How the markets saved African Rhino’s

Quite an interesting article here: the abstract is here:

In 1900, the southern white rhinoceros was the most endangered of the five rhinoceros species. Less than 20 rhinos remained in a single reserve in South Africa. By 2010, white rhino numbers had climbed to more than 20,000, making it the most common rhino species on the planet.

Saving the white rhino from extinction can be attributed to a change in policy that allowed private ownership of wildlife. While protecting the rhinos encouraging breeding, the ranchers were able to profit by limited trophy hunting.

Poaching for rhino horn, which is in high demand for medicinal and ornamental purposes, had also devastated the rhino population. CITES banned the commercial sale of rhino horn, which caused black market sales to sky rocket and encouraged poaching. If the ban were lifted, ranchers are ready to supply the market by harvesting the horns humanely, which then regrow just like fingernails.

Strong property rights and market incentives have provided a successful model for rhino conservation, despite the negative impact of command-and-control approaches that rely on regulations and bans that restrict wildlife use.

AUTHOR: Michael 't Sas-Rolfes is an environmental economist based in South Africa and a 2011 PERC Lone Mountain Fellow. For more information visit his website:

Full text here.

But I keep on thinking about this. Not sure if this works out everywhere. See this article from the FT on Shark Fins. I quote:

The link between these ancient predators and contemporary wedding receptions is that, among Chinese people, it is a sign of generosity and prestige to serve guests shark-fin soup. Since there are more than 1.3bn Chinese people, and since they are getting more affluent by the day, that is of no little consequence to the shark population. Some 70m sharks are killed each year for their fins. Much of the time, the fins are sliced off with a blade at sea and the bloody shark torso thrown back in the water to die.

Will the market suffice to save sharks? btw, I have had shark meat, its not fun.

But this suffers from the standard problem of big species syndrome. We have millions of species on the earth. It wont be possible to apply market principles to all these species, eh? How about a spider in your back garden?

Thursday, August 25

Contrary to popular opinion, roads were due to cyclists

I didnt know this.

Car drivers assume the roads were built for them, but it was cyclists who first lobbied for flat roads more than 100 years ago

Wooden hobbyhorses evolved into velocipedes; velocipedes evolved into safety bicycles; safety bicycles evolved into automobiles.

It's well known that the automotive industry grew from seeds planted in the fertile soil that was the late 19th century bicycle market. And to many motorists it's back in the 19th century that bicycles belong. Cars are deemed to be modern; bicycles are Victorian.

Many motorists also assume that roads were built for them. In fact, cars are the johnny-come-latelies of highways.

The hard, flat road surfaces we take for granted are relatively new. Asphalt surfaces weren't widespread until the 1930s. So, are motorists to thank for this smoothness?

No. The improvement of roads was first lobbied for – and paid for – by cycling organisations.

In the UK and the US, cyclists lobbied for better road surfaces for a full 30 years before motoring organisations did the same. Cyclists were ahead of their time.

When railways took off from the 1840s, the coaching trade died, leaving roads almost unused and in poor condition. Cyclists were the first vehicle operators in a generation to go on long journeys, town to town. Cyclists helped save many roads from being grubbed up.

Roads in towns were sometimes well surfaced. Poor areas were cobbled; upmarket areas were covered in granite setts (what many localities call cobbles). Pretty much every other road was left unsurfaced and would be the colour of the local stone. Many 19th century authors waxed lyrical about the varied and beautiful colours of British roads.

Cyclists' organisations, such as Cyclists' Touring Club in the UK and League of American Wheelmen (LAW) in the US, lobbied county surveyors and politicians to build better roads. The US Good Roads movement, set up by LAW, was highly influential. LAW once had the then US president turn up at its annual general meeting.

The CTC individual in charge of the UK version of the Good Roads movement, William Rees Jeffreys, organised asphalt trials before cars became common. He took the reins of the Roads Improvement Association (RIA) in 1890, while working for the CTC.

He later became an arch motorist and the RIA morphed into a motoring organisation. Rees Jeffreys called for motorways in Britain 50 years prior to their introduction. But he never forgot his roots. In a 1949 book, Rees Jeffreys – described by former prime minister David Lloyd George as "the greatest authority on roads in the United Kingdom and one of the greatest in the whole world" – wrote that cyclists paved the way, as it were, for motorists. Without the efforts of cyclists, he said, motorists would not have had as many roads to drive on. Lots of other authors in the early days of motoring said the same but this debt owed to cyclists by motorists is long forgotten.

The CTC created the RIA in 1885 and, in 1886, organised the first ever Roads Conference in Britain. With patronage – and cash – from aristocrats and royals, the CTC published influential pamphlets on road design and how to create better road surfaces. In some areas, county surveyors took this on board (some were CTC members) and started to improve their local roads.

Even though it was started and paid for by cyclists, the RIA stressed from its foundation that it was lobbying for better roads to be used by all, not just cyclists.

However, in 1896 everything changed. Motoring big-wigs lobbied for the Locomotives Amendment Act to be repealed. This act made a driver of a road locomotive drive very, very slowly and the vehicle had to be preceded by a man waving a red flag. When the act was jettisoned, speeds increased, automobilists demanded better road surfaces to go even faster on, and "scorchers" and "road hogs", terms first used against cyclists, took over the roads.

By the early 1900s most British motorists had forgotten about the debt they owed to prehistoric track builders, the Romans, turnpike trusts, John McAdam, Thomas Telford and bicyclists. Before even one road had been built with motorcars in mind (this wasn't to happen until the 1930s), motorists assumed the mantle of overlords of the road.

A satirical verse in Punch magazine of 1907 summed up this attitude from some drivers:

"The roads were made for me; years ago they were made. Wise rulers saw me coming and made roads. Now that I am come they go on making roads – making them up. For I break things. Roads I break and Rules of the Road. Statutory limits were made for me. I break them. I break the dull silence of the country. Sometimes I break down, and thousands flock round me, so that I dislocate the traffic. But I am the Traffic."

At the time, the CTC had little inkling cyclists would soon be usurped. An editorial in the CTC Gazette of July 1896 admitted the "horseless carriage movement will make an irresistible advance" and asked members whether motorists should be admitted to membership. Such a move was declined by members but cyclists were later instrumental in the foundation of the Automobile Association, an organisation created to foil police speed traps.

Motoring and cycling soon developed in very different directions and by the 1950s it was clear the future was to be one of mass ownership of cars. Car mileage increased, roads were now always designed with motors in mind, and, rider by rider, cyclists – once dominant on Britain's roads – started to disappear. In the evolutionary timeline of hobbyhorse-to-velocipide-to-bicycle-to-automobile, the riding of bicycles should have been all but extinguished by the 1970s. Town planners certainly thought that way, and declined to design for anything other than motorcars.

But there's a problem with mass car ownership: there's not enough space to put them all. Gridlock is the unforeseen outcome of planning solely for cars. When a city grinds to a halt, that's money down the drain. Cities are waking up to the fact that unrestrained car use is bad for people, and bad for the local economy. Unrestrained car use leads to ugly cities.

Now, the cities that first woke up to this are the bicycle-friendly cities beloved by cycle campaigners.

Towns and cities that design for people, not machines, will be the most progressive of the next 150 years, the towns and cities where people will most want to live, work and play. Far from being a 19th century anachronism, the bicycle is fast becoming a symbol of urban modernity, and cyclists are again at the vanguard of making cities better places. Cyclists have always been ahead of their time.

Wednesday, August 24

Bed of Books

I guess it will be a bit uncomfortable and not well sprung but gosh, what a great idea : tossing and turning on a bed of knowledge Smile

Tuesday, August 23

U.S. Muslim Women and Body Image: Links Among Objectification Theory Constructs and the Hijab

First the godawfully written abstract.

This study tested tenets of objectification theory and explored the role of the hijab in body image and
eating disorder symptoms with a sample of 118 Muslim women in the United States. Results from a path
analysis indicated that individual differences in wearing the hijab were related negatively with reported
sexual objectification experiences. Sexual objectification experiences, in turn, had significant positive
indirect relations with body surveillance, body shame, and eating disorder symptoms, primarily through
the mediating role of internalization. Internalization of cultural standards of beauty also had a significant
positive direct relation with body shame and significant positive direct and indirect relations with eating
disorder symptoms. By contrast, the direct and indirect relations of body surveillance were significant
only when the role of internalization was constrained to 0 (i.e., eliminated), suggesting that internalization
of cultural standards of beauty subsumed the hypothesized role of body surveillance in the model.
Taken together, these results support some of the tenets of objectification theory with a sample of U.S.
Muslim women, point to the importance of internalization of dominant cultural standards of beauty
within that framework, and suggest the utility of considering individual differences in wearing the hijab
among U.S. Muslim women.

I had to read it thrice to make sure I understood it and i am still not sure if I got it. If I understood it, it says that based upon a sample of 118 Muslim women, they found that there was a relationship between a woman wearing a hijab and sexual objectification experience. So if they had a bad experience of being treated as a sex object, then they were more inclined to wear a hijab. ok. So far so good. But seems like having a bad experience of treated as a sex object is also connected to body shame and eating disorders. Does this mean to say that wearing hijab is connected to these disorders? And the survey also says that wearing a Hijab lead to lesser number of sexual objectification experiences. Complicated stuff.