Friday, March 20

The latest precious – an 18th century Buddhist Manuscript from Tibet

So here’s the latest precious :)

tz8[1] tz4[1]

there are 24 handwritten pages on 12 sheets, both sides. Each of them is written in Tibetan and on every alternative page, there is a painting of a deity. The paper is heavy parchment very roughly finished, not polished at all. The paint looks like water colours…the ink looks like charcoal

fascinating, I need to get this translated…fascinating parallels with Bengali / Sanskrit script, no?

Does teaching about money actually help you become money wise?

First the abstract:

A large and growing literature documents that a large fraction of the population lacks of the basic skills to make sound financial decisions. This evidence has prompted a number of financial education initiatives around the world. These initiatives often take the form of education programs, but are rarely designed to be evaluated. A first urgent question is whether financial education is actually effective in enhancing the level of financial literacy. Using an evaluation design, our experiment studies the effect of financial education on financial literacy, investment attitudes and on how individuals perceive their level of financial literacy. To remove the effect of potentially important confounders, we run the same experiment in the field and in the laboratory. Our evidence shows a non-negligible effect on financial literacy and investment attitude, but an even larger effect on the degree of self-assessed financial literacy in the population of university students. The exercise thus uncovers an interesting pattern: financial education seems to improve more what individuals think to know than what individuals actually know. The results suggest that, while being able to increase financial literacy, financial education programs can also cause individuals to become more confident in their abilities without actually being more equipped to face financial decisions. Our results imply an important warning on the effectiveness of financial education initiatives. The increase in self-confidence seems to be a necessary by-product of financial education. An extremely polluting by-product, if the increase in self-confidence is not matched by the improvement in actual skills.

Financial literacy has been a bit of a bug bear for me for many moons now. I have taught my son on how to look after money and investments along with some friends. Helped develop a trading game for the London School of Economics which deployed to many many schools over many years to help the kids learn about finance and moneys. Helped all the families in another charity that I look after with learning about debt and money. And in my own teaching as part of STEM Ambassadorship, I talk about money to school students. But this is a fascinating result, that its not just enough to tell them what to do, this telling and teaching doesn't seem to be reflecting in actual money handling skills.

Much to think about now, but at least they are conscious of money. Something that we just do not do enough of.

Thursday, March 19

Should Education Ministers have education experience? You betcha

as per this paper, they should. The authors look at the relationship between higher education ministers and the performance of the sector that they govern and use the European sector as an example. They find that if the minister has prior experience in the sector, the performance of the sector is higher as measured by ranking data.

Now you can quibble about whether or not ranking data is a good enough measure, but it goes without saying that it makes sense for somebody with expertise to drive this ministry.

As a small test, I looked up the central ministers in India who were responsible for Education since Independence. Here is the list. It started with Maulana Azad who was the Minister for Education from 1947 to 1958. Great man. And because of his amazing contributions, the National Education Day is celebrated every 11th November on his birth anniversary. The successors to his post were all brilliant, educated men frequently with direct experience in this sector. But not always.

Karan Singh was the minister till 1980 and then the rot started…Take for example, SB Chavan, who was in office for 18 months 1988-1989, he had his degree from Osmania University…good heavens. Shela Kaul had a degree in teaching so that’s good. KC Pant also was good in terms of education, but no experience. Narsimha Rao, good education and well intelligent, but no experience. P Shiv Shankar, educated but no experience. VP Singh, educated but no experience. Arjun Singh, no information on education or experience, but guess none. Scindia has had a good reputation but no experience. ABV, educated but no experience. Bommai, educated but not experienced. MM Joshi, well educated and experienced. Kapil Sabil, educated but no experience. MMP Raju, educated but no experience. And then we have the current minister, Smriti Irani, who is not educated nor experienced.

Tragic. Weep for Indian Students you lot, weep. Such is the future of the country – in the hands of these career politicians who are, by and large, educated but not experienced. And now we have literally hit the bottom with a minister who is not educated nor experienced. 

Which is your favourite word out of this list?

So Bongo shared this link with me. This is a list of words that somebody put together based upon twitter suggestions. 32 of them. Out of which, I don't know the following:

original-9837-1425899087-34[1] original-2035-1425917215-16[1] original-6343-1425922117-11[1] original-5483-1425922587-23[1] original-30746-1425923054-21[1]

I love the word Vellichor…but if you truly ask me which word do I love the best? then it would be this word


Wednesday, March 18

Book review Kurt Vonnegut Galapagos

I have to admit that this was one of the strangest books I've ever read. It's like it's written by a madman whose just slightly off phase to the rest of the world. It's about, God know what, set in 1984, about turtles, Galapagos, genetic faults, rockets, ghosts, a ship, riots and wars, humankind who evolve into furry creatures.

the man wrote this book in the backdrop of a severe currency and financial crisis on one hand, and the emerging AIDS epidemic on the other hand. Between these two events, humankind collapses…curious, we just had a severe financial crisis and dodged the EBOLA crisis, weird, eh?

So I'm going to go to Galapagos in a few months and this book was recommended. Well I'm not sure it helped me understand Ecuador or Galapagos at all. Nice collection of quotes though.

Would i recommend this book? Not sure. It'll make your hair hurt. Seriously weird book. Maddening. My first experience with Vonnegut’s work…am I too old to appreciate fiction like this?

Gibbon on Athenians


there’s a huge amount of context to this quote, but be that as it may, whenever a society starts sucking on the hind tit of society and not taking up individual responsibility, then its destined to be kicked in the proverbials…History is a vast early warning system and it sure does repeat itself…and will keep on doing it…

Tuesday, March 17

Book Review: the story of sushi

so whilst I was pottering around a bookstore in Singapore, I noticed this book and snaffled it. Its called as the Story of Sushi written by Trevor Corson. It is one of the most extraordinary foodie books I have ever read. Its a non-fiction book so I can give away the plot. Its about Sushi :).

it follows a group of trainee Sushi Chefs who are getting trained on a sushi course in a Japanese restaurant in USA. Very personalised and I loved it. Week by week, the author takes us through how the trainees learn how to do Sushi. In each chapter, he delves into the history of sushi, the history of each of the fish, the anatomy – bio chemistry – bio engineering of all the fish. How to prepare them, how different chefs did sushi, how to make nigiri and and and.

Seriously recommended for anybody who likes sushi, buy this. If you like making sushi, then I am not sure how much this will be of use. I like making sushi for the kids and I love cooking as well, but the level at which these chefs operate, the knowledge you need, the practise you need to have, is at a level that I can never achieve. Will require just way too much investment in time, energy and money that I can devote. So all I can do is to try to do some basics. I will never be able to get the quality of tuna, salmon, etc. etc. that you require. I might be able to make the rice rectangles (right now, they end up looking like demented torpedoes).

the author talks about rice, the religion of sushi – the idea that every grain of rice has a deity inside, it talks about how to carve radishes and cucumbers. How the sushi chef is more a counsellor than a chef. How to order sushi at a restaurant. How and when to use chop sticks. Where is the fatty portion on a tuna. How to distinguish between fast twitch and slow twitch muscle in a fish and how they taste. He talks about unami, the 5th sense.

Seriously, I loved this book. Anybody, as i mentioned, anybody who likes sushi, should have a copy of this book. And you can also use this book, but forget being a sushi master…that’s at a level where gods roam, not for mortals like me.

oh! he also talks about knives and the discipline to keep your cooking station clean. How to avoid waste. sighs, this is a real foodie book, comes highly recommended.

End of the day

1. Dont dip your rice into the soy sauce

2. dont use chopsticks to eat sushi, use fingers

3. dont put wasabi in the soy sauce

4. the pickled ginger is meant as a mouth cleanser between courses

Monday, March 16

Poverty and USA

quite an interesting if uncomfortable read about USA.

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.

Kurt Vonnegut

with the lack of a social safety net (well, compared to the European nations and look at how that turned out), and sclerotic legislature and executive, this is something that we all need to think about. And you can see echoes of this quote in the UK as well…