Archive for June 14th, 2007

Two musicians (and their literary connections)

June 14, 2007
  1. Gowri Ramnarayan profiles Lalgudi:

    It is a surprise to learn from the top-notch violinist about his parampara in composing music. Flanked by wife Rajalakshmi, son Krishnan, daughter Vijayalakshmi and disciple S.P.Ramh, the veteran wanders into a past rich with grandmother Muthulakshmi’s songs on family and village deity Ulagaayi Amman in Valadi. “She couldn’t read or write. But she poured out Tamil songs of utter devotion,” says he and launches into Patti’s “Kannan Vadivai Kaanungal.” We witness a rare treat. Wife Rajalakshmi sings with her husband.

    La Sa Ra’s autobiographical sketch has more details about this poet — I think he calls the goddess பெருந்திரு.

  2. Ranjani Govind profiles Sukanya Ramgopal:

    Being noticeably different is what Sukanya is known for, from the time the 10-year-old lass wanted to tap the mud pot to produce melody.That it was a male domain hardly ever bothered the girl whose passion for the pot forced her guru T.H.Vikku Vinayakram to accept her as a student, storming the proverbial male bastion.

    Sukanya has some literary connections, too–she is the great grand daughter of உ வே சா.

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Why be a scientist?

June 14, 2007

Prof. D  Balasubramanian links to a book titled One hundred reasons to be a scientist (pdf); I am not sure how much of convincing our youngsters need to take up science, or how convincing the book is; however, I am interested in the book for purely anthropological reasons — what reasons do scientists give while recommending a scientific career.

Caste, development and gender

June 14, 2007

Here is an article published in Gender and Development about Dalit women activists:

The issue of ‘caste’ continues to raise concerns for the women’s movement in India. However, the nature of these concerns has changed as a result of the efforts made by state and non-state actors to include Dalit women and their interests in their work. Women activists – caste-Hindu, Dalit or otherwise – carry their caste identity into their organisation and field of activism. Their experiences differ depending not only on their caste but also on the context in which they are operating.

In addition, Dalit women activists, who had been marginalised in the women’s movement, are beginning to use their ‘caste’ identity along with their identity derived from working as village-level activists, in order to take their interests beyond the realm of social activism. By participating in local electoral politics, they are unquestionably also using their own agency and sense of empowerment derived from their involvement in women’s activism.

Such participation in local electoral politics by Dalit village-level workers offers a particularly relevant insight into changes that are emerging in the Indian women’s movement as a result of its own efforts to include Dalit women and their interests, and due to broader developments outside of it (for example the Panchayati Raj Act, and the BSP-led Dalitbahujan Samaj movement). Over many years, the personal experiences of caste-Hindu, middle-class urban-educated women – who have dominated the women’s movement in India – have been celebrated as political. The individual journeys of Kalawati, Basania and Sukhia, and their forays into electoral politics from the realm of social activism, demonstrate how Dalit women are creating ways in which their personal experiences can also be celebrated as political.

Furthermore, such initiative on the part of Dalit village-level workers to venture into local electoral politics shows that these women consider that the capture of political power can bring about change in the condition of their own community, in ways that organisations involved in social activism may not. Although it is difficult to reach firm conclusions without further research, it seems that their participation in local electoral politics might be a way to improve their own situation, specifically by overcoming the ‘caste-ceilings’ present in social activism.

The piece is available for download for free till the end of July; via Philobiblon. Take a look!

Tax, tobacco and Lagrange multipliers

June 14, 2007

While I was looking up the constrained extremization using Lagrange multipliers, I came across this via the Wiki page on Lagrange multipliers:

Governments often use taxes as Lagrange multipliers! Read on:

How much gasoline I buy affects my happiness. (If I buy too little gasoline then I can’t go anywhere, but if I buy too much then I don’t have money left to eat.) Let’s measure net happiness in dollars: the benefit to me minus the cost of the gas.

If x is a vector giving each person’s annual gasoline consumption, let f(x) be the total net effect on the population’s happiness. f(x) is maximized when each person separately buys the amount of gasoline that makes her happiest. Unfortunately, then the total gas consumption g(x) is too high, causing pollution.

To keep g(x)=c while still making happiness f(x) as high as possible, impose a gasoline tax. If the tax is $20/gallon, people’s free choices will maximize not f(x) but rather f(x) + (-20) g(x). People who like to drive still buy more gas than people who don’t, but everyone buys less than s/he did before.

By adjusting the size of the tax (the Lagrange multiplier), the government can indirectly adjust total consumption g(x) until it is at the desired level, g(x)=c. One cannot determine from c in advance what the tax should be.

Very nice explanation indeed!

I know that every year, the Indian exchequer increases the tax on tobacco products using the same argument, namely that higher taxation would lead to lesser consumption. However, as this article argues, the higher taxation translates to lower consumption only if the system of taxation works well:

Let us take a look at the realities in India. The Government of India can tax tobacco products till it is blue in the face but will not record any deterrent effect for the simple reason that the makers of these products will (a) understate their sales, and (b) sell their products at a price free of tax. This will suit everybody — the government because it is doing the politically correct thing; the politicians and bureaucrats because they can extort more bribes from the manufacturers of tobacco products; the manufacturers themselves because they get to pay more bribes to the politicians, and the bureaucrats, using money that should have gone into the exchequer but did not, thereby giving them more clout; and users of tobacco who continue to get their product.

In any case, Wiki page has some more interesting links on Lagrange multipliers and their use in economics and physics too. Have fun!

Plagiarism, literary allusion and copyright infringement!

June 14, 2007

While this post at the Language Log discusses the differences between plagiarism and literary allusion:

It’s a subtle line to draw, perhaps, but no very difficult concept is involved. It’s really the same as the difference between wearing a Darth Vader mask because you are dressed up as Darth Vader (and intending to be recognized as someone dressed up as him — not to be mistaken for him), and wearing one in order not to be recognized while you are robbing a bank.

This follow-up post discusses the similarities and differences between plagiarism and copyright infringement.

Science writing on the blogosphere

June 14, 2007

Here is a review in the latest issue of Nature by Paul Stevenson of The Open Laboratory: The best writing on Science Blogs 2006, edited by Bora. Probably time for you to that post, which can make it to the next year’s anthology.