Monday, June 28, 2010

Chef: A Novel

Jaspreet Singh's "Chef - A Novel", shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book, failed to grip me and so back it goes to the library.  It is the story of an Indian army chef in Kashmir - by which I'm not giving away anything, I hope.  Maybe I'll read it some other day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Indo-US economic engagement

This letter appeared in my mailbox.

In a first of its kind, the India-US World Affairs Institute of Washington partnered with the Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry to prepare a comprehensive report on "How America Benefits from Economic Engagement with India." The authors of the report are Professor Vinod Jain of the University of Maryland and Kamlesh Jain, Director of Research & Education at the India-US World Affairs Institute.

The study, released on June 15 by Congressman Jim McDermott, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, provides, for the first time, a comprehensive analysis of America’s economic engagement with India for the period 2004 to 2009. The analysis covers India’s foreign direct investments into the United States and U.S. exports to India, as well as an assessment of their impacts on the American economy. Also included in the study are the economic impacts Indian Americans are having in the United States.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Intelligence and how to get it

From CIP's blog I learned of R.E. Nisbett's Intelligence and How to Get It.  The library had a copy. I'm still in the thick of it.  Of course, I like it because it confirms all my prejudices.   Nisbett makes out a strong case that almost all population differences in IQ can be explained by environmental and developmental differences, and has little to do with genes.  "Can be explained" is different from "is explained" but then that is about as far as we can get with the "soft" sciences.

One of the strongest indications that IQ is mutable and not genetically determined is the IQ increase observed in different cohorts of the same population.  This is known as the Flynn effect. IQ tests are normed for a cohort, i.e., by definition, the 21-25 age group of white Americans have a normally distributed IQ with a mean IQ of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, and by definition the 45-49 age group of white Americans had the same distribution when they were 21-25.  But since the two groups  might have done exactly the same test, it is possible to compare absolute scores on the test, and by that token today's 21-25 year olds are significantly IQ-smarter than the 45-49 age group was at the same age. 

The good news is that IQ can be developed - by better parenting, better teaching methods at school, better environments for children to grow up in, and so on.

The bad news is that IQ is, IMO, somewhat meaningless.  Note the Flynn effect mentioned above. Such has been the increase in IQ raw test scores that by today's standards, the great-grandparents of today's young adult were barely intelligent enough (in IQ terms) to deal with the world. Since that is absurd, it is more likely that people have become much more proficient at taking tests.  IQ in my opinion, is like rank in a school classroom.  It has some predictive properties; is difficult to compare class ranks across a generation or even sometimes across schools.

The bad news also is that for a country like the US, improving the IQ of the population will take some heavy lifting.  Devising effective programs is difficult. For a country like India with a long way to go with respect to literacy, school enrollment, public health, nutrition, etc., big gains in the IQ of the general population are possible because effective programs to remedy these problems can be devised (e.g., simply increase the measures that contribute to the Human Development Index).   If we assume that IQ measures some quality that is of value in coping with the world, then IQ development is essential for the welfare of the people.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More Annapolis

More Annapolis

Monday, June 14, 2010

Banishing Pakistan

Henceforth, Pakistan is banished to another blog of mine,

I hope that makes this blog more interesting.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


This was in Annapolis, MD, by the waterfront.


Monday, June 07, 2010

Dolphin Leap

Baltimore aquarium.
Dolphin Leap

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


This is another clematis variety.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Lest we forget

Lest we forget just who brought this tide of troubles upon us:

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?
B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.
B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.