Archive for November, 2012


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The ode originated in Greek drama when the chorus divided into two groups and danced across the stage singing a hymn of praise for a god or a king. Centuries later, two Roman poets, Pindar and Horace, gave it different stylistic twists: the Horatian ode maintained the Greek emphasis on structure and rhythm, but the Pindaric ode was less formal, and in some ways anticipated the modern free verse ode. Today, the ode is typically a three or four part, fairly long poem written in praise or criticism, concluding with a moral.  It may be rhymed and metrical, or it may be in free verse as in “Ode to my Socks” which was written by Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), the Chilean Nobel Prize winner,

Uncomfortably tucked away
in the land of milk and honey,
with a temperate Mediterranean climate
just south of Lebanon’s troubled Cedars
and north of the Bedouin’s desolate Negev desert,
remaining cut across various human fault lines.
But safe from the chaotic monsoons that it’s distant cousins:
the Indian subcontinental mango and jackfruit must face.
Yet left unsafe from the upheavals,
driven by zealousness in it’s own land.

A seemingly ubiquitous citrus fruit
leaving it’s mark on medieval and colonial supply chains,
starting from Levantine orchards,
and criss-crossing throughout the Old World,
Once a  prideful symbolic reference to days past,
now a symbol of  seemingly eternal contention,
standing in direct contrast to the olive branch,
in the middle of an orphaned and elusive peace.

The result of a fateful genetic mutation,
with probability as destiny.
The Jaffa Orange, an almost seedless variety of fruit,
sharing autumn’s color and luminous contrast.
It’s sweet flesh loaded with Vitamin C and citric acid.
Spherical oval shaped fruits,
almost like they fell from a distant galaxy
many light-years away…
When cut in half
their pale hemispheres
forming an obvious symmetry,
covered by a thick skin that peels right off.

The bustling commercial streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,
but also those of Beirut and Istanbul,
filled with oranges
on a bright sunny midday in spring,
picked with the back-breaking labor of rural peasants
situated in kibbutzims and rocky hamlets.
Some to be eaten locally,
but many ready to export, probably to Europe
where they give their name to Jaffa cakes,
and also now grown elsewhere.
A reminder to never let your treasures go.

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A few various trends taking place in the US:

  • Skill-biased technological change and a steady polarization of the workforce.
  • Repetitive tasks shifting away from labor to capital.
  • Women going to college in increasing numbers meaning more two-income households. The trend is so strong that in most undergraduate universities that women outnumber men.
  • This is leading to lower fertility, steady aging of the population and delayed child rearing.
  • “Great Stagnation”
  • Elevated unemployment (possibly structural).
  • Most job creation occurring in non-tradable sectors (so much for competitiveness).
  • Finance taking a larger slice of the aggregate GDP pie.

So I decided to look up income data by education and created a ratio of bachelors degree holders vs HS diploma holders. The higher the ratio, the higher the income premium in going to college is favored. This ratio is steadily going up over time for both genders. The ratio is a multiple of how many times your income will go up through completion of college.

For 2008 (the most recent year of numbers) men will experience a 2.939 income multiple by going to college.

Women will experience a 2.505 income multiple.

Men experience a larger premium from going to college than women do.

This could be self-selection bias as by eye-balling various majors in college such as engineering, one will notice a larger male presence. Engineering is one of the highest paid majors for those with a bachelors degree. Men are highly represented in finance and computer sciences too.

Also interesting to note, the ratio for women declining after the early 1990s recession and just before the dot-com bubble. Where college was guaranteeing less of a premium for women. Without looking at anymore numbers I would think that incomes of lower skilled women were improving very fast in the mid-90s rather than a decline in incomes for college-educated women.

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This describes a coordination failure with farmers being unable to collude because incentives to cheat and defect are high. The risk in coordination lies mostly with a farmer who can see that he is able to cheat, which would allow the farmer who did not cheat to bear the entire risk of his crops being destroyed.

This is similar to the prisoner’s dilemma where both players will miss a Nash Equilibrium and a socially optimal strategy by playing their dominant strategies.

Furthermore it touches upon the notion that reducing corruption and increasing trust are prerequisites for meaningful economic development.

Palanpur farmers sow their winter crops several weeks after the date at which yields would be maximised. The farmers do not doubt that earlier plantings would give them larger harvests, but no one, the farmer explained, is willing to be the first to plant, as the seeds on any lone plot would be quickly eaten by birds. I asked if a larger group of farmers, perhaps relatives, had ever agreed to sow earlier, all planting on the same day to minimise the loses. “If we knew how to do that,” he said looking up from his hoe at me, “we would not be poor.”

Via “Origin of Wealth” (chpt Design Spaces), Eric D. Beinhocker.

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Shakespearean Sonnet

While he was writing his plays, William Shakespeare was also writing 154 sonnets, some of them directed to a “dark lady,” others addressed to an unknown male. Although he maintained its basic iambic pentameter, Shakespeare reshaped the end rhyme pattern of the Italian sonnet into three quatrains rhymed abab, cdcd, efef, and a closing couplet gg. In the following sonnet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, who wrote more than two hundred sonnets, uses the Shakespearean pattern rather than the Italian to write ironically about the casualness of modern relationships.

The main motivation for this poem was to take a humorous jab at what I called the “networking culture” that I encountered when I was in college. It didn’t really fit me, but alas, I learned to fit in and adapted.

Nervously dreading the email invite,
to a night not worth looking forward to.
The bland decor was quite the sight,
admiration at first but everybody knew.
Ridiculous networking and debate
along with shallow social climbing,
trying really hard to ignore the bait.
Rather be slaving away and working.
Key industry buzz-words all abound,
the opinions seem increasingly contrived
my career’s decision-maker outbound.
An emptiness causing me to feel deprived
As someone mentions going out for crepes,
Sensing the start of a great many escapes.

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1.) All data are from the American Time Use Survey.

2.) All data for Table 1, Chart 1, Chart 2 reflect the amount of hours per week that the average high school student puts in to various activities.  Chart 1 and Chart 2 are visualizations of Table 1.

3.) Data for Table 2 and Chart 3 reflect the average number of hours that mothers spend with their children on educational activities and all other activities.

4.) These averages control for differences across groups in the number and age of children, education of the mother and marital status.

5.) . This U.S. government survey measures the time use of thousands of individuals from 2003 to 2009 based on time diaries, which are considered the most accurate way to measure time use. It includes data on individuals ages 15 and older.

A few findings:

  • Not all Asian mom’s are hardcore tiger mom’s.
  • White students spend time doing a diverse array of activities.
  • Not many differences in terms of mother’s spending time with their kids with regards to educational activities. Though 0.6 hours in the large scheme of things may mean a lot.
  • More or less, it’s fairly concrete, you can infer your own conclusions.

Table 1

Chart 1Chart 2

Table 2

Chart 3

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A lot of chatter about Saudi women being granted the right to vote. Comparison for the Arab World on the issue of women’s suffrage.

The earliest Muslim country is Azerbaijan at 1918/1921.

*Lebanon is cutoff at 1943.

In general order from earliest to latest Levant > Maghreb > Gulf. Which is probably a good proxy for general cultural conservatism.

There’s basically been two “wave” decades. The 1960s and the 2000s.

Existing Issues

  • Lebanon—Proof of elementary education is required for women but not for men, while voting is compulsory for men but optional for women.
  • Saudi Arabia—Women were not given the right to vote or to stand for the local election in 2005, although suffrage was slated to possibly be granted by 2009, then set for later in 2011, but suffrage was not granted either of those times. In late September, 2011, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, declared that women would be able to vote and run for office starting in 2015.
  • United Arab Emirates—Limited suffrage (for both men and women), but it gradually expanded in the recent election held in 2011.

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There was a discussion about the average age of marriage for males and for females on a forum that I frequent and decided to see how they differed in terms of the age gap between the two genders.

The long-term trend is towards convergence but stabilizing at the male being 1.5 years older.

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Using ACS data that is easily available on the Census website for 2010, I was curious to see the composition of wealthy Hispanic households by national origin.

Mexican households are somewhere around 65% to 70% of all Hispanic households but the overall composition tilts to the other national groups as you filter through higher and higher income levels.  The general heuristic is that slightly less than half of wealthy Hispanics are Mexican, about a quarter are Cuban/Puero Rican and another quarter is Central American/South American.

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I noticed I had a plethora of data regarding fertility and female illiteracy. These two variables are highly correlated with one another. In fact female literacy correlates more strongly than general literacy. The issue here is that men’s literacy starts to go up at an earlier date than female literacy.

As you poke around the data, the interesting thing you notice that the numbers go all over the map for female literacy, the Muslims/Hindus don’t consistently top one another. But outside of Madhya Pradesh, Muslims have consistently higher TFR’s than the Hindus do.

Sources: International Institute for Population Sciences, National Family Health Survey 1998-1999, ORC, Macro, WorldBank Dataset

The table appears small, here is a link to the table.

These next two tables show rank differences by state.

I subtracted (Muslim – Hindu) for both variables.

The higher the number, the greater the disparity is in the Hindu’s favor for the first chart, it is measuring illiteracy. A lower number indicates a Muslim edge.

This is literally measuring how many more kids Muslims have than Hindus. Ranging from as high as 3.2 to zero.

Islam tends to have a pro-natalist effect, even in that states where Muslim women have lower illteracy rates, they have higher fertility rates than Hindu women.

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