India: Links for 11th November, 2019

  1. “The dominance of just one commodity on the riparian trade routes, and their termination in Narayanganj makes one thing clear — New Delhi hasn’t succeeded in expanding the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes, devised way back in 1972, as a viable transit for the landlocked Northeast. Renewed efforts in this direction, however, are now underway.”
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    Unlocking the potential of the Northeast via riverine networks. Bangladesh is key.
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  2. “In 2019, the government said, “There is no conclusive data available in the country to establish direct correlation of death/disease exclusively due to air pollution.” There is an unmistakable sameness in the narrative of successive regimes — notwithstanding the facts presented in a series of studies. Starting with the United Front, NDA I, UPA I, UPA II and NDA II have all chosen almost the same words to question the correlation between morbidity and mortality. It is almost as if morbidity is an acceptable state of living for Indians. ”
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    A searing takedown of all round apathy when it comes to the most classical pure public good of them all: air.
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  3. “The challenge is worth repeating: without government munificence and promoter willingness to invest for the long term, Vodafone Idea is really the most vulnerable company in the private sector triumvirate that includes Jio and Airtel. If one had to bet on which one will blink first, one has to bet on Vodafone Idea, or at least one of its two promoters.”
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    Vodafone is in trouble. By extension, so is India’s telecom sector.
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  4. ““A student who comes up with ideas for a pulley brake to draw water in a village uses science to think critically and solve problems,” he adds. “Engaging with even such simple mechanisms on your own is better than building a robot based on instructions.” In fact, the NCERT’s 2017 National Achievement Survey — which found that 44% of students in Grade 3 failed to solve daily problems using maths, a figure that jumped to 62% among Grade 8 students — only proves Agnihotri’s statement.”
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    Learning needs to be made more effective, and less rote based in India. I cannot emphasize this statement enough.
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  5. “Any history of Indian science thus has to also try to discern how a technical and scientific culture began to withdraw, look inwards instead of growing and expanding its prowess. What social constraints—caste, language, patronage, political upheaval—led to this quiescence of Indian sciences?”
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    A fascinating, and on balance painfully short introduction to a history of science in India.

Links for 15th April, 2019

  1. “But Bengaluru’s enthusiasm for pubbing as a well-established cultural and social activity pushes things along. Everyone meets over a beer—it is the new coffee. Work meetings are held over beer. Older millennials organize and participate in beer tastings and beer-and-food pairings. Co-working spaces like WeWork offer beer on tap. And most craft-beer lovers drink it not to get drunk, but for the taste and a mild high, as well as the social aspect of hanging out over a beer.”
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    I’ll be visiting Bangalore later on this week, and this couldn’t have come at a better time in Livemint! A long read, but informative in many ways about Bangalore and it’s modern drinking culture.
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  2. “Most people think that now is a terrible time to visit Iran. The renewed US sanctions on the country mean that popular travel websites like Expedia, Airbnb and Booking.com don’t work in Iran. International debit and credit cards can’t be used to make payments or withdraw money from ATMs. Most travel insurance policies don’t cover Iran. And social networks like Twitter and Facebook are technically banned.”
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    The rest of the article explains why, in fact, this is a pretty good time to visit Iran. Stunning photographs – Iran really does seem like it is worth a visit.
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  3. “Gradually, as the demand for Manbeasts increases, more Manbeasts will come forth. That’s supply and demand in action, and it’s a good thing. Manbeasts aren’t blind sloggers. They bring insane skill to the game, and it is glorious to watch. On top of everything else, Andre Russell is a bloody good batsman.”
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    Amit Varma explains T20 cricket using economics, at which he is rather good. Here’s the scary bit: Dre Russell is the start of the crazy hitting phenomenon, per Amit Varma. Read to find out why.
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  4. “Food delivery in India is creating an entirely new market; 70% of our regular users in Kolhapur had never tried food delivery in their life (even over a phone call), and Zomato was the first food delivery experience of their lives. All the marketing investment we made in FY19 will bear fruit in FY20 and beyond — when we realise the LTV (Lifetime Value) of the users that we have acquired.”
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    Zomato is a firm worth following for a variety of reasons: interesting business models, upfront communications, and Akshar Pathak does a great job too. But read the annual report for some fairly impressive statistics and trends about food in India.
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  5. “Great to hear! Check out this page: “Advice for Aspiring Astrophysicists” (and, if you’d like a shorter thread, this Storify). Basically you should learn a lot of math and physics and programming and communication skills, and, if at all possible, try to get involved in some kind of research. See the page for more tips. Good luck!”
    I, along with the rest of the planet, have been reading about astronomy for obvious reasons. This link was informal and informative – which is a very rare combination.

Links for 21st February, 2019

  1. “Premise 1: The only coherent way of characterizing monetary policy as being either too “easy” or “tight” is relative to the policy stance expected to achieve the central bank’s goals.Premise 2: “Monetary policy can be highly effective in reviving a weak economy even if short-term interest rates are already near zero.”
    Premise 3: After mid-2008, and especially in early October, the expected growth in the price level and nominal GDP fell increasingly far below the Fed’s implicit target.”
    Scott Sumner reviews a decade’s worth of blogging about one topic, and one topic only – his understanding of monetary theory. The three premises, and the conclusions, policies and problems that arise from there is what the next ten ears have been about. There are two reasons why reading this post is worthwhile. Number one, it helps you understand (I think) monetary policy better. This is true irrespective of whether or not you agree with him. Second, and perhaps more importantly, if you had to write down three ideas about which you could continue to write for the next decade – what would those ideas be? I’m still struggling to find an answer myself!
  2. “There’s a different thrill here for me which is actually the thrill of refutation of confirmation. With theory it’s almost like it emerges out of nothing. And really it’s only in our heads, it’s not something that we have seen before. It is a pure outcome of imagination and there’s a thrilling magnetism to that because that imagination might be right. For me that is the most amazing thing, being guided only by mathematics.”‘The correct analogy is that there’s this singular somewhere in the ocean and you don’t know where — there is only one giant white whale and you need to go kill it because it bit your leg off.””
    Longreads.com, if you are not aware of it already, is just a fantastic website, full of hidden and not-so-hidden treasures. This particular piece was commissioned by Long Reads itself, and is worth reading because of the search for the so called ninth planet, but also because it explains why you should read (and re-read) Moby Dick – because reading Moby Dick helps you understand the link between monetary policy and the hunt for a planet that should exist.
  3. “Solving problems of will requires giving the poorest citizens information and the political heft to hold their leaders accountable. That is best accomplished by strengthening democratic institutions. Poverty is political: Solving problems of will, like problems of capacity, requires rolling up our sleeves and working with the governments in the countries where the poor live to redistribute not only income, but also power.”
    There is much to ponder upon, and at least in my case, disagree with in this article. Read especially the part about India’s space program. But that being said, the article itself is worth reading because it highlights the problems of thinking about poverty – and doing the thinking across space and time. And that solving poverty requires institutional growth is a well understood concept in development economics – but not necessarily outside it.
  4. “It is true that most people are disengaged from serious news, and vote with their guts rather than their heads, or being guided by friends rather than a close reading of policy analysis. That does not make them fools.There is much to concern me in the current political information environment. I worry (partly selfishly) that it is harder than ever to sustain a business that provides serious journalism. I worry that politicians around the world are doing their best to politicise what should be apolitical, to smear independent analysis and demean expertise.I worry that there is far too little transparency over political advertising in the digital age: we don’t know who is paying for what message to be shown to whom.The free press — and healthy democratic discourse — faces some existential problems. Fake news ain’t one.”
    The always excellent Tim Harford on why we overrate Fake News, and should maybe not spend so much time worrying about it – and that the world is saner than it might appear…
  5. “Soon, I will experiment with “atemporality.” For days or weeks at a time, I will escape the present moment and only consume content published in a different decade. For example, if I want to learn about the 1970s, all my media consumption will consist of books, videos, and interviews published in the 1970s. By doing so, I’ll embody the mindset of people in a bygone era and gain new perspectives on the here and now.Everything has been said before. The big concepts aren’t new. You’ll find them in old works. Nassim Taleb calls this the Lindy Effect: “The longer something has been in print, the longer it will remain in print and the higher value it is.”

    With just a couple taps, we can transform our relationship with time, ignite our sense of history and escape the Never-Ending Now.”
    David Perell has some interesting ideas about how we might solve the problem Tim Harford speaks about above. One way of escaping Fake News, is to escape news itself. Maybe not for ever, and maybe not everyday – but escaping into the past by using the tools now available to us is a good idea.