Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Indios de Gerona, Barcelona, Arizona


Tres rios

Romanos, Visigotos, Francos, Moros, Franceses y Españoles los cruzaron

Un borracho tertullia enfadado con un rio por la noche




Dulces Pirineos nevados

La virgen Maria en las esquinas, santos y progresistas

Los Indios de Barcelona, son mas Indios que los de Arizona ...

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Gender, identity and (dis)orientation

Today I filled in an application for a job at a uni in the UK. Come the equality of opportunity section, the applicant is prompted with 3 questions:

1) What's your gender? Female/Male

2) Is your gender identity the same as the gender you were assigned at birth? Yes/No

3) What's you sexual orientation? Straight, Gay, Bisexual etc

A number of non-mutually exclusive thoughts come to my mind:
- is this a hidden test to check the logic consistency in the applicant's answers!?
- Who assigns gender at birth? And gender identity?
- The implicit assumptions are:
-- gender orientation is discovered or revealed in life, one may scramble and unscramble it or, more simply, experience deep disorientation when filling such applications for jobs!
-- identity and orientation may not necessarily coincide and neither of them may coincide with gender

John, I'm Only Dancing ... Job, I'm only Applying ... lallallala!

Monday, 21 February 2011

2011 NBA All Star Game: Griffin can dunk jumping over a car!

Blake Griffin is a basketball player in the Los Angeles Clippers. He won the slam dunk contest in the 2011 NBA All Star Game.

He likes to dunk: check this out!

The dunk that won him the contest consists in jumping over a car , perhaps not the British way to skip queues, though well dunk!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Gaddafi, the British government and the LSE

Muammar Gaddafi has been in power in Libya for longer than fourty years.

The US and the British condemned Gaddafi's regime. However, the oil wells in Libya were too appealing to US and the British firms to miss such an opportunit. The "Oil for us and regime for you" program that was tolerated internationally sounds like a less noble trade than the more popular oil for food UN program. Hard to conclude whether this was the best world possible or additional diplomatic effort may have anticipated the home made "oil for democracy" plan that Libyans are ready to put forward by themselves now.

The recent uprising in Libya follows one that led Mubarak to stand down in Egypt. However, Gaddafi's regime sounds determined to stay in power for longer. Will he succeed? Differently from Mubarak's son Gamal who did not manage to take over from his father, Gaddafi's second son Saif has been actively involved in non-for-profit activities in Libya. He has also recently contributed to tame the protest in a televised message. The message is skillfully pitched by blending popular Arabic norms and values with notions from international relations. No surprise, Saif studied at the London School of Economics (LSE) and also made generous donations to finance research there as his profile suggests.

The admission committee at the LSE must have had a hard time when screening the application by Gaddafi's son beyond his academic credentials. Rejecting the application would not do much as the next top school in the UK or elsewhere woul admit him. By admitting him instead the training that the LSE offered Saif a chance to return home to do one of two things. Either take over the "Gaddafis family business" when his dad retires or, more bravely, make a U-turn and pay back Libyans in the streets by making their dreams about democracy a reality.

Odi et amo: from Catullus to Lady Gaga

odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? is one of the masterworks by Catullus, a gem of synthesis and vibrant feelings. These words were written for (one of) his partners Lesbia. This is a nickname for a woman he was fond of, perhaps also for her liberal views on gender issues about 2000 years ago, hence the nick.

A fil rouge in my thoughts has been recently going from Catullus, through chats with friends, to:

- Lady Gaga's latest single "Born this way" which offers light as well as heavier food for thought.

The range of audit that may benefit from such inputs spans from Lady Gaga's fans to busy policy-makers who campaign pro or against sensitive ethical issues full of enthusiasm but lacking critical thinking. The few exceptions I know of are Germaine Greer, Deirdre McCloskey , Kevin Hague and Nichi Vendola . However, the list is far from being exhaustive and I welcome contributions.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Viewpoints on the compass & course on of the Italian government

I have recently read several articles in the press about the (mis)behaviour of the italian government. One of them is by an ex-phd fellow on the dark and sunny sides of Italy . A colourful viewpoint by Germaine Greer is also worth reading. Such ideas are nicely complemented by research showing simply and neatly how a rich elite, headed in Italy by the current prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, can cling onto power and scramble democracy, not hugely, but enough persist there for a long time.

Thanks to Wikileaks, the opinions by the US Department of State about italian prime ministers in the last decade are also public knowledge. What one learns is that the government is unfit to do the job. The opposition party instead is less corrupt but uncapable to win 51% of consensus by voters.
To sum up, the centre-right party is bad but it is in power while the centre-left one is good but can't get to power so far. A dedalus worth pondering about: how bad do you need to be to secure a democratic majority but no more than that!?

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Attached as a mussel to a rock or a snail shying away from your partner? A test

A recent book "Attached" by a psychiatrist and a psychologist in the USA describes a variety of possible combinations in a couple in a relationship between individuals with different profiles, e.g. anxious, avoidant and secure. Whether each possible combination in a couple leads to a long-term relationship is carefully described in words by using evidence from empirical studies.

Thrilled about learning whether you and your partner will happily retire together? Here's a test "attached" to the book.

Nice idea though what if I am anxious on Mondays (back to work), avoidant on Wednesdays (to go climbing with my best pal) and secure on Fridays (I look fwd to weekend!)!?

A nice study builds on a similar intuition and it also offers rich predictions about the tradeoff that a policy-maker may face: either a lot of marriages for money, efficient marriages investments and few females in the labour force or more romantic dating, more females at work and greater productivity, wow!

Monday, 14 February 2011

St. Randomness & St. Valentine!

Once upon a time, St. Valentine was a celebration with little technology involved other than a present and perhaps a meal out. How thrilling was to meet the beloved other, hoping to have chosen the right suit or dress or restaurant.

The recent contribution from science for a flawless St. Valentine is unparalleled: colour of your suit or dress, present, restaurant or fragrance, you'll get everything right!

Pondering slightly, is the randomness that led to such pathbreaking scientific contributions aimed at avoiding randomness in love? The science of love!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

A seed of peace in Egypt

What a peaceful sign of joy between civilians and army officials!

The contrast between the role of the army in the post-Mubarak regime and in the regime which is now over reminds me of the contrast between friendly police in the UK and the "unfriendly" police in the military dictatorship in Brasil in 1965-85 about which Caetano Veloso sang in the song London while in exile in the UK.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Mars500 ‘arrives’ in orbit around Mars!

The voyage to Mars has begun! However, only a simulation has been undertaken so far by Mars 500, a project by the European Space Agency. Its aim is preparing austronats for the challenges of long exploration missions.

This initiative may precede the development of the technology that will fly austronats to Mars is, thus perhaps setting an incentive to deliver such technology and also boosting expectation until then. Conversely, such technology may have already been secretly developed in a new "space race" and one may soon buy returns flights to Mars with a few clicks online!

Rhymes and randomness, Gini and Mussolini?

The Gini coefficient is a common measure of variability with popular applications to inequality in income or wealth.

It is named after its inventor, the Italian statistician Corrado Gini. He was also demographer and sociologist. In addition, he was active in policy in his time and lent his skills to help enhancing fascit theory. He wrote The Scientific Basis of Fascism which was published in the Political Science Quarterly in 1927.

I cannot help writing the following questions which have been spinning in my head since I have read Gini's article:
  1. Should 21st century policy-makers keep supporting multidisciplinary research and if so, by steering it in what direction? I will offer a temptative answer with a forthcoming blog entry on Max Weber.
  2. Who was the editor of Political Science Quarterly in 1927? Did the article by Gini go through a thorough referee process? It is a well written piece but the conclusions are rather speculative.
  3. Are such contributions to theory driven by the "holes" in medical, scientific knowledge as well as in social sciences? To what extent has such contribution helped to fill the hole rather than increasing its size?

Gini coefficient fails to rank perils for bikers: leopards and SUVs!

The Gini coefficient is a measure of variability in a variety of phenomena. It has become popular thanks to its applications to inequality of income or wealth where For example, inequality is lower in Italy with a coefficient equal to 0.35 and higher in South Africa where it is equal to 0.6.

However, the measure surprisingly fails to account for the puzzling empirical evidence suggesting that the risks that bikers in Italy or in South Africa are alike : both SUVs and leopards are little pleasant encounters as one rides along!

Perhaps Corrado Gini was not a biker?! Additional information about this Italian statistician with a taste for interdisciplinarity in the next blog entry.

Friday, 11 February 2011

ابتهاج والألعاب النارية والاحتجاجات تتحول إلى احتفالات

Cheers and fireworks as protests turn to celebrations!

Yo yo: freedom to all the brothers in Egypt from Wyclef

Fish, Leviathan, Mubarak and Obama

"Big fish eat little fish" according to Darwin. However, whales are not democratically elected as no vote is casted under the sea level.

Democracy and elected governments are a more complex matter as they may degenerate in "big fish eat small fish" with losses for all parties involved but a few corrupted executives. However, the status quo may still be justified or simply tolerated at home and abroad. An example is Egypt and its support by the USA for decades and up to a few weeks ago.

The withdrawal of the support by the USA to the Egyptian president and the refusal by its president Mubarak to step down have puzzled the public opinion and perhaps embarassed the government in the USA.

Such puzzle is easily solved by looking underwater for a key assumption that supported the Egyptian government. Here is where the Leviathan , is a rather big fish that is referred to in the Bible, belongs to.

An inspring book by Thomas Hobbes, "Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil" , exploits the powerful image of the biblical monster to argue that Leviathan-type governments are necessary to avert chaos and civil war, "the war of all against all" in Hobbes' words.

The assumption is uncovered in Egypt and the support that Egypt obtained abroad: the Egyptians needed a Leviathan to behave in an orderly and peaceful fashion (Israel is out of temporarily out of the picture but I bet it will come back in the press as the government changover in Egypt unfolds). The recent popular, orderly and peaceful uprise may make such an assumptions less tenable in 21st century Egypt than it was in the early 20th century. (Recent history in Egypt and the international disputes over the Suez canal will be dealt with separately.) Additional evidence to support this are the deprecable tortures by the Egyptian secret police

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Mubarak to retire: who is next?

Bookmakers may soon revise the odds about Mubarak's political record in office in Egypt as he seems closer to retirement than ever according to the BBC.

Years ago The Economist offered a very innovative proposal for early retirement of non-democratic leaders in exchange for retirement benefits such life-long accomodation on a tropical island. Such a proposal may still be lure 21st century leaders whose extraordinary committment to improve their countries has proven tiring sooner than expected.

Who may join the plan among Ahmadinejad, Gheddafi, Kim Jong Il and Mugabe? Would Berlusconi and Putin also qualify in case they were interested? Did I miss anyone else? The list is in lexicographical order to avoid disclosing my personal one!

However, I envisage some potential backfire of extending such an initiative as "tropical retirement plan for dictators" on a large scale. It may end up looking more like a "become a dictator to then enjoy a tropical retirement plan"!

Any thoughts about an improved retirement package free of adverse selection and moral hazard!?

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

Do you identify as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person?
To be considered Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, you must:
  1. Be of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent,
  2. Consider yourself to be Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and,
  3. Be accepted as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander by the community in which you live or have lived.
Such a question in a new job application reminds me of the adventurous stories of Aboriginals, such as Pemulwuy, giving a less than warm welcome to the ships of the British Navy that were led to Australia by Captain J. Cook.

Back to job applications now...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Equal Opportunities Monitoring...

"Is your gender identity different from your birth sex?"

Gender, identity and sex all in one question. Is it not enough to keep Biology and also Sociology departments busy researching and discussing for centuries!?

"Chillo È Nu Buono Guaglione" ... I can't stop singing it in my head ...

Monday, 7 February 2011

NIMA: Not In My Anthem!

Cristina Aguilera has recently sung the national anthem at the Superbowl of American football in the USA. She freely re-interpreted a few words which cost her boooos from the audit.

Jumping across the pond to the older Anglosaxon and multi-cultural country, the UK, the prime minister David Cameron has recently downplayed the role of multiculturalism in his political agenda. Is this to minimise the probability of mistakes in the event a non-British native sings the national anthem in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London!? Perhaps a new acronym, short words which are dear to Anglosaxons, could effectively summarise this: NIMA which stands for Not in My Anthem!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

middle class, neuro, normality, priors, stereotypes

You can't leave your bikes in the hall

You have to come up with 3 paperibus

Homosexuals are sick

Eat proteins and carbohydrates separately

Age 30 is a turning point in one's life

Being feminine is a female trait and being masculine is a male one

Foreigners cannot vote

The Queen is the head of the Army

The Earth is flat

Priest cannot marry

You must dress appropriately

Never ask for the salary

Causation rather than correlation

Sun spins around the earth

Never ask a woman her age

Men appear dirty and oveconfident while women clean and more introverse

Too few women in science

I know because I have experience

As a whole, stereotypes sound like forecast errors in one's head which are "path-dependent" (wusthat!?) and spread in various ways. Can you spot them? Nice attempt in research on generosity. Do they evolve over time?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Big Beng Bercow!

John Bercow is a member of Parliament in the UK as well as the Speaker of the House of Commons. I only learnt yesterday that his wife is also in politics.

Have not figured yet how I learn this? Sally Bercow has in an interview given a solid contribution to the quality of the public debate in the UK by suggesting that 'Becoming Speaker has turned my husband into a sex symbol' . Is this introspection or a proposition to be tested with solid empirical evidence!? I would be intrigued to learn whether/how this may inform public policy...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

greek and roman

were old greeks freaks?

was Homer a homer!?

was a roman a no man?

was Martial impartial?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

About one million peaceful protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square!

And perhaps about one day before the regime in Egypt is over?

The Industrial Revolution, my shirt and woolen jumper

While ironing a shirt for an opera show tonight, thoughts about fashion came to my mind. After all, I live in the country that gave birth to the Industrial Revolution and without a technological boom, e.g. the spinning jenny or the power loom, in the 18th-19th century, perhaps I would not wear a nice shirt and woolen jumper today (see innovations in textile manufacturing in Wikipedia for an inspiring diagram of such processes).

Back in the 21st century, the technology seems to have evolved in several directions: evidence suggests that fashion consciousness may affect lifestyle and the unstoppable fashion addict may find some relief by testing his/her ability online !

TBC1 on innovation in chemicals and the search for a dry cleaner in Central London!

TBC2 on the bifurcation point in history between lycra and tweed...