Sabtu, 24 Agustus 2013

India Needs More Science Museums: Reflections on a Recent Visit to Hong Kong Science Museum

On a day made grey by the retreating presence of Typhoon Utor, we recently headed to the Hong Kong Science Museum (HKSM). En route, we crossed the majestic sight of Victoria Harbour, and the crowded streets of Tsim Sha Tsui. With its glittering shops and bustling commerce, a science museum seemed somewhat incongruous in Hong Kong, and we were therefore curious to see what happened there.

As we entered the museum, we realized that it is a popular place. There was a loud buzz of young voices and kids milling everywhere. Any doubts we might have had about the relevance of museums in the internet era were dispelled as we saw the excitement there. It wasn’t much different from what I recall from visiting Bengaluru’s own Visveswaraya Museum as a young student many many years ago.

Practical and Contemporary

HKSM is an intriguing mix of high science and very practical stuff. Reflecting Chinese pragmatism, many of the exhibits are closely related to contemporary life. These give a powerful message of how science and technology are intertwined with our daily routine.

Pork is a mainstay of the Chinese diet. HKSM features a set of exhibits on pigs –their different parts, what they are called, how they get converted into different food products, how they contribute to nutrition, and to other uses as well! The exhibits also have some interesting statistics on the millions of pigs consumed in Hong Kong itself every year, and how a large percentage of these are imported from mainland China.

There is a section focused on energy use in the domestic context.  Exhibits give visitors a chance to see which appliances and applications consume the most electricity. The differences between different forms of lighting appear particularly stark. A similar theme is heating, and how different types of heating are energy efficient to varying degrees (e.g. induction heating vs. conventional heating). Mock-ups of different rooms in the house allow visitors to see how much energy is consumed in each.

Reflecting sustainability concerns, there is a section on trash and the re-cycling potential of different forms of trash. Some really interesting questions are on the typical composition of trash, which was the material to be re-cycled first (aluminium), which materials can be re-cycled indefinitely (glass), etc.

There is a section on how different home appliances work. This section includes simple workings as that of the toaster, and more complex ones such as the microwave oven, vacuum cleaner, and washing machine. Each exhibit shows the appliance, what it looks like inside, and the principles behind its working.

Another important section is one on occupational health and safety. This section covers the dos and don’ts in erecting a crane, managing a construction site, etc. I thought the theme is very relevant even if the scope of this section is somewhat limited. (This could be a very valuable section for people in India where we often display inadequate concern to occupational safety issues!).

Considering how different forms of communication have become integral to our daily lives, it was good to see a whole section devoted to telecommunications.  This includes details of how mobile communication systems work (including a nice practice demonstration of how a call is handed over from one cell tower to another), different forms of transmission  such as TDMA, FDMA, etc.

More Conventional Science Museum Exhibits

HKSM has more conventional sections as well. A well-designed section on optics features captivating images created through mirrors and lenses with explanations of how these images are created.
One of the most conspicuous exhibits is a huge and noisy apparatus near the entrance that is operated just a few times each day to show the different types of energy and how they can be converted from one form to another.

Electricity and magnetism is an enduring favourite for it allows some impactful demonstrations of turbines, generators, etc. Automotive and aircraft are well-represented too – highlights include a Mercedes Benz engine and Cathay Pacific Airline’s first aircraft (a Dakota), etc.

It was good to see that HKSM has exhibits professionally designed by companies who make museum equipment as well as practical devices designed by the students of local universities. For example, an apparatus that demonstrates the different features of waves has been made by Mechanical Engineering students of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. A good museum therefore provides important collaboration and learning opportunities for institutes of higher learning as well.

Overall Experience

I liked the way different types of exhibits and sections are mixed up, with more theoretical and informative ones interspersed with the interactive and practical. Of course, HKSM is not free of the challenge of keeping exhibits in working condition – some of the exhibits were not accessible because they needed repair. Somewhat inexplicably, a whole section on nuclear power was closed.

Biology and agriculture are clearly under-represented in the museum. An exception is the large section on soyabean, presented as a  “wonder of China” with impressive statistics on harvests and productivity, but this doesn’t make up for the absence of important fields such as genetics and molecular biology.

When we visited HKSM, there was a stunning exhibition of award-winning wildlife photography in the basement. I am still not sure how exactly this fits in with a science museum, but the photographs were so impressive that I guess no one is complaining. (One photo of two young tigers near a water body at Bandhavgarh National Park was very reminiscent of a scene we saw when we visited the part a couple of years ago).


A few decades ago (in the 1980s?), there was an effort to start science museums and planetariums across India. If I recall correctly, there was even a unit in the Department of Science and Technology to spearhead this effort. But it’s clear that the creation of museums has not kept pace with the growing population.

Though there is a lot that can be done on the internet, the excitement of seeing a working model before your eyes that you can touch and feel is important to spur innovation. Science museums can serve this purpose well. A strong network of science museums would go a long way to supplement the important work that organizations like the Agastya Foundation are doing to spread science education.

Supporting thematic science museums could be a powerful CSR initiative for our leading companies. Why can’t our IT companies contribute to the creation of museums related to the fields in which they work? 

Rabu, 21 Agustus 2013

Here, there and everywhere: Google Keep reminds you at the right time

Notes are a good way to keep track of all you have to do, but most of us need a little nudge now and then. Google Keep can remind you of important tasks and errands at just the right time and place. For example, Keep works with Google Now to remind you of your grocery list when you walk into your favorite grocery store, and nudges you on Thursday night to take out the trash.

To get started, select the “Remind me” button from the bottom of any note and choose the type of reminder you want to add. You can add time-based reminders for a specific date and time, or a more general time of day, like tomorrow morning. Adding a location reminder is incredibly easy too—as soon as you start typing Google Keep suggests places nearby.

Of course, sometimes plans change. If you get a reminder you’re not ready to deal with, simply snooze it to a time or place that’s better for you.


It’s now even easier to get to all of your notes using the new navigation drawer, which includes a way to view all of your upcoming reminders in one place. And for people who want more separation between their home and work lives, the drawer also lets you easily switch between your accounts. 

And finally, we've made it easier to add your existing photos to a Google Keep note on Android. When you tap the camera icon you can choose between taking a new photo or adding one you already have from Gallery.

The new update is gradually rolling out in Google Play, and available now on the web at and in the Chrome App.

Posted by Erin Rosenthal, Product Manager

Sabtu, 17 Agustus 2013

Bhagwati and Panagariya miss out on scope of innovation to address social challenges

A couple of weeks ago, I lauded the new book by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen for its clear identification of a challenge book for India. I just finished reading the recent book by their “competitors,” Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya, titled India’s Tryst with Destiny: Debunking myths that undermine progress and addressing new challenges. To be chronologically correct, I should have read them in the reverse order, but I don’t think it made much of a difference from a content perspective!

Bhagwati & Panagariya Have Strong Views….

As has been written extensively in the press, Bhagwati and Panagariya are emphatic that India’s number one priority should be making all possible efforts to sustain economic growth. They argue that India’s poor has benefited from sustained economic growth, and provide evidence that this holds true even for people from socially and economically disadvantaged groups. Though India has, thanks to the growth in the last two decades,  more money to spend on the provision of social (health, education) services, they point out that we lack sufficient resources to provide the kind of welfare services that the UPA (more specifically, the NAC) wishes to. Even if we are to do much more for the poor, Bhagwati and Panagariya are completely against the government playing the role of provider. Instead, they prefer that the poor be assisted through cash transfers (for food security), insurance mechanisms (for health), and vouchers (for school education) on the grounds that these will be better aligned with market mechanisms, involve less corruption, and achieve better results.

A few things struck me while reading this book. One is the aggressive tone of the authors, combined with a knowledgeable air that suggests that these issues are so obvious that anyone who thinks otherwise must be living in a world of delusion. They are almost disrespectful to Dreze and Sen when they refer to arguments that the latter have made in the past which conflict with their own. This aggressive tone is related to the second feature of this book: a strong conservative ideological slant – small government, minimum regulation, and worship of the market. A combination of one and two results in their unapologetic air about the growing incidence of billionaires in India. Here, they unfortunately fail to differentiate between those who made their billions from knowledge-based companies, and those who did so thanks to privileged access to scarce resources.

I was surprised to find their endorsement of some unsustainable distortions in the education system. One of their findings is that private, unrecognized schools provide better education than government schools, even though the teachers in the former are paid several times less than the latter, because of better supervision and oversight. But, from all reports, teachers in such private schools are under-paid and over-exploited, and the schools themselves have poor infrastructure including no playing or recreational space. This may be an economically “efficient” solution, but surely it can’t be the basis for building a modern productive workforce.

It must be obvious by now that I liked the Dreze-Sen book better! For one, it has a scholarly and more even-handed tone. Dreze & Sen don’t dismiss growth (as Bhagwati and Panagariya might lead you to believe), they just suggest that it’s a real shame that a country with our resources can’t do better for its citizens. Dreze and Sen provide a broader perspective of development (not surprising considering that’s Sen’s forte) while Bhagwati and Panagariya take a mechanistic view and look at people with the lens of the “economic man.” Perhaps Dreze and Sen are a tad more idealistic and romantic than Bhagwati and Panagariya, but surely a country with our history and potential needs to retain a dose of idealism. I liked Panagariya’s earlier book (India: The Emerging Giant, 2008) but this one has an impatient, “angry man” air about it that detracts from its core arguments.  

… But Neither Get the Importance of Technology & Innovation

As I wrote in my earlier post, a particularly attractive dimension of the Dreze-Sen book is their openness to different models, and a willingness to learn from “bright spots.” On the other hand, Bhagwati and Panagariya are dismissive of such bright spots that don’t fit in with their ideology. This suggests to me that Bhagwati and Panagariya are much less open to innovation and trying out new things. In fact, they take a very explicit classical economics view of capitalism and labour as the main inputs to the production function, taking us back to a time before Solow when technological change was no more than a residual explanation of growth. I am glad that our government takes a more modern view of change, and is explicitly trying to encourage innovation to solve social problems (Both the National Innovation Council and the India Inclusive Innovation Fund have this focus).

But, to be fair, neither Dreze & Sen nor Bhagwati & Panagariya appear to have understood the tremendous potential of technology to reform health and education. Their discussion about both assumes standard, people-intensive solutions for which issues of accountability and control are obviously important. But, as is increasingly clear (see my posts on Massively Open Online Courses [MOOCs ] and new models for inclusive healthcare), new models are emerging which may make their ideological differences less relevant.

Creative use of MOOCs could allow us to achieve higher quality teaching with a far lower number of teachers. The role of the teacher would also change from being the source of knowledge to being a facilitator of learning. Organizational issues related to who is the employer therefore become less important. Similarly, initiatives like Sughavazhvu Health care show that with the use of improved technology, and a stronger preventive healthcare orientation, it is possible for alternately trained personnel to take care of primary health care. Here again it doesn’t need to be a choice between poorly managed government-run public health centres (as Bhagwati and Panagariya would characterize them) and exploitative private doctors (as Dreze and Sen would call them).

Government’s role and priorities would be different under such alternate paradigms. In education, the role of government would shift to making available low-cost, high speed broadband internet connections to students along with a low-cost access device, and in providing financial support for the creation of high quality content in regional languages. In healthcare, the government’s role would be in re-establishing a focus on public health, setting standards for certification of medical health professionals who are not doctors and providing a communication backbone that would allow the low cost use of technology in primary health care.


In their eagerness to prove the superiority of their respective positions, leading economists are in danger of missing out on the power of innovation, the ability to bring fresh thinking to the solution of tough problems. Perhaps we need greater openness to new ideas, and a healthy pragmatism instead?

Sabtu, 10 Agustus 2013

Wisdom from Raghu Rajan

"For economists who actively engage the public, it is hard to influence hearts and minds by qualifying one’s analysis and hedging one’s prescriptions. Better to assert one’s knowledge unequivocally, especially if past academic honors certify one’s claims of expertise. This is not an entirely bad approach if it results in sharper public debate.
"The dark side of such certitude, however, is the way it influences how these economists engage contrary opinions. How do you convince your passionate followers if other, equally credentialed, economists take the opposite view? All too often, the path to easy influence is to impugn the other side’s motives and methods, rather than recognizing and challenging an opposing argument’s points. Instead of fostering public dialogue and educating the public, the public is often left in the dark. And it discourages younger, less credentialed economists from entering the public discourse."


Jumat, 09 Agustus 2013

A Debate over Obamacare

Casey Mulligan versus David Cutler

Applying "8 Steps to Innovation" Framework to Start-ups

How do start-ups innovate? How is the process they follow different from that of large companies? And, how relevant is the process we outlined in 8 Steps to them?

These are the questions Vijay Kumar Ivaturi, ex-CTO of Wipro, and master planner of CII’s 9th India Innovation Summit, posed to us when we proposed to hold a workshop on innovation for start-ups the day before the summit. And, in the spirit of experimentation that we believe is critical to successful innovation, we looked for answers to these questions in the workshop.

We decided to work intensively with around 10 companies rather than spread thin over many. But as part of our design, we asked them to register as teams, rather than as individuals.

 What we learnt from the workshop

We had a good spread of companies: medical devices, simulator for surgical procedures, tamper-proof labels, compliance systems for new healthcare regulations, online art sale, 3D games on the mobile, etc. The group had several older entrepreneurs. Though our sample is too small to draw any conclusions about the Bangalore ecosystem as a whole, I was enthused by both the range of ideas as well as the experience profile - these bode well for the future of the city where I live!

Our participants got the seeds of their ideas from diverse sources: a couple from needs unaddressed by their former employers, some from personal experience, and some from friends or family. But, except for one, all had stuck with their idea even though it had been refined and gone through multiple iterations.

All of them had tried to validate their ideas before starting their businesses by talking to experts, potential users and academics. They claimed to have used multiple modes including demos and prototypes to validate their ideas after starting.

The First Exercise

Yet, we soon learnt that there was plenty of scope for them to push validation harder. Right at the outset, we asked them to identify what they thought was the biggest challenge they faced at this juncture of their enterprise. We then took them through an exercise where they identified the assumptions related to need, technology, production and commercialization that underlie their businesses. They explored these assumptions and rated them on criticality, and extent to which they had been validated. Not surprisingly, they found that some of their most critical assumptions were not yet adequately validated. This made some of them re-think what was their topmost challenge!

Our experience from the workshop suggests that the identification of the assumptions underlying the business and continuous validation of these assumptions is the most promising area for the application of systematic innovation methods to start-ups. This reminds me of what Peter Drucker referred to this as the theory of the business and echoes the approach recommended by Eric Ries in the Lean Start-up.

The Second Exercise

We found support for the importance of finding champions as well, though here the most important champions are outside the start-up, typically lead users or regulators. The second exercise we did with the group was designed to help them reach out and influence such champions: it focused on how to design a powerful pitch. Here, we used the powerful SUCCES model developed by the Heath brothers, in their book Made to Stick. To make a pitch effective, they advocate keeping it simple, giving the twist of the unexpected to catch attention, giving concrete evidence or examples, enhancing credibility through endorsements or the "self-test", infusing the pitch with emotion, and making it sound like a story.

Interestingly, we found that many of the participants did follow some form of a formal review process, perhaps reflecting the maturity and prior corporate experience of our participants . We got the sense that these participants were not as unstructured and fluid as is our common notion of a start-up.

Conclusions: 8 Steps Framework and Start-ups

Given the size of a typical start-up, there is little need for a formal idea management system, and formal efforts to engender participation. Instead, the most important and relevant dimensions of our 8 Steps framework are those related to experimentation, going from proof of concept to incubation, and business model exploration. Start-ups would do well to include such approaches in their innovation process.

I felt that the start-ups we met (and others in general) would benefit by sharpening their ideas using the notion of the challenge book that we wrote about in chapter 2 of "8 Steps". Vigyanlabs, a company I wrote about earlier, illustrates the power of this approach that focuses on identifying pain, wave and waste to guide ideation. Vigyanlabs' patented solution addresses the high power wastage (pain, waste) by data centres (clearly a wave given the momentum with which IT is moving up the cloud).

By their very nature, start-ups work in a sandbox mode - all the entrepreneurs in our workshop were intensively engaged in making their enterprises successful. But, clearly, building the right partnerships was a valuable way of taking their ideas forward (10 out of 11 companies emphasized the importance of such partnerships). As we wrote in 8 Steps, such openness to collaboration can be a significant contributor to achieving impact from innovation.

Many of the start-ups see partnerships and validation as key steps in managing risk. We were pleasantly surprised to find 8 out of 11 companies keenly aware of the need to de-risk their businesses. Steps 7 and 8 thus seem quite relevant too.

Vinay and I hope to work more closely with start-ups in times to come!

Get ready for college with textbooks on Google Play

Heading to college? Be prepared for the typical rites of passage: decorating your dorm room, choosing your classes and buying textbooks. And when it comes to buying textbooks from the campus store, some things never change like long lines, limited supplies and heavy backpacks. Or do they?

Rolling out this week, you can now rent or purchase digital textbooks from the Books section on Google Play. We have a long list of publishing partners, and we’re launching with a comprehensive selection of higher education titles from science and mathematics to history and English, and everything in between.

All your textbooks, anywhere you go 
With digital textbooks, there’s no need to worry about which ones you have with you and which ones you left in your dorm room. Because your library is stored in the cloud, you have instant access to the titles you need—when you need them—on your Android tablet, phone, iOS device and on the web. Now an overstuffed backpack is a thing of the past with all your textbooks weighing as much as the device you’re reading them on.

Take great notes, stay organized 
With the Google Play Books app, you have convenient tools at hand to make studying simpler and faster. You can instantly search within a textbook for a particular word or phrase, bookmark chapters and pages, highlight and annotate key passages and get quick access to dictionaries, translation tools, Wikipedia and Google search.

Rent and save 
Need your textbooks for just a semester or two? You can rent any textbook on Google Play for six months and save up to 80% as compared to buying print textbooks.

Shop for textbooks today on Google Play, and learn more at our Google in Education site.

Posted by Scott Dougall, Director, Product Management

Senin, 05 Agustus 2013

Best week ever!

Good Monday to you all! Wow, it’s been a total whirlwind of a week! I’m not sure I’ve ever packed more into seven days in my life.

Bear with me as I share a little bit of it with you today – it’s been an wonderful, overwhelming, lovely week and it really couldn’t have gone much better!

First up – Haven 2013! For those of you who don’t know, Haven is a conference dedicated to DIY and decor bloggers specifically. It’s the first of it’s kind because we (the team) knew there was a need for it – and a few years ago we decided it was time to make it happen!

This was our second year and it was even better than the first!:

Haven confererence

This is about half the group – all together we had about 450 attendees (that includes sponsors) so it was much bigger than last year. I’m not sure we’ll go too much bigger because we love the feel of this size – we still want everyone to feel like they have a chance to meet most everyone.

It was just a great week, really. We were just so happy with how it all turned out and are all so thrilled and humbled by it all! There was a lot of learning – I have a HUGE to do list written down – but most of all it’s just so amazing to hang out with people who totally get what you do.

We goofed around plenty:

It’s hard not to with these ladies. I laughed, a LOT. ;)

But most of all, like always, I walked away having learned so much from just chatting with other bloggers throughout the week. I was so happy to see old friends:

Haven Conference

And meet plenty of new ones, even though I’ve “known” them for years:

blogging conference haven conference

As always, I didn’t get nearly enough pictures. I know took one with many of you and I’d love a copy! (Or we have a 2013 Flickr account going, so you can load them there!)

It was an honor to have been a part of it again this year and to work with some amazing women: Haven conference planning team

Our event planner, Kristin, isn’t in that pic but she is a rock star – there is NO way we could do this without her.

Next year’s conference is already booked for July in Atlanta! We’ll share details soon. :)

So I got home from the conference, slept for a few hours and then moved on to the next adventure…the NKOTB concert:

I know I’m a little teensy bit biased, but DANG, they put on a great show! I was exhausted just from attending.

This time they were joined by Boys to Men (they were fantastic!) and 98 Degrees and the place was packed!:

It is absolutely electric. And LOUD. Grown women can SCREAM.

My hubby’s cousin hooked us up with some incredible seats – six rows off the floor:

NKOTB tour

We had one of the best views there! Excuse my Farah hair by the way. I’m bringing the 70’s back. Apparently.

Yet again, I came home, got a few hours of sleep and then this morning we were up bright and early for a very special appointment.

Today we learned we’ll soon have a grandson. :) Yes, I’m going to be a grandma – my stepdaughter (23) is due in December and we found out this morning it’s a boy. It was very emotional and sweet and they had a room full of family and friends there to find out the big news. Our son is THRILLED. :)

We are just so happy she and the baby are healthy and doing well.  I haven’t mentioned it yet just because I kind of feel like this is their story to tell, not mine. I will of course share more as we get closer to the due date and will most likely share a few pics over time, but I want to respect their privacy and desires too.

I can’t wait to meet this sweet boy!!

So, yes, I think I will set some kind of record as the youngest grandma ever. Especially being 27 and all. Or something.

Well…there’s my week in a nutshell. See, a little crazy huh? But every bit of it makes me so incredibly thankful – I am so grateful for this life I live. I am a lucky woman. A lucky woman who is off to take a nap for six hours or so. ;)

Close Reading Resource Update

I am trying to prepare myself for instruction with close reading this year. There are so many great resources out there, and I want to make sure I am well-equipped to use the strongest elements of close reading in my classroom this year. At the same time, I don't want to have too much extra "stuff" to distract myself.

In a previous post titled "Freebie! Close Reading Materials"I shared the original version of my close reading product. It included printable charts for text coding strategies, a question cube template, and task cards for reading literature as well as informational text. Since then, I have continued to expand the product as I have accessed additional resources that I would like to use in my own classroom. I have recently updated the product to reflect a few revisions. The new product now contains the following items:

  •  a colorful, visually-appealing poster that defines Close Reading based upon an acronym for "CLOSE"
  • a black-and-white poster that defines Close Reading based upon an acronym for "CLOSE"
  • a colorful, visually-appealing poster that outlines the process for multiple readings of a text, as well as the Common Core standards that align to each level of questioning
  • a black-and-white poster that outlines the process for multiple readings of a text, as well as the Common Core standards that align to each level of questioning.
For those of you who need a visual image to support those wordy descriptions, this is for you:

I am trying to be more considerate of the use of ink (or lack, thereof) in the products I create. I love to create colorful designs. However, in considering my own experiences with TPT products, I have found myself to be extremely grateful for those products that contain a black-and-white option. While those colorful designs are cute, all of that printing can take a toll on your ink levels and, consequently, your pocketbook! So I tried to take this personal preference into consideration when revising this product. I'm not sure if everyone feels the same way that I do, but it's worth the extra time to provide the option for those who are conscientious of their printer ink levels!

If you are interested in these products, you can access them at the Tally Tales TPT store here

Do you have any other suggestions for creating TPT products? What details are you particularly grateful for when you make a purchase? Any feedback is welcome! Thanks!

Minggu, 04 Agustus 2013

Dreze and Sen Script a Challenge Book for India

I must confess that I might not have read An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions if it were not for the recent polarized debate on the front pages of India’s English print media. But, I am glad I did read it, for it focuses squarely on many of the challenges India faces today.

In 8 Steps to Innovation, Vinay Dabholkar and I emphasized the importance of focusing a firm’s innovation efforts on challenges that matter. To ensure this, we suggested that every firm compile and update what we called a “challenge book,” a set of problems that the firm needs to solve. The main virtue that I see in this new book by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen is that it applies similar thinking at the national level to build a contemporary challenge book for India.

Pain, Wave, and Waste

In our book, we suggested that pain, wave, and waste are three good starting points to capture these challenges.

Dreze and Sen use the available data on reading and writing skills, access to toilets and availability of health services to identify the pains of the hundreds of millions of Indian citizens who have an unacceptably low quality of life. The main question they ask is of what use is our impressive economic growth if we can’t ensure a minimum standard of living and dignity for all our citizens.

Amartya Sen has based a lot of his work on the importance of freedoms that allow people to develop and use capabilities. Human potential is wasted when our citizens lack the opportunity to develop the capabilities that would allow them to realize their potential.

A wave underlies much of their thinking, but they urge us to ride against this wave rather than go along with it. This is the predominant tendency for public discourse to be obsessed with the concerns of the middle class and the intelligentsia, and to equate the “aam aadmi” with the slightly less advantaged among a privileged class rather than the real “aam aadmi” who spends less than 40 Rupees a day. 

Bright Spots

Though Dreze and Sen focus on problems, they spend considerable space to point out that in our large and heterogeneous country we often have solutions as well. At least three states of India – Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Himachal Pradesh – have been “bright spots” on a wide range of social indicators. As we pointed out in “8 Steps,” bright spots help identify ideas that are likely to work, and hence give us pointers as to how we can grease the path for innovation to happen. Bright spots also hold out hope that change is indeed possible.
But, for bright spots to be useful as role models for change, it is important that they are not outliers with totally different or fortuitous circumstances that can’t be replicated. Kerala was often seen as one such outlier thanks to several idiosyncratic features: the relative progressiveness of the Cochin and Travancore states that ruled the region before independence; the matrilineal traditions of certain parts of the state; and an economy driven by external remittances that has brought in money even though the state has not attracted much investment in industry and commerce.

In contrast, clearly, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh have the potential to inspire fresh thinking in the rest of the country. Tamil Nadu is a large state (I should have known this, but realized only after reading this book, that the state has a population of 70 million – that’s equivalent to the population of the Republic of Korea!) that started off very poor but today is #2 after Kerala on a whole range of social indicators. Himachal may be a small state but its location in north India shows that social progress does not have to be the monopoly of the south. Dreze and Sen also draw attention to a new emerging bright spot – Chhatisgarh - that has recently reformed its Public Distribution System with improved access for all its citizens. Give the diverse backgrounds and histories of these states, it’s difficult to anyone to say that no solutions exist around us.

The Source of Controversy

If you have read this post thus far, you are probably beginning to wonder why this book has raised so much controversy. Is it because of the discomfort felt by the Indian middle class when it is pointed out how self-centered we all are? Or is because of the inability of the Indian media to take criticism (Dreze and Sen accuse the media of neglecting the real “aam aadmi” in their quest for TRPs and advertising revenues)? While I am sure there is a bit of both, the lightning rod has been the nature of solutions preferred by Dreze and Sen.
Dreze and Sen point out that in most parts of the world the State plays an important role in providing basic services to the people. They are skeptical about the efficacy of market-based solutions to provide basic needs. They are most vehement about this in the context of health care where they argue that private insurance based solutions tend to result in very expensive care and inadequate coverage. They are similarly skeptical about cash vouchers for education, and direct cash transfers in lieu of the Public Distribution System. They provide some evidence to show that these market-based solutions work well for supplementary services once the basics are in place, but not for providing a base level of support.

While Dreze and Sen identify the need for greater accountability and better governance fairly early in the book, they are somewhat idealistic about how this will come about. This is a weakness of the book, for clearly reliable provision of basic services by the State will happen only when the State is more effective. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Himachal and Chhatisgarh may provide inspiration, but achieving better governance across other states seems a far cry today.

In the end…

I found the book an engaging read. A major plus point of the book is the very informative tables and statistics. I found some of the statistics mind-boggling – e.g.  the hold of the upper castes over almost all important institutions in the city of Allahabad, and the abysmal literacy levels among dalits in India in the 1901 census (0% in most provinces).

But more than anything else, this book puts a spotlight on the biggest problems India faces today. Thus it is an excellent guide for any sensitive citizen of our country who wishes to contribute to the nation.

Sabtu, 03 Agustus 2013

Obamacare versus the Faculty

I don't know how widespread this phenomenon is, but I thought I would share an email I received this morning:
I have been teaching multiple sections of economics for four years now at several Colleges and Universities in the State of Indiana. I have also been a frequent user of your texts in the classes that I teach.

With the implementation of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) these institutions are giving notification to their part-time faulty that their individual teaching schedules will now be limited to three sections. At the college this will likely result in the cancellation of 20-25% of the class sections in economics, and I would assume other areas will have a similar result. The students are not fully aware of the situation and many will be surprised that their desire to get a college education is now being impacted by the need to avoid the full implementation of the ACA.

Regardless if you are a Republican or a Democrat I would hope full-time faculty would voice their concern regarding the impact the implementation of the ACA could have on the attainment of higher education for the current student population and upon the lives of the dedicated part-time faculty that have been devoted to serving this student population.

My hope is that if faculty across the nation brought this to the public attention that we as a nation could have a more open and complete dialogue regarding the course we wish to set as a nation.

Giveaway Winner!

I'm very excited to announce the winner of last week's back-to-school giveaway: "Centers, Stations, Tubs, and More!"
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the giveaway. Have a wonderful weekend! :)

Ec 10 Bleg

As part of our "marketing" effort to get freshmen into ec 10, Harvard's introductory economics course, the ec 10 staff and I are trying to construct a list of famous alums of the course. Here is the list we have put together so far:

Steve Ballmer
Ben Bernanke
Lloyd Blankfein
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Jeremy Lin
Sheryl Sandberg
Eduardo Saverin
Chuck Schumer
Cameron Winklevoss
Tyler Winklevoss
Mark Zuckerberg

If you attended Harvard and have a famous classmate who you are sure took ec 10 (or its predecessor ec 1), please email me the information.

Jumat, 02 Agustus 2013

July in review and no-spend August

Hello everybody, happy Friday to you! I hope you’ve had a great week – I’m still at the Haven Conference and having a blast! Well…I hope I am anyway. I wrote this before I left. ;)

I’ll be back next week with some more DIY, but for now I’m reviewing the big posts from July and I have a fun little announcement at the end that I’m getting excited about. :)

First up last month I shared how I tackled my first true floating shelves:

DIY floating shelves

These are great storage for some of the Bub’s Lego sets – I love having them on display but these also get them out of the way.

Next I shared the details on the powder room redo:

ikea hemnes vanity

I covered the sources and details for everything in the room, so if you had questions on anything it should be answered there!

I did a little organizing (and prettifying) in the dining room – those skinny little cabinets hold a TON of stuff:

dining room organization built ins

I’m so glad I decided to incorporate that closed storage in the built ins!

I shared more about our latest RV trip and the little cabin in the woods that we stayed in:

cabin in woods

Many of you asked the name of the cabins/RV park and it’s called Neshonoc Lakeside in LaCrosse Wisconsin. :)

Next up I showed you a FUN new DIY product – painters tape that comes in shapes!:

chevron painters tape

This is the first chevron in our house and it may be the last. We’ll see – I’m still not hooked. I do like this little touch of it though. It’s staying for awhile at least!

Next up I hope to use the wave version of the shape tape. ;)

I shared my plan for our mud room redo in this post, including some lovely inspiration pics:

white mud room wood floors


I was busy working on our master bedroom in July and I shared more about our new bed here and the how-to on the tufted headboard here:

DIY tufted headboard

I’ve made a few more changes in there since and I’m SO pleased with how the room is coming together! Our bed is still my favorite part. ;)

Last week I shared the ways I deal when cash is low. I’ve learned over the years it’s a horrible feeling and I’ve always had a few tried and true methods to keep my spirits up:

cleaning out the car I loved your thoughts too – there were some great ideas in the comments!

This week I shared how I’m not killing my hydrangeas anymore: how to grow hydrangeas

I’ve made a concentrated effort to learn more about them and it’s paid off!

So I’m excited about August! This month I’ve decided to do another “no spend” month. I first did this a couple summers ago and actually quite enjoyed it! I have so many projects that need to be finished up, so many spots that need decluttering, and I just enjoy trying to work with what we already have.

So this month I won’t spend any cash on DIY or decorating projects. I have one that we’ve scheduled that will probably happen, more on that later. But otherwise I hope to stick to only what we’ve got! I hope you’ll be inspired!

Take care all and have a great weekend! :)

*P.S. As soon as I get back from Haven we head out for the NKOTB concert.

AWW. yeah.

Can’t wait!!

Preserving Memories: Better Late than Never!

This was one of those little things I meant to do at the beginning of the summer, when the school year was fresh on my mind. It's ironic to me that I waited until the end of the summer (the last day, in fact) to actually put this sweet little photo book together. Better late than never, though, right?!? I thought I would share my little photo book with you here. 

Click below to browse through a few snapshots of our school year last year. I sure am going to miss these sweet faces this year! Looking back, this went by so quickly... time flies.

I can't wait to receive this photo book in the mail, and I am so grateful to have a creative way to save all of these sweet moments. How do you preserve your school year memories? 

Shutterfly allows you to customize your photo book just the way you want.

Kamis, 01 Agustus 2013


If you are a member of the American Economic Association, you probably received an email this morning about the election of AEA officers. Please vote. It is your patriotic duty, or something like that.

Information about the candidates is available here.

Spelling Fun Freebie!

Okay, let's admit it; writing words over and over and over and over and over and... (you get the point) just isn't the most exciting way to practice spelling. We want our kiddos to have fun as they learn new words and improve their spelling skills. In an attempt to help my students enjoy spelling and word practice at home, I created a "Spelling Activity List" for students to keep in their folders and use at home each night. The students get to choose which activity they complete, and most of the activities move beyond paper-and-pencil practice.

Check out a preview:
If you are interested in using this spelling list with your students, you can grab it for free at The Tally Tales TPT store as the Spelling Activity List *Freebie* product.

For a great list of creative, fun, ways to encourage children to practice their spelling words, visit the Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas blog. This link includes an awesome list of 75 fun ways to practice and learn spelling words. I included a couple of these great ideas on my own spelling activity list, but there are many more described in detail at this blog.