Note to recruiters

Note to recruiters: We are quite aware that recruiters, interviewers, VCs and other professionals generally perform a Google Search before they interview someone, take a pitch from someone, et cetera. Please keep in mind that not everything put on the Internet must align directly to one's future career and/or one's future product portfolio. Sometimes, people do put things on the Internet just because. Just because. It may be out of their personal interests, which may have nothing to do with their professional interests. Or it may be for some other reason. Recruiters seem to have this wrong-headed notion that if somebody is not signalling their interests in a certain area online, then that means that they are not interested in that area at all. It is worth pointing out that economics pretty much underlies the areas of marketing, strategy, operations and finance. And this blog is about economics. With metta, let us. by all means, be reflective about this whole business of business. Also, see our post on "The Multi-faceted Identity Problem".

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Birth control for men -- featuring inventor Sujoy Guha's RISUG

An article in Stanford Magazine on birth control for men.
[T]he demand and need for more options are real, Lissner contends. In a 2002 survey of 9,000 men across four continents, 55 percent said they would be willing to use a new male contraceptive if it became available. "Men have quite a few motivations," she says. For one, they are held socially and financially responsible for any children they father. And as much as skeptics may argue that women would never trust men to take a contraceptive pill, faith goes both ways: Men have to trust that their female partners are using birth control consistently and correctly. Lissner cites the best evidence that contraception remains a pressing issue in the United States: Half of all pregnancies are unplanned. As one man wrote to her, "Condoms are a nice method. However, I have a 3-year-old that proves they are not 100 percent effective." 
RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm under Guidance), it seems, has progressed to Phase III trials.
Digging into the topic again, she discovered that one of the most promising methods had progressed to phase III clinical trials in India.  
Essentially a "no-snip" vasectomy, the technology is called reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG). Instead of severing the vas deferens, a doctor injects a long-lasting polymer gel that chemically inactivates sperm as they pass through. It takes effect immediately so there is almost no wait-time before men can resume sexual activity. The polymer can later be dissolved with the injection of a second chemical, meaning that, in theory, the procedure is reversible.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Office hours for November -- and biases in American academia (gasp!)

The office hours for November are on November 5. The next office hours are on November 19, December 3 and December 17 between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. Office hours have usually been on the first Monday of every month between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. Additional office hour times have been added for November and December.

The theme for November will be "Politics and Religion". Over the month of November, I will be proposing a new theory of  Hindu Studies. I call it the Bias Theory of Hindu Studies. (I am hoping that people won't call it the Racial Bias Theory of Hinduism Academia -- although racial biases are part of the picture.) I will be making the argument that at least part of the problem for Hinduism scholars is that they have biases that they are not able to overcome. (Implicit racial biases may be part of the picture although racial biases do not represent the entirety of the matter). But this is only one part of the overall thesis. The overall thesis is that American universities, as organizations, do not have sufficiently good processes -- processes in the sense of organizational processes. This causes them to produce products that have a quality problem overall. The product in question is, of course, papers and such produced by Hindu Studies scholars. And although this area has half-beaten to death by a number of people, I believe that what I am proposing is novel. Wendy Doniger, Rajiv Malhotra, Balagangadhara, Paul Courtright, Russell McCutcheon - not a single one of them has really come up with the argument that I will be making as part of this thesis. None of them. And the funny thing is that they are all really quite fundamentally mistaken. Each and every one of them.

Anyhoo, besides Hindu Studies, this theory has significant applicability to American academia in general as well. I have laid out the basic arguments in one of the papers that I recently wrote which should probably called the Bias Theory of American Academia. In fact, one of the reasons I am quite happy to take the time to write these posts although I am extremely busy right now is that I have already written up the paper and so I know exactly what I am going to say. That is about it for an introduction. The first post will be up shortly.

Update (Nov. 11): Note that I am only promising to kick off my proposal this month. I am planning to make this into a two month series. The first series of posts will be this month. The second series of posts will be scheduled for a future month.

Update (Dec 3rd): The theme for November is "Politics and religion" and the subtitle for the theme for November is "-- and all the things you are not supposed to discuss at work."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Breakthrough(?) in world's oldest undeciphered writing

Continuing our series on languages and technology, here is a recent article from the BBC on Proto-Elamite, an as yet undeciphered writing system. Proto-Elamite is, in fact, the world's oldest undeciphered writing system.
This international research project is already casting light on a lost bronze age middle eastern society where enslaved workers lived on rations close to the starvation level.

"I think we are finally on the point of making a breakthrough," says Jacob Dahl, fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford and director of the Ancient World Research Cluster.

Dr Dahl's secret weapon is being able to see this writing more clearly than ever before.

In a room high up in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, above the Egyptian mummies and fragments of early civilisations, a big black dome is clicking away and flashing out light.

This device, part sci-fi, part-DIY, is providing the most detailed and high quality images ever taken of these elusive symbols cut into clay tablets. This is Indiana Jones with software.
Why has deciphering this writing system has (thus far) been challenging?
Dr Dahl suspects he might have part of the answer. He's discovered that the original texts seem to contain many mistakes - and this makes it extremely tricky for anyone trying to find consistent patterns.

This first case of educational underinvestment proved fatal for the writing system, which was corrupted and then completely disappeared after only a couple of hundred years. "It's an early example of a technology being lost," he says.
From the headline "breakthrough in world's oldest undeciphered writing system", one would be led to believe that the news item is announcing a breakthrough but, in fact, it is only talking about a potential breakthrough.

Update: Linked here is a paper by Graeme Earl, Kirk Martinez and Tom Malzbender that describes the technology that the article is referencing. Tom Malzbender is at HP Labs from right here in the Bay Area with multiple publications related to image processing including in SIGGRAPH and ACM Multimedia. This research work is what the article should be talking about but is not.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gospel of Jesus' Wife forged?

There has been a recent paper, a recent newspaper article and a recent blog post on a possible forgery with the so called Gospel of Jesus' Wife text. Click on the links above for the paper as well as post.

Just when you might have thought that the story of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife was dying down, there is another twist in the tale.  Andrew Bernhard has just published the following piece:

How The Gospel of Jesus' Wife Might Have Been Forged: A Tentative Proposal

I am going to cut to the chase and offer an "executive summary" of what I regard as the most important contention::

Line 1 of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife fragment copies a typo from a website interlinear of Coptic Thomas

Update 1 (Oct 29): I just knew they would be using one fancy-shmancy technology or the other sooner or later in reviewing this claim. So I kind of preemptively talked about it on the blog. In this case, mailing list technology appears to have been used it. See? I knew it.

Update 2 (Oct 29): Seriously speaking, what is amusing is that while the above Guardian article lays out the true picture of what happened, a previous Telegraph article on the same topic came to a series of incorrect conclusions. The article is now ridiculously funny to read. None of the contentions of the writer Tom Holland in the article, in fact, hold any water. You can also step over right this way to the sad little site hosted by Harvard where they talk about this unfortunately baseless historical claim. (Sad because it is just looking pretty forlorn given how much the original text itself has fallen in favor, and sad for oh-so-many-other reasons.) But, but, but back to the topic. But if you go back and read my email to Noam Chomsky that I had posted on my blog before, it is still pretty accurate. So the final scores are : Tom Holland - wrong. Harvard professor - wrong. Anand - right. But of course! You already knew that, dear reader. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The world isn't flat

Pankaj Ghemawat makes an excellent case in this TED talk that the world isn't flat. I had helped with a journal article on the topic of globalization and had the opportunity to look into this area a bit. In fact, we had cited Ghemawat's work in this area because we found his analysis to be quite top notch. I, for one, am convinced that regional economics have limited levels of interaction and that the world isn't flat. To hear Ghemawat's perspective, you can start right about here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

TED Talk : human-computer symbiosis

A TED talk by Shyam Sankar on what he calls human-computer symbiosis. I know his wife Pooja Nath a little from my time at Oracle. She is now CEO of Piazza, a Q&A website for colleges ad classrooms. Check out the talk. Check out Piazza. Enjoy!

Update (Oct 23): My main comment on this is that I don't think there is anything particularly different about Big Data insofar as human communication with computers goes and so the idea of human-computer symbiosis does not appear to be a novel one per se.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stanford scientist Brian Kobilka wins Nobel

Stanford's Brian Kobilka has won the Chemistry Nobel Prize jointly with Robert Lefkowitz for his work on G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).
The receptors, which snake in and out of the cell membrane, serve as one of the main methods of communication within the body — conveying chemical messages into the cell's interior from outside through the membrane. Over the course of the last three decades, Kobilka and his colleague Robert Lefkowitz, MD, with whom Kobilka shares the prize, have played an important role in discovering and understanding GPCRs. Last year, Kobilka was the first to crystallize and analyze one of the receptors bound to its signaling molecule, which is a critical step toward understanding how to control them.
Roughly 800 different GPCRs have been identified to date, making them one of the largest families of human proteins. These proteins regulate the beating of our hearts, the workings of our brains and nearly every other physiological process. About 40 percent of all medications target these receptors, including Zyprexa, which is used to treat schizophrenia; the antihistamine Clarinex; and Zantac, which is used for stomach ulcers and gastro-esophageal reflux disease. GPCRs are also involved in some kinds of drug addictions, such as addiction to morphine and other opiates.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Office hours

The office hours for October was on October 1. The next office hours are on November 5 and December 3 between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. Office hours have usually been on the first Monday of every month between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. 

Update(Oct 23): There will be additional office hours on November 19 and December 17 at the same time (between 7:30 and 8:15 am PST).