Monday, April 18, 2011


This was certainly a refreshingly different read for me. I enjoyed it even though the ending/culprit was obvious by about two thirds of the way through the book. Yes, I ignored the inconsistency of how even though they are crime-fighters and don’t really have any “super” powers some of them were able to train themselves to fight like experts. At first I found the Black Freighter graphic novel within a graphic novel distracting but then warmed up to it.

As for the movie, I was disappointed that the Black Freighter was out entirely (yes, I realize it would have doubled the length of the movie) and that there was a slight plot change to account for this. In the comic, the author of the Black Freighter was kidnapped along with several others to become part of the plot to terrorize the world. In the movie instead it was Dr. Manhattan that was made culpable (unknowingly).

I was also blown away by the fact that the characters looked exactly alike as in the illustrations. Even with the modifications I enjoyed the movie immensely.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bat skills

Economists sometimes use the term skill interchangeably with education yet it is sometimes unclear if they have a distinction when they use the term “skill” (see here for an early discussion.) What ONET considers to be skills can be found here - and one skill that I found to be interesting is “Active Listening” defined to be “Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.”

Many years ago I was at a birthday party with K1. It was a Batman themed party and the parents of the birthday child had paid for an actor to be Batman who in turn would play all kinds of games with the kids. What was impressive was the actor’s abilities to remember all of the kids names only after one round of introductions. He would call on the kids by name to do something and look them directly in the eye when he did so, and he made no naming mistakes. This skill made quite an impression on some of the moms as well and at the end of the party when he asked the kids whether they all had a good time and they all answered with a resounding yes, one of the mom’s called out, “Do you have any other tricks you can show us?”

I relate this story to point out the obvious, which is that skill is multidimensional - something that ONET recognizes but economists don’t seem to or don’t acknowledge. How such a skill relates to job tasks and what it’s payoffs are aren’t as clear but I wish Batman all the best.


The word evokes images of lashing rains, lush, green, verdant hills and valleys, and constant incessant rains. This was not the case for me growing up of course. “Monsoon season” my mother used to say as the rains began some time in June or July. It never really affected our daily routines and the nagging worry at the back of our minds was that the river near my grandparents’ would overflow its banks and flood their home. This happened on occasion and on one very bad flood when I was away in college in the US waters were almost 4-feet high which is the highest they had ever been.

Thus when I read Alexander Frater’s Chasing the Monsoon, I was extremely skeptical of his portrayal of Indians as being monsoon-obsessed. Around the same time I also came across the following from the National Geographic:

During the month of May, when the land heats up like a furnace and most fields lie fallow, when wells have run dry and the sun taunts from its broiling perch in a cloudless sky, there is no topic more consuming—or less certain—than when and how the summer monsoon will arrive. The monsoon season, which normally starts in early June and delivers more than three-quarters of the country's annual rainfall in less than four months, will begin gently, like a deer, the farmers say, and later it will turn into a thundering elephant. Or it will start as an elephant and then turn into a deer. Or it will be erratic and annoying right through, like a chicken. In other words, nobody really knows. But still, everybody talks.

The paragraph aptly sums up the tone of Frater’s book as well and it is an intensely enjoyable account of his travels across India following the path of monsoon. And yes, it does course through and shapes the lives of Indians depending on where they are on the path of the weather. Frater’s descriptions were so vivid and conveyed so clearly the joy, jubilation, anguish and difficulties of the people in his book that I looked forward to watching Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding.

I was not disappointed in that the movie was an exhilarating exposure to Punjabi culture that was clearly brought to fore by the planning and arrival of a wedding day in which the monsoon was part of the background. This movie is in my re-watch list.

The Statistical Abstract of the United States

May it RIP. In a previous post I linked to the 2011 edition of the Statistical Abstract of the United States. I was at a Census conference last month where it was announced that Census will no longer be publishing this series. This was one item that did not survive the budget cuts.

This used to be the go-to source for statistics before the days of Google. While I'm sad to see it go, in the current age, the Abstract while useful for pointing to the data source of the table is a product of the pre-Internet era. We use to put together time series by hand from various editions of the Abstract and today this is no longer necessary. Nor is it necessary to publish this as a hardbound book. I'd like to Census use this opportunity to re-launch the information on the Internet in a more interactive form.

The strength of the Abstract was in its summarized form e.g. by state and a snap-shot for various years. While it would be infeasible to pull all the information together from scratch, it would be great to at least link all the tables to the main data sources and if possible for the user to generate additional time points that are not shown or to re-summarize the data at a different level.

If DC were a state Part II

In a previous post, if DC were a state, it would rank as having the highest per capita income. What about if it were ranked on median income. The data for 2010 is not available, nor is the data available for personal income. The following for 2008 is for personal per capita income and median household income, courtesy of the 2011 Statistical Abstract.

11 states are ranked higher than DC in household median income, but DC is still highest in terms of per capita income.

StatePersonal Per capita incomePersonal Per capita income rankMedian household incomeMedian Household Income rank

United States40208(X)52029(X)









District of Columbia66119(X)57936(X)





















New Hampshire4362310637317

New Jersey513582703782

New Mexico33430434350844

New York4875345603317

North Carolina35344354654937

North Dakota39870204568539





Rhode Island41368165570118

South Carolina32666454462540

South Dakota38661254603238







West Virginia31641493798949