The bailout

Here’s the latest news on the development from Forbes. Both congress and senate seem to be dragging their feet.

And I think that’s a good thing. I’ve decided that there is probably more of a libertarian in me than I’d thought. I read through Paulson’s plan when it was first launched, long and dead-boring as it was. And I just couldn’t agree with the man. I haven’t read Dodd‘s counter plan, but had it explained here.

Here’s a couple of good quotes that pretty much sum up my feelings on the matter:

Tyler Cowen, professor of economics and prominent writer, explains the difference between the two plans:

Think of a barrel of apples, some good, some less good.  To oversimplify, the Paulson plan has the government buy some of the bad apples.  The Dodd plan has the government buy a 20 percent share in the barrel.  In both cases government buys something.

He points to this letter signed by a host of economists:

As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:

1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses.  Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.

2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If  taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.

3) Its long-term effects.  If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America’s dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity.  Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.
 

In today’s New York Times there are several good articles and an interesting op-ed. The Economix blog, economy writer Vikas Bajaj‘s very informative piece “Plan’s mystery (…)”

And there’s another thing that I can’t help thinking about. What about the US’ economy in general? If this bail-out goes through, half the American economy will be based on loans in foreign currency. Most of it in yuan (Chinese money). Is that better than having some banks and some mortgage brokers go under?

Here’s a quote from BBC:

Ballooning state debt: The plan would swell the budget deficit, which could fuel inflation, economists warn (Mr Paulson has asked to raise state borrowing to $11.3 trillion, from $10.6 trillion).

A picture of Meg Ryan from The Women? Oh no! No pictures of face-lifted women on my blog. So here’s cute George. Picture borrowed from Styletraxx.

OK, some of you would probably much rather know what I thought of the film The Women, which I saw yesterday. Well, it stinks! I remember being pleasantly surprised by The Devil Wears Prada, which I watched on one of the long-hauls on our trip. Entertaining, funny and with a bit of bite. This one was/had neither. And tooooo looooong! My fingers were literally cutting through the air in some scenes… So, don’t go there. But I saw trailers for two films that I’m longing to see: Brideshead Revisited (oh, how we swooned in front of the TV, when the series was shown in the 80’s!). And the new Coen Brothers film. I’ve seen all their films and I just looove them… and George Clooney ;-)

PS: You’ll want to be wary of the above Wikipedia links (economy). All the articles are highly controversial. So – if you want to go in-depth with any of this, seek other sources as well.

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American television

 I’m often a bit behind in reading The Sunday Times. It is not always that you can devote an entire Sunday to the devouring of The Times. So this morning while I was having breakfast, I read the Culture section. After an interesting article about Baz Luhrmann‘s new film Australia (see trailer here), I got to the previously mentioned AA Gill commenting on British and American television. If you’re interested, you can read the bit about British television yourself here, but I’ll quote his bit about American television. I really wish I could have written it that way myself – we often thought and discussed along those lines while we were there:

 

I have spent the past fortnight in America, immersed, or submerged, in rolling news. There is something numbly comforting about the repetitious lapping of CNN. They say that, after the initial gagging and panic, drowning is quite a pleasant way to go, and that’s rather like watching Fox News — as you drift into unconsciousness, other people’s lives flash before your eyes. The rolling news channels give you the impression of being constantly informed while actually telling you very little. The world sidles past like a great river, and you never have to get wet. Disasters and basketball matches, comic animals and those strangely misshapen commentators all float away with equal inconsequence.

I was reminded again of two strange truths about American broadcasting. One is the astonishing number and variety of snake-oil medicinal commercials, not just advertising patent medicines but whole new diseases. Medical care is one of the main broken bones of contention in the coming American election, but nobody has actually pointed out that getting the halt, the flatulent, the palsied, the breathless and the hypochondriacs to pay for television is a very weird way of financing the entertainment and gaiety of a nation.

 

Brilliant powers of observation!

In a couple of hours I fly with boring Sterling to Copenhagen. Btw. if you’re NOT in Denmark, but want to fly there, Lastminute.com is always, ALWAYS, cheaper with the Sterling tickets than Sterling themselves. This particular ticket (out Thursday and back Sunday) I got for £100, whereas Sterling wanted £300. Don’t even mention SAS

Am going to participate in a 90th birthday celebration in the family. It really is something, isn’t it, to reach 90 and still have all your faculties?

So, see you on Monday…

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Double standards

I was recently enlightened on a new blog on The Times’ page. It’s called Alpha Mummy and it’s full of good stuff. Some pretty clever writers who do a lot of reading, off line and online.

Here’s on the double standards women political candidates are subjected to. It’s the Tonight Show again. I’m afraid I find him very, very funny. He must have some fantastic researches to always find just that clipping that gives his current victim away. And the fact that he always lets them give themselves away. He just sits there, leering…

Here’s an entirely different post about influential and infamous women from ancient times till now. If I tell you that both Lucrezia Borgia and Carla Bruni are mentioned, will you click through?

And here’s an article written by an American Republican woman in The Times, which more or less answers the question I asked a couple of days ago. What are the not-so-religious etc. Republicans going to vote now? The sad answer probably is: They are not. Since they can’t bring themselves to vote for Mr. Obama, they’ll just stay home and do nothing. And if McCain/Palin win, they can sit on their high horses and say that they didn’t vote for them. No, but they didn’t vote against them either.

On the day – may it never come – when Mrs. Palin is president of the United States and wreaks havoc of all the remaining things we love about America, what will these people say in their defense?

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AA Gill on Ms. Palin

The Sunday Times is unbeatable. There is no better Sunday paper – at least not of all the English, Swedish and Danish language newspapers I’ve tried over the years. It’s conservative, it’s snobbish, it’s eh, for want of better word, British… But it’s wonderful! We timed it today – a very lazy day indeed. We’ve been reading for six hours! On a daily basis I prefer the Independent and sometimes the Guardian. But not on a Sunday.

One of the great things about it is one of it’s most high-profile writers, AA Gill. He writes in a style all of his own in an English so flamboyant, so flowery, so vibrant, so vitriolic! And on Wikipedia I just read that the man is so dyslectic that he literally can’t write, he dictates all of his articles and books to a copywriter. He does features, travel writing and restaurant reviews. I found an interview with him on the American food-buff site Chow. I certainly don’t agree with him on everything, but I like to have my views challenged (occasionally…).

Picture borrowed from Clive Arrowsmith

Today he writes on the subject on – yes again – the American election. The article is hilariously funny – at least if you’re no great fan of McCain & Palin. About Minnesota, where the GOP convention is held:

This is where the Swedes and Norwegians came to try to whittle Scandinavia out of the hem of Canada. Back home they grew to be the most liberal nations in the world. Here they grew silent and maudlin. There’s a Minnesotan joke – only the one. It goes like this: there was an old Norwegian man who loved his wife so much he almost told her. That was so funny I almost laughed.”

About the choice of Palin:

“Depending on how fundamentally hard right you are, Palin is either a godsend who speaks to the experience of ordinary small-town large-breasted American women and sticks two fingers in the eyes of the coastal latte liberals. Or she’s a hideously embarrassing mistake that will swamp the election in underclass redneck sexual incontinence and that everything is about damage limitation and trying not to think about what would happen if president McCain died and this was the first family. Not so much from igloo to White House as igloo to White Trailer.”

Isn’t he wonderfully vicious? (The article, Redneck Regina, is not yet available online, but I suspect that it will be made available in a few days time.)

Anyway, we discussed this at length at a dinner party last night. Most people around the table had friends, business relations or family or all three in America and several of them known Republicans. But none of them from the religious right. How are they going to vote??? McCain is 72 and looks even older, his health isn’t that good, he’s had several so-called cancer scares and has the five years in Hanoi Hilton in his baggage. And the job as president is rather demanding, isn’t it? You can’t really take a day off? So, this woman will only be the famous heartbeat away from the presidency. Are the not-so-religious, pro-choice, non-members of the NRA, polar bear-friendly Republicans just going to cross their fingers, close their eyes and vote for McCain anyway? Or what?

I’ve got friends and family of the Republican persuasion. And I know some of them occasionally read my blog. If you do, then please enlighten us Europeans on your thoughts upon the matter. We really want to hear!

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Chrome

Here’s the inside news on the Google browser, Chrome. And here’s Google’s own post announcing it. I don’t (yet) see features that I’ve desperately craved, so I’m not going to install it just yet. I’m overly happy with the latest version of Firefox, which has several new features that I use a lot. Here’s a link to the mentioned “comic book” explaining the thinking behind the new browser and it’s features. It’s quite good and informative, although rather nerdy! Chrome was released earlier today and I’ve had a peek at some early adapters’ response and they seem to think that this is the future! Take a guided tour of it here.

And – speaking of the future, I’ve checked yet another speech at TED.com, recommended by Stephen’s Lighthouse. This one is by the writer, web evangelist and former editor of Wired Kevin Kelly. The Web as we know it has been around for 5000 days. He takes it upon himself to predict what will happen in the next 5000 days. It’s very interesting! There’s a lot of exabyte and terabyte in the beginning of his talk and I’m useless with numbers of that magnitude. They mean nothing to me. But later on he gets to content. And as you probably know – content is king… or at least that’s what a lot of people used to say in the 90’es.

There’s only one machine

The Web is its OS

All screens look into the one

No bits will live outside the web

To share is to gain

Let the One read it

The One is us.

That’s quite powerful, so I’ll leave it at that and say Good Night!

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Wikipedia

I wrote the other day about Mrs. Palin’s Wikipedia entry probably undergoing changes as I was writing. I was more on the spot there than I’d ever suspected. See this bit from Boing Boing and follow the links.

From next week I’ll be following a course at Uni called “Source Reliability”. A brief look at the reading list shows that there’s a lot about the debacle between Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Brittanica. Or rather – between Nature and Encyclopedia Brittanica. Since I haven’t read the articles yet, I don’t know what my teachers are trying to prove. But I have previously followed some of this debate and what I’ve learned is this: I used to blindly trust information found in sources like E.B. or the like – but Nature‘s examination of some of the entries in E.B. showed that they are as flawed as the people who wrote them. And aren’t we all flawed? So – I love Wikipedia because when I read an article there, I don’t trust it like it was the Truth – depending on the character of the subject matter, I check and re-check the information. When checking on which king came before Henry VIII or the name of a card game or the specifics of a plant, I happily use Wikipedia and only that. When checking political matters as the aforementioned Mrs. Palin, I’d be dumb if I relied only on the information on Wikipedia – or anywhere else for that matter.

No matter how many articles I read about the flaws in Wikipedia, it is still a fact that there were never before ONE easily and readily accessible place where you could find so much information and so many links for further reading about every conceivable subject.

Btw – the picture of Mr. Obama on my previous post and the picture of Mrs. Palin above are both from the excellent community site Picapp.com. It contains pictures free of copyright and can be used and downloaded by anyone. Legally.

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A little Obama and a lot of other stuff

Slate, New York Times, The American Prospect, Megan McArdle and a lot of sites that they’re linking to discuss the Obama speech. They seem to agree that it was a good speech, but not fantastic. He is an oratory master and has made so many good speeches during his brief career, that he’s made it difficult for himself. But see for yourself! While looking around all the politics sites, interesting news popped up – John McCain’s most unusual choice of veep candidate – the completely inexperienced, but young and female Sarah Palin. Check Wikipedia as the article is probably developing as we speak (or whatever it is we’re doing). Oh, how I love Wikipedia!

After one of my neighbours told me that I was not alone in experiencing faulty Internet here in our convent (thick, thick walls) and also was kind enough to tell me what he’d done to remedy it, I’ve become the very happy owner of three HomePlugs. OK, not exactly another step towards the wireless home – but oh, my Internet just works wonderfully – at full speed now. It’s like a big plug –  into the mains, one connects to the router with an ethernet cable and the others connect from the mains to my computer wherever I want to work. No installation whatsoever, just plug’n’play! Lovely, lovely, lovely!

So naturally I’ve been surfing around all day long and found lots of lovely stuff out there:

On happiness I’ve found a couple of good posts. They are both lists of things to do to be happier and not exactly groundbreaking science. But I still think they’re good and absolutely worth reading and maybe even memorizing. It’s Gretchen from The Happiness Project, but writing on another blog. And it’s from Pick the Brain about happy people’s habits. Btw Gretchen has a post on how to spot when you’re boring people…

On the TED blog I had to pick a few or the rest of the day would go with watching all these incredible people tell about their dreams and achievements. So this Indian guy with his hole-in-the-wall project took pride of place – he has put computers (with Internet) in holes-in-walls in remote places in India and discovered that any child between 5 – 14 can teach him- or herself and loads of other kids to use a computer in a few months. They even teach themselves basic English to do so. He quotes someone for saying “if a teacher can be replaced by a computer – replace him”. True! If the teacher can’t be better and more emphatic and inspiring than a computer, why have one?

When I started my origami craze I had no idea that it had somehow become “modern“. But clearly it has and I find that quite funny. Here’s a math professor who’s taken origami to a whole new sphere – using his math skills to do so. It’s downright incredible!

On the Long Now blog there’s a post by Brian Eno, who’s new album with David Byrne is on my to-buy list. It’s got absolutely raving reviews in the papers here and I am looking forward to hearing it. The post is about what happens to a society when it’s united in and committed to a very long-term project.

Jeff Jarvis writes about Paulo Coelho’s online presence. I must admit, I didn’t know about it and I’ve never read a book of his, although it’s probably about time that I read The Alchemist, which has apparently inspired many people. I’ve certainly noticed his books in prominent places in the bookshops. His website is very professional and informative and – where he differs from most other authors – there’s lots to read and download for free.

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Boing Boing

I’ve had this Internet directory on my roll for quite some time, but it’s not really until today that I’ve found anything other than curiosities on it. When I looked through it today though, there seemed to be a lot more substantial stuff or maybe I just haven’t paid close enough attention earlier.

This post is about the tendency we all have to embellish a good story AND about how willing we are to believe what we see/read/hear if it “sounds right” or suits our own beliefs. I wonder if that has become worse with the Internet or if it’s always been like that. Think of H. G. Wells and The War of the Worlds.

Here’s about the suspicious and hostile treatment you get in the US immigration – in this case in JFK. On our journey we experienced unpleasantness many times, but luckily nothing like this. We joked about the fact that the only nice immigration officer we met, while in the US, was in fact Canadian…

And here’s a story – or rather a video – that puts what I wrote above into perspective. Should one really believe that this can happen to anyone – ANYONE – in London, here in wonderful, democratic UK????? It sure looks very authentic, but I just don’t want to believe that this could happen to me next time I venture up to London!

The next one is little more than a curiosity, but since it’s about John McCain, I will not hesitate to bring it to you: Here’s the quote from McCain’s own website:

It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.

Although it’s not written by McCain himself (how could it be, he’s just learning to surf the Internet as we speak), it’s still ON his website. A Dungeons & Dragons fan promptly had this t-shirt designed:

The guy who designed it has several cool t-shirts to offer actually. Check this for a cool motif:

Now, where was I? Oh yes, politics, that’s right. There’s also a couple of pointers to stories about people arrested at the Beijing games for drawing attention to Tibet. Brave and admirable people, they are!

And now to something completely different. This is a Danish blogger I’ve been following for years. She has just recently posted one of the most exquisite photo series I think I’ve ever seen on a blog and I really must share it with you! It’s called Laundry. Here’s just one photo from the series:

Thank you, Lisa!

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An evening traversing the World Wide Web

This picture of a very impressive hydrangea at Nyman’s in East Sussex has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post. I just had to show it to you, it’s so beautiful!

I have almost come to a point where I don’t want to come across any more interesting blogs. But unless I stop reading blogs, I’ll inevitably come across new and interesting ones. Like this one, named Interfluidity. The post that Marginal Revolution brought to my attention is about something I’d never heard of, but at least can understand, the paradox of thrift. Quite a brilliant piece on what happens when there’s CRISIS written all over the economy.

Marginal Revolution also reminds me of something I also thought of earlier this week. The Amazon Kindle looks more and more interesting. I’ve dismissed all earlier electronic bookreaders as just not coming anywhere near the real thing in comfort and convenience. This one just may be up there with good old paper and print. It would save us from having to buy a bigger house in a couple of years…

On a Danish website I found a solution to a Facebook problem. When you’ve just added a new friend, the feature “suggest friends” pops up and lets you suggest some of your “old” friends to your new friend. But next time you log on to your new friend’s page, this feature is nowhere to be seen – or found. However, the banal and rather old-style solution is to go to the URL and then just write “&suggestfriends” after the address and press Enter – voila! In the same ballgame I’ve found (through my very own search, no less) what may be my salvation. I’ve been struggling with updating this WordPress blog to the newest version, which will let me do a lot of things that I can’t do now. But I’ve come across several obstacles and have had to give it up when I’ve tried it. It has become almost traumatic… It’s a video which explains to dummies like me how it’s done. You’ll be able to see for yourself whether it works. Don’t expect miracles in the next few weeks though – too much holiday stuff going on. But then!

On the subject of happiness, Jonathan Mead wrote this interesting piece on Pick the Brain. I do think he could have tipped his hat to Daniel Gilbert, my happiness guru, but he doesn’t. He’s got his own blog, which also looks like it could be worthy of the occasional visit.

On the news I found a funny little story about “the first computer” – from 2.100 years ago. It apparently had several ways to compute time, one of which was Olympic Time, i.e. every fourth year. Read more on BBC Online and on the project’s homepage.

And in the Independent I read that Danes are only half as fat as the British. No, that’s doing terrible things to statistics, which I’ve promised myself never to dabble in, since I saw this video on TED. Anyway, there are 18% Brits who are obese, but only 9% Danes, or so the accompanying statistics claim. So get it together, my Danish friends, and stop eating c-r-a-p food while you can! I had actually wondered several times if there weren’t more heavily overweight people over here than back home. And sadly, I was right. 18% obese people – that’s a lot!

Oh yes, and I’ve forgotten to bring you this excellent version of The Story of the Internet and the World Wide Web. It’s from Vanity Fair.

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The Gift Economy?

No matter how hard I try, I never seem to be quite up to speed with what’s going on out there in the world. Today I read about a phenomenon, which I’ve occasionally been arguing for (to a degree), but didn’t even know had a name… Well, it does have a name: The Gift Economy (Wikipedia article disputed, but still quite informative). First book on subject written more than 20 years ago :-(

The source of all this new information is a blog I’ve been following for quite a while. It’s called

This Blog Sits at the

Intersection of Anthropology and Economics

which is an unusually accurate title for a blog.

What he uses as an example is a rapper called Lil’ Wayne from New Orleans. Apparently he tipped Coldplay off No. 1 in the American charts. And I’ve never heard of him… Anyway, the interesting bit is that Lil’ Wayne makes practically everything he ever makes freely available on the Internet – in every shape or form you can imagine. So, when his album was recently released, could you then expect it to sell? Well, I would. But I know a lot of people who wouldn’t!

Gift Economy is based on the thought that “What Comes Around Gets Around”. Where I’m certain that variations on this idea can work very well for most artistic products, I’m not so sure about other stuff. As the above blogger muses, will somebody give him the aluminium siding that he so wants? And if somebody did, wouldn’t that somebody go bankrupt very soon? Or would other people start giving him back stuff (he wants and needs)  out of sheer gratitude? I know people who would and people who wouldn’t. Don’t know which kind there are most of out there!

But oh, can I just love the idea of it for a little while!

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Links

Now, what kind of idiot does a thing like this? Thank you to Capac for the pointer.

I’m always going on about TED (Technology Entertainment Design). As the happy owner of an Iphone I have taken podcasts to a higher level and sit on buses, trains and airplanes etc. and LEARN things in a very entertaining way by watching video-podcasts from TED. If you still haven’t taken my hint and tried to watch a TED video, here’s your chance of watching some of the very best ones, picked out by really brainy people. The theme of TED is “Ideas are Everything”. And what the speakers have in common is that they have one or more original idea(s). Some speakers are world famous, some “only” famous within their field. Some of them aren’t famous at all before they appear on TED!

A spinoff of TED is this lovely online shop based in San Francisco with messenger bags made of discarded plastic bottles. I want one!

The Long Now Blog links to this very funny post about the messages that we, Earth, have sent into space since we were able to go there. It’s not uplifting reading, but it’s so funny! I’m going to keep an eye on that guy.

The Times (and most all other media) has the story this morning of an American court ruling against Google/Youtube. Viacom has sued for infringment of their copyright. Oh, I’m tired of hearing the big media companies going on about Artists’ Rights. It’s not really the artists’ rights they care about, but their own sources of income. And very often they – mysteriously – are biting the hand that feeds them. For instance, the many, many clips in Youtube from Britain’s got Talent and all the other similar shows. Do those clips give the shows more viewers or less viewers? More interest or less interest? Your guess is as good as mine… It really is worrying that Viacom can look into the viewing habits of every single Youtube user and maybe even access their IP-address. In a statement Viacom says that they are not going to do that, but only time will show. Reading about this led me on to this honourable organisation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. How glad I am that people have the time and energy to found and run such organisations. It’s for the benefit of us all. More on this issue from Jeff Jarvis.

Also from the Long Now Blog a pointer to an article (disguised as a book review) in the New York Review of Books about global warming by British physicist and author Freeman Dyson (what I would not give to be as clearminded at the age of 84!!!). Before you roll your eyes and move on, let me tell you that this article is about the whole issue. The arguments for and against whether global warming is a serious problem or not, the economic aspects of all the different paths we could take and a very interesting finale about Environmentalism as a new religion. If you’re interested in this and want to read something that is truly unbiased, then try this. It’s not exactly an easy read and I will not claim to have understood all of it. But I understand lots more now than I did before…

The News is now Public ( a site dedicated to the publishing of news ignored or played down by other media) tells about Patrick Waller, the 31st innocent man freed by DNA in the state of Texas. The state of Texas apparently has a double record in the US. It’s the state where the most sentenced have later been found innocent based  on DNA and other evidence. And it’s the state with the highest rate of executions. That’s bone-chilling! CNN is the source of the story. An organisation called the Innocence Project are fronting and financing many of these cases. God Bless them!

As many of you will know, I’m an “Apple Person”. I love all things Apple and have much more of that “I Can’t Live Without It”-feeling in the Apple Store than in any department store. But there are things that aggravate me with Apple too. And mostly that has to do with the copyright thing. I absolutely detest that I can’t do with my own paid for CD’s and downloads exactly as I please. That absolutely INFURIATES me. And reading that I couldn’t watch Netflix films on my Mac if I so chose, infuriates me further. Give me my rights back! Why are my rights influenced by what platform I’ve chosen? Grrrr…

Jabberwock, an Indian blog, reviews the debut novel by Mohammed Hanif, which I’ve also read good things about elsewhere. He tells about the similarities to a book I read a long time ago and really, really liked: Mario Vargas Llosa‘s The Feast of the Goat. Mr. Hanif himself acknowledges the inspiration from Llosa. If you’ve never read anything by Llosa, he can be recommended as good – and very entertaining – summer reading. I’ve added the Exploding Mangoes to my Amazon wish list.

Oh, just realising I’ve been going on like this for hours and you’ve probably left this page a long time ago. Let this then be the last link. A funny post by Megan McArdle on The Atlantic about the demise of the SUV. I was never fond of SUVs in the first place, them being petrol-consuming and even more dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists than other cars, so of course I love her little piece. Have a laugh over some of the comments as well.

No, here’s the last bit. On a very nice social outing with neighbours here in our convent, one person collected money for a “kitty”, for drinks at the pub. I did know what a kitty was, but hadn’t heard the word in many years, not having lived in England before. Asking all these knowledgeable and well educated people about the origin of the word “kitty”, they all drew a blank. But view possible explanations here, here and here.

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What to do about city slum

Upon surfing the news circuit, I stumbled upon a really interesting article on CNN. It’s about the positive sides of city slums, favelas, shantytowns, or whatever they’re called in different parts of the world. It’s really, really interesting, and, honestly, I didn’t have a clue about this.  Do read it all the way to the end, if you can find the time. Here’s a little appetizer:

Historically, Brand said, squatter cities have always been areas of economic expansion; within them there is virtually no unemployment, and their inhabitants are constantly striving to lift themselves out of destitution, he said.

“[Slums] are generating wealth the way cities have always done,” Brand said.

In India, almost 20 percent of the GDP comes from Mumbai, where half the city’s 12 million residents live in slums, Brand said. And even though many slum dwellers work in the informal economy, the official economy benefts as workers accumulate income and can afford to buy more goods and services outside their shadow neighborhoods.

In the article an organization is mentioned, which I’ve never heard of either. The Long Now Foundation. It’s based in California (where else?) and its focus is on long term planning instead of the usual way politicians and administrators do it, till the end of their term… The website looks incredibly interesting and I’ve added the blog to my rounds. Which means you might here more about it at a later stage ;-)

Furthermore, the article mentions a journalist, Robert Neuwirth, who has lived in different shantytowns for two years and wrote a book about it. Here’s a link to a talk he gave to the TED conference, here’s to his blog and here’s to buy the book

Photo googled and found here.

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A weakness

I’m going to admit something to you. I don’t dig entertainment on TV and usually don’t watch any of it. Honestly! But when we first came over here I was forced to watch a show on TV called Britain’s got Talent. Forced! (Gotta blame it on someone, haven’t I)…

But, nobody’s forced me to watch every programme since then!

There’s something completely irresistible about it. Every time we’ve been watching the auditions we’ve been asking ourselves what it is that makes people who are absolutely devoid of talent, charm or any other asset go on TV and showcase their shortcomings to the world. Some of them are just absolutely incredibly untalented!

But then, in between all the more or less terrible acts, come these unpolished gems right out of the sticks. Out of nowhere, wih so much talent that you’re left speechless! And sometimes some more polished gems make you think where A&R (artist & repertoire) people around the country have had their eyes and ears?

Here are some of my favourites:

George Sampson – dancer

Hoop-La-La – eh, hoolahoop dancers. Didn’t go on to the finals – much to my regret!

Flava – a street dance group way above what you usually see. And one of the boys’ mum had actually done the choreography! They didn’t go on to the finals, lost to these two little cutiepies:

Cheeky Monkeys.

Another act that didn’t reach the finals, was Tracey. I would have loved to have seen him perform in front of the Prince of Wales!!!

Some of the absolute superstars of the programme are a young girl and a young boy. They both sing and they both sing classical music. And both their voices make the little hairs on your back stand up! Andrew Johnston and Faryl Smith.

The judges of this show are national heroes, it appears. I don’t particularly like any of them… Piers has been editor of some of Britain’s worse rags, which qualifies him to absolutely nothing in my eyes. Amanda is probably a fine actress, but I’ve never seen her, so… And then there’s the world famous Simon. I think he’s horrible. Not because he’s “the tough one”, but because I think he’s got poor taste. He’s one to fall for a cleavage… (and take a look at his own haircut and open-necked shirts, sooo eighties!!!). At one point we saw a pair of dancers who were very good at what they did. It was like ice dancing without the skates. Which is to say not exactly high brow or anything. But Simon went on and on about how he preferred baked beans to caviar. Which was why he didn’t like this act??? They were exactly beans!!! Good, fine, talented. But beans. To Amanda’s credit she rolled her eyes at him!

I’d love if some of my readers (I actually know you’re out there!) would like to comment now and then. It’s quite OK to disagree. But if you do so in foul language, I’m not going to publish your comment. It saddening how many people leave horrible and obscene comments on perfectly above-board blogs. Shame on you!

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Link day

From Marginal Revolution this about Icelanders being the happiest people on earth.

From the New Yorker a bone-chilling recount of Nixon’s presidency and why that period is still very relevant to America today.

Kottge.org links to this incredible collection of legs as used in book- and magazine covers…

Puzzled as I am as to what this really is, animation, film, graffiti, a figment of someone’s imagination? I bring you this absolutely stunning little film. Found by Tore.

Ezra Klein has a couple of posts about Ted Kennedy. The first just a short notice about how sad it is that it is this particular senators of all senators who has to suffer from a malignant brain tumor. In the second post he quotes other mourners and reflects some more. Ezra Klein writes like he’s ancient and has studied intensely all his life. But no, here’s yet another young person who’s just immaturely brilliant! He writes for the liberal magazine American Prospect.

No Impact Man points to this funny Australian/soon-to-be-American blog about Icing. Icing as in the clothes we put on, the make-up we wear (or don’t as it is) and the outward signals we send in general. Not surprisingly, I really like her post about what to wear when you’re well past forty!

A tulip field in Holland!!! Picture snatched from a food blog on the New York Times. It was an interesting lecture on TED which directed me to Mark Bittman‘s blog. Cow farts are mentioned…

Jeff Jarvis has a funny post about our personal health in the public space. I didn’t even know such a thing existed as Google Health. But there you go. He points to this site, which looks very interesting to me, who, as many of you know, suffer from all sorts of weird little ailments…

Megan McArdle reminds us of Tom Lehrer. How can such an old clip still be so relevant. It’s just same old, same old, isn’t it? And she has this remarkable story about milk subsidising in the US. I haven’t verified it – having almost unlimited faith in The Atlantic. And as the lady says, you just can’t make these things up!

On the Danish website ComON (news about the IT world) I was astounded to find this link. It shows you how to modify your Iphone so the interface looks like Windows Vista! Who on the planet would want that, other than Bill Gates? My husband’s just got a new laptop for work and it has Vista. I find it absolutely horrible. It’s just plastered with widgets and warnings about this, that and the other and a completely useless “opening screen”. Give me XP anytime if I have to use Windows…

On the Blog with the Long Name (on anthropology) I found this interesting post: What Women Want. You just can’t help clicking, can you?

Gretchen, one of my happiness-gurus has this interesting post about how to stop a tantrum (in children, that is…). I’ll give it a shot next time Dane starts slamming doors.

You might be wondering (if you’ve made it all the way down here) why I read so many American blogs and so few British. I certainly wonder about that myself. The truth is, I don’t think much about it, I just put down the good ones I come across. As it turns out, they are mostly American. If you can point me to some exellent British ones, I’d love it! You should know my taste by now!

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Food for thought

I’ve recently added a new blog to my “daily rounds” (or weekly, it depends…). It’s on The Atlantic‘s website by Megan McArdle. This woman can write. And, tada, she’s not a journalist (and not an economist either)!

Her blog is supposedly an economy blog, but if that’s economy I want to be an economist too. Actually, economists seem to be a lot more fun than I’d ever imagined. As I’ve previously let you in on, I also follow economy blog no. 1, the Marginal Revolution blog. Very often the posts are not about economics at all, quite often they are about economy but in such an interesting context that it doesn’t seem that way. And some times they are about hardcore economics and I just skip them…

But back to Megan. The post that made me sit down and write this is about racial issues. But it’s also about litterature. And philosophy. And it is so beautifully written – such mastery of language! An example:

I see the two communities looking suspiciously at each other and saying “Once you have perfected yourself, then I will love you as myself.” But this will not work. The very act of watching the other, at a distance, for signs of change creates the problem we want to solve.

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