Sunday, January 30, 2011

Issandr El Amrani in Egypt

Check out the coverage from the bloggers at

Based on several accounts I've been reading, it seems less likely the riots in Egypt will turn into a full scale revolution than those in Tunisia. This is mostly because the army in Egypt has not taken, and probably won't take, a direct stance against Mubarak. Whereas in Tunis, Rachid Ammar, the commander of the military, turned against Ben Ali from the beginning. The early actions of the military in these situations has proven to be very important.

The Egyptian military and police also have plenty of experience dealing with riots.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nudges and Fun

If you check my links over on the right --> you may notice a site called If you haven't checked it out already, it's a fantastic blog written by two prominent behaviouralist economist/authors by the names of Thaler and Sunstein. Their central concept is the nudge.

A perfect exemplification of the nudge is the urinal with a fake fly inked into the bowl.

Why add the fly, you may ask? Trademarking? Fun?

Studies have shown that, across different washrooms in different states, urinals with targets like the fly are less spilly... Guys want to hit they fly! These washrooms smell better, need less maintenance and are not as wet on the floor!

A little 'nudge' like this can cause drastic changes in peoples behaviour. There are tonnes more examples, and great discussion about behaviouralist economics at their blog.

Even better examples, and certainly more fun ones, come from the people at

This one is my favourite:

Can you think of a lil' nudge to change people for the better?

ht: Marc Goss

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Sometime in the  6th century BC, the Nabeteans established Petra as their capital. 

It is a true wonder of the world:

It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

This one's for me mums


   Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It's one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men's shirt buttons on the right and women's on the left. Every major style guide--including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style--prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren't for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology--the manual typewriter--invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine's shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do. (Also see the persistence of the dreaded Caps Lock key.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lluís Domènech i Montaner

When I lived in Barcelona, (ahhh, the nostalgia) I lived just down a pedestrian street from the incredible Palau de La Musica. This moderniste marvel was constructed by a lesser sung hero of Catalan architecture (in the shadow of another Art Nouveau giant, Gaudi).

The Palau is so ornate it is almost blinding. These photos don't even do it justice.

He also designed and began to build the fanciful, fairy-tale Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona which has recently been redesignated, along with the Palau, as a UNESCO world heritage site. 

Lluís Domènech i Montaner is a true visionary.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How rational of you...

One of the central problems with moden economic theory is that it assumes all human beings are rational. Whether the brand be bounded, norm-based or evolutionary, economic theory has been constrained by rationalist ways of thinking. Slowly but surely, influences from sociology and psychology will break down the "rational choice" theories that dominate the field. Of course, there are many other problematic assumptions that are widely accepted in mainstream economics, but the assumption of rationality remains central. It has informed and continues to inform most every fallacious assumptions in modern day economics.

Are you economically rational?

Take this quiz by the witty Dan Ariely.

I scored mostly rational. Econ 301 applies mostly to me... Do you fit the model?

Time to Vote!

The referendum needs at least 60% of the population of South Sudan to be considered. It's time to vote!


More from AFP

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What's up in Sudan:

Rather than bore you with lines of text explaining the vast and mostly terrible past and present states of Sudan, here is a great lil video:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sudanese vote for the newest country in the world

Today Southern Sudanese people will decide to split from the North.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 ended a 21-year civil war which displaced some 4 million and killed more civilians in any war since WWII. Now an agreement to split puts the country on the brink of another momentous change.

If the new border is to determine the share of oil between the two countries, President Omar Al Bashir will stand to loose a sizeable chunk of oil wealth (around 80% would go to the south). If they don't split, the north will be guilty of meddling.

More on this very soon!

...and George Clooney.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Anything wrong with this picture?


"On 17th February 2011, Sotheby’s will sell a rare, newly re-discovered, 16th century ivory pendant mask depicting the head of the Queen mother from the Edo peoples, Kingdom of Benin in Nigeria along with five other rare works from Benin collected at the same time."

Notice the word "collected" in there? Replace that with "looted" and were still not even close to the real picture.

Supposedly, the mask was not known of until the descendants of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry Lionel Gallwey contacted the auction house a short while ago. Gallwey wrote the master plan to burn and loot Benin in 1897, and helped provide the 'legal basis' to destroy the entire civilization. He wrote the master plan! And, of course, he was given a title and a promotion for his efforts.

Now, it is only right that the family make money (estimate: £3,500,000 - 4,500,000) off the art he so succesfully stole a century ago, right?

Is this really happening?

I love this quote from

"Jean Fritts, director of African and Oceanic art at Sotheby’s, said: “It has an amazing, untouched surface which collectors love. Its honey colour attests to years of rubbing with palm oil.”

I suppose we ought to applaud them for taking care of such a treasure that surely no Beniner could ever appreciate. Hah!

Here's a thought, why not use the proceeds of the sale to help rebuild the civilization that England destroyed (and continues to destroy in this manner)?

Not bloody likely is it?

Well, there is an international convention, signed in the 1970's, that prevents this very thing from happening. It makes me wonder if this will actually go down. You better believe there would be a reaction against an auction if it were, say, a Polish artifact stolen by a Nazi and put up for auction in Germany...

Henry Galway: a capable murderer and thief


HT: Bombastic Elements

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What does one trillion dollars look like?

From :

"All this talk about "stimulus packages" and "bailouts"...

billion dollars...
hundred billion dollars...
Eight hundred billion dollars...
One TRILLION dollars...

What does that look like? I mean, these various numbers are tossed around like so many doggie treats, so I thought I'd take Google Sketchup out for a test drive and try to get a sense of what exactly a trillion dollars looks like.

We'll start with a $100 dollar bill. Currently the largest U.S. denomination in general circulation. Most everyone has seen them, slighty fewer have owned them. Guaranteed to make friends wherever they go.


A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2" thick and contains $10,000. Fits in your pocket easily and is more than enough for week or two of shamefully decadent fun.
Believe it or not, this next little pile is $1 million dollars (100 packets of $10,000). You could stuff that into a grocery bag and walk around with it.

$1,000,000 (one million dollars)
While a measly $1 million looked a little unimpressive, $100 million is a little more respectable. It fits neatly on a standard pallet...

$100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars)
And $1 BILLION dollars... now we're really getting somewhere...

$1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars)
Next we'll look at ONE TRILLION dollars. This is that number we've been hearing so much about. What is a trillion dollars? Well, it's a million million. It's a thousand billion. It's a one followed by 12 zeros.
You ready for this?
It's pretty surprising...

Go ahead...
Scroll down.

Ladies and gentlemen... I give you $1 trillion dollars...

$1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion dollars)

Notice those pallets are double stacked.

...and remember those are $100 bills .
So the next time you hear someone toss around the phrase "trillion dollars"... that's what they're talking about."


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Beauty Implies Life?:
Experience in the World's more gorgeous cities

Over the holiday I was fortunate enough to travel to two of the top five "World's most livable cities", according to the Economist and Mercer rankings.

What, you might ask, is so livable about these two cities? Well, I'm going to let you find that out by clicking on those two links above, and only say that they are both absolutely gorgeous cities. I know, I know, beautiful shmeautiful, but check these out (and these are just snaps I took leisurely walking around, with no intention of finding beautiful scenes):

If you haven't been as fortunate and have never visited either city, you might be convinced simply by these two pictures that they must, indeed, live up to their rankings. If that is the case then you would be mistaken. I think, despite the complex and vast calculations the two publications have done to tally every aspect of liveability, both have been hoodwinked by beauty. 

Of course, what should constitute 'livability' is invariably a subjective proposition and fans of these two beauts would argue for their rank to the death. For me, a city needs to have something going on. Here, I can use many other buzz words, how about pulse, vibe, heartbeat, or life. While these two certainly have their own tenor, their own character or atmosphere, it certainly is not very lively in either case. 

Perhaps I'm being to hard on city number two (as denoted by picture placement). It's core does have some activity, but it surely cannot rival any European capital.

For me to live in a city, and truly be comfortable, there needs to be something to discover all the time. There needs to be connectivity, energy and diversity. These, to me, are the inner attributes of a liveable city.  Beauty, as they say, is only skin deep; and for these two lookers, the beauty is only in the skin.

Oh, and can you guess which are the two cities?

From Mercer:

From The Economist:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hapee New Year!

To bring in the new year I found a funny graph on the number one Canadian news story of the year: The Canadian Men's Hockey gold at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

According to this graph, courtesy of EPCOR, Canadians pee between periods:

...not that this is surprising or enlightening really, but I always enjoy it when a set of statistics can reflect such truth in our lives.

Some 80% of Canadians in Canada were watching the Gold medal game!

HT: Chris Blattman