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Archive for January, 2010

KLB Jungle Warrior Party

Who: Aspiring Party Warriors
What: The KLB Jungle Warrior Party
Where: Paradis Island, just offshore from Hotel Paradis in Gisenyi
When The evening of 30 January
How: A Party Bus with room for 20 people and their luggage has been chartered by the KLB Crew at a price of RWF 4,000 per person. It will depart from UTC at 11 AM. Please RSVP so alternative arrangements can be made should more than twenty avail themselves of the Party Bus. Those traveling separately can rendezvous with the party at Hotel Paradis in the evening. Boats to and from Paradis Island will be running through the night.

People of Rwanda:

The time for action again arrives, for the KLB Crew has devised another crucible in which party warriors are to be forged. On Saturday 30 January, a busload of raw recruits will depart for Gisenyi. There they will transfer to a marine transport vessel, which will carry them to Paradis Island about a klick offshore from the hotel of the same name. During the night they will negotiate a series of tests designed to reveal their mettle and might. These will include:

  • Nocturnal Aquatic Tube Drills
  • Sand Navigation
  • Intensive Star Gazing
  • Methane Pocket Avoidance
  • Fire stoking
  • Pirate Raids Against Bralirwa

After these and other tests have been successfully completed, a ceremony will be held in which recruits shall receive the Mark of the Party Warrior on the body part of their choice. Those happy few will be transported back to the mainland, where they may continue partying at the onshore venue. After their spirit is fulfilled, they may book alternative accommodations on the mainland. Transport back to Kigali is the prerogative of the Party Warrior.

Yours feverishly,

The KLB Crew

Addendum: After this email was sent out, we were informed by the hotel owner that the Rwanda marines had put the kibosh on the celebration. Too close to the still conflict-prone DRC. Thus, the party will take place on a beach nearby. Oh well.

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Timezones and other constraints conspired to prevent me from watching yesterday’s State of the Union address, so today I downloaded a CBS broadcast of the event. Now I will watch and blog:

(0:00) CBS got Morgan Freeman to do the introductory voice-over, I wonder where that places in his chain of command.

(0:01) The parade of the bureaucrats is underway!

(0:01) Hey, there’s Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security Secretary. I love her ice cream.

(0:01) And it’s the always boxy Rahm Emmanuel; if my German and Bible classes aren’t failing me, his name means “Frame God with Us.”

(0:02) Michelle Obama towers over the wee police officers beside her. Can’t wait to find out what politically useful act of heroism they performed!

(0:06) Madame Speaker, the people’s highest ranking public servant!

(0:07) I wonder how they decide the order of who trails Obama. I like to think it’s shirtless boxing, Marquess of Queensberry style.

(0:08) After many handshakes, Obama goes in for several hugs like the teddy bear he is.

(0:10) Ahhh, the traditional handing off to Joe Biden of the manila folder containing compromising photos of the VP. Stay in line, Joe!

(0:12) Obama informs us of the history of the SOTU. But did you know that for most of the presidency, a report was submitted to Congress with no speech? I did, because I once wrote a sixth-grade history report on Woodrow Wilson.

(0:13) One in ten Americans can’t find a job? Is this the beginning of the rumored reversal of America’s depraved child labor laws!?!

(0:14) Obama finds it especially hard to read the letters from children, perhaps because they’re scrawled in crayon and rife with spelling errors.

(0:16) Americans share everything, from a desire to find a job that pays the bills to giving their children a better life. Legos, too. And Lincoln Logs.

(0:17) Obama has hope for America; the Democrats immediately stand and applaud while the Republicans sit for a few seconds longer to consider whether this position is congruous with conservatism.

(0:17) Biden anticipates a brief clap just a few seconds too early and flashes his weird sideways smile.

(0:18) The bank bailouts were “about as popular as a root canal.” Once again, Obama shows no tact with the dental lobby.

(0:20) Terror: George W. Bush :: Banking : Obama

(0:22) Obama cites an unknowable counter-factual as truth.

(0:23) Obama cites the success of a window manufacturer as evidence of the success of the stimulus. Somewhere far away, Frédéric Bastiat breaks a window.

(0:25) Man, how can Obama list all these small towns off the cuff like that!

(0:27) And you get a tax break! And you get a tax break! Oh boy, is there something taped underneath the seats? EEEEEE!!!!

(0:28) There’s no reason Europe or China should have faster trains, or cooler factories, or older buildings, or more beautiful women…

(0:28) Obama says it time to stop shipping jobs overseas to poorer people who make products Americans value for cheaper. Hip hip, hooray!

(0:32) I’m not sure what the competition is, but I’m now assured we’re not content with second place.

(0:35) The chamber is one big nuclear family.

(0:37) Clean energy is such a ginormous investment opportunity that whoever leads it will lead the global economy. This is why we must lure people into it with tax dollars or otherwise they won’t invest. Get it?

(0:39) In lieu of snark, I’ll let 1994 Paul Krugman explain why talking about economic policy in terms of national competitiveness is silly.

(0:40) Best anti-poverty measure is an education? Looks like someone’s never played Power Ball.

(0:43) Obama calls houses an investment, which is true if one takes a generalist view where autumn leaves could be considered a salad.

(0:45) Michelle Obama gets a standing ovation for “starting a national movement.”

(0:50) Yep, the American government is just like any ol’ American household. It has to stick to a budget, otherwise it’ll have to print money or collect it from others by dispatching people with guns.

(0:58) With his view of corporations and free speech, Obama clearly takes a Platonic view of rhetoric. Yep.

(1:10) “We will bring 44 nations together to secure all nuclear material within fours years so that they never fall into the hands or underpants of terrorists.”

(1:12) As Obama announces his plan to reverse the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the generals sit rigid, hands clutched near their crotches.

(1:14) Obama will support equal pay for women, and will provide paternity leave to men as they carry their mutant babies to term.

(1:16) Obama invokes George Michael (the singer, not the Bluth).

(1:16) “Democracy in a country of 300 million people can be noisy, and messy, and complicated, and frankly, it sucks!”

(1:19) Sadly, it’s now widely reported that the $8 a boy gave Obama to give to Haiti was instead spent on a Hatian corn pudding snack for the President.

(1:20) And now that God has been asked to bless us and America (just to be safe), the SOTU has ended, the fifth longest in 40-odd years.

And with that, I’m exhausted. Good night!

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EePad

The iPad has been unveiled, and I with my unquenchable thirst for what everyone’s saying about it just performed a twitter search, which allowed me to view people’s comments in real time. As it happens, this tweet was one of the first I read:

Vielleicht gibt es irgendwann ein iPad mini mit dem man auch telefonieren kann… oh, halt..

Translated:

Perhaps someday there’ll be an iPad Mini with which one can also make phone calls….oh, wait.

I’ve evinced in the past that Germans do actually understand sarcasm; nonetheless the fact that this comment was auf Deutsch rather than English made it about 34 percent funnier to me.

UPDATE–After posting, I kept refreshing the page. Another tweet:

If someone gave me an #ipad I’ll gladly accept it but not sure if I’ll go out & buy one at the current price. #underwhelmed

Fig is begging me to bite my tongue, BUT….I ...CAN’T……

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When I graduated from university, my work colleagues at the think tank treated me to a nice evening out. Altogether lustrous it was, but dimmed (OK, only very slightly) because I could not for the life of me convince someone of the logic of opportunity cost. He was a smart, successful, middle-aged guy, but the implications of it struck him as counter-intuitive at best and nonsensical at worse.

The concept is easy to define and explain, but hard to take seriously. A Kindle is too expensive for me, but if someone gave it to me, I’d probably keep it, thereby paying the price for which I could have sold it. Some of this can be charitably excused by the endowment effect, or the idea we value things more once we possess them, but too much of it is just ignoring unseen costs.

But a hope again rises, for even if I don’t myself always follow the illuminated path, there’s a new and better way to shine a lamp unto the feet of others. Here’s a description of new economics research:

The economists worked with the managers of a Chinese electronics factory, who were interested in exploring ways to make their employee-bonus scheme more effective. Most might have recommended changes to the amounts of money on offer. But Mr Hossain and Mr List chose instead to concentrate on the wording of the letter informing workers of the details of the bonus scheme.

At the beginning of the week, some groups of workers were told that they would receive a bonus of 80 yuan ($12) at the end of the week if they met a given production target. Other groups were told that they had “provisionally” been awarded the same bonus, also due at the end of the week, but that they would “lose” it if their productivity fell short of the same threshold.

Objectively these are two ways of describing the same scheme. But under a theory of loss aversion, the second way of presenting the bonus should work better. Workers would think of the provisional bonus as theirs, and work harder to prevent it from being taken away.

This is just what the economists found.

The article is about endowment and framing effects and not explicitly about opportunity cost, but what a great way to make the idea clearer. If we think of having something and provisionally losing it, suddenly the cost becomes far more salient than if we think of not having something and provisionally gaining it.

Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?

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Nairobbery

Ever since I wrote a post on price discrimination, I’ve noticed more and more examples of it in my own day-to-day. My circle’s favorite lunch buffet in Kigali, for example, just instituted a new three tier price system depending on what food one scoops up: the first tier is salad only, the second tier is everything except fish, and the third tier is all-inclusive. This new scheme is not clearly advertised, however, and the waitstaff will usually default charge the full price. Only regulars or other keen customers will recognize the mistake and have the bill corrected (having a three-tiered pricing also allows for market segmentation and, one would guess, higher profits).

Another example I came across on my recent holiday trip to Nairobi. Many of the touristy-places in and around the city had signs like these:

I’m charged 7 times more just because I’m from a different country!?! How blatant!

What’s especially intriguing about this example is that while most forms of price discrimination irritate customers if discovered, this one is benign and blasé. Somehow it just seems fair that locals get a better deal, particularly since they’re probably poorer than foreign tourists. When this is true, there’s no need to be coy or obfuscatory about what’s happening.

I’ve put some thought into finding other examples where price discrimination occurs in plain sight because it’s congruous to a sense of fairness, but so far I’ve drawn a blank. Might readers be able to?

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Paperweight

Imagine you handle the money for a small business in a cash-based economy whose largest denomination bill is worth about nine bucks; what might your desk look like come deposit day?

For a sense of proportion, that pen has a thickness of 16 inches.

As an aside, the odor of Rwandan francs–which often spend part of their lives crumpled in the sweaty pockets of moto drivers–will scent my memories long after I leave.

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