Archive for the ‘competition’ Category

Iron Chef: Kigali

Fellow Sojourners,

  • Who: Anyone who enjoys food or quests for honor
  • What: The Inaugural Iron Chef: Kigali
  • When: Saturday at 14:00 (21:00 Tokyo time)
  • Where: Kitchen Stadium (aka Jon Stever’s house)

Further details can be found in the following haikus.

Cherry blossoms wilt
Hot blast blows through Kigali
People cowering

No time to take care
Three hours will decide fate
Five cooking teams rush

Many francs in fists,
One focus ingredient
Three courses prepared

Chairwoman presides
For five thousand paid cash full
Judges will rule

Saturday cometh
Stever’s house at noon plus two
Honor à la carte


The hot blast blows still
Flows from victory bellows
Chefs from Iron forged

Yours most honorably,
The Power Brokers of Kigali

Sponsored by the good people at Kiungo LLC


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Ladies, Gentlemen,

The same great people who brought you MotoPolo and the Kigali Lights Blowout are pleased to announce:

  • What: The “Let Freedom Ring BBQ Bash,” preceded by the Patriot’s MotoPolo Tourney (PMPT). Meats shall be in abundance at the BBQ, but guests are encouraged to bring any traditional side dishes (potato salad, chips, dip, etc.).
  • Where: The PMPT will be held at the football pitch just past the airport on the left. The BBQ will be held at the VIP Palace of Sam and Jared, which is on the road behind La Guardienne in Kiyovu.
  • When: PMPT starts at 12:00 PM sharp. BBQ shall begin 4 hours thereafter, at 4:00 PM.
  • Who: Sons of Liberty, Daughters of the Revolution
  • How: Blood, Toil, Tears, Sweat.

The 4th of July is a day of remembrance for those who proved the full measure of their devotion in that severe contest between liberty and tyranny. As per usual, we will commemorate by clashing in competition and consuming copious quantities of fire-roasted meat.

At high noon, the reverberations from thundering engines will be felt all across Kigali as soldiers mount up to do battle in the most epic motopolo tourney mankind as ever conceived. Four teams of four shall take the field as the sun reaches its zenith; three teams shall follow it down in disgrace as the afternoon progresses. Who will bask victorious in the golden hour no man can know. Blood may be spilled. Lives may be lost. Glory will be tasted. Fame will be secured. Freedom will be won.

Some commentators have hailed the upcoming PMPT as the “sporting event of the decade.” Scholars maintain that nowhere in the vast annals of human history can one find a commemoration comparable for its encapsulation of the sort of noble conflict every quest for liberty possesses. In a news flash just yesterday, Reuters reported that Kim Jong-il has lamented: “The Patriot’s MotoPolo Tourney represents a clear and present danger to my authoritarian regime and the iron fist with which I hold down my people. The only thing more threatening to my relentless oppression is the Let Freedom Ring BBQ Bash taking place after the tournament at about 4 PM, where throngs of freedom-loving people will feast on a giant suckled pig.”

So do join us in the fight against terror at the Let Freedom Ring BBQ Bash this coming Saturday (and the tournament if you can make it).

Come and be greeted as liberators.

Yours in freedom,

The Power Brokers of Kigali

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Today I ran by the grocery store to pick up some milk and was perplexed to see that there were only a few cartons left on a very empty-looking shelf. I’m assuming it has something to do with this:

German cows have started filling stainless-steel vats with milk again after a 10-day boycott when many dairy farmers had dumped out their wares. Many say the problems that plague the industry remain.

Dairy factories warned on Friday, June 6, that promises by German discount grocers to pay higher wholesale prices for milk and butter have changed little.

At a time when international milk prices are low and the European Union is warning farmers to get ready for a market-driven, quota-free world, many small farms may fail.

For 10 heady days, the farmers let off steam and won mostly sympathetic attention from the media. But for those on the edge of bankruptcy, the loss of 10 days of income was a terrible price to pay.

While I heard some general comments about milk prices in the past days, I was totally clueless about what was going until about 15 minutes ago when I stumbled upon the article by chance.
Nevertheless, three thoughts now bounce around my calcium-fortified skull:

  1. If this strike has been going on since the end of May, why was milk ten cents cheaper when I bought some last weekend?
  2. In a way seeing empty dairy shelves at my local Lidl was nifty. I don’t think I’ve ever been so personally affected by a strike–not even by the Bahn.
  3. I’d be more than willing to pay a higher price per liter if I could buy milk in something larger than a 1 liter carton–I probably wouldn’t even notice the higher price, so great would be my joy.

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The festively decorated Galeria Kaufhof department store in this western German town is cutting prices on items from fleece sweaters to toy castles. At the Karstadt store across the street, the discounts range from cashmere sweaters to fondue sets.Not too long ago, these sales would have been against the law.In contrast to the U.S., where pre-Christmas price cuts play a key part in retailers’ strategies — and shoppers’ buying plans — holiday sales mark a small revolution in European retailing. For decades, European retailers could cut prices only during certain periods set by the government. The winter sales, usually in January, came too late for cash-strapped Christmas shoppers.In 2004, Germany’s retail laws changed to allow stores to hold sales when they please, but most retailers still kept prices high in the holiday season. Now, though, that last remnant of traditional retail regulation is cracking as well.

That from a Christmas Eve article in the the Wall Street Journal. The article also notes that Germany relaxed its restrictive store-closing laws last year, allowing states to decide the matter for themselves. I am not sure what the current state of legislation is here in Meck-Pomm–the only stores I saw open today were a Burger King and a McDonald’s, natch.

I had always assumed that Germany’s store-closing laws which, among other things, forbade stores from opening on Sundays, were enacted to reflect some cultural consensus about the fourth commandment–most businesses in the United States used to close on Sundays too, after all. But as I’ve heard Germans themselves say and as indeed the article itself points out, one of the main reasons Germans still support laws of this type is that they believe allowing stores to open anytime would benefit larger stores at the expense of small retailers who can’t afford to man a till 24/7:

But moves to change the rules for when and how people shop have come slowly and brought public soul-searching about life in a consumer society — as well as stiff resistance from trade unions, churches, and small retailers who say increased flexibility hurts store workers and benefits only large chains…

“Stores should not be open too long, so that the sales people can rest,” says Sophie Coumel, 33, who works for a Franco-German youth organization in Berlin and was buying a present at a Kaufhof store one recent evening.

Why Frau Coumel doesn’t believe workers are capable of deciding for themselves how much rest to get mystifies me. The same goes for the “trade unions, churches, and small retailers,” who apparently believe that the preferences of millions of German consumers should be subservient to their own. If workers don’t want to work longer hours, they won’t. If Germans don’t like shopping on Sunday, they’ll stay home. If customers like small retailers better, they’ll be fine. How can a piece of legislation possibly do better than to simply let each person make up his own mind about what’s best for himself?

What’s that Fig? Oh, that’s right–people are stupid. How stupid of me.

Of course, current arguments for an old law often don’t have anything to do with the original reasons for it. The WSJ article also mentions a German law enacted in 1933 that “prohibited haggling and put limits on bonus schemes such as store-loyalty cards.” The law lived on until 2001, supported because it was thought to protect consumers and small business. One of the reasons it was actually made into law, however, was because the Nazis found it a good way to “hurt the country’s department-store owners — many of them Jewish — who had been experimenting with creative sales strategies.” Historians generally agree that the Nazis were an unseemly lot, so I’m surprised the Germans didn’t question the law after the war, but, to be fair, the original effects of many laws are soon forgotten.

Take the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which was essentially the first federal minimum wage in the United States. While it is still on the books today and enjoys support across the political spectrum because of its ostensible protection for construction workers, the law was probably passed merely because it was a good way to price minorities out of the labor market, who were presumptuous enough to work for less money and depress wages for whites.

These laws, like so many others, were passed not to prevent exploitation but to prevent competition, which is the most surefire mechanism for protecting worker and consumer alike.

It probably would have allowed me to buy some cold medicine today, at any rate.

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