Saturday, July 25

Splitting the moon

Ok, so I get this email which says the following:







After laughing my head off, I spoke to my sister who told me that this is considered to be an actual miracle in the Quran. But do a search for splitting the moon, there are so many hits. The bunch of crazies who are out there are amazing. Here’s a map of the moon, folks, go check it out to see if you can see this pattern? Notice that all these emails never tell you exactly where this is supposed to be. God, in this day and age…And specially around the time when we have had the first moon landings, but then, these silly buggers also think that the moon landings were staged.

Witch Doctors and Sport

You couldn't make this up.

A Sangoma from either Black Mambas or Mbabane Swallows had ripped open a section of the expensive pitch that FIFA had provided under their ‘Win in Africa’ programme, dug a hole, burnt a sacrificial chicken and then buried it in the middle of the pitch.

And read the comments, there are people who say that the FIFA is being racist or against African culture. Goodness, guys, get a grip.

Friday, July 24

Kenyan Corruption

This was an excellent step. And please, no comments about US imperialism and stupid stuff like that. If the USA is actually assisting in the reduction of corruption, then that is very good. When was the last time you heard a communist or Arab or Muslim government doing all this for corruption, eh? So lets get back to this point. The fact is that Kenya is seriously corrupt and as usual, the rot starts from the top.

Nothing strange, we see this kind of behaviour in the UK (Members of Parliament taking money to ask questions, was anybody convicted of bribery? no), in India (a significant proportion of the MP's and politicians have assets disproportionate to their earnings), and in the USA (governors selling senate seat nominations). Go figure, but we need to fight this, and from that perspective, this is excellent news, more is needed, people need to think that this is bad and sad. Throw these bums out.

Wednesday, July 22

Cross Border Moral Shopping

So lets see, according to the grand poo bah's of the religious establishment in the magic kingdom, you cannot hold hands, watch cinema, drink alcohol, pick up a girl, attend a concert, racing to glory., purchase books, see paintings and do "art". So the Bahraini's now want to stop them corrupting the morals.

Here's my issue, in Bahrain, there are some moral activities which are fine and some which are wrong, but they are all wrong in Saudi. Amazing how just crossing a bridge (in more ways than one) can make a difference to cultures, morals and religion, eh? Check out this story, it is so strange to read stuff like this…

On the other hand, my sister sent me this link. I quote:

KUALA LUMPUR // Many countries are Islamic, but some may be more Islamic than others. Now moves are afoot to rate nations according to how closely they adhere to the principles of Islam.
The Shariah Index Project is led by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a New York-based cleric who heads the Cordoba Initiative, a multinational project to improve relations between Muslim countries and the West. “We have been soliciting the opinion of scholars throughout the Muslim world, asking them what defines an Islamic state, from the point of view of Islamic law,” he said. “What are the principles that make a state Islamic? We can say among them is justice, protection of religion and minorities and elimination of poverty, and so on.”

Heh, I guess Bahrain will come way lower than the Saudi Arabia? I am sure that will get them even more upset. Then Bahrain will say, hey, its the Saudi’s who are lowering the tone, so then they will appeal to the Index creators, and then Saudi’s will say, no, not our fault, you guys have these bars, museums, galleries, cinemas which is against Sharia (who gets to define this anyway? there are so many types of it…). You can just see where this is going to end up, no?

Restaurants, chefs and local foods

The utilisation of local food and avoidance of food miles is considered to be a good thing these days, it reduces the carbon footprint and is a way to encourage local agricultural development, away from the mass factory farming which people would hate, despite the low prices. And I am interested in this topic because of a new good friend, Madhu, the madman knifeman :).

Anyway, so what do you do? One idea is to utilise the services of your local chef.

So it was interest to read this paper. I quote the abstract:

Chefs have been recognized as potentially important partners in efforts to promote local food systems. Drawing on the diffusion of innovation framework we (a) examine the characteristics of chefs and restaurants that have adopted local foods; (b) identified local food attributes valued by restaurants; (c) examine how restaurants function as opinion leaders promoting local foods; (d) explored network linkages between culinary and production organizations; and (e) finally, we consider some of the barriers to more widespread adoption of local foods in the culinary community. Analyzing quantitative and qualitative data collected from interviews with individuals from 71 restaurants, we compare and contrast restaurants that utilize relatively large amounts of locally-produced ingredients with restaurants using few, if any, local products. Results reveal that chefs are most interested in intrinsic food qualities, such as taste and freshness, and less interested in production standards. As opinion leaders, chefs utilize signage, wait staff, and cooking classes to promote local foods; however, the diffusion process across restaurants, and between restaurants and producers, is limited by network associations. Structural barriers such as distribution problems and lack of convenience were identified as limiting more widespread use of locally-grown foods. We offer several implications of this research for further work that seeks to engage chefs as opinion leaders who are important to building greater support for local food systems.

The researchers come up with some very interesting results: I further quote:

Themes & Findings

Characteristics of sample restaurants: Early adopting, high volume users are more likely to operate moderately and expensively priced restaurants.

Local food attributes valued by restaurants: Taste was consistently reported as one of the most important purchasing criteria, regardless of level of local food use. Restaurants expressed a widespread view that local generally has superior taste attributes; Convenience and price are important purchasing criterion for No to Low volume users of local foods.High volume users were more willing to pay higher prices for local foods.All categories of restaurants expressed low concern for specific production standards (such as organic) and substantial trust and deference to the expertise of farmers.

Opinion leader restaurants communication methods: High volume users used menus, specials and wait-staff to promote and educate diners about local foods. Limiting factors to communication and opinion leadership include: supply inconsistency issues, cognitive limitations of customers, and time constraints.

Restaurant networks: None of the restaurants studied were members of production based organizations and interview reports indicate a bias toward local networks and direct relationships with local producers. High and Medium volume users were more likely to be members of professional chef organizations.All categories of restaurants had fairly high membership in local Chambers of Commerce.

Structural barriers: Perception of inadequate distribution infrastructure existed among all categories of restaurants.Preference among all categories for a local distributor. Many High volume users did report development of own food provisioning systems via direct relationships, but supply inconsistencies still existed.

This was done in Ohio, but looking at the data, methodology and results, to me it looks like you could see the similar behaviour all across the OECD world at least. But I am not clear why getting chef’s to sign up to local produce is going to push the normal grocery shopper (male or female) to purchase locally? Grocery shopping is a very complex buying behaviour, which struggles with cost and convenience much more than say local food miles. So while an interesting idea, I am not sure if this is going to work out broadly. Given a choice, specially in these recessionary times, local food which is more expensive, is going to be not that high up on the list. I quote from here:

British consumers who in the past were willing to pay a premium for organic, Fairtrade and eco-friendly goods are now turning their backs on buying ethical in favour of cheaper shopping bills, according to a survey. It is a trend that is likely to be long-term, according to research, which indicated that three in every five shoppers (69%) say they plan to continue cutting back on organic food after the downturn. Two-thirds (61%) claim they will seek to pay less for ethically sourced foods, such as Fairtrade, when the downturn ends.

Where do you end up? Go for factory farmed high carbon low cost food or locally sourced, organic, lower carbon cost food? Short term gain versus long term gain? Not sure what the answer is…

Tuesday, July 21

Fit to work, but can’t work

Now this is interesting, just because you are disabled or sick doesnt mean you cannot work. The government is trying to get people off the sickness rolls and into work. I quote:

More than two-thirds of applicants for sickness benefits are being rejected under a new testing regime, casting doubt on the validity of 2.6m existing claimants deemed unfit for work. According to data seen by several welfare industry figures, up to 90 per cent of applicants are being judged able to work in some regions and placed on unemployment rolls rather than long-term ill-health benefits. Every person returning to work would reduce the £12.5bn total bill of incapacity benefit and start to pay some income tax and national insurance.

I realise this is at a bad time because the recession is there and not so many jobs around, but the principle is fine and dandy. No reason to stop looking for jobs. What we need to do is to put in a time limit on welfare assistance, say 5 years. Surely that’s enough, no? See here for a good paper.


And then again, you have people like this:

Debi Wendes, 52, has resorted to standing in pearls and a smart navy shift dress in the middle of a busy shopping precinct, holding a sign asking for work.

The former accounts manager from Chelmsford, Essex, decided to take action after learning the temporary work which has kept her going is due to run out on Friday. She has had a sign made up with a cartoon picture of herself on the front, listing her CV. It reads: "I'm looking for work! Sales support, executive assistant, customer service, call centre, salary exp. £17k

Sunday, July 19

Get holidays and degrees for old religions

Heh, you couldn't make this up even if you wanted it. In the UK, you get holidays if you are a pagan. I quote:

POLICE who worship heathen gods will get eight days off a year to celebrate pagan festivals. They are also in line for thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money in recognition of their status as a “community” of pagans.

Home Office chiefs this week gave their backing to the Pagan Police Association which will be entitled to public funding, along the lines of that given to other rank-and-file organisations like the National Black Police ­Association. Last year the Home Office introduced a pagan oath which can be used in the courts and yesterday officials said self-styled witches, Druids and heathens were welcome in the police. But last night there was growing anger that public money should be spent supporting the policemen’s “religion”.

Why stop at policemen? We now have traditional medicine.

THE desire of many of South Africa’s 180,000 traditional healers to be absorbed into the mainstream health system was given a boost yesterday when Wits University launched a degree for sangomas. A bachelors or masters degree in indigenous knowledge systems is on offer at the university’s school of medicine. Once qualified, traditional healers will be able to diagnose diseases such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and diabetes, and refer patients to state hospitals. They will also be taught how to sell their medicines and open their own surgeries. Yesterday, about 1400 traditional healers from across South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho met to urge the government to formalise their status.

We are in cloud cuckoo land moving into loony street soon. Very soon, we will get good remedies such as Rhino juice for AIDS.

One of them is a potion called Ubhejani, the Zulu word for rhino, and in the city of Durban 500 bottles of it are being sold every week as a treatment for AIDS. He said he was not taking the anti-retro viral drugs which his doctors had recommended - because he believed they would harm him. The recipe for Ubhejani is a secret closely guarded by its creator, Zeblon Gwala.He says the combination of 89 African herbs came to him in a dream. Mr Gwala is a former truck driver with no medical training. And yet he has no qualms about encouraging his patients to stop taking orthodox AIDS drugs and consume his potion instead. In his time in office Thabo Mbeki has questioned the existence of AIDS and accused the big drugs companies of preying on Africa. He has refused to dismiss his Health Minister, who has been nicknamed "Dr Beetroot" by the local media for trumpeting the benefits of African medicine and vitamin supplements for HIV-positive people.

What on earth is the world coming to?

What happened after Vasco da Gama came to India?

While looking at this site with some lovely photographs, I was reminded of a paper I had read about how the spice trade in Europe was impacted by Vasco da Gama’s trip to India. Quite simply, the pattern of the spice trade changed:


Here’s the abstract:

This article explores the impact of the 'Voyages of Discovery' on European spice markets, asking whether the exploits of Vasco da Gama and others brought European and Asian spice markets closer together. To this end we compare trends in pepper and fine spice prices before and after 1503, the year when da Gama returned from his financially successful second voyage. Other authors have examined trends in nominal spice prices, but this article uses relative spice prices, that is, accounting for inflation. We find that the Voyages of Discovery had a major impact on European spice markets, and provide a simple model of monopoly and oligopoly to decompose the sources of the Cape route's impact on European markets. Finally, we offer some speculations regarding the impact of the Cape route on intra-European market integration.

Opening new trade routes help in improving competition and is good for the consumer. When people talk about globalisation, they forget the long history behind this increasing trade amongst nations and how it has been very good for the consumer broadly. And the sad thing is, people will keep on trading between themselves, just like the air and intellectual ideas, you cannot stop the propagation of trade.