Long weekend links

by Dana on August 29, 2010

EU project going into slow reverse?  Rather simplistic view draw from a distance, but causes much more nuanced in my opinion.

And I’m sure the next generation of palliative patients will have a different set of regrets.

How little thoughts we give to dying.

On the German versus American attitudes when it comes to labour.

How Trader Joe works.

Who has the freedom to travel without a visa?

What makes a global city?

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What education should seek to teach.

No representation, low taxes.

On class, facial hair, and Turkish politics.

Things to know about start-ups.

The case for learning foreign languages not strong enough for the British.

Brussels’ image overhaul campaign.

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Americans can’t relax nor vacation the way Europeans do.

How to make knockoffs in hopes of making the real thing one day.

Nice transition from the last piece, this was apparently how Germany did it back then.

-vores are the new –isms.

Eurocrats salaries going up or down?

Commercialization of Ramadan.

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Convergence and other weekend readings

by Dana on August 22, 2010

The absurdity behind the consulting industry.

To be a weed dealer in Amsterdam.

It’s one thing to make money as a writer, another to be prolific and respected.

Eurasia and a new great game?

Sex and real estate in China.

US and Europe converge.

Tunnel vision in the Internet age.

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Cairo Times

by Dana on August 20, 2010

I heard about this movie last year, and just got around to watching it.

Here’s what the movie got right:

- The film was made in Egypt, you can tell because the whole deal with traffic is pretty much spot on. There’s no real concept of traffic lanes in Egypt, nor does the concept of traffic lights exist – there are none.  Taxis are from the 60s, some release toxic fume from the inside.  But most of the time you are poisoned from the pollution from out the window.  Keeping the taxi drivers awake is also important.

- Patricia Clarkson’s character’s surprise in having men follow her everywhere when she goes out in blouses and skirts.  Women get this pretty quickly: you either cover up, or you are “asking for it”.  Unwanted sexual attention that is.  And it goes without saying that every Arabic men that approaches you on the street will have no trouble telling you how beautiful you are. Without fail.

- There are too many camels and not enough donkeys in the film. There are more donkeys in Egypt.

- Yes, you will be offered hot hibiscus tea all the time, even when it’s 40 degrees outside and you are trying to cool down. Tea is usually served with spoonfuls of sugar.

- The gushing new foreigner, and the cynical long-term expat.

- When Clarkson says, I’ll write something about street children, and Tareq says, you don’t live here, it’s complicated.  Right on.

- Everyone you meet seems to be studying some combination of language and tourism. Becoming a tour guide and one day running their own travel agency seems to be the best prospects for a lot of young people.  I have heard every major language spoken while I was there, including impeccable Chinese while inside the Egyptian Museum.

- “Tomorrow I will take the day off.”  Many Egyptian men that endlessly wander the street seem to have this luxury. Under-employment and outright unemployment seems to be a chronic malaise.

Where it’s not one hundred percent:

Using disgust to police the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

McDonald marking a first in China.

Burma’s version of politicized Spice Girls.

Another pointless exercise in populism. France again leads the way.

Early puberty, or a case of House?

Austerity turning out to be a bit too austere for Greece.

Brazil brimming with opportunities?

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I’m not completely sold on this: women’s success in finding a male partner don’t pay off in the labor market.

Ambiguity over just exactly what “blood diamond” means.

When the EU Parliament “cuts” its budget.

Call centres are coming back onshore?

How can Sweden come up on top, when the majority of working women there work for the public sector and get paid less?  Or is it merely a study of gender pay based on the same job, not accounting for the difference in how socio-economic factors sway career choices?

On the ascent of Serge Gainsbourg’s as a historical reflection on the ongoing battle for French identity.

Finland, the best country in the world?  More like Jekyll-and-Hyde?

Emerging adulthood, except we never come out on the other side.

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Brooding Russians and other Tuesday links

by Dana on August 17, 2010

Girls aren’t the only ones with issues.

How to write? Don’t even try.

India and its lasting caste privileges.

Some natural disasters get more donations than others.

What is love?

Why Russians are sad and like to brood.

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The new silk road and Monday morning links

by Dana on August 16, 2010

Detroit’s decline reflected in its specific breed of strip bars.

Two sides of history on Churchill.

A divided India.

Power and ethical lapses.

Europe in 1914.

Helping girls in conflict resolution and confidence building early on.

Everyone has an opinion on if and how the Internet might be changing the way we think.

Caucasus, pipelines, and the new silk road.

China takes over Japan, officially second largest economy.

Russia’s “legal nihilism” and the exile generation.

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Identical cousins and other Thursday links

by Dana on August 12, 2010

A nationally aware grammatical system.

Where Yahoo didn’t go.

On identical cousins that are the US and Europe.

On the problems with tenure and doing away with it.

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Promoting materialism and dependency masked as empowerment, and the rise of priv-lit.

On freakish-looking animals.

Languages and personalities.

The happiness that comes with not owning things.

“The American life does not exist until it is filled up.” And how to take a walk properly.

Economic steady state, the future of developed world?

Does the Chinese economy favour its corporations and against its households?

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Direct EU taxation

by Dana on August 11, 2010

Who’s for it, and who’s against it.

Spain, Poland, Austria, and Belgium are backing the concept, France, UK, Germany and the Netherlands are against.

It seems that the more up-and-coming, politically and economically unstable ones are looking to the the EU for more centralized (and with luck, fair) power partitioning. Poland is still waiting on the doorsteps of the inner circle Europe, so you take good will where you can get it?  Austria’s still awaiting the verdict on its eastern European investments, Spain struggling with higher unemployment and general economic ruin, Belgium barely able to keep the country together.

Bigger states like France and Germany want to retain more sovereignty, and it would look both politically untenable and silly to hand over more power when both believe they control the institution anyway.  In the UK and Netherlands, the shift to the right has a distinct and not at all unsurprising anti-EU slant to it.

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The right to vacation

by Dana on August 10, 2010

Before the whole Greek fiasco, euro crisis, and the news that European banks were on the verge of collapse (which is not happening according to this), some EU commissioner had the audacity to declare the travel some kind of human right.  Actually, the idea was to convince more foreigners to come to Europe and spend their hard-earned money on a continent where tourism is the 3rd largest business and accounts for 12% of its jobs.

But of course the financial shit storms hit and this initiative is now probably buried deep inside Euro castles somewhere in Brussels or Strasbourg.

This is my first summer here with no off-continent travels, and I’ve seen first-hand the kind of exodus that happens on the road when July and August hit.

People schedule their vacations to coincide with their children’s schooling. The construction sector is closed for an entire month between July and August for vacation, and some government agencies also close for August.  Half of the small/independent shops in my neighbourhood are closed, so if you want pizza or beef from the butcher, or dry-cleaning services, then tough luck.

There are several so-called Black Saturdays, where people literally pack up as much personal belongings and household apparatus as possible in their cars, endure hours of congested traffic, in order to drive to their neighbouring countries to camp.

Camping is huge.  I haven’t tried it yet, but hearsay tells me camp grounds are generally more compact, well-serviced and in some cases, cheaper than across the pond.

Stay-cations are also almost unheard of here. Recession or not, the majority of people surveyed (at least in the Netherlands, although I can’t quite find the link) said they intend to go on vacation.

For most, that means packing up your house, drive 5 to 10 hours, and set up camp in a neighbouring country.  I have seen everything from cars loaded up with camping and cooking wares, to more luxurious foldable tent set-ups hooked to the back of a car, to plastic picnic table strung on the top of a car, all to keep the vacation cost as low as possible, and to make those foreign destination feel as homely as possible.

On Luxemburg

by Dana on August 10, 2010

Over the weekend, I met a couple of guys that actually lived (and one still living) in the city-state of Luxemburg.  There’s around half a million of people residing in all of the 999 square miles of the country. But in the word of the young French banker-type, “the real Luxemburgish are all in hiding.”

Over the years, the country has literally been taken over by the neighbouring Italians, Germans and French, not to count the influx of Eastern Europeans once the EU borders opened.  Most work in banking and related service industries.  Taxes are lower (both consumption and income), wages are higher, so many make the 1-2 hour cross-border commutes everyday back to their home countries.

Both of these guys described the country as an incredibly dull place, with little to do except making money and going out to bars, and with no redeeming qualities of other well-known banking countries (and tax havens) like Switzerland and Monaco.  Nor were they kind about the locals – red-neck farmers driving Ferraris – since selling their land to the banking businesses, and I’m guessing from some of the rich mineral deposits in the south of the country too.

I look forward to visiting someday.

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EU licence plates and Tuesday links

by Dana on August 10, 2010

Avoid the idea generation trap.

The real reason parents don’t like parenting: expectations.

How the Economist out-marketed all its rivals, although using the word marketing is selling its accomplishments short.

The cost of dying.

Why we like porn: because our brains are more like the Internet.

Japan’s missing senior citizens.

EU license plates are for the most part, pretty uniform, Belgian and UK ones being the main exceptions.

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