Finally! the recognition I deserve.

I was browsing through Fopp’s last weekend, and I saw Tim Harford’s ‘Dear Undercover Economist’ book, which is a compilation of the very best and interesting letters sent to him and his replies to them in line of his duty as a Financial Times columnist. Tim Harford has also written ‘The Undercover Economist’ and ‘The Logic of Life’, which I really enjoyed.

Since it was only £2 (RRP £12 I think) I snapped it up. Reading it at home I came across MY letter to him revolving around the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”.

My letter was published!!

Go to page 64 and you’ll see it.

I’m reading Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ at the moment, also purchased from Fopp but at a much dearer £9. It is really gripping, and I marvel at how to DNA we are just “methods of propagation”.


Tiananmen Square – 20 Years on

I watched a documentary on BBC2 yesterday presented by reporter Kate Adie who was on the scene in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square massacre of June ’89. Returning 20 years later for the first time, her views, memories and impressions were very interesting.

I did not realise that the People’s Liberation Army actually did most of the slaughtering in the side alleys leading off the square, where the narrow streets were turned into shooting galleries, and people were injured and killed by bullets flying through thin walls.

I was also unaware of the fact that this episode in the history of China has largely gone missing from public record, and a new generation has grown up unaware of the atrocities committed. Banyan of The Economist has also reported in his article this week “The Party goes on” on the effective white-washing of the incident by the Chinese Government, and noted the fact that modern youth will look to this year’s military parade with a sense of pride in a symbol of Chinese resurgence and power.

I wondered why I hadn’t had a discussion on this topic with my numerous Chinese friends here in the UK.

I applaud the courage of the students and workers, and mourn the unnecessary loss of life. I note that 20 years on the Politburo hasn’t changed its modus operandi much.

Taking money from the poor

In his article on micro-credit, the Undercover Economist Tim Harford asks “Does no-one want to take money from the poor?”

An interesting quote:

The trouble with living on two dollars a day is that you don’t actually get two dollars a day. One day you might get five, then nothing for the next three days. Income is unpredictable. Outgoings, too, are irregular. Emergencies crop up. Under the circumstances, the most basic financial product, such as an easy-access savings account, would be invaluable.

Obvious perhaps, but something I had never given thought to.

And the Best-use-of-“flipping” award goes to…

The Economist has been pondering the likelihood of the bosses of the big, failed banks going to jail.

They say that U.S government prosecuters have so far been looking only at the lower-level irresponsible lending.

“But that will probably change, as prosecutors deploy “flipping” tactics honed during racketeering trials, in which lower level employees receive leniency in return for testifying against their bosses.”

Also check out History’s Best Three Graphs, I’ll give you a teaser for each of the three winners:

1. In 1858 she became the first female fellow of the Statistical Society of London (now Royal Statistical Society).

2. In 1871, his obituarist spoke of him: “For the dry and complicated columns of statistical data, of which the analysis and the discussion always require a great sustained mental effort, he had substituted images mathematically proportioned, that the first glance takes in and knows without fatigue, and which manifest immediately the natural consequences or the comparisons unforeseen.” The chart shown here is singled out for special mention: it “inspires bitter reflections on the cost to humanity of the madnesses of conquerors and the merciless thirst of military glory”.

3. His most famous chart shows the “weekly wages of a good mechanic” and the “price of a quarter of wheat”, with the reigns of monarchs displayed along the top.

Ugly child almost ruined Olympics

An ugly child almost ruined the Olympics. OK, the Chinese didn’t let that ugly child appear on stage to sing “Ode to the Motherland” for the Olympics ’cause she was ugly. So finally China is doing what we want it to and emulating ‘Western Culture’ / X Factor.

But seriously, what good does publicising the story do? Every time you repeat the story, or add a link to it in your blog (full story here) you’re only reiterating the fact that a whole lotta people involved in the staging of the Olympics thought that child was ugly. And that must be a lot of people! They must have thought her too ugly to sing a song even though she had the saving grace of being a child, and them are all ugly but no-one says so. I imagine this child must have been exceptionally ugly in that case; one real ugly child.

Well, enough of that ugly child. In other news, the Economist has a graph today that shows how much investment in renewable energy is growing, with annual data 2004-2007. The numbers are roughly 35, 60, 90 and 150 billion USD respectively. I like the fact that interest from the venture capital / private equity sector is also growing correspondingly roughly USD 10 billion in 2007. This is a clear signal that renewable energy is no longer being seen as a charity/no-win affair, solely for governments to pander to. The advent of venture capital means that signs are there is money to be made.