Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I'm Reading

Here are a few interesting things that I've encountered in the last few days.
  • Elijah Millgram tells an interesting story about what human beings are. Apparently, we're serial hyper-specializers (duh?). This is a must read if you have even a passing interest in theories of practical rationality. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns into a very influential essay...
  • Tyler Cowen makes some predictions for the American future. A bleak look and a call to arms of sorts...
  • Is the United States Government effectively insolvent? Posner argues probably yes. Becker argues maybe/maybe not.
  • The NY Times looks at Masdar, a sort of eco-disneyland built near Dubai with (irony anyone?) oil money. Interesting (particularly since it's the Times) that the account isn't overwhelmingly positive.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Corrupt Indexes, Part II

While doing some research into corruption indexes, I stumbled across one organization that was measuring corruption in some unusual and interesting ways. That organization is Global Integrity (GI).

(If you haven't already seen it, you'll want to look at the previous post on corruption indexes for this to make sense. It might be good just to skim it to refresh your memory, as the comparison between Transparency International's CPI and Global Integrity's indicators is very instructive.)

The problem that all corruption indexes must address is that it is virtually impossible to directly measure corruption. The reason for this should be pretty obvious: most people engaged in corrupt activities go to some length to keep those activities secret. So unless you're omniscient, if you're trying to measure corruption you have a knowledge problem. You can never be sure that you've uncovered all cases of corruption. In fact, you can usually be sure that you haven't.

So how do you measure what you can't directly observe?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Orchid Garden Nepal

For most of my stay here, I will be working at Orchid Garden Nepal (OGN). OGN is a day care center and preschool for children with low income parents. Many of these parents are day laborers, street vendors, housekeepers, etc. They are barely able to support their families and, as a result, don't have time to care for their children. OGN also serves as an orphanage for a few children. One of the most common questions people have asked me in emails and over skype has been what the children are like and what OGN is like. Now that I've spent most weekday afternoons for the last two weeks at OGN, I feel better equipped to answer that question...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Corrupt Indexes, Part I

Over the course of my stay so far, I've had a number of conversations with various people about the quality of governance in Nepal. Everybody I've spoken to thinks that the government here is failing to meet the needs of its citizens. Here are a just few reasons why they might feel that way...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In the Red: Teej and Pashupati

For the last three days, it has been the Hindu festival of Teej which has been losely translated for me as "women's day." During the festival, Nepali women dress up (usually in red), fast, and seek blessing at Shiva temples. The fast is preceded by a major feast and lots of dancing. The purpose of all this is to secure the long life of their husbands and children, to secure a happy marriage, and to seek absolution from any sins that the women may have accumulated in the prior year.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Better Subscription Options

I've heard that for some of you, the blog's RSS feed has been acting up lately. In order to fix that, I've made a few changes to how the feed works. In order for those changes to benefit you, however, you'll need to first remove this blog from your feed reader, and then re-subscribe. You can re-subscribe by clicking here and then selecting your preferred reader from the box at the top right.

For those of you who either don't use a feed reader or don't know what a feed reader is, but would still like to be regularly updated about new blog posts, I've added a "subscribe via email" option to the blog's right sidebar. Just enter your email address, click the subscribe button, follow some simple directions to confirm that you are not a robot, and whenever I make a new post, you will receive an email about it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kutumba and Other Miscellany

I started volunteering at OGN (the pre-school/day care center/orphanage) yesterday, but I'm going to wait to post about it until I've gone a few more times. Today I'm home instead of at OGN because the OGN school yard has flooded. Their school yard sits next to a rice paddy. There was lots of rain last night and the rice paddy apparently overflowed. Where possible, the kids have been sent home for the day and I was told to stay home as well. This is ok, because it gives me a chance to post about my weekend. More on that below the jump...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tibetan Cooking: Shya Pakhlep AKA Deep Fried Momos

Lately, I've been doing a lot of cooking with my aamaala (host mother). Though she maintains that I'm a better cook than her ("you know how to make Italian food..."), the reality of the situation is very much to the contrary. She is an incredible cook and I've been learning a lot. She deserves full credit for the recipe I've posted below.

Pakhlep are a deep fried version of the traditional Tibetan dumplings called Momos. They're both crispy and chewy on the outside and usually filled with some kind of ground meat. I found them similar to samosas, but with much better dough and a more moist filling. They look like this:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Monsoon Days and Learning Nepali

Monsoon came late this year and it's been raining all night and most of the day for the last three days. And when I say raining, I mean pouring. Unfortunately it's been too wet outside to take any photos without drenching my camera, but the photo below of the gutter outside my room gives some idea how much rain we're getting. Many streets are flooded, pigeons huddle under awnings and on window sills to keep dry, and unless you have a good reason to be outside, it's best to just hunker down. I'm beginning to understand much more vividly why Pakistan has been largely underwater for the last few weeks.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Homestaying in Boudha

I'm now fully moved in with my home stay family and starting to settle in. Still jet lagged and waking up really early (like 4 am) but that's slowly getting better. Kathmandu is a city that operates on a different time frame than New York. Due to power outages in the evening and just a general lack of public lighting, it tends to be very dark at night and most carry a flashlight around if they know they'll be out late. The effect is that people tend to go to sleep earlier (and also wake earlier). 11 pm is quite late to be up by Kathmandu standards, at least on a weekday. This all means that I'm actually pretty close to adjusting fully to Kathmandu time. Once I'm waking up around 6 am, I'll pretty much be there.