Mansion, Books & Frogs


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I like to pick on economists. It’s a family pastime as my brother is an economist. The story of my brother does not stop at being an economist, he also has degrees in electrical engineering and physics which ought to give an idea as to has won most of the arguments. That aside, here is a doozy of sorts that makes me want to invite economists to extend their toolkit.

Babbage | The Economist: “If, indeed, fate is the product of infinite variables, Hindus believe that some can be tweaked by picking subha muhurtha, as the lucky windows are known in Sanskrit. They marry, start a new job or set off on journeys on good days of the week. They buy gold, scooters, cars and homes at the right time of the year to invite prosperity. Politicians and film-makers seek astrologers’ advice to improve their chances at the ballot box or box-office. Businessmen have been known to issue IPOs after consulting the Hindu calendar because there is no earthly way to predict the vagaries of the market.”

Who ever said that reading The Economist is not amusing?



Supposedly it is no longer cool to just have a drug dealer on speed dial. Nobody has speed dial anymore. The whole world population is assembled on Facebook (translation to Portuguese: feissebuque) or Twitter (no translation available; god help you if you don’t get what Twitter is). The other day a colleague (handsome, latino, just the right amount of grey hair) showed up at my office with a worried face and asking me how I am. It is not every day that I have an handsome sportsman asking me how I am doing. I decided to take his question seriously. The question had been prompted by my off-the-cuff status update on Facebook that mentioned the nastier sides of my character and a Swiss fish wrapper named Blick (on the level of the National Enquirer or the Mirror; trash really). Needless to say that I go to Facebook for the same reasons that I page through the Blick when I find an abandoned copy in a train or at the Rathaus. Actually at the Rathaus in Bern the Blick is a rare sight, and it is the Berner Bär that takes its place. The quality of these two publications is indistinguishable. Anyhow, these fish wrappers are full of gossip and local trivia very far removed from my daily preoccupations, they entertain. I will not touch the Berner Bär, and it could just be that I am totally out of touch with what goes on around me.

I go into Facebook for signs – pictures – of the my very lively cousins who seem to party non-stop. The cousins are delightful girls doing what girls do in college, party and supposedly study a bit. We have been there, done that; some of us have the t-shirt to prove it. My handsome colleague and I go to Facebook for identical reasons: to keep in touch with distant relatives and friends who are outside the own work ecology. Perhaps I ought to reconsider what the appropriate level of sarcasm in my status updates should be, or else just stick to pretty pictures. Still, disgusted as I am with Facebook – something about it is repulsive – it has some utility in the communication and entertainment categories. And then again, I ought to reconsider my relationship to Facebook now that even The Economist is reporting on the phenomenon. Besides that, a no-nonsense kind friend in London recently commented on how so many people claim to not be paying much attention to Facebook. I suspect that somehow, this little social utility has a shadowy reputation that borders on pornography and voyeurism. I can only speak for myself, and I do confess that it is social voyeurism that has me log in to Facebook. Came to think of it, it is also social pornography that appeals to me. Forgive me for stripping both voyeurism and pornography of their sexual content, and to replace it with the social. Anyhow, it is the graphical display of social life that stimulates envy and satisfies curiosity that leads me to such expropriation of meaning in two words that represent, for the most part, behaviors that are not too desirable.

So, how am I doing?


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