Zambia and economics

Apr. 17th, 2019 12:41 pm
brainwane: A silhouette of a woman in a billowing trenchcoat, leaning against a pole (shadow)
[personal profile] brainwane
Several years ago I got to visit my sister in Lusaka, Zambia.

I saw how it can work when utility companies work on a prepayment basis (as in, you have to top up your account before usage, much as you would top up a pay-as-you-go mobile phone plan). I found out about how one frequently irons one's clothes, or has them ironed, after washing, not just for aesthetic reasons, but to kill parasites. I learned that Zambia has a four-corners water border with three other countries. And I learned that the indigenous name for Victoria Falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya or Mosi-O-Tunya, which translates as "the smoke that thunders", inspiring the name of a beer. (If you visit during the bit of the dry season when the waterfall roars less impressively, enterprising locals will happily photograph you in front of the green-painted wall they've set up, digitally place your smiling family in front of a suitably watery background, and charge you for prints. They also have props available in case you want to, say, wear a headdress, hold a carved stick, etc., in the photo, and I feel mixed about this, as you might imagine.) I meant to write up more of what I observed (I tweeted about a concert I attended but that's about it), then didn't get around to it, sadly.

At the time, India was my default comparator; I noticed how bits of things -- the climate, the physical infrastructure, the history museum, intangibles -- were like, or not like, things I'd experienced in India. I hope someday I get to visit more, different places in Africa so I can get a better understanding of it as its own context.

Just now I reread an old Daniel Davies post about Zambia (he was born there; I think his father did some kind of job there for a while), which he wrote in 2008 but which -- as I see the toll extractive capitalism is taking on my industry and my country -- strikes close to home.

...relevant to natural resource curse. What the continent of Africa is full of, is chancers and get-rich-quick merchants. The natural resources industry is of course famous for such characters, and the trait that they share with vulture financiers is that they vastly prefer to substitute risk tolerance, sharp elbows and an eye for the main chance for graft and creativity. People like this are useful and even necessary in small doses, but (as any history of your favourite frontier and colonisation narrative will tell you), in large numbers they're pestilential; a walking, talking infestation of the same kind of behaviour that's the staple of the resource curse literature.

There's a post forthcoming ... on psychological obstacles to development but I think this is the big one; not the lack of a work ethic, but the perversion of the work ethic in a large proportion of the domestic and expatriate business class, who think that success isn't something you build; it's something you find...

PyCon NA, !!Con and WisCon 2019

Apr. 16th, 2019 09:59 am
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (smiling)
[personal profile] brainwane
May is my big conference month this year. cut for one photo + length )

.... I need to order business card refills.

(Edited a few hours later to add: crossposted to Cogito, Ergo Sumana.)

Headlines

Apr. 13th, 2019 01:31 am
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
For many years, my go-to "is there big news I want to/need to know about?" source has been BBC News's front page. It has more of a UK and worldwide focus than most US sites, and that helps me both be a bit less provincial and see less "the latest outrage from the federal government" coverage.

On mobile in particular, one just gets a short headline plus a graphic for each story. I have this little habit of reading each one and mentally responding re: whether this is good or bad news. So my brain is going, e.g.,:

"Good? .... Bad .... Bad? .... Good .... Depressingly bad .... Soccer, no response .... Bad ..... Good? ....."

I am probably a user persona of some kind, in case you work on CMSes for news.

A poll

Apr. 9th, 2019 12:11 pm
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
My spouse and I got into a conversation, riffing on Columbo and A Suitable Boy, that leads me to ask:

Poll #21776 Live-in masseur/masseuse
This poll is anonymous.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 37

When I think of the idea of a masseuse who lives in one's home (assuming the employer is wealthy enough to afford such a servant), I think:

View Answers

Cool!
8 (21.6%)

Who gets massages that often?! Or, do they serve the whole household, including the other servants? [Logistics spiral]
27 (73.0%)

Someone's having an affair.
8 (21.6%)

Wait, what word do we use now? Masseur? Massage therapist?
6 (16.2%)

Something else, which I may discuss in comments.
4 (10.8%)

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bemused_leftist

August 2012

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