April 26, 2009


1.  On the Path of Walker Evans.  If you've never read or at least thumbed through Let Us Now Praise Famous Men do yourself a favor and pick a copy up some time.

2.  For all the budding hypochondriacs: 4 ways to track the swine flu.  Health Map also has a Twitter feed and there is this often updated, fairly comprehensive Google map.

3.  The cost of fast food per calorie.  Sadly, does not reflect your cost in terms of healthcare.

4.  A good post-World Malaria Day reminder from Easterly that distributing mosquito nets without adequate preparation/education is rarely enough.

5.  More rich country - poor country farming deals in the works - this time the players are Kuwait, Cambodia and small rice farmers.

6.  Andrew Bird's great album Armchair Apocrypha is a $1.99 mp3 download on Amazon today- highly recommended.

April 20, 2009

The End of The End of Poverty?

I saw this trailer four or five months ago and honestly didn't even make it through the first of its three minutes - but that had more to do with the fact that I find Martin Sheen somewhat unbearable.  However, I get the impression that Tyler Cowen doesn't think I'm missing very much by skipping either the trailer or the film, which he summarizes as a "screed of mistruths and error."  Is it just me or is that the most straight forward opinion that Cowen has ever expressed.  The film's website is here if you're interested in finding a viewing at which to form your own opinion.

April 18, 2009


1.  The US Working Group on the Food Crisis is urging ag ministers at the upcoming G8 agricultural meeting to reject "green revolution policies" as a way forward for African agriculture.

2.  Farmers in India agree as they struggle to deal with the repercussions of their own failed "green revolution:"
But now these farmers are running out of groundwater.

They have to buy three times as much fertilizer as they did 30 years ago to grow the same amount of crops. They blitz their crops with pesticides, but insects have become so resistant that they still often destroy large portions of crops.

The state's agriculture "has become unsustainable and nonprofitable.
3.  I think I may have linked to this before but in case I forgot be sure to check out Yes magazine's spring issue.  The theme is Food for Everyone: The Local Food Revolution and there is some good content there, including a sweet chart (free pdf download) showing how a community food system works, excerpted below:

4.  An increasingly relevant topic in our household: homemade baby food.

5.  I've long been fascinated by the postal system and the amazing fact that you can drop a piece of paper in a metal box and for less than two quarters have someone carry it across the country for you and deliver it to another little box that you specify.  Amazing and incredibly inefficient but what can you do - here's an in depth attempt at an answer.  (via)

6.  Some press on WFP's P4P.  U c?

7.  On the religion and development front this piece by Bryant Myers entitled, "Working with the Poor with a Bias towards Peace" is worth your time.  Myers worked with World Vision for thirty years and left to take a teaching position at Fuller Seminary a couple of years ago.  A move that, as an alum, I was particularly glad to see as it signals a recognition that good intentions are not enough, but faith-based relief and development must also be grounded in and aware of best practices (an admittedly moving target).

8.  Muji's online US store is up and running.

9.  Elizabeth Warren totally won me over on the Daily Show this week - engaging, open, honest and smart.  This four minute clip from the end was as solid an explanation of the lay of the land and a possible way forward as I've heard, but watch her whole interview if you have the time.

April 17, 2009

Your Depressing Map of the Day

Slate took data from the Labor Department's local area unemployment statistics starting in January 2007 and running up to February 2009 and mashed it into an interactive map on which you can watch employment bleed out of the country - further visual evidence that the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 have been simply brutal on the jobs front.

April 12, 2009

African Exports: Religion

The New York Times has had a couple of surprisingly good religion beat pieces in the last few weeks and today's long essay on the Nigerian based Redeemed Christian Church of God is another example.  It's a much better presentation of a genuinely relevant global religious trend than Jon Meacham's recent (and over covered) Newsweek piece on the end of "Christian America."  Pentecostalism is one of the four or five most important trends currently shaping Africa and the global south and thus, by definition (or population, if nothing else), the world.  If "Christianity" emerges as another truly global force in the future it will certainly not be an American variant but an African one.  This piece is a decent introduction and for further reading start with Philip Jenkins's The Next Christianity and The New Faces of Christianity.

April 11, 2009

Building Codes: Mapping Technology and Tradition

Heads up to all the loyal readers in or passing through Baton Rouge, LA next week. Do yourself a favor and check out David West's (one of those rare persons with no discernible "web presence" as he spends most of his time making actual things . . . luddite) show at the Glassell Gallery.  The gallery is located downtown in the Shaw Center, which is worth a trip in and of itself, so you really can't miss with this one - definitely worth your time.

Disclaimer:  Amongst other things, David and I share parents.


1.  Are big farms the key to African development?  As I've said before, I think Collier is wrong on this one.  There will certainly be some large farms (there already are), some no doubt driven by development and scarcity elsewhere (i.e. China, South Korea, etc.), because a few folks will figure out how to make money off of it, but there need to be a lot more medium sized farms meeting regional farms and there need to be a lot more subsistence farms with access to appropriate technology so that farming can move from being a life line to being something akin to a legitimate credit line.

2.  Are diversified organic cropping systems as profitable as conventional mono-cropping?  A new study says yes:
"In our study we found that diversified systems were more profitable than monocropping," explains Joshua Posner, University of Wisconsin.
With feed grade premiums the organic systems were more profitable than the Midwestern standards of continuous corn, no-till corn and soybeans, and intensively managed alfalfa.
Rotational grazing of dairy heifers was as profitable as the organic systems. And to our surprise, including risk premiums into the evaluation did not change the ranking of the systems. This study indicates that governmental policy that supports mono-culture systems is outdated and support should be shifted to programs that promote crop rotations and organic farming practices.
Full paper here.

3.  Has Mugabe stolen the Ark of the Covenant?  Talismans are a powerful cultural force throughout Africa and it's no surprise that this one pops up all over the continent.

5.  Gmail finally adds the ability to insert inline images - revolutionizing family newsletters throughout the world.

6.  The Seattle Times discovers potato boxes.  One of the problems with getting people to grow their own potatoes is that they are so freakin' cheap and not enough people have had fresh ones to realize how big a difference there really is - as opposed to tomatoes which everyone knows you have to grow yourself if you want to eat a decent one.

8.  Stamp Out Hunger is coming up in less than a month so start buying an extra can or two every week and put them out for the mailman on May 9th.  Seriously, this is a no brainer.  

April 5, 2009

Adoption as Development

The best commentary yet on the Jolie/Madonna strategy of "saving the world one tiny exotic baby at a time" comes from SNL:


1.  Restaurant chains taking a beating - get your Outback, Krispy Kreme, Arby's and Sbarro while you can.

3.  What Would Jesus Bet?  I'd love to read this piece in the New Yorker on game theory, online poker and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson but for some reason it's gated.  I didn't even know the New Yorker required registration?

4.  Flaming Garbage Cans in Hip Hop Videos.  A blog chronicling exactly what it claims.

5.  Hunger eclipsed at G-20 Summit, not surprisingly.

April 2, 2009

Atlas of Global Development

The World Bank's recently released second edition of the Atlas of Global Development is available for viewing online, but unfortunately not downloadable.  

April 1, 2009

Tauntaun Sleeping Bag

By far the best April fools bit I saw today was this one from ThinkGeek -  the tauntaun sleeping bag:
This high-quality sleeping bag looks just like a Tauntaun, complete with saddle, internal intestines and glowing lightsaber zipper pull. Now when your kids tell you their favorite Star Wars movie is "Attack of the Clones" you can nestle the wee-ones snug in simulated Tauntaun fur while regaling them with the amazing tale of "Empire Strikes Back".

Use the glowing lightsaber zipper pull on the Tauntaun sleeping bag to illustrate how Han Solo saved Luke Skywalker from certain death in the freezing climate of Hoth by slitting open the belly of a dead Tauntaun and placing Luke inside the stinking (but warm) carcass. If your kids don't change their tune on which Star Wars film is the greatest ever, you can do your best Jar Jar impression until they repent.

Perhaps even better is this seemingly legitimate bit recently added to the sidebar, apparently after ThinkGeek received a deluge of emails from customers:
ATTN Tauntaun Fanatics! Due to an overwhelming tsunami of requests from YOU THE PEOPLE, we have decided to TRY and bring this to life. We have no clue if the suits at Lucasfilms will grant little ThinkGeek a license, nor do we know how much it would ultimately retail for. But if you are interested in ever owning one of these, click the link below and we'll try!
Looks like something just got added to the baby registry.