This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

Sunday, November 25, 2001 Inventions of the Year -- The best inventions of 2001 "In rural northern Nigeria, there are no refrigerators. Most people don't even have electricity. So perishable food must be eaten immediately, or it will go to waste. Mohammed Bah Abba, a local teacher, has developed an ingenious solution: the Pot-in-Pot Preservation Cooling System. A small earthenware pot is placed inside a larger one, and the space between the two is filled with moist sand. The inner pot is filled with fruit, vegetables or soft drinks; a wet cloth covers the whole thing. As water in the sand evaporates through the surface of the outer pot, it carries heat, drawing it away from the inner core. Eggplants stay fresh for 27 days, instead of the usual three. Tomatoes and peppers last for up to three weeks. A recipient of the Rolex Award for Enterprise, Abba, 37, who hails from a family of potmakers, is using his $75,000 award to make the invention available throughout Nigeria. He has already sold 12,000." I've long thought that a cheaper, decentralized solution to refrigerators would make a big difference in Third World countries.

Pokey Man Big in Japan "This is a fun game of spanking the people who make your life miserable," advertises a badly translated brochure. "When you spank the character that you choose to punish, the face expression of the character will change as they scream and twitch in pain. The funny face expressions will make people laugh and relieve the stress."

Excite Travel: Destinations: North Korea: Overview "Though North Korean society has some elements in common with Stalinist Russia (or China during the Cultural Revolution), it has no modern-day equivalent. One can, however, see parallels between it and major dynasties of the past: its grand-scale engineering projects, enormous bronze statues of Kim Il Sung and the slogans carved into rocks are the direct descendants of Egyptian hieroglyphics, pyramids and stone-carved images of pharaohs. One suspects, however, that the Korean monuments won’t be around nearly as long."

Excite Travel: Destinations: Nigeria: Overview "Unlike some other developing nations, where you might risk your life for stunning natural beauty or unique cultural artifacts, the only superlative you’ll hear about Nigeria is that Lagos is the world’s ugliest city."

TAP: Vol 11, Iss. 20. Globalizing Democracy. Benjamin R. Barber. "Markets have escaped the boundaries of eroding national frontiers and become global, but governing organizations have not. This has created a perilous asymmetry: Global economics operate in an anarchic realm without significant regulation and without the humanizing civic institutions that within national societies rescue it from raw social Darwinism. National boundaries have become too porous to hold the economy in, but remain sufficiently rigid to prevent democracy from getting out and civilizing the larger world. We have globalized our economic vices--crime, drugs, terror, hate, pornography, and financial speculation--but not our civic virtues. The result has been a growing tension between the beneficiaries of globalization and just about everyone else"

TAP: Vol 11, Iss. 20. Globalizing Democracy. Benjamin R. Barber. "Can globalism be governed? Or, as a first step, can we start by building a global civil society? Until recently, one could look in vain for a global "we, the people" to be represented. That is now changing. There is another internationalism, a forming crystal around which a global polity can grow. Effective global governance to temper the excesses of the global market does not yet exist; however, international activism by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) has made some surprising gains. People who care about public goods are working to recreate on a global scale the normal civic balance that exists within democratic nations."

Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam "The thesis of Bowling Alone is that a variety of technological, social, and economic changes over the last three decades have "rendered obsolete" a stock of social capital. Shorthand for saying that things like television, two-career family, generational changes have made fewer of us go on picnics, join the Rotary or hang out at the bar."

TAP: Web Feature: Green Day:. by Chris Mooney. November 16, 2000. "'Broken windows [theory]' is based on research indicating that seemingly miniscule environmental factors -- in a park, things like graffiti, broken benches, and pit bull-chewed swings -- give off the aura of neglect that makes serious crimes more likely to occur. But the same emphasis on minutiae suggests that by cleaning up parks and mobilizing community interest in their well being, it's possible to reach a Gladwellian "tipping point," at which positive change snowballs."

An Alternate Reality "Indeed, current events bear an almost eerie resemblance to the period just after World War I. John Ashcroft is re-enacting the Palmer raids, which swept up thousands of immigrants suspected of radicalism; the vast majority turned out to be innocent of any wrongdoing, and some turned out to be U.S. citizens. Executives at Enron seem to have been channeling the spirit of Charles Ponzi. And the push to open public lands to private exploitation sounds like Teapot Dome, which also involved oil drilling on public land. Presumably this time there have been no outright bribes, but the giveaways to corporations are actually much larger."

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