Horseracing in Mongolia
- I know it is a bit silly to link to Seth Godin as half the world already reads his blog, but I really liked his article this week on whether energy consumption will stay private. “What happens when Google maps shows you the block or building that consumes the most electricity or makes it easy to compare across industries? A significant byproduct of the connection revolution is that things that were private because they were difficult to measure will no longer be private.”
- Mongolia, a tiny country of just a few million, is booming thanks to vast mineral resources, according to an Economist podcast. Interesting listening for anyone who still has romantic images of a nomadic Genghis Khan influenced culture.
- I heard a story this week of a journalist who worked in rural China for many years. It reminded me of my many failed attempts to speak Bahasa here in Borneo. (“Oh! You are trying to say a Bahasa word!”) The journalist went up to a group of farmers and asked how long it would take to get to destination X. He spoke very good Mandarin and tried asking for directions in several different ways. The farmers just stared and him and each other, and said nothing. Finally the journalist gave up and started to walk away. Only to hear one farmer turn to the other and say “I could have sworn that foreigner was asking how far it was to destination X!” Like how strange it was that his language sounded so similar to Mandarin!
Image: Some rights reserved by Emilia Tjernström [Arriving at the horizon]
North Korean Flag*
- Ever think about how difficult it would be to access information without a computer? (Remember trivia competitions before iPhones?) Question Box has come up with a simple but clever way of connecting people in rural agricultural communities in India to the internet through a call centre. “The premise behind Question Box is that many barriers keep most of the developing world from taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge available through Web search engines.” A similar model has been launch in Uganda, but the slower internet connection and lack of relevant local information on the internet meant that Question Box had to create their own database of answers.
- This week I met Maurice Adema, managing director of Sundaya. He strongly believes that energy illiteracy is the reason for our energy crisis. “If I told you a man was 3m tall and 25kg you would understand something doesn’t make sense. But if I told you I ate 300MJ for breakfast this morning you would have no idea whether this was a lot or a little.” He advocates “getting rid of the Watt” because the unit is “useless and confusing”. Instead Adema says we should implement the “Joule standard” to simplify the way we talk about energy. His views make a lot of sense to me – you can read his more detailed explanation in his free short book, available here.
- Yesterday I was taken to a North Korean restaurant called Pyongyang here in Jakarta. I thought it was just the food that was North Korea, but wikipedia tells me the entire set up is North Korean. “According to Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner, the restaurants are one of several overseas business ventures of Room 39, a North Korean government organization dedicated to acquiring and laundering foreign currency for the North Korean leadership. The North Korean staff, who live on the restaurant premises, are said to be thoroughly screened for political loyalty and to be closely watched by on-site North Korean security agents.” I wonder where exactly the US$15 I spent will go and how many North Koreans have had the opportunity to try such a delicious and opulent meal.
* Image from John Palveka. Some rights reserved.