All the way to Ouagadougou to participate in meetings!

They are good meetings…. but still.  From 8am-2pm working with Dounko, our FAVL director here in Burkina, covering all the issues, planning, and budgeting.  Then 3pm-5pm excellent meeting with our partner team at Catholic Relief Services over in Gounghin.  Great to meet Myriam Dems and Abdoulaye Barry, and get feedback from the project director Neda Sobhani.  The meeting just flew by.  Then back to Zogona, for dinner and conversation with Alain Sissao.  New Korean restaurant.  Pricey but good.

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Pre-Ouagadougou culture

I arrived here last night, but so far all I have done for one day is talk about FAVL for about eight straight hours, and that is pretty boring for you blog readers, so instead I will give brief report of cultural experiences (reading and watching movies) in the weeks leading up my trip.  Then tomorrow I can actually start posting about the trip.  So in reverse order.

Movie on the plane: A Bigger Splash a remake of a 1960 French film. Ralph Fiennes is irresistibly watchable as the over-the-top charismatic friend who intrudes on the quiet vacation of his former lover and her current, quiet, partner on a beautiful rustic villa on an island near Sicily.  The soundtrack is great, and so are the long silences.  Gorgeous cinematography.  Tilda Swinton is her usual creepy self-absorbed film presence.  The film itself is average; some clear mistakes (too many revving engines on country roads, an almost laughably predictable tourist shot of the “natives” having their village religious parade, a seemingly unstaged moment with some migrants intruding into a scene) but the script at the end is a mess that left me scratching my head, and includes unforgivably a police detective who apparently has never himself watched a television police procedural, and so happily lets a global celebrity get away with murder (I’m not giving anything away here, actually).

Movie on the plane: The Hateful Eight.  Exactly what I expected from Quentin Tarantino.  For me, he specializes in making movies that you are happy to watch for free on an airplane when you have nothing else to do and want a break from reading.  I think I have seen Jackie Brown and Kill Bill on planes.  He is having fun making the films, and so are the actors.  As long as I am not paying anything, I am enjoying it.  When it is over my brain calmly presses the “delete all memories of this film” button.  I watched so many of these movies as a kid growing up in Puerto Rico… westerns dubbed in Spanish, Mexican films with masked wrestlers, Godzilla, etc.  Enjoy (on a plane).  Good soundtrack.  And chiasmus. “You only need to hang mean bastards, but mean bastards you need to hang.”

Novel last week.  Don Delillo Americana.  Really in my humble opinion this novel was awful.  I started skipping after 50 pages, and skipped all the way to the end.  Overblown writing, pointless humor, grating experimentation.  I know there is an audience for this kind of writing (and filmmaking) but I can never figure out why people like this stuff.  I was intrigued by the thought that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie may have somehow been riffing off this, but I think it was just coincidence (or good marketing) that the titles ended up so close.

Novel last week.  Girl on the Train.  It was lying around.  I. am. not. proud.  Quite depressing to turn the pages as it struggles to conclude… the killer telegraphed midway through. A long “we know he is a killer but let’s be alone with him anyway” scene.  Help! I am being bored to death by this thriller novel!

Novel two weeks ago.  The Root: A Novel of the Wrath & Athenaeum by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun.  A young adult fantasy sci-fi novel.  Could have used more editing, but there is lots of imagination.  I found it oddly captivating as it careened off to an ending that merely sets stage for volume two.

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J.L Carr’s A Month in the Country

Bill already gave this short novel by J.L. Carr the perfect short review, so there is not much I can add.  Makes you want to learn the names of plants and also become an art restorer, in your spare time.  If you like it, try Alan Garner, whose Stone Quartet chisels away at a similar vein.  George Worsley Adamson illustrated at least one of J.L. Carr’s book covers, and also illustrated a couple children’s novels of Alan Garner.  Others (well, a few) active on the web have drawn similar comparison:

I felt an acute mixture of nostalgia, sadness and glee as I read these four linked novellas. The only book I have read in recent years that has given me a similar feeling in this particular mode was A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr.

Here is Carr’s short autobiography from Alchetron:

In 1986 Carr was interviewed by Vogue magazine and, as a writer of dictionaries, was asked for a dictionary definition of himself. He answered: “James Lloyd Carr, a back-bedroom publisher of large maps and small books who, in old age, unexpectedly wrote six novels which, although highly thought of by a small band of literary supporters and by himself, were properly disregarded by the Literary World”.

And Carr’s map of Yorkshire:



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Whatsoever you do, to the “at least as successful as you,” so you shall do unto me?

“We’ve shown that over time, evolution favors strategies to help those who are at least as successful as themselves.” In their study, the team used computer modelling to run hundreds of thousands of simulations, or ‘donation games’, to unravel the complexities of decision-making strategies for simplified humans and to establish why certain types of behaviour among individuals begins to strengthen over time. In each round of the donation game, two simulated players were randomly selected from the population. The first player then made a decision on whether or not they wanted to donate to the other player, based on how they judged their reputation. If the player chose to donate, they incurred a cost and the receiver was given a benefit. Each player’s reputation was then updated in light of their action, and another game was initiated. Compared to other species, including our closest relatives, chimpanzees, the brain takes up much more body weight in human beings. Humans also have the largest cerebral cortex of all mammals, relative to the size of their brains. This area houses the cerebral hemispheres, which are responsible for higher functions like memory, communication and thinking. The research team propose that making relative judgements through helping others has been influential for human survival, and that the complexity of constantly assessing individuals has been a sufficiently difficult task to promote the expansion of the brain over many generations of human reproduction. Professor Robin Dunbar, who previously proposed the social brain hypothesis, said: “According to the social brain hypothesis, the disproportionately large brain size in humans exists as a consequence of humans evolving in large and complex social groups.

Source: Large human brain evolved as a result of ‘sizing each other up’ — ScienceDaily

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Burkina Faso tries to raise revenue

$17m in new taxes on housing and imported vehicles, and raising taxes on beer and other beverages, and on lottery winnings.

Il est attendu des mesures fiscales annoncées, qu’elles contribuent à l’augmentation des recettes fiscales. Globalement elles devraient contribuer à hauteur de 8,5 milliards de francs au budget de l’Etat. En partant des données de l’enquête réalisée dans le cadre de la loi portant règlementation des loyers d’habitation, les rentrées possibles d’argent au niveau des taxes foncières sont estimées à 1,5 milliards de francs CFA par an. Les recettes fiscales attendues des taxes sur les boissons alcoolisées et boissons non alcoolisées sont estimées à 3 milliards de francs CFA par an. Les taxes sur les gains des jeux du hasard devraient rapporter au budget de l’Etat 2 milliards de francs CFA par an. Il en est de même pour les taxes à l’importation des véhicules de tourisme.

Source: Tout sur les taxes foncières : personnes assujetties, valeurs… impacts attendus | Burkina Demain

Posted in Economy

Best post Econ 3402 reading ever!

Bernanke covers practically every topic covered in my summer Macroeconomics class.  Great summary discussion!  Thanks Vic Chia for the pointer.

Estimates of potential output growth (y*) have declined primarily for two reasons.  First, potential growth depends importantly on the pace of growth of productivity (output per hour). Unfortunately, productivity growth has repeatedly disappointed expectations during this recovery. For example, in 2009, leading scholars were predicting productivity growth in the coming years of about 2 percent per annum; in fact, growth in output per hour worked has recently been closer to half a percent per year. It’s possible that productivity may recover, of course, but if it doesn’t, then potential growth rates in the future will be lower than had been expected earlier.Second, although Fed forecasters have been too optimistic about output growth in recent years, they have also been, interestingly, too pessimistic about unemployment, which has fallen faster than expected despite the slow rise in GDP.

Source: BERNANKE: Pay attention to the data, not the Fed – Business Insider

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Bank of England thinks impact of Brexit is pretty bad

The short-term impact [of Brexit], however, has been largely negative. In the weeks since the vote, the pound has fallen sharply, and stocks in a number of sectors, including banking and construction, have been under pressure. Several real estate funds suspended withdrawals as investors tried to pull out their cash, fearing a slowdown in the British property market. Surveys in recent weeks also indicated that consumer confidence, services output and purchasing-manager sentiment had plummeted. The International Monetary Fund has cut its growth forecast for Britain’s economy, which had been one of the region’s strongest since the financial crisis. “There is a clear case for stimulus, and stimulus now, in order to be there when the economy really needs it — to have an effect when the economy really needs it,” Mark J. Carney, the bank’s governor, said at a news conference on Thursday. The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to lower its benchmark interest rate to 0.25 percent, the lowest level in the bank’s 322 years. The rate had been at 0.5 percent since March 2009. Mr. Carney also signaled on Thursday that the committee could cut rates further this year, but he ruled out the possibility of negative interest rates.

Source: Bank of England Cuts Interest Rate to Historic Low, Citing Economic Pressures – The New York Times

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