Why are Poor Countries Poor?

Some countries have laws and legal practices that aren't in the interests of the nation, but rather in the interest of the ruling elite and their corrupt officials. The World Bank maintains a ranking of the difficulties in starting up a business, registering property and dealing with licenses among a large selection of countries.

The worst country, on the 175th place, is the Democratic Republic of Congo. On the 152th place you find Cameroon. Tim Hartford (2006) in The Undercover Economist quotes a conversation with a local:
'Don't people complain about the roads?'
'They complain, but nothing is done. The government tells us there is no money. But there is plenty of money coming from the World Bank and from France and Britain and America - but they put it in their pockets. They do not spend it on the roads'
'Are there elections in Cameroon?'
'Yes! There are elections. President Biya is always re-elected with a 90-per-cent majority'
'Do 90 per cent of people vote for President Biya?'
'No, they do not. He is very unpopular. But still there is a 90-per-cent majority'

Links: World Bank, Book

Flight Tickets: A Comprehensive Search

When looking for flight tickets I've had to look through individual airline websites, specially the no-frills category, since the ticket search aggregators often seem to exclude them. Except for this one: Momondo.com.

Sci-fi Book with a Radical Vision

Charles Stross wrote Accelerando in 2005 and was shortlisted for a Hugo Award, among others. The novel is great for anybody who likes to think about the future. How will computers, businesses and humans interact?

Download the novel. It's free and it's incredibly interesting.


Financial Astrology

Isn't it obvious that planets affect companies at least as much as they do people?

Link (Thanks, Thomas)

Video: Diffusion of Walmart

Fascinating visualization of the time-spatial diffusion of Walmart stores in USA.

Link (Thanks, Andreas)

Bayesian Statistics in Court

Wikipedia snippet:

In the United Kingdom, Bayes' theorem was explained to the jury in the odds form by a statistician expert witness in the rape case of Regina versus Denis John Adams. A conviction was secured but the case went to Appeal, as no means of accumulating evidence had been provided for those jurors who did not want to use Bayes' theorem. The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and gave their opinion that "To introduce Bayes' Theorem, or any similar method, into a criminal trial plunges the Jury into inappropriate and unnecessary realms of theory and complexity, deflecting them from their proper task." No further appeal was allowed and the issue of Bayesian assessment of forensic DNA data remains controversial.

Speed Reading using Adobe Reader

Newer versions of Adobe Reader include an auto scroll function (Pick View/Automatically Scroll or use Shift+Ctrl+H). Use the numerical keypad to control the speed: 0 (barely moving) to 9 (superhuman speed).

Grammar Snob: Use of It's and Its

A guide to the correct use of it's and its. It's easy for me to get confused, since the English language and its grammar have many exceptions and cranks.

A great guide to writing in general is The Economist Style Guide. A great magazine with great writing.

Lean Management and Stress

It is claimed that lean management techniques may create stress among employees.


I Got a Skype Phone

Got the Skype phone from SMC. Like it already. (Gives me a "WiFi connection cannot connect to Internet" but connects anyway (probably a firewall issue) ) (later, the issue disappeared out of the blue).