Showing posts with label world. Show all posts
Showing posts with label world. Show all posts

18 September 2013

Book review: Wealth and poverty of nations (1999), by David Landes, *****


The history of nations is a history of haves and have-nots, and as we approach the millennium, the gap between rich and poor countries is widening. In this engrossing and important new work, eminent historian David Landes explores the complex, fascinating and often startling causes of the wealth and poverty of nations. The answers are found not only in the large forces at work in economies: geography, religion, the broad swings of politics, but also in the small surprising details. In Europe, the invention of spectacles doubled the working life of skilled craftsmen, and played a prominent role in the creation of articulated machines, and in China, the failure to adopt the clock fundamentally hindered economic development.

The relief of poverty is vital to the survival of us all. As David Landes brilliantly shows, the key to future success lies in understanding the lessons the past has to teach us - lessons uniquely imparted in this groundbreaking and vital book which exemplifies narrative history at its best.


Why are some nations so rich and some so poor? One usually hears a... wealth of common sense reasons which however are rather ...poor explanations! Some rich nations are big, some small, and many poor countries are also big or small. So size, in this case, does not matter. Same for natural resources: some rich nations are well endowed but many poor nations are too. Geographic location also seems pretty much irrelevant: some rich countries are in hot regions, some in cold ones. Same for poor countries.

What makes the difference, according to landes, is mostly cultural and ethical factors. A provocative and most informative book. Travelers will find many ideas in this book to understand the economy of countries around the world.

10 July 2013

Viaggio o vacanza?

Una vacanza (dal latino vacantia, periodo di vuoto) è un viaggio intrapreso alla ricerca di una sorta di riposo, di un’interruzione, uno svuotamento da ciò che riempie la vita di tutti i giorni. Al rientro da una vacanza si torna ad essere quelli di prima, riposati, ricaricati.

Un viaggio invece è una trasformazione, un impegno. Tornando da un viaggio si è diversi da come si era alla partenza. Viaggio (dal latino viaticum, provvista per un lungo tragitto) indica un percorso, una trasformazione. In inglese, travel ha la stessa origine etimologica di travaglio, lavoro appunto. Io viaggio per compiere percorsi, per cambiare me stesso.

09 September 2012

Book review: The Dark Tourist (2010), by Dom Joly, ***

Sinister looking WW I artillery on Monte Grappa

'Dark tourism is the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or the seemingly macabre as a main theme'

Ever since he can remember, Dom Joly has been fascinated by travel to odd places. In part this stems from a childhood spent in war-torn Lebanon, where instead of swapping marbles in the schoolyard, he had a shrapnel collection -- the schoolboy currency of Beirut. Dom's upbringing was interspersed with terrifying days and nights spent hunkered in the family basement under Syrian rocket attack or coming across a pile of severed heads from a sectarian execution in the pine forests near his home.

These early experiences left Dom with a profound loathing for the sanitized experiences of the modern day travel industry and a taste for the darkest of places. The more insalubrious the place, the more interesting is the journey and so we follow Dom as he skis in Iran on segregated slopes, picnics in the Syrian Desert with a trigger-happy government minder and fires rocket propelled grenades at live cows in Cambodia (he missed on purpose, he just couldn't do it).

12 January 2012

Book Review: The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjorn Lomborg, *****

Pollution in the Maldives

Lomborg, an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus and a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse. Using statistical information from internationally recognized research institutes, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental issues that feature prominently in headline news around the world, including pollution, biodiversity, fear of chemicals, and the greenhouse effect, and documents that the world has actually improved. He supports his arguments with over 2500 footnotes, allowing readers to check his sources.

01 July 2010

Book Review: A Sense of the World. How a Blind Man became the World's Greatest Traveler, by Jason Roberts, *****

When Lieutenant James Holman sailed to Russia in 1822, intent on crossing Siberia on his way to circumnavigate a globe still largely uncharted, the authorities of the Tsar arrested him on suspicion of espionage. Their scepticism was understandable: James Holman was completely blind. Holman returned to London and wrote a bestselling book about his abortive trip. But the wanderlust remained: as he put it, "In my case, the deprivation of sight has been succeeded by an increased desire for locomotion." In 1827 he set off again, this time for Africa. He would not return until 1832, having visited India, the Far East and Australia en route, and indulged in seemingly suicidal adventures such as stalking rogue elephants in Ceylon and helping blaze a road through uncharted New South Wales.

06 April 2008

Recensione: La Democrazia degli Altri, di Amartya Sen, *****


Le difficoltà incontrate dalla coalizione angloamericana nel secondo dopoguerra iracheno hanno portato alla ribalta il problema della possibilità di "esportare" forme di governo democratico, di matrice occidentale, in paesi che ne sono privi. Inserendosi in questo acceso dibattito Amartya Sen, premio Nobel 1998 per l'economia, illustra in queste pagine l'esistenza di secolari tradizioni democratiche in paesi attualmente oppressi da regimi totalitari, e invita a non commettere un ulteriore peccato di "imperialismo culturale": l'appropriazione indebita dell'idea di democrazia. Piuttosto, Amartya Sen ci suggerisce di esplorare e sviluppare quegli aspetti della democrazia che sono valori condivisi dalla storia dell'umanità intera.

01 December 2006

Book Review: Identity and Violence, by Amartya Sen, *****


In this penetrating book, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen argues that we are becoming increasingly divided along lines of religion and culture, ignoring the many other ways in which people see themselves, from class and profession to morals and politics. When we are put into narrow categories the importance of human life becomes lost.

Through his lucid exploration of such subjects as multiculturalism, fundamentalism, terrorism and globalization, he brings out the need for a clear-headed understanding of human freedom and a constructive public voice in Global civil society. The hope of harmony in today's world lies in a clearer understanding of our sheer diversity.


This book makes one supremely important argument very well: to identify ourselves with an identity, no matter which, is both incorrect and dangerous. Most of us don't have ONE identity, but many. If one of them takes excessive precedence over the others, and we therefore identify ourselves mainly with it, we start down a slippery slope of exclusion of those who do not belong to it, even though we may share several of our other identities with them. The step from this process of exclusion to conflict and war is a short one to take.

17 December 2005

Book Review: Neutral Buoyancy: Adventures in a Liquid World, by Tim Ecott, *****

A brilliant mix of vivid reportage, history and science. Historical diving bells, greek sponge divers, world war two frogmen and record-setting breath hold divers compete for space with misunderstood sharks, weeping turtles, smiling dolphins and erotically shaped sea slugs. From Ireland to Florida, Papua New Guinea to Vienna and the Bahamas to Seychelles, Neutral Buoyancy is travel writing of the most fascinating, readable kind; providing a window - or a view from a glass bottomed boat - on a rich, unfamiliar and unique destination. Travel writing of this quality makes Neutral Buoyancy a must for all armchair travellers, not just divers.

03 December 2005

Book Review: Investment Biker, by Jim Rogers, *****


Wealth does strange things to people. It can either control them or set them free. Jim Rogers falls into the latter camp. Like an angst-free Marlon Brando, this Wild One quit his Quantum fund job alongside George Soros at the age of 37, saddled up a powerful BMW and revved his way into a personal dream.

02 December 2005

Book Review: Adventure Capitalist, by Jim Rogers, *****

Jim and wife Paige at the end of their tour in 2002.

The bestselling author of Investment Biker is back from the ultimate road trip: a three–year drive around the world that would ultimately set the Guinness record for the longest continuous car journey. In Adventure Capitalist, legendary investor Jim Rogers, dubbed "the Indiana Jones of finance" by Time magazine, proves that the best way to profit from the global situation is to see the world mile by mile. "While I have never patronized a prostitute," he writes, "I know that one can learn more about a country from speaking to the madam of a brothel or a black marketeer than from meeting a foreign minister."

01 January 2001

Today the new Millennium starts

Today is the start of the new millennium.

Some, like Dick Teresi, have argued that this is the result of a number of errors in year counting committed in the past, in the middle ages in fact. There never was a year 0, we went from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. He says there should have been a year 0 however between those two years, just like there is a year 2000 between 1999 and 2001.

However, others argue that because years B.C. are counted starting from -1, there is no room for a year zero, just like on a Carthesian coordinate system, where zero is a point, not a time interval.

Be that as it may, we are stuck with that, unless we decide to renumber all years from 1 B.C. backward, so that 1 B.C. becomes the year 0, 2 B.C. become 1 B.C. and so on.

Since we are likely to stay with the current counting system for a while... pop the Champagne today!

01 January 2000

Today is not the start of the new Millennium!

To see when the new millennium actually starts, go to my post of 1 January 2001!

Much of the world celebrates the new Millennium today, but it will actually happen in a year's time.

The year 2000 is the last year of the XX century, not the first year of the XXI, and thus also the last year of the 2nd millennium AD...