Worldmapper – The world through different filters

Here is a great site for people with a global mindset: Worldmapper — a wonderful way to review the the worldwide situation… The site features maps of the world distorted according to the criteria. In their own words, “Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, using equal area cartograms where territories are re-sized on each map according to a particular variable.”

As of today, the website contains 366 maps, with associated information and a PDF file, covering 99+% of the world’s population, and drawing on information from 200 territories. Much of the data is admittedly old or estimated. Anyway, you’ll get the picture.

Below is the world map according to population.

Worldmapper

Among the 366 maps, I pull out a couple of pertinent ones for me:

The World’s Ecological Footprint – As we know, the United States, China and India have the largest ecological footprints — but it’s the per person CO2 footprint (i.e. combined with the map above) that makes it scary for the US.

Tertiary education – with the highest percentage of the student-aged population enrolled being “in Finland. Finland is 3.6 times the world average, with 140 times the chance of a tertiary education than in Mozambique.”

Hazardous Waste – “The three biggest producers are the Russian Federation, United States and Uzbekistan.” And Russia seems to have a big lead in this category.

Books published – A major European bubble, albeit with old data (1999). The most new titles produced in that year were in the United Kingdom, China and Germany.

Gender Empowerment – which points out that women are never at parity with men… even in Rwanda where there are now more women in government than men.

Personal Computers 2002 – Even if this is light years out of date, this PC representation of the world is my favourite esthetically speaking! A kind of Rorschach test too.

For more fun, check out the Worldmapper index here.

Beijing Olympics 2008 Medals Recap with Per Population Analysis

Beijing 2008 OlympicsThe Beijing 2008 Olympics have come to an end today Sunday, August 24th. It is hard to imagine that 303 events are crammed into the past 15 days. The kick-off and finale were works of art (if well ‘orchestrated’ in the most generous of terms). And, true to form, China hauled in the largest number of gold medals (51), followed by the USA (36), unaccustomed to playing second fiddle. Aside from chronicling the winning countries in this post, I have chosen to analyse the results according to population. There are many striking facts to these results — the best of which I will attempt to highlight.

Herewith the Top 20 winners, ranked by number of golds. The standout performance after the Chinese clearly belongs to Great Britain with 19 golds.

Olympics 2008 Beijing Medals Table
I choose a second table below to demonstrate the number of medals won per population member (a medal per pop measurement). In the below chart, I have taken the Top 30 (this time), ranked by the most medals from the smallest pool of people. The chart shows the total number of medals won (2nd column), the ranking according to the total number of medals G/S/B (3rd col), followed by the percentage of golds won out of the country’s total medals. Finally, I cite the country’s 2008 population (according to the US Census Bureau). In the last column, you have the population divided by the number of medals, showing — by some way of voodoo statistics — the pool of people that ‘created’ the winners. The Bahamas (2 medals) take the honours here with 1 medal per 153,000 citizens, followed by the miraculous Usain Bolt’s Jamaica (11 medals) and then Iceland (1 medal) taking the bronze place (considering its tiny population). Slovenia, Australia (6th place overall in the total medals haul as well) and New Zealand round out the top 6. Of the top medal scorers in the table above, GB scrapes in at 26th with 1 medal per 1.3 million citizens.

2008 Olympics Medals per Pop
For the record, under this calculation, China landed 68th (13.3mm/pop), the US came in 45th (2.8mm/pop), Russia was 37th (2.0mm/pop). India was plum last of the medal winners with 383 million per pop.

And, for another viewpoint, the non-medalling countries with the largest population (a sort of hall of shame, if it weren’t for the political and social strife):

Pakistan 172 million (6th largest)
Bangladesh 153 million (7th)
Philippines 96 million (12th)
Congo Kinshasa 66 million (18th)
Burma 48 million (26th)

And among the major upsets that I observed from a US standpoint anyway, the US getting only a bronze in baseball and having both the US men and women failing to qualify for the 4x100m. There were many others certainly. However, aside from having a war begin and end within the timeframe of the Olympics (with Russia’s invading Georgia’s [30 medals] South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and China’s internal silencing and manipulated PR campaign, the largest other surprise that I can come up with is the low level of doping scandals. Lo siento Rafa, but Nadal escaped again… along with surely many hundred’s of others.

All in all, a fairly vivid affair. And, for the foreign companies that invested in advertising to the Chinese, presumably a winning gamble. Your thoughts?

Kenya Safari Holidays April 2008

Kenya – A Recap of our 6 days in the Great Wild Bush

We arrived in Kenya at Nairobi International airport on our holidays in May and, somewhat predictably, spent the first 30 minutes in a highly disorganized line up to get through customs. We had already purchased our tourist visas at the Kenyan Embassy in Paris only to find that you could do the same thing at the airport customs counter. In fact, buying the visa at the customs counter would have been quicker than the time we spent in the “regular” queue to have our passports stamped–much less when you add the two separate trips to the Kenyan Embassy in Paris. Our main confusion was that we didn’t know which queue to join. There was an empty counter for “All Other Nationals” and two other manned counters for “Kenyan nationals” and “East African Nationals.” When I think back on the customs lines in Paris’ CDG Roissy airport, I believe the confusion is probably comparable, but it is always more challenging to figure out in a foreign country.

Our guide, Ibrahim, met us outside the baggage claim. We then made an one-hour journey – through some back roads – to the house of my old Kenyan friend and schoolmate from the Old Mathouse (OMH), Martin Seth-Smith (Ker & Downey Safaris Kenya). Along the way to Martin’s, we were able to view the Kibera slums (which are the second largest slums in Africa and even more impoverished than the townships of Alexandria and Soweto in RSA). We had a wonderful evening reminiscing and catching up. The next day, we headed off at 8am, in a deluge of rain.

Our driver, Ibrahim, was a stalwart, serious and gracious man. Aged 68, Ibrahim presented himself more like a 50-55 year old. Having been a guide for 35 years, he knew all the roads well and safely steered us through our 6-day trip. Ibrahim, a Muslim, comes from the Kalenjin tribe (a tribe known for its long distance runners, and the tribe from which came Kenya’s second President, Mr. Daniel Arap Moi). Ibrahim described how he used to run 10 miles to and from school that was situated on top of a hill.

Among the marvelous experiences in Kenya, and despite being in the rainy season when animals are not migrating through Kenya, we managed to spot each of the Big Five, including a rare and fleeting view of a scampering leopard, as well as just one cheetah (one of the remaining 15,000 on this earth). While we were out looking for animals, I wanted to pick up a bit of Swahili. Cheetah in Swahili is Duma (the name of one of our most wonderful babysitters when we lived in Paris back when…). The cheetah can get to 45mph in 3 seconds and looks so approachable… Tricky.

At Mara Intrepids in the Maasai Mara (6 hours from Nairobi), the tented sleeping arrangement was a first for us all. Including the enormous hippo sounds that woke us in the early morning, it was a wonderful experience. Also, the children absolutely enjoyed the Maasai tribe induction where they were entertained morning and afternoon with bow & arrow making, Maasai clothing and dancing (or rather jumping vertically). The Mara Intrepids Camp was, all told, the best quality we experienced.

We did one night at the idyllic Sweetwater tented camp. The restaurant-side watering hole that attracted all forms of animals was a great spectacle. One highlight was the visit of Morani, (the Little Warrior) the tame black rhinoceros (photo to the right). A pleasant home video on Morani was done here on YouTube. We also did a 1 1/2 hour “night safari”, which, at the heady price of $80/person (including the kids), was a complete fiasco. Aside from the fact that the only animals we saw–that we were not able to see during the day–were one big white owl and 2 mongooses (or should that be mongeese). And, what other animals we saw, the one spot light lamp gave us a poor viewing. Of course, the hoped-for “hunt” was not to be had the evening we went out. But, the main problem with our ride was the impact of a rain shower that rendered the road into a skating rink. We got stuck in the mud twice and, with the jeep bucketing from right to left and back, our eyes were glued on the road rather than on any animals.


Driving from camp to camp afforded us a view of the “inside” of Kenya as opposed to airplane hopping and just seeing the refined camps sites. This meant that we saw the poverty of rural Kenya, the hard working farmers, the lounging men, a woman carrying wooden benches (tied by rope and affixed around her forehead) and the enormous number of young children, many of whom were sitting on the side of the highway. There were even a few instances when I spotted machete-wielding children.

Driving on the roads of Kenya meant that we also saw the state of the infrastructure. Some of the roads were in such poor condition and so bumpy, it made picking your nose an extremely hazardous (if just as unsightly) habit. You also see the presence of police – there were police checkpoints roughly every 15 kilometers. We were stopped only once in the 7 days.

In another insight into the Kenyan way, on our way down to Amboseli, we had to make a stop at the Catalyst Travel Agency office in Nairobi to meet John, the “agent.” In an unfortunate and ungracious act, John (read: the boss) dropped 48 bottles of water on the street beside the jeep and obliged our guide to pick up the bottles without lifting a finger to help. An unnecessary humiliation

After our visit to Sweetwater, we made a brief stop at the Sweetwater Primary School, run by Mr Peter Bitaka. We met all the children and delivered a little care package. Education will be at the heart of progress in Kenya as in so many other developing countries.

Kenya, whose name was abridged from the Kikuyu name of Mount Kenya, Kiri Nyaga (“Mountain where God is”), boasts a population of 35 million people, up from 7 million 40 years ago. According to Wikipedia, the major ethnic groups of Kenya, which has 43 different tribes are as follows: Kikuyu 23%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 11% (such as our guide Ibrahim), Kamba 10%, Kisii 6%, Meru 5%, Maasai 1.8%… I believe the 1.8% Maasai might be understated. In any event, driving through Maasai Mara, you obviously see mostly Maasai and, it would appear that it is a group that is growing fast. Non-Africans (Asian/Desi, Anglo-African/European, and Arab) amount to 1%. Refuting Wikipedia’s entry, I also believe that there are many more Indians, especially in the Mombassa region.

In terms of religions, Wikipedia lists the religious affiliations accordingly: Protestant and Quaker 45%, Roman Catholic 25%, Islam 10%, Traditional Religions 10%. Apparently, for those of you studying US social studies and the founding of Pennsylvania (like my son), Kenya actually contains the largest body of Quakers in a single nation.

For a review of the 4 lodges we stayed out, we’ll go with a quick star system:
1* (poor) up to 5* (great)

Animals Accommodations Service
Mara Intrepids (Maasai Mara) **** ***** ****
Sarova Lion Hill (Lake Nakuru) *** *** ***
Sweetwater (on the Equator) **** **** ***
Serena Amboseli *** ** **

While we went in the midst of the rainy season, we were lucky enough not to be dumped on too badly. There were few people in the lodges (the first three we were running at something between 30-40% occupancy). As for the political unrest, there was nothing to see. We were spoiled with views of Kilimanjaro on both days. A French journalist we met at Amboseli told us that there were many more animals to see in Tanzania. That did not stop us from seeing plenty of animals and enjoying our safari experience. However, next time, maybe we will head for the land of Zanzibar…

Heir Hunters or Probate Genealogists and Aging Octogenarians

Getting older every day…and more lonely?

This post is about two trends that seem to be crossing inexorably: the aging of populations around the world and the general lack of people taking care of this group.

If you feel like you are getting older, you are not alone. As the UN.org site says in a report published in 1999, “[g]lobally, the number of octogenarians is projected to increase to 311 million in 2050, 5.3 times its 1998 size.” In France, there are already well over a million people over 85 years old – a number that is projected to rise dramatically and quickly: to 2.2 million over 85 years old by 2015. The problem, according to an article in the Le Figaro of July 17, 2008, « Pénurie de main-d’œuvre pour les emplois de service, » is that there will not be enough people to care for the predictable increase of octogenarians… so you may be alone after all. Demographics - Age Pyramid UN 1998 Worldwide[Note the 2050 line in Figure 1 from the UN site, showing for the "more developed regions" that the women bulge is significantly higher/older than the men.]

Another notable example is Japan, where over half of the population will be over 65 years old in less than 50 years. In absolute figures, the UN study projects, “[f]ive countries will have 10 million or more people over 80 years old. They include China, which will have 100 million; India, 47 million; the United States, 27 million; Japan, 12 million; and Indonesia, 10 million.”

The aging of the populations around the world is obviously going to create new economies and business opportunities. While on a recent trip to England, I discovered an until-now-not-heard-of business regarding firms that specialize in hunting down heirs of recently deceased people whose “next of kin” is not identified or known.

This type of business exists AT LEAST in the US and UK and I assume in many other countries although I stopped short of doing a worldwide search. Out of LA in the US, there is HeirHuntersInternational.com. The HHI site comes replete with information on the company’s TV appearances (Court TV) and its own blog — quite a media spin. The percentage of the assets the surprised heir gives to the heir hunters is “negotiable.” Of course, the interesting challenge must be to declare to the prospective heir that the money/assets exist, but that the name of the deceased must be withheld until the signing of the contract. Apparently, the hunter’s rate is between 20% and 50%. What a business — a win/win except for the deceased who was more-or-less abandoned in the last part of his/her life.

As one of the HHI founders says in the Court TV session: “it’s a very, very competitive business,” which means that time is of the essence. And HHI is certainly not alone. A more “low key” heir hunter company in the US is “American Research Bureau” which does not like to advertise (and its site is exceedingly dull)… and perhaps with good reason. In the UK, you can find out about probate geneologists (aka heir hunters) Fraser & Fraser, or Finders UK, The BBC carries a series on Heir Hunters. The heir hunters don’t have a particularly good reason (read here for more from allbusiness.com).

What the whole notion (or specter) of heir hunters fails to highlight is that there are so many people dying without their next of kin being aware: what does that say to family ties and the loneliness of the deceased? With the oncoming wave of octogenarians and the lack of personnel and family members to take care of them, it would seem that heir hunters [as well as caregivers] have a bright future. Of course, that assumes that the housing and stock market resumes its bull run some time soon!

Anyone else want to write about other great business opportunities?

Television Viewership Still Rising; Reading Too?

Television viewership still risingTelevision and Internet viewing versus dwindling attention span…

I was stunned to see that television ogling by Americans, who are over 12 years old, has continued to rise despite the Internet. A census bureau study, published in the USA Today of June 25, 2008, said that since the year 2000, people over 12 years old are watching television 71 days/year, up 8 days, and spending 202 hours more per year (1704 hours vs 1502 in 2000). What’s not clear in the USA Today poll is whether television via the Internet has been included. Then, between video games and Internet, the American adult is giving new meaning to screen capture.

And, it would be interesting to then compare book sales (which of course do not necessarily mean book reading) during the same period. This Publishers.org site, via the Association of American Publishers, says that “U.S. publishers had net sales of $25 billion in 2007; a 3.2 percent increase from 2006 with a compound growth rate of 2.5 percent per year since 2002.” Naturally, this is no indication of whether people are actually reading more (dollar value is not indicative of units; and there is no neutralisation of the population increase). While internet and television can allow for “zapping” behaviour, reading in byte sizes is hardly propitious for a good read; and with reduced time, it seems hardly likely that reading activity will increase. Then again, is reading on the Internet (news stories, stories, blogs, etc.) viable reading?

Cell Phone Etiquette on Eurostar: It’s Not Good to Talk

It’s Good to Talk? An old British Telecom (BT) saying that’s not applicable for Eurostar … or any public transportation for that matter.

Having recently done a couple of Cell phone etiquetteround trips on the Eurostar I have made a few survey-of-one conclusions about the need for a standard of etiquette for cell phone usage on trains.

There is a severe need to reel in the mobile manners of travelers — and this before the airlines democratize cell phone usage on board. On these recent Eurostar trips between London and France, I started to make a mental note of the profiles of those who were prone to get up and be discrete with their telephone call and those who chose to make telephone calls while seated in the midst of their fellow passengers. Whilst my assessment obviously reflects the population on board, in terms of professional profiles, I detected a large number of lawyers [ironically] and other suits who tended not to mind talking openly. In terms of nationalities, I tended to hear more French. But, I am open for debate! [My recent experience at LAX has shown that the US traveller has equally little tact when it comes to his fellow partner.]

Cell Phone Etiquette - Discretion ObligeTyping on a computer, fiddling on the blackberry or listening to an Ipod hardly bother me. And if ever they do, hooking up a low volume Ipod is the perfect remedy. However, others speaking on the cell phone in such confined spaces do truly irritate me. Talking on your cell in the comfort of your [business class] seat demonstrates a total lack of courtesy to your fellow passengers. We have everything to learn from the etiquette of the Japanese who — admittedly reinforced with frequent public announcements — leave to find an isolated place to make an irritation-free telephone call. A culture of respect and cheap SMS are a good combination. Discretion oblige!

I know that many passengers in trains and buses around the world are also defying the most normal norms of politeness. Perhaps the transport companies will, themselves, have to intervene as they do in Japan? Otherwise, I fear the onset of liberalized mobile phone use on airplanes…

In the meantime, on line, you can find a myriad of sites giving their version of proper cell phone etiquette. Many of the ideas converge. Here are a few of them:

InfoworldThe Ten Commandments of Cell Phone Etiquette. Right on the money in terms of the major faux-pas (or ne faut pas) with a good sense of humour.
About.comHow To Respect The Rules Of Cell Phone Etiquette. A substantially dry but appropriate 7 rules…with nuances according to the person/people around you.
WisegeekWhat is Cell Phone Etiquette, with eight good points here, including the 10 foot personal space.
Digital Media Wire12 Unwritten Rules of Cell Phone Etiquette with some rules that should be or could be written and others that, as Scott Goldberg suggests, should remain unwritten.

Boris Johnson voted in Mayor of London 2008-2013

Boris Johnson Mayor of London 2008-2013Boris Johnson has won a most interesting and widely publicized London mayoral race. Congratulations Boris! And, perhaps, fittingly, it was a May Day [2008] victory. This “Observers” article pitting a pigeon-on-his-head Ken Livingstone (Labour) and a baked-beans-on-toast-munching-Boris (Tory) gives quite the tone for the battle waged and the less-than-conventional nature of the candidates.

And, if his own “Back Boris” site is anything to go by, Boris Johnson’s tenure as Mayor promises to provide a very different type of administration than we are used to seeing in ANY political function, anywhere in the world. Here is what the home page said (on its last day of publishing):

“If Ken Livingstone wins on Thursday, it is another four long years of waste, deceit, scandal, cronyism, crime and congestion. He will revert to form – nothing will change and Livingstone and Labour will think they can continue to ignore Londoners real concerns.”

Talk about not mincing one’s words–of course, I would have preferred there not to have been a grammatical error in the last sentence. But, then again, maybe that’s political blogging in the modern era?? We have seen what free-wheeling can do in French politics.

Boris’ acceptance speech (on YouTube) is an absolutely brilliant, inspiring (and gracious) speech:

Hopefully, there will be enough action behind the words to allow for a strong 5 years. I certainly agreed with Boris’ Daily Telegraph article regarding the over-population issue (written Oct 2007).

Updated with blogs/articles discussing the outcome:
* A good blog post on the office of Mayor of London and background on Boris comes from US Post (not -al service).
* A fellow Franco-Anglo Hillblogger (bonjour) with “Let’s Get Cracking.”
* And a useful piece from Cow’s Blog — someone else who met Boris.
* An opinion piece from Charles Moore at the Daily Telegraph where Moore positions the Johnson victory as an indictment of Brown as much as anything else.

A man, born in 1964 (in New York), moved to London when he was five (as I did), who has lived in Brussels (my birth town) and went to English boarding schools… hum, sounds like a jumble I resemble. A man after my own heart.

Anyway, good luck Boris.

Barcelona – Some sites, restaurants & factoids

Culinary delights in Barcelona.

Barcelona is wondrous city offering an architectural feast at every corner, with a mixture of buildings dating back to the Roman times (down in the Gothic part of town) all the way through to contemporary masterpieces (Modernisme Route featuring the famous architects Domènech i Montaner, Antoni Gaudi, etc…). The Palau Montaner, (photo on left) on Calle Mallorca, is a perfect example. Inside (no photos allowed because it is now a Catalan government building), there is a dominating stone staircase, complete with fantastic animal sculptures and wood carvings. A worthwhile visit (5E) if you can speak Castellano or Catalan!

Aside from the beautiful architecture, Barcelona also offers a host of wonderful restaurants. On the one hand, there are many modern-styled restaurants (Tragaluz, Acontraluz, Bestial, allBarcelona restaurant Botafumeiro outside by the same owner…) that provide fusion or Catalan dishes in trendy settings. Meanwhile, there are also many traditional restaurants with grand style decorations.

Barcelona restaurant Botafumeiro insideThe standout address is Botafumeiro (photos), a seafood lover’s paradise, located at El Gran de Gracia, 81 (+34 932 184 230). Lining the walls on the right, in front of the bar, is the wall of fame, with oodles of celebrity shots (Alan Alda, Calista Flockhart to name just a couple). The highlight (and discovery) of the menu: the percebes (“goose barnacle” in English or pollicipia cornucopia for the real aficionados). The espardenyes a la plancha (grilled sea cucumbers) were a little too chewy. A divine little wine, the Rioja Marques de Campo Noble Crianza 2004. Also to note the wonderful service of José.

Another fine establishment with a Franco-Catalan menu and off the beaten path, is La Venta, situated in Placa Doctor Andreu (+34 93 212 64 55), on the mountain Tibidabo. Great panoramic city views available if you step into the smokey Mirablau bar on the other side of the street. (Spain has yet to go smokeless in restaurants and bars). And, while I didn’t get a chance to taste, another great address is the 7 Portes, Plaza Isabel II, 14, a classic address, down near the port area in the Gothic part of town.

Just as there are many hip restaurants, there has been a mushrooming of hip hotels too (stayed at Hotel 987 on Calle Mallorca where the rooms are VERY modern and the door barely opens without touching the bed). It is worth mentioning, on the other hand, the beautiful and classic Casa Fuster, 132, Paseo de la Gracia +34 902-202 345. The story of this hotel/building is rather singular as the owner built the magnificent building in 1908 out of sheer love for his wife, but then ran out of money. So be it. The building remained and was relatively recently turned into the beautiful 5* hotel.

My visit to Barcelona also coincided with the Barcelona Marathon 2008, March 2nd, which was the marathon in Spain with the most ever runners (about 100,000). The runners were graced with perfect weather: sunny but not too hot.

Some other factoids that a visitor to Barcelona might be interested in knowing:

The city boasts a population of 1.4 million intra muros and 4 million people including the outskirts.

In the 19th century, the city was reorganized into stylized squares with parallel streets, originally designed to have family houses on the sawed off corners allowing for gardens and pleasant open spaces. All the streets going across town are named after (past or present) countries, while all streets going down to the sea are named after people.

The famed La Rambla (meaning “dead river” in arabic) avenue, is now awash in pickpockets (virtually everyone mentioned the risks). The highlight visit was the open air (if covered) Boqueria market, where your eyes will delight in the food displays. Watch out for the scary looking butchers (they have a tendency to show absolutely every part of the lamb and bull…). And you can have wonderful tapas at any number of the little stalls. My choice was El Quim.

Barcelona Plaza EspanaMeanwhile, Barcelona continues to struggle with its water. Mid March and the Barcelona water reserves are down to just 20% which is a real drama ahead of summer. The water problem did not dissuade the authorities from continuing the fountain entertainment at Plaza Espana’s (aka Plaça d’Espanya) Fountain de Montjuic. See here on YouTube. Beware: it only starts at 7pm on weekends (Friday-Sunday). Best to be down below to watch.

Springboks’ De Villiers as Coach

Springboks LogoPeter de Villiers Springboks CoachAnother move for equality

Peter de Villiers has been named as the first black coach of the rugby union world champions South African Spingboks. Coming on the heels of the World Cup victory (in October 2007), this is quite a move. And, after just having posted about Norway’s historic move to increase the presence of women on corporate boards, this news from South Africa represents another very strong statement in creating an equitable world. I add a prior post about Cheeky Watson for some background context for RSA rugby.

A controversial decision

Currently the successful coach of the Springboks’ under-21, Peter de Villiers (right courtesy of Getty Images) takes over from Jake White, who led the Springboks to victory in the World Cup. Jack White, whose contract expired at the end of 2007, goes out with the highest distinction, although on an acrimonious ending (dispute with the SARU). That de Villiers led the under-21s to the IRB world title in 2005 is certainly a worthy achievement. He also produced a third place finish in 2004, a second-place finish to the hosts in France in 2006 and, last year, coached the Emerging Springbok side to the IRB Nations Cup title in Romania. All very good results. Nonetheless, the decision to select de Villiers trumped a vote of 77% by the South African Rugby Players’ Association (SARPA) in favor of the acclaimed Pretoria Bulls Super 14 coach, Heyneke Meyer, raised eyebrows. It is worth noting that of the two other candidates, there was also Chester Williams, a black Springboks’ winger who participated in the Boks’ 1995 RWC victory.

Rugby Reasons

Being upfront about the political nature of the appointment, South African Rugby Union (SARU) president Oregan Hoskins said in a press conference, “I want to be honest with South Africa and say that the appointment was not entirely made for rugby reasons.” As the UK Times says, de Villiers’ request to fans to look beyond the colour of his skin was undermined by Hoskins, when he said that race had been a determining factor. We’ll have to see how the governing organizations get behind him.

Certainly, given the lopsided presence of white players in the national rugby team, it is time that RSA rugby reflected and took advantage of the great pool of athletes from their entire population. De Villiers has created history by becoming the first black person in the role. I hope that he is able to produce good results — it is hard yet to imagine that RSA will replicate in 2011 its IRB World Cup. That said, de Villiers’ contract is only for two years! I will be curious to see if/how he includes Cheeky Watson’s son, Luke Watson, in the Springboks team.

In any event, I salute the decision and wish the Springboks success with this landmark decision.

Others blogging on the topic, although I notice a dearth of personal commentary outside of the RSA blogs:

KEO.CO.ZA – the official online partner to SA Rugby (and Cricket) – tons of threads including:
De Villiers wants Meyer in the mix
The Return of Quotas
Ou Grote (South African Rugby News)
Rugby Heaven (NZ rugby blog)
22 Drop-Out
Bruin Developement Forum

News articles on the appointment:
BBC report
ABC from Australia
Scrum
UK Times on Line

Happy No Smoking & New Year

No Smoking this New YearGlad to usher in a new year and, with it, the beginning of smoke-free hotels, bars and restaurants in Paris. But, as this BBC article explains, Paris is not the only place to take on new year resolutions. Eight German states, including Berlin and heavy drinking Bavaria, have now taken on a similar ban, with three more to follow during the year. The subject has evidently taken on a different spin in Germany where enforcement will be somewhat more lenient than in France due to, what I have to imagine are mediatised, links with Hitler’s Nazi regime’s crackdown on smoking. In France, the “leniency” was accorded all the way to the end of January 1st, 2008.

After reading up on the smoking bans, I was interested in the smoking populations in Europe and per the BBC site, it says that 45% of the adult population in Greece is smoking. Naturally, the more painful number would be evaluating how that statistic translates into children smoking. Of the 13.5 million smokers in France, as cited in the BBC article, how many are not adults (I hesitate to use the word kids)?

Thanks mostly to wiki, I have calculated that there are just over 50 million 18+ years olds in metropolitan France. Then, if one were (mistakenly) to take the 13.5 million as all being adults, that would give France a 27% adult smoking ratio (I assume an adult is still considered 18+). Double checking what statistics I could find on adult smokers, I discovered this NationMaster site, whose source is the World Health Organization, which claimed a wholly different picture, with 34.5% of smoking adults in France — and this is only marginally less than the 35% cited for Germany (in line with the BBC’s “one third of Germans” who smoke). The worldwide weighted average of adults smoking is 27.5% per the NationMaster site. For good reading, try the Herald Tribune’s article on the Future of the [smoking] Cafe Society!

Stateside, Chicago has also just put in place a revised no-smoking inside law to usher in the new year, too — this new law was to snuff out loopholes. There are just 23 states in the US that have imposed on indoor smoking. That is quite surprising to me.

Anyway, Happy New Year, Health and Happiness to all smokers and non-smokers alike.