Friday, August 31, 2007

Travel tip of the day.

If you use a gel antiperspirant, chances are that you have experienced the travel problem when the gel gets squeezed out of the container as the airport staff abuse your luggage in a number of ways when you can't see them. The solution for this minor irritation is simple: twist the dial at the bottom counter clockwise for a few turns. This places an air bubble on top of the gel so when the container is squished, the gel stays in and the air gets out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A few beginner nighttime photos.

Yesterday I finally bought myself a remote control for my camera. With it it's now possible to take long exposure pictures of the nighttime. As a bonus, there was a lunar eclipse as well. Unfortunately, by the time it turned red it was close to the horizon and very dim.

The moon is starting to get covered by the Earth's shadow.

Fully covered but the air pollution has a dimming effect.

A long exposure of the night sky.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Wealth of Nations.

For the last couple of days I've been mulling about a blog post for the wealthy nations. Why are some nations wealthy and some are not? It seems that the wealth of nations is built with the tears and blood of other nations most of whom are now poor.

We have a handful of wealthy nations - the US, Japan, Germany, UK, the rest of the G8 countries, and depending on how you define wealth, a handful of other nations. Most of these wealthy nations are either former colonial powers, or have been aggressive in conquering other peoples resources. At first glance, Japan seems to be the underdog of this club but remember that prior to the two nuclear bombs dropped on them, they were quite aggressive in looting and pillaging the East Asian nations. They might have lost a lot of resources during the war but a lot of the wealth was still preserved. Their mistake was to take on another wealthy nation - the US. The US is a different beast - it has been an imperial power since before the days of Teddy Roosevelt's presidency.

What is Armenia to do in this environment? The Armenian nation has been the colonized and hasn't been a colonizer since the days of Tigran Metz a couple thousand years ago. Before she can start conquering another nation, there is the huge task of returning what has been conquered from us - we all know what these territories are.

It's a difficult task. Militarily it's an impossible thing to do. Diplomatically it can be done easier if the opportunity is seized at the right moment just the way Turkey did when they managed to take what now is Eastern Turkey right after WW1.

There seems to be another avenue. It won't make Armenia a wealthy nation but it will make sure that Armenia is not a poor nation. I have written about developing clusters of economic excellence. I identified a few areas that this might be possible to do a while ago.

Here is a study of that might be helpful in implementing such a development program (here is a light primer on how the study was done). To develop some of the clusters might be easier for Armenia than another country - there are already existing scientific infrastructures that can be utilized for generating high value added intellectual property.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The earthquake in Peru.

A few days ago there was an earthquake in Peru with a death toll of 500 people that is certain to rise as the rubble gets cleared. The government seemed to be disorganized and for some 36 hours there was no aid provided to the survivors. They started breaking in to the stores to get some food.

When I read about it, I was appalled at the disorganized fashion the government was dealing with the issue. When I expressed my concern about the developing countries being unable to care about their citizens, she pointed out the New Orleans tragedy and the disgusting way the American government dealt with its citizens. It took the Peruvians 36 hours to get relief to their citizens when it took 3 days for our government to start thinking about doing something.

Here is the latest report from BBC on the earthquake.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Honor system.

This is the stall where I buy my veggies; it's in the front yard of a local farmer. They have their goods on display - they stock it once in the morning during the weekdays, or occasionally during the day on the weekends. You select whatever you want, weigh and use some math skills to come up with the amount you need to pay. Once you know it, which is not very hard to calculate as all the prices are divisible by 25 cents, you deposit the money in the little gray box (next to the pickle cucumber container).

Friday, August 17, 2007

US casualties in Iraq.

4,000 US soldiers have officially been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the invasion as of today.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Political analyst Richard Giragosian.

Does anyone know if political analyst Richard Giragosian has a website or a blog? His articles on the geopolitical situation around and in Armenia are probably one of the very few serious efforts to analyze the situation. The majority of his views come from his press conferences that are reported in the Armenian media but I suspect a lot of it gets lost when the semi-competent journalists prepare their reports for print.

Locating those favorite landmarks on Mars.

Google Labs has an excellent tool for the armchair Mars explorers - the Mars map. They have marked the locations of the Mars explorers, canyons, mountains and other landmarks.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Pictures of Ani city.

Pigh at LiveJournal has posted pictures of Ani from his recent visit there (

The WB whistle blower blog.

Here is the direct link to the World Bank whistle blower blog.

Friday, August 10, 2007

OK, the last funny clip for today.

The Woman Song.

Not as funny as The Man Song but still a good one.

The Man Song.

One of the funniest Bob and Tom Show songs.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Wasting money in Armenia.

That governments can be corrupt, inefficient and wasteful is not a secret to anyone except for the most optimistic people. Even democracies like Switzerland and other lesser ones in the West are not insured from such ills. In my town in the US millions of dollars get wasted on pet projects that are mismanaged - be it Republicans or the Democrats who initiate these projects.

One area ripe for corruption is the intergovernmental landing. You have the IMF and the World Bank that lend money to developing nations to implement projects that are meant to improve the economies of these nations. It all sounds great on paper but the reality is quite different. A lot of the money is spent on Western 'consultants', and whatever is left over, goes into the pockets of government officials through shady deals with local contractors.

Armenia is not immune to this either. With foreign debt over 1 billion dollars and growing, one would expect to see some infrastructure improvements. After all, the country is tiny and doesn't take much to improve a piece of land inhabited with 2.5-3 million people. But it hasn't happened. There have been some reports about wasted loans, and the complacency of government officials, including the dashnaks (who, incidentally, trumpet their anti-corruption policies any chance they get).

Garbis at Notes From Hairenik has a nice recap of the revelations.

There has finally been an allegation printed in online media outlets about overly bureaucratic international organizations working in some capacity in Armenia being involved in corruption. The first break in the news of the scandal appeared on Onnik’s blog over a week ago. And Hetq Online is apparently the only the online news source that published an article in Armenian about the issue this week—it may appear in English soon.

Onnik at Oneworld Multimedia updates the story developments more frequently.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Stupid blog of the day.

This is why people think that the conservatives are idiots.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

News agencies all worked up about the latest Georgia/Russia incident.

BBC, CNN, NPR and other news sources are extremely excited about the Georgian accusation that a Russian plane fired a missile into Georgia. Russia has denied it; I don't really know what happened so i can't comment on the event itself.

I constantly get amazed on how much attention is given to any minor issue that arises between Georgia and Russia. Admittedly, the Western media likes to bash Russia whenever they get a chance. But when it comes to Georgia, they do it with more vigor. No other third world tiny nation garners as much media attention as Georgia. I still cannot decide whether such unhealthy passion is good for the region, and especially Armenia, or not.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The "Bird's Nest" in Beijing.

The National Stadium in Beijing on a smoggy day.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

More about food.

Mark Mardell from BBC has a blog entry about food. Incidentally, he complains about the tasteless foods in EU and praises the meals he has had in Turkey and Italy.

Lucky for him, he doesn't live in the US. I believe the US has the most tasteless foods in the world. The apples may not taste like cardboard but they lack the intensity of flavor you can get elsewhere. Maybe it's the fertilizers used to grow it and the wax on the skin to give it shine and preserve it. Or the chickens don't taste as good as say Armenia even though the commercially available chicken there are produced in large farms using the same techniques. Maybe it's the 15% brine they put in meat in the US that is the difference.

With all the paranoia about the Chinese food I can say that their food tastes far better than what we get in the US. I am not alone in saying that. I admit nostalgically going to American chains while in Beijing when getting tired of local food but after each visit there was a tremendous sense of disappointment. You pay ten times as much money for a far inferior taste and service.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

That darn Turkish cuisine.

For the last two days I am traumatized. I avoid spending money on any Turkey related products or services. But a couple of days ago I went to a Turkish restaurant. In our town there are only a handful of places where you can get normal (read Middle Eastern) food and one of them is a Turkish owned one.

It resembled the Simpsons scene where Homer eats Pinchy - he is sad and yet enjoys the food.