Tag Archives: Wikipedia

Berlin Tempelhof Airport

Berlin Tempelhof Airport was one of the spots that we wanted to visit in Berlin. The airport was built in the 1920’s and had been an iconic airport for decades, e.g., by the famous Berlin Airlift which with the allied forces supplied West Berlin once surface traffic was blocked by the Soviet Union in 1948.

Other historic events happening in the airport (quoted from Wikipedia):

In 1909, Frenchman Armand Zipfel made the first flight demonstration in Tempelhof, followed by Orville Wright later that same year. Tempelhof was first officially designated as an airport on 8 October 1923. Deutsche Luft Hansa was founded in Tempelhof on 6 January 1926.

[…] described by British architect Sir Norman Foster as “the mother of all airports”.

The airport closed operations in 2008.

The coincidence was that the Berlin marathon fair was organized at Tempelhof thus we didn’t need to schedule the visit since we would go there to pick the running bibs.

See below some pictures from the airport.

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I had some fun with my brother remembering that the airport is also featured in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (when they get into a zeppelin). I tried to find in Youtube some scenes in which the airport could be recognised, but the only scene that I find related to it is when Indiana and his father are already aboard the zeppelin:

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East Side Gallery (Berlin)

A whole decade has passed since the first time that I visited Berlin with my brother. This time again, we dedicated some time to visit some touristic highlights. I will write some posts in relation to that visit.

This first one will be dedicated to the East Side Gallery. From the Wikipedia:

 

The East Side Gallery is an international memorial for freedom. It is a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall located near the centre of Berlin on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. […]
The Gallery consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world, painted in 1990 on the east side of the Berlin Wall. […]
It is possibly the largest and longest-lasting open air gallery in the world. […]
The paintings at the East Side Gallery document the time of change and express the euphoria and great hopes for a better and free future for all people of the world. […]

The wall has been damaged by several reasons and gone through subsequent series of restorations.

See below some pictures from the East Side Gallery (status from September 2012):

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Which NGOs will I support in 2012?

Every January I take one afternoon to direct at least 0.7% of my personal net income to different NGOs. I already explained this in a post last year. In that post I also explained the origin of the figure, 0.7%.

This year, I wondered how development aid was faring taking into account the crisis in which most of the big donor countries are in. You may check the figures at the extensive database of the OECD, or just to get the latest data on Official Development Aid you may check last year’s release announcing 2010 figures (or the report, PDF). The figures of 2011 won’t be released until April, but as far into the crisis as one year ago the fact was that development aid had actually increased, even if still far from the 0.7% committment.

Official Development Assistance in 2010 per country, source: OECD.

Evolution of Official Development Assistance through 2010, source: OECD.

Which NGOs will I support in 2012?

Last weekend I took sometime to make the numbers and select the different organizations. In previous years I directed 0.7% in January and along the year for different reasons I ended increasing this contribution. This year, I am directing already 0.9% of my income in January and again I expect that as the year goes by I will increase that figure. I take the Nordic OECD countries as an example and see the 0.7% as a minimum threshold, not as the maximum goal.

The organizations I have selected this time are:

  • Kiva: a micro lending portal, that I have talked about in the blog sometimes. I added some more funds.
  • Vittana: another micro lending portal, specialized on credits for education purposes, very similar to Kiva in its conception. I allocated some cash last year in it for the first time, and this year I have added more funds, to help some students study industrial engineering.
  • Médecins sans Frontières. I started donating cash to MSF in 2010, in 2011 I became member of the French branch. I renewed my membership.
  • Oxfam: a well-known NGO working “to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice” to which I already contributed last year.
  • Anti-Slavery: an NGO which works to eliminate all forms of slavery around the world. I find that only the thought of people being slaves in 2012 simply devastating. I already directed some funds to this NGO last year and I was positively impressed to find information about its activities when we visited the Museum of London last year.
  • Fundación Hombres Nuevos: a Spanish NGO working in development projects in Bolivia. It was founded by Nicolás Castellanos who received the prize “Premio Príncipe de Asturias a la Concordia” in 1998 along with Vicente Ferrer or Muhammad Yunus (who later received the Nobel Peace Prize and is credited with the invention of micro credits).
  • Wikipedia: I guess this does not need any introduction, but I will make use of Wikipedia’s self-description: “Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project based on an openly editable model. The name “Wikipedia” is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning “quick”) and encyclopedia.” This is the first time that I collaborate in its sustaining.
  • Gapminder: in their words “a non-profit venture – a modern “museum” on the Internet – promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals”, or better “Fighting the most devastating myths by building a fact-based world view that everyone understands”. If you have the chance, take a look at any of the videos of its founder, Hans Rosling, they are truly mind-blowing.

(Free material from http://www.gapminder.org – mind-blowing as I said)

Before ending this post, I wanted to make two reflections.

First, why do I or why do people/corporations make this kind of  contributions? Sometimes you hear criticism towards donations like “it’s for the tax deductions”, “it’s for marketing purposes”, “to show off”, etc. My personal view is that it doesn’t matter. It might be one or many of those reasons or none. What I believe is that the people in need do need the help and whatever the reason behind a contribution, it is welcomed. I do receive some tax deductions for the contributions for MSF and Oxfam as they’re based in France, not for the others. I also believe that the real contribution is the time dedicated by individuals working in cooperation, in the field, etc., in the end all what we give is a small percentage of our income / revenues.

Second, why do I write this post? Again, someone may think it’s show off. I’m fine with that. My goal is to get at least a reader to take a look at one of those NGOs, to think about dedicating her/his 0.7% to development aid… If I manage to do that, and I am sure I will (it worked in the past :-)), this post will be worth the time spent in writing it.

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The Republic of Poyais

While I was in primary and high school, History never caught much my attention. And today is not otherwise in a broad sense, but I enjoy reading some historical notes on certain subjects.

I am reading these days the book “This Time is Different” (published in 2009), by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff (both Economics professors, the latter former economist at the IMF and member of the board of the Federal Reserve). As the description in Amazon says, the book is:

“[…] a comprehensive look at the varieties of financial crises, and guides us through eight astonishing centuries of government defaults, banking panics, and inflationary spikes–from medieval currency debasements to today’s subprime catastrophe. […]”

Being half way through it, I have had much fun with some anecdotes. I may write more about them in other posts, but in this one I want to focus in one I came across while reading the book (I have already shared it with some of you).

Let me take some excerpts from the Wikipedia:

Gregor MacGregor (24 December 1786 – 4 December 1845) was a Scottish soldier, adventurer, land speculator, and colonizer who fought in the South American struggle for independence. Upon his return to England in 1820, he claimed to be cacique of Poyais (also known as Principality of Poyais, Territory of Poyais, Republic of Poyais). Poyais was a fictional Central American country that MacGregor had invented which, with his help, drew investors and eventually colonists. […]

Gregor MacGregor went from Latin America to London, England, in 1820 and announced that he had been created cacique (highest authority or prince) of the Principality of Poyais, an independent nation on the Bay of Honduras. He claimed that native chieftan King George Frederic Augustus I of the Mosquito Shore and Nation had given him the territory of Poyais, 12,500 mile² (32,400 km²) of fertile land with untapped resources, a small number of settlers of British origin, and cooperative natives eager to please. He had created the beginnings of a country with civil service, army and democratic government. Now he needed settlers and investment and had come back to the United Kingdom to give people the opportunity.

At the time, British merchants were all too eager to enter the South American market that Spain had denied to them. The region had already become more promising in the wake of wars of South American independence, when the new governments of Colombia, Chile and Peru had issued bonds in London Royal Exchange to raise money. […]

In Edinburgh, MacGregor began to sell land rights for 3 shillings and 3 pence per acre (£0.16/acre or £40.15/km²). The average worker’s weekly wage at the time was about £1, which meant that the price was very generous. […] On 23 October 1822 MacGregor raised a loan with the total of £200,000 on behalf of the Poyais government. It was in the form of 2,000 bearer bonds worth £100 each. […]

You may read the rest of the story in the Wikipedia, but you can imagine it. Of course, Poyais defaulted on the debt issued, about 70 would-be settlers were sent to Latin America only to find that the wonderful Poyais did not exist. The group decided to come back to London. About 20 of them died in the trip and when they arrived to London about a year after departing MacGregor had already fled to France to proceed with similar schemes…

The Ponzi scheme of Madoff pales in the comparison to the one prepared by MacGregor. Beware when someone presents you with an opportunity too good to be true

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A guesstimate about Egypt

Very often when we are with the family dining over the table and someone comments on any topic, you’ll hear my father say “give me a number… come on, you should be able to tell me an order of magnitude”. This is what is called a “guesstimate”, from the Wikipedia:

“Guesstimate is an informal English word derived from guess and estimate, first used by American statisticians in 1934 or 1935. It is defined as an estimate made without using adequate or complete information, or, more strongly, as an estimate arrived at by guesswork or conjecture.”

In this post I just wanted to share a “number”, a guesstimate, I worked while in Egypt.

When we left our stuff in the cruise boat, Luca and I were told by our guide that there were 300 such boats cruising the Nile. We certainly could appreciate that there were many in the harbour, and later we could see the traffic through the river. On one of the conversations we started to build our guesstimate: Can we guess how many tourists come to Egypt every year? If there are 300 boats at any moment, if in our boat there are 21 + 19 + 10 double rooms, if… if…

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Here it is:

  • 300 boats at any moment in the Nile.
  • If our boat was the average boat size: 50 double rooms, thus 100 tourists per boat.
  • If 90% occupancy rate was the average during high season (4 months?); 70% during low season (8 months).
  • If 4 days was the average stay of tourists in the boat:
    • This is 30 rotations during high season; 60 rotations during low season
  • Assuming that 50% of tourists don’t go to Luxor & Aswan, just stay in Cairo, Alexandria, Sharm el-Sheikh…
  • Assuming that of the remaining 50% that go to Luxor, 30% connect between cities in other modes of transport different from boat (plane, bus, taxi, train…)

My guess is that there would be ~ 6 million visitors to Egypt every year.

Later on, I checked with Wikipedia rankings, and the real figure is about 12 million… so my guess is just 50% of the total… way far, sure, but in the order of magnitude, thus I’m quite happy with it.

You never know, maybe the input of the 300 boats was wrong; it could be that there are really 600 boats and my guess would have been just correct! (Please, if you find out that there are indeed around 600 cruise boats in the Nile, let me know ;-))

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Book review: Pirate Latitudes

I bought this book together with some others in the Books & News shop of Schiphol airport in Amsterdam in a recent trip to NL. I have read about this book sometime ago as it had been discovered in the computer files of Michael Crichton after his death.

I had read most of his last books so I was determined to buy this last one as soon as I would find it and so did I.

I found this book quite different from his last novels (Next, State of Fear, Prey…), but still, it was a quite entertaining reading about pirates in the Caribbean hunting treasures, fighting warships, storms, hurricanes, aborigines…

I would remark its very vivid descriptions everything related to sailing, firing cannons, the Caribbean, etc. One more thing I liked it about it is that it leaves the reader rested with all vengeances possible, well taken. I do recommend the book (387 pgs.).

Lastly, I found out in the Wikipedia that there will probably be a movie about this book by Steven Spielberg and even most intriguing: there is yet another novel by Crichton coming posthumously in 2012!

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