Thursday, May 24, 2012

A comment on the economics of Harry Potter

And, oh yes, we're back in CA safe and sound, happy to be well-fed on fresh fruits, vegetables, and Mexican seasonings, and well-rested but on East Coast time.

For some reason this early morning, I was pondering on the holes in the Harry Potter series, specifically the economics holes.  This is all very nit-picky as most fantasy/sci-fi authors ignore or try to wave away economics (replicators destroy money, replaced by gold pressed latinum, anyone?). But it is instructive of the kinds of things we forget markets provide for us. Today's installment: the markets for education and food.

1) The only ways Rowling deals with class are to have tension between an aristocracy and everyone else (mostly Malfoys and their aristocratic henchmen ... say what?) and a downtrodden caste (little green elves). So here's my question: why do the Malfoys send their kids to a school that is affordable by people like the Weasleys? Britain has a long and venerable tradition of "public" schools that are really private, so it's a surprising oversight to me. There is no mention of the tuition fees at Hogwarts, room and board fees which are quite substantial at British boarding schools, scholarships (why does Ron never worry about maintaining a high-enough GPA given his study habits?) and so forth. If the students aren't paying, where does Hogwarts get its money? If the school is totally public, the Ministry ought to be able to exercise a lot more control than it seems to.

2) Where does the food come from? Elves can't magic it up. Mrs. Weasley doesn't create food, but has a potato peeling spell. Are the wizards buying food from Muggles? If they are regularly buying goods and services from Muggles, why do they have truly no concept about their culture, ways, technology, and fashion? If not, where are the wizard farmers who grow food instead of reagents? Speaking of which, where is the foodie movement, arguing that non-magically modified organisms simply taste better and are healthier for you? I've always wondered in general why they never teach the potato peeling spell at school - where are home economics, barbering (how to not cut yourself with magically-propelled scissors, how to get your hair to change the exact shade you want, etc), wizard fashions, and other useful and applied classes that would help them function in the world without needing to deal with Muggle markets?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Things that count (aka 1st world problems in 3rd world countries)

I'm paid in US dollars. This is very nice because I don't have to worry about my 3-year contract eroding 35% or more during its course.

The problem is when I want to exchange dollars for naira (NIGH-ra). I go to the bank and hand them $2000, let's say, and then I need to stand around counting out 310-320 thousand naira bills because the exchange rate stays between 155 and 160 per dollar. I'm not nearly as confident and rapid a counter as the locals, so it takes a while and I invariably make mistakes and have to recount. If they hand me a wad of 500-naira bills, it takes twice as long.

I have more than once wished they would print a N5,000 ($30) or N10,000 ($60) bill to speed the counting process along. Imagine trying to get along for a year with nothing larger than a $5 bill and ALL your financial transactions are in cash.

Then I think better of it. Most of the time, I go to buy bananas from a street vendor and the chap has to wander around to all the other nearby vendors finding change. Because I only have thousand naira bills and can't hand him anything closer to N300, they invariably have trouble making change. I think of the challenge of asking someone to break a 10k naira bill....

Yeah, no. More than half the population doesn't even earn N10k per month. Imagine someone asking you to make change for one month's salary! Oh, the idle and unthinking rich. Wo unto us.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

There's not enough Prince on this blog...

At the Cinco de Mayo celebration, chasing Daddy

Getting some love from "Aunt Margee."

LDS in Nigeria 1992: Being the Light

A February 1992 Ensign article describes four people in different parts of the world and how they serve in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of them is David Eka of Nigeria. Even before joining the Church, he prayed regularly and felt God's protecting hand:
With the assurance that the Lord was protecting him, he prayed every night in the bush, promising to serve God if he arrived home safely. He was forewarned once, he says, by “a still small voice in me” to leave a bunker that was bombed seconds later. The Lord protected him, and he safely returned home. ...
He was asked to assist Church representatives in the translation and proofreading of selections from the Book of Mormon. “That gave me a chance to know what was in the Book of Mormon. At the end of it, I knew it was all true.”
He wrote to tell his wife of his baptism, but it was not until she rejoined him in Nigeria that she saw for herself the changes wrought by the gospel in his life. She began her own secret study of his books. After gaining a testimony, she told him that she, too, wanted to be baptized. ...
He served as the first black stake president in Africa and now serves as a regional representative for the Aba Nigeria Region. ...

Nomnomgeria - a repost

I posted this on our family blog about a year ago after my visit. So these are the thoughts of someone who hasn't lived in Nigeria for a year:

Stuff to get 2012

You can buy more things in Yola than you might guess, but the holes are unusual. I came out here this time last year to get a better feel for what we would be missing, taking pictures throughout the stores. Then after we had lived here a few months, I went back to the US for a conference and filled two more suitcases with things we missed. Now that we're heading back to the US again, we've prepared by updating a list of things we miss and want to bring back with us for the next year. In case it is useful to others thinking of moving to AUN, here is our list of things to buy from the US:


Last week while grading, I found a new computer game -- think Pong with 4-20 balls going at the same time and an updated version of the world's first electronic hit, Popcorn, playing in the background. It got me readdicted to the song and I sought out a good updated version. I haven't found one as good as the video game soundtrack, sadly.

I couldn't wait to share it with Prince again. So one morning I played it for him. Since it looked like he needed some pressure, I also rubbed his face in time with the music. (Lee-de-dee, rub the forehead; dee-dede-dee, rub the nose; dee, rub the chin; repeat). He enjoyed that very much. Sometimes I used my own hand, mostly I held his hands and had him give himself the pressure.

Princess watched in fascination. As soon as Prince and I were done, she put her hands on her forehead to ask for the same game. I played it with her for a moment and she laughed and laughed. I thought nothing of it.

That was more than a week ago. Princess has a regular habit now of staring at me intently, then putting her hands up on the side of her head to ask for Popcorn. I figured out what she meant out of context too and taught Joy to play the game. She regularly asks for it during meals since it's a game she can play while waiting for her food.

This morning, Joy was nursing Princess. Princess stopped eating and then out of the blue Princess hit Joy in the face! Joy recounts:

"I told her no. She did it again. I said, 'No, that hurts. We don't hit Mommy in the face.' And she looks at me and appears to be thinking. And then she said, 'Dad' and put her hands up to her ears. I realized she wanted to play the Popcorn game. I said, 'No. I'm not Daddy. I want soft.' And I touched her face soft. She tried to touch my face soft, and it wasn't soft. So I said No, and then she tried again and it was soft. I said 'Thank you.'"

We are very impressed at her budding communication skills. Her favorite word is "Dad," which is sometimes only "Da" and some rare times "Dada." She says "Yeah" and she tries to say "Jesus" when He is pointed out to her. Oddly enough, she doesn't say "Mama" very often.

She raises both her hands and waves them when she is all done eating. We've tried to teach her the sign language for "More," but most of the time she does that when she doesn't want more. When she knocked away the spoon with some baby cereal on it this morning, I commented it was the 'international sign for Something Else Please' and Joy laughed. She said to make sure I included that in this blog. She knows to fold her hands when we tell her to for prayers and can wave bye-bye most of the time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Quote of the day: fashion

Thursday we had a major storm that took our river from empty to overflowing and that flooded the surrounding areas. I gave a final exam that morning in a room with no electricity and half the floor covered in water. The funny thing to me was seeing my students wearing sweaters and jackets on a day warm enough to have a thunderstorm.

I commented on this last night to a Nigerian fellow I met. He said, "They weren't wearing them because they were cold. It was to prove they own them."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What is normal? (food and water)

It is such a strange thing, to actually need to turn on the hot water heater if you want hot water. Prince actually complained that the bathwater was too cold some time in the last week. We haven't heard that in ever so very long. It gives you an idea how much rain we've had in the last two weeks. And to think, the hot water heater will be turned on all the time when we get back to my parents' house! What a strange world.

We got our AC units all working finally. That means I have actually been cold in the morning. It's shocking, pulling out a real blanket again. Joy is still using the lightest sheet in the house and never feels cool, but I'm there.

I made Joy some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for Mother's Day - her favorite - using the last of the pumpkin I brought here in October and the chocolate chips the Austins left us. As we enjoyed them, I had a little H-milk. H-milk has been nuked into submission so you can keep it in a box on the shelf for 6 months without it going bad. I have finally, finally gotten to the point that it tastes normal going down and only has the smallest strange aftertaste. Just in time to taste real, fresh milk again and get unaccustomed to it. "It's going to taste so good!" exclaims Joy. "I bet fat free would taste good by now!"

In fact, among our major preparations and plannings for our return to the States has been scheduling Princess' weaning. The last thing we want is for her to get accustomed to real, fresh whole milk only to come back here and be unwilling to drink any milk at all. So we found a powdered milk here we can order online there. We'll wean her on to that so when we come back she can have the same milk.

Normal for Church: Joy speaking at our podium,
Princess helping.
One of Joy's friends, Net, is returning to Thailand for permanent and has graciously unloaded some treasures on us. One example: yummy tasting margarine in one pound packets. Joy has strong preferences when it comes to butter and spreads, so when she actually thought it tasted good on bread, it was a major coup. One packet went into the cookies (triple batch).

She gave us ... Pop Tarts ... and defatted soy flour Bacon Bits! Those weren't on any of our "must have while we're in the States" lists, but oh how comforting and friendly they are to have. She gave us a mixer too, and new bowls, and a glass cover for our saucepan so I can actually tell when my basted eggs are just done cooking.

I look forward to figuring out what else is normal by what strikes me as strange in 10 days. We can't wait to be back. "I can't wait to have bananas that you can count on." That is so normal to go without saying. We even have a video for that one. The one thing I know for sure is that the US is going to take a LOT of self-control. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The BEST new trick

Princess crawled down the hall to our bedroom door where she knew I was working. I didn't hear her knock, sadly. She waited by our door a solid 15 minutes before Mommy decided she wasn't going to give up. The door being opened, she crawled in and rattled a little bottle of vitamins we have.

I said, "Princess, did you come in to see your daddy? Or only our medicine?"

She put down the vitamins, crawled right up to me, and reached out her arms for me. I lifted her up, and she threw her pudgy little arms around me for the biggest baby hug around. 

Then she pulled off and smiled.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Baby Talent Show - 10.5 months

Hi there. Princess here. I've been working on some new tricks to show family when we head out to the US in just two weeks. I think they'll be very impressed. Want to see a preview?