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April 20, 2010

Elgephant? Elemoose? An update from Cape Town

(Belated) Happy Moose Cap Friday from Cape Town!  (What's Moose Cap Friday? The answer is right here!)

The elgephant image is photographed by Tonje Olsrud, my Norwegian friend studying at Stellenbosch University, who came to meet me in Cape Town this weekend. At the Saturday morning market at Woodstock, Cape Town, I ate butternut quiche for breakfast and spent the day trying South African designer dresses, sipping the best espresso I've had on this continent and photographing antlers. I spent most of Friday driving from Cape Town to Cape Point, via penguins, baboons, elands (the closest South Africa gets to Meese) and the Cape of Good Hope.

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Today it feels like the weekend was a month ago. Along with six other journalism students, I'm here to write a feature story, not to photograph animals and taste local food. Since the weekend's sightseeing and market-shopping, we've moved to Zebra Crossing Hostel to get cheap beds, free wireless internet and an even shorter walking distance to Long Street, where we mainly buy cell phone airtime and sandwiches. Our fantastic first week and a half of sightseeing is over. This strange new environment is like a cross between a newsroom and summer camp.

This post is dedicated to the fantastic Aina. Happy birthday! Wish you were celebrating it here!

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April 12, 2010

Economists don’t know everything

"The big lesson in economics from Keynes is that we know less than we think we do, and that there is a vast difference between the output of economic models and the actual behaviour of individuals.

"Our basis of knowledge for estimating the yield 10 years hence of a railway, a copper mine, a textile factory, the goodwill of a patent medicine, an Atlantic liner, a building in the City of London amounts to little and sometimes to nothing," Keynes wrote. He was unimpressed by the argument that decisions were "the outcome of a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities".

This, though, is where mainstream economics has ended up. It is possible to construct beautifully precise models if you start from the assumption that rational economic agents with perfect information are operating in free markets that always return to equilibrium. But since none of these assumptions holds true in the real world, this is a classic case of "rubbish in, rubbish out".

Even more worryingly, there has been no room in this view of the world for the heterodox. The prestigious economics journals have been cleansed of all but the purveyors of highly technical algebra. Economic history has been removed from the syllabus, because those who yearn for economics to be a hard science believe the past can teach them nothing. Truly, the lunatics have taken over the asylum."

- From "Rescuing economics from its own crisis" by Larry Elliot in The Guardian

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April 11, 2010

Pictures of Cape Town

After two days in Cape Town, I already have too much to blog about. So far we've been to Robben Island, District 6, the new World Cup stadium, the Waterfront, the Fugard theater, Rafiki's.. and I now realize that I can barely remember everything we've done. I blame my amnesia on sleep deprivation after the 24 hour trip from Oslo via Istanbul. I've been blessed by a Nigerian prophet, I have a bar I "always" go to, and I suddenly want to learn Afrikaans. I'll be in South Africa for a month, and hopefully I'll come back with a good feature story for my journalism exam.

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The journalism students travelling in Africa. Seven of us will stay in South Africa for a full month.

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Our home for the first week, Hillcrest Manor Guesthouse in Tamboerskloof.

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Touring District 6, below Table Mountain.

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