It’s easier for Japan to envision the future because it is living there already.

This is pretty ingenious. While all other bids focused on building extravagant stadiums and fancy infrastructure, Japan’s bid focused on transforming the very experience of watching sports (and this applies to not just football).

The bid “involved projecting 3D holograms of the games live onto soccer football fields around the world, allowing folks that can’t make it to Japan for the actual games to get a pretty great simulacrum, while standing next to people that look like them and are probably rooting for the same team. “I have to admit that the idea of this blows my mind away,” said Japan’s committee chief Kohzo Tashima.”

From Paul Miller’s World disappoints once again.


Telling the truth to those who wield power

The test of an ambassador is telling truth to those who wield the power – having the guts to tell the department that its plan is a delusion. Here is Anne Patterson in Islamabad, discussing Pakistan’s support for “terrorist and extremist groups” and telling Washington “there is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups”. She states bleakly: “The relationship is one of co-dependency, we grudgingly admit – Pakistan knows the US cannot afford to walk away; the US knows Pakistan cannot survive without our support.”

Neal Acherson’s comments on the Wikileaks cable.

Fighting the yakuzas.

Wherein Manila figures in as a scene of a possible murder. Thoughtful writing on yakuzas.

He was the father of the “organized crime exclusion clause”, a simple but brilliant idea that is now embedded into most contracts in Japan and requires the signer to pledge that he is not a member of an organized crime group.

Sarah Nookrbakhsh’s The high price of writing about the yakuza – and those who pay.


Excellent documentaries

Welcome to Lagos


Please vote for me

Notes from the field: Experts and users

Oftentimes, when you want someone to fix a problem or improve a product or service – you hire an expert.

But sometimes, the solution you want won’t come from the expert you hire. It’ll come from the users of your product.

Case in point: the National Demographic Health Survey of the Philippines.

Normally, if you want to improve survey design – you hire people with a strong background in statistics or demography. But their tendency is to design something very complex (though likely theoretically sound) but far from useful.  People who maybe at a better position to improve the survey would be the users of the data – researchers, health officials, and policymakers who need these numbers to effectively gauge performance and impact.

Another case in point: the existing health information system in the Philippines.

The whole system was designed by statisticians and health experts who designed the form  that will be filled-out by field health personnel  and the system that will organize information in these forms into useful data.

Problem is, the forms have become too cumbersome to fill-out and data too difficult to collect for existing indicators.

The very goal of the information system was to help health officials track their performance. Now it has become an additional burden that hinders actual performance of their duties. There’s a large disconnect between the data being collected and what users (e.g. health officials) need.

I suppose this doesn’t just apply in health and information systems. I’m guessing one reason why Apple has been so successful is its ability to translate the expertise of its people into something that users actually find useful and relevant.





Mark Twain quote of the day

There is the case of the Philippines. I have tried hard, and yet I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess. Perhaps we could not have avoided it — perhaps it was inevitable that we should come to be fighting the natives of those islands — but I cannot understand it, and have never been able to get at the bottom of the origin of our antagonism to the natives.

Mark Twain on counterinsurgency

Audio link from NPR at end is highly-recommended

Science, truth, and religion.

This makes no sense and it leads me to a question: Why do we separate the scientific, which is just a way of searching for truth, from what we hold sacred, which are those truths that inspire love and awe? Science is nothing more than a never-ending search for truth.

Ann Druyan Talks About Science, Religion, Wonder, Awe . . . and Carl Sagan (HT:Mara)