Monday, October 26, 2009

Conflict mapping and EGAP 2009.

On October 16-18 the International Conference on Conflict Mapping took place in Cleveland, Ohio. In brief, we discussed: 1. How to get conflict data, 2. How to process this data, and 3. How to present and disseminate this data. Some notes:
- An amazing combination of: people working in the developing world, computer wiz kids, academics, and people from international organizations and government institutions.

I also visited the October 16-17 EGAP 2009 Conference at Columbia University; a conference on experiments on governance and politics. Some notes:
- A closed meeting with the top 20 people in politics on this topic. Because I helped Macartan Humphreys organize the conference, I was allowed to join. It was great!
- Confirmed that I am extremely interested in "experiments" and "causal inference". It is great to see how rigorous academic work can be put to practical use. These techniques will definitely be part of my dissertation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Peter goes Cleveland.

From 09/25 - 10/05 I was in the Netherlands. Because I had been flying a lot I told my mom that I experience it as similar as taking a bus. This was a dangerous thing to say.

Last Thursday (10/15) I would fly to Cleveland, spend the rest of the day reading and walking through the city, present at a conference on Friday (more in the next post), fly back in the evening and attend a conference organized by Macartan Humphreys (ibid) on Saturday.

Well, almost.

At 4am I was in the bus in order to catch my 6am flight from La Guardia to Cleveland. At around 5am, just before arriving at the airport, I noticed that I had forgotten my passport! Consequently, I had to wake up my roommate who jumped in a cab and had to race to La Guardia.

But it gets better. In the terminal I tried to obtain my ticket. After several failed attempts at a ticketmachine I agitatedly asked somebody from American Airlines behind the desk. She looked... "But sir, your flight is in 2 weeks". I had booked the wrong flight! Changing it or getting a new flight was $700+; too much for me.

So, at 10am that same day I left the New York City Bus Terminal and after an almost 14 hours busride I arrived in Cleveland exhausted. Unfortunately, I still had to prepare my presentation, and after yet another evening of 3 hours sleep I arrived at the conference at 8am. After my presentation that morning I could only visit one more talk because... I had to leave again; another 13+ hour ride back to New York ahead. I arrived on Saturday around 630am; just in time to take a quick shower and be at Columbia at 8am; Macartan's conference was about to start.

Flying is not the same as taking a bus.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

African condom commercial.

From a colleague with whom I lived with in the DR Congo I got a link to this African condom commercial: Great!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Clowns in the Congo.

I just read this post on IRIN News (a great news source by UNOCHA on humanitarian affairs worldwide); Clowns without Borders touched ground in the DR Congo. I strongly dislike clowns myself, but if it makes people (read: children in conflict zones) happy; I am in! Interestingly enough, on the one picture that comes with the story only one of the around 16 children seems to be smiling. The others seem to think "Who is that weird white guy?".

Windmills in Africa.

In July this year, when I was in the DR Congo, I was surprised that while several villages I visited were located in very windy locations, they did not make use of that fact. That is, there were no windmills in the east of the DRC. Well, one can no longer argue that me thinking about this was one of my Dutch defects. One can also no longer argue that there are no windmills in Africa. A bit belated, but please read this story. It is great to read something positive from the Continent.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Those damn keys.

Last December Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in a coup d’état in Guinea* after the death of the longtime dictator Lansana Conté. Last week Monday (September 28), tens of thousands of citizens gathered in the capital Conakry to protest plans by Camara to run in January’s presidential election, after promising he would not. In response the Captain's troops went on a brutal rampage; shooting, stabbing, and raping in public in broad daylight. More than 157 people are said to be killed and thousands have gunshot, bayonet, or other injuries. Three days after the massacre Camara luckily convincingly explained why he did not stop the rampage. He could not find the keys to his pickup. Those damn keys. I also lose my keys once in a while.

* Ok, don't feel too bad that you do not really know what country Guinea is and where it is located. I have problems with it, and I hope to earn my living one day by working on Africa. Guinea is in West Africa; it used to be called French Guinea until 1958. Don't mix this up with the country French Guiana that lies in Latin America and borders Suriname and Brazil. Also don't mix it it up with Papua New Guinea, which is a country in Oceania that occupies the eastern half of New Guinea. New Guinea from 1949 to 1962 was also known as Dutch New Guinea. The latter should not be confused with Dutch Guinea, which was was a portion of coastal West Africa that was gradually colonized by the Dutch beginning in 1598. Also don't mix up Guinea with the countries Guinea Bissau or Equatorial Guinea. The first is Guinea's neighbor to the north and west. The latter is located on the same continent, but more to the south.