Thursday, May 28, 2009

Save Paste

Haste makes waste. PASTE makes great music very readable. Paste Magazine. It's about music.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, PASTE Magazine offered new subscribers to pay whatever they wanted for a year's subscription. I paid $2.00 USD. For 12 months I received a steady flow of magazines, each containing a CD of select music, often containing artists I knew and liked (recognizable ones like Radiohead) and then artists I'd never heard of. Some was weird and awful, some was weird and great, and some just had to grow on me. The magazine was pretty good. My consumer surplus was great.

So, PASTE has fallen upon the fiscal woes of our times, and it is now asking readers for help. Many loyal readers had already offered. Many musical artists are falling in to help, too. The PASTE Campaign is trying to raise enough money to keep the magazine going. I contributed, maybe you'd like to, as well.

If you do contribute, you can help yourself to a vault of over 100 songs that artists have donated to the cause. Here's my favorite playlist at the moment from the 127 songs I downloaded:


sleep. when we die., anchor&Braille
Nothing Makes Me Cry, ROBYN HITCHCOCK
See the World, GOMEZ
Come Home Sam, LIAM FINN
Sucker Punch Town, DODD FERRELLE
Making the Move, ARI HEST
Morning Chrome, BLOODKIN
Sugar Tongue, INDIGO GIRLS
Great Ocean, DAN DYER
Deep in the Jungle, DAN ZIMMERMAN
Screaming Lobster, SOUL-JUNK
Dirty Dishes, DEER TICK
Elegant Chaos, PORTASTATIC
Wetlands Dance Hall, VENICE IS SINKING

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Miracle of microfinance

I am excited about this new paper (May 2009) by Banerjee and Duflo, The Miracle of Microfinance: Evidence from a randomized evaluation. 2 months and 3 posts ago, I had just posted about these two star MIT development economists. This new paper is presented on the Poverty Action Lab (J-Pal) site, and J-Pal is about as good as it gets for economic research on poverty.

Here is a very short summary of this paper – a summary clipped from a summary by the Private Sector Development (PSD) Blog:

the first large-scale randomized trial of access to microfinance"

microcredit does have important effects on business outcomes and the composition of household expenditure

microcredit … appears to have no discernible effect on education, health, or women's empowerment … in the short term (within 15-18 months)

Here is my first reaction after only skimming the paper and reading the PSD review:

  1. Microfinance is not a miracle.

    We don't need a scientific paper to say microfinance is no miracle. The fact that there are positive business outcomes after 15-18 months is great. The fact that people aren't smarter, healthier, and more egalitarian … normal. Maybe some people have been parading for some time as though microfinance were a miracle, there have been many such miracles in the past, disappointing panaceas for the developing world that have surged and failed. A point that Banerjee and Duflo would likely support is that there are also many development solutions that have come and gone untested by academic rigor. That is where I am very happy to read this new paper. But let's read it for the rigor, not for miracles dispelled. We're agreed on the miracle point.

  2. PSD post: "The verdict is in on microfinance."

    The first large-scale randomized trial is in. I wouldn't say that's the verdict. The best part about this PSD post is that the first sentence after the "verdict is in" is: "And it's not pretty." What? Positive business outcomes, uncertain social effects after 15-18 months of opening a new microfinance branch in a slum. How pretty are we looking for? We've seen 50 years of development efforts leave much of Africa poorer, I think we can give microfinance a little more than 15-18 months to see sweeping social change.

Ok, microfinance is a tool to alleviate poverty in a way that is sustainable and respects human dignity and responsibility. It's not a miracle answer, and the verdict isn't exactly in regarding its overall effectiveness. That being said, I'm excited about this new paper. I guess I should read it now.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lancaster for rent

2BR, 2BA, $550-$800/month, utilities included: W/S/T/H. Washer & dryer, dishwasher, 1st floor, hardwoods, good kitchen, living room + dining area, off-street parking, yard, pets OK. In-town, walk-able neighborhood. Move in July 1st!

Have you seen this ad above for Lancaster, PA? If so, let me know immediately, we'll take it! The above is our ideal, and we've seen this out there before so we know it exists, but I'm mainly posting it here so I can compare with what we actually do get in a month and a half from now …

Danielle gave a pretty good description of our search process so far.

Even after we confirmed our latest apartment love was a scam, Rob returned the scammers email asking for a picture of the back yard. It was a really beautiful apartment. Almost worth the scam.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Savings of the poor: Boston Globe article

From the Boston Globe:
Q and A with Daryl Collins Financial secrets of the world's poorest people.
A new book, "Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 A Day" takes a detailed look at the daily income and expenses of 285 families in South Africa, India, and Bangladesh, studying how they pay doctors when their children get sick, put food on the table when they're out of work, and pull together money for weddings, funerals, and holidays.
The Economist article in the preceding post cites this same book, a book I am eager to see.

Savings of the poor: Economist article

Even those with very little money have a sophisticated approach to finance

PAYING interest on your savings will strike most people as odd. Yet some poor people in the developing world do just that. In West Africa, for example, some people pay roving susu collectors a fee amounting to a -40% annual interest rate for looking after their deposits.

From The Economist print edition, May 14th 2009

(You may be asking why I would provide a hyperlink to the print edition … and that's a good question. As a disclaimer, the article is from the print edition, but the hyperlink will not deliver you that print edition, merely an electronic reproduction from that print edition. Too much explanation?)