Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tallinn highlights. And the egoists.

  • Architecture-wise, the Old Town is a combination of Brasov+ Cluj + Sighisoara centres (Transylvanian cities), including a mirror image of the Taylor's Bastion from Cluj (despite my guide's insistence that Tallinn is the only city with a Bastion in its very centre). Much better preserved, though. In a nutshell, a most modern medieval town. Plus a seaside. Lovely, lovely (we wouldn't want it off the UNESCO World Heritage list, oh no)!

  • Free wireless everywhere in the city. No kidding. I think it was in a single spot in the Old Town where my Ipod could not trace any free network. Admirable!

  • Power to the youth: Estonian newspapers are being sold by kids; the Government minister who addressed the EALE '09 audience was in his early thirties (possibly reason why he apologised a zillion times for having to leave as soon as done with his talk...); a/the Central Bank governor (gave the shortest and smartest address I have ever heard from EALE organizers/hosts/sponsors... ) was in his early forties etc. Something other countries in Eastern Europe should learn from?...

  • Egoist was absolutely fantastic. And, well... egoistic... from all points of view (ex post non-egoistic complaints/regrets/remorses from real Swedes and Taiwanese were obviously ignored :-)...). Anyhow, the Foie Gras Escoffier was the second best I ever had, while the Estonian Elk Noisette paired with a 2006 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-de-Pape (which some believe to outrank even the legendary 2005 version!) was sheer perfection. A total bargain at that price!

PS. And yeah..., there've been already two weeks since I am back: had to fight off a stubborn Estonian flu acquired under the most unclear circumstances.

Monday, September 21, 2009


  • Here's Paul Graham's rule of thumb for recognizing (publishing) winners and losers: "When you see something that's taking advantage of new technology to give people something they want that they couldn't have before, you're probably looking at a winner. And when you see something that's merely reacting to new technology in an attempt to preserve some existing source of revenue, you're probably looking at a loser" . He's also got an entertaining piece on the cheeseburger of essay forms.

  • "The paradox is this: it's best to engage with your opponents' strongest arguments--but your view of what their strongest arguments are is not necessarily their view." This quote (valuable on its own) is from a must-read post of Gelman on (strategic) citation practices.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Klausenburg, anno 1865

WHEN you leave Szamos Ujvár, the road passes straight over a plain, with little or nothing to relieve the monotony. A Hungarian village or two, a nobleman's mansion with the surrounding farm-buildings,-that is all, until the tall spire and the various towers of Klausenburg rise before you. The town takes you by surprise, entering it from the north; the main street is broad, with many stately buildings in it, and the square with the Catholic church in the centre, seems to belong to a larger town than Klausenburg really is. Though it has but 25,000 inhabitants, which is less than the population of Kronstadt, its general appearance makes it seem the more considerable town of the two. The capital of the Barzenland is neat and compact, the houses are none of them high; and owing to its position among the hills, which gives it such enviable beauty, there is no possibility of broad streets and an open square in the centre of the town, as is the case in Klausenburg. Here there is plenty of room and to spare, and it would seem as if the Saxon founders-liking spacious dwellings, and needing them probably for their families and servants--had determined to make use of it.

All the old buildings are essentially German in their architecture and arrangements. The ironwork before the windows, the balconies, railings, the spouts for the water running from the gutters of the roof,-each bears its own unmistakable impress; the hand and skill of the German handicraftsman is everywhere to be recognized. Those first settlers were evidently well to do in the world,-comfortable citizens, who, if they did not care for luxury, valued at its full a good substantial dwelling, giving evidence that its possessor was also a man of substance.

The above is a fragment from Chapter XXVII of Charles Boner's "Transylvania. Its Products and Its People", published in London, in 1865. The whole book is available online, part of a very welcome research project at DXARTS/CARTAH, University of Washington-- which collects, inter alia, a bunch of other, old(er), books/translations about Romania et al, in digital format.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Weekend econlinks

  • The other side of scientific publishing: the Editor's perspective. In this case nothing to complain about (au contraire: e.g., see earlier): if only most editors (cross-disciplinary) would follow on McAfee's steps... unfortunately, plenty of counterexamples around, such as the editors involved here
  • They might be having a slow, if any, economic recovery, but the Japanese are way ahead than anybody else technology-wise: Isaac Asimov would have loved this restaurant in Nagoya, Japan. Related, earlier.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Back from Catalunya

My Iberian experience (previous episodes here, here and here, some still incomplete) continued with 10 great (although unbearably hot...) end August days in Barcelona, around the EEA-ESEM conference this year, excellently hosted by the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, in its two campuses at Autònoma and Pompeu Fabra. Keeping it very brief, my (very selective) highlights:
  • conference-wise, I have seen several excellent paper presentations and invited talks, but ultimately enjoyed most Pinelopi Goldberg's Marshall lecture on the effects of global patent agreements for pharmaceutical companies, talk partially based on this paper. The results were quite surprising (at least given my priors...): this is definitely worth reading/considering very carefully.
  • I had to check out some of Barcelona's famous restaurants; hence, I shall warmly recommend to anybody, foodie or not: i) pretty much any of the tapas dishes (perhaps a random selection would be best for your first visit!), accompanied, for instance (their wine list is not very large, but counts some excellent wines), by an unforgettable Santiago Ruiz Blanco, at Paco Meralgo -- without exaggeration one of the best tapas places I have ever tried; ii) Sagardi Euskal Taberna (in the beautiful Barrio Gótico) is obviously not Catalan-cuisine..., but I've found beyond delicious their baby squid in ink sauce, accompanied by the perfect Basque Country cider (guess which side of Spain I must visit next...); iii) I would not really compare, overall, this restaurant to the first two mentioned above, but if you try the monkfish at Can Ramonet (ask for the 'monkfish in Can Ramonet sauce', obviously), and accompany that with their superb Gramona Sauvignon Blanc, that'll surely make a perfect evening. The only regret is that I did not have time to try all the places on my list; inter alia El Bulli will have to remain for some future time... and some future budget :-).
  • if you thought I ignored all that, not a chance: Barcelona is, perhaps first of all, Antoni Gaudí's city. Obviously you should find plenty of documentation (and/or impressions) about Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà or the Parc Güell (the latter my favourite Gaudí-related spot in Barcelona), so I'll just say that you will be forever impressed, even if Art Nouveau is not necessarily your favourite architectural bite-- Gaudí's style is unique (delayed confession: I guess I am totally into Bauhaus, especially after admiring Walter Gropius's amazing 1938 house in Lincoln, with the occasion of my earlier visit this year to Boston)
  • last, but never least: essential for my Barcelona visit, my good old friend Joop is to be thanked for being a great host, guide, and... cook! That fresh monkfish ceviche was truly fabulous-- I think I just chose it one of my very favourite dishes, though for now I hesitate attempting to prepare it myself (even considering solved the problem of finding very fresh el rape) :-).