Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hamburgers, Hemlines or Housing Starts?

Looking for ways to understand what’s going on in the economy, either local or global?
You may want to read through a recent Minyanville ( posted on MSN Money article ( title “Economic indicators: Serious and Silly (although what’s silly for one person is serious for another.).

Of the ten indicators listed you’ll likely be familiar with the CPI (Consumer Price Index), housing starts and unemployment rate. But did you ever consider tracking sales of men’s underwear? That’s a one followed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Other trends to watch include women’s hemlines (do shorter skirts mean a stronger economy?) or people on magazine covers (will the company stock go up or down?) For insight to global purchasing power there’s the Big Mac index published by the Economist magazine (

With a glance at the current index issued in January 2010 I can see that a Big Mac will cost approximately US $4.84 when I arrive in Paris later this month and in Japan in November it will cost $3.50. The average cost in the US? It’s $3.58. What’s the cost at your next destination and what data, trends will you follow to understand our world economy?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


What will we eat? While we talk about the the practical, professional aspects of our plans for travel the questions in our mind are often about food. (speaking for myself of course). What’s special there? Will I like it? How will I find what’s interesting? All these queries are in my mind as I plan for my first visit to Singapore later this year.

Thanks to a my niece’s blog after her recent visit I can see some of what I may sample during my stay. Curious about the street food and local snacks? Check out Lia’s blog: and you’ll immediately see images to tempt you. . Scroll past the "Cupcakes in Tacoma" post to the January 30 entry and learn what makes peanut butter toast so special.

Want to learn about more about Singapore than its food? Visit for wonderful photos, practical information and fascinating facts. Did you know that the 2008 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix was the first ever night race in Forumla 1 history?

If you have a special place to visit, meal to find, snack you love in Singapore I hope you'll pass along the information. After my visit I'll share what I find. Exploring a new destination - exciting!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines Day: Global, Local, Forbidden

Valentines a global holiday? Really? I knew it was celebrated in France. In Hong Kong I’ve shared a special Valentines dinner with friends and seen couples strolling through the shopping malls, arms linked. Each woman was carrying a large bouquet of flowers. Florists in these centers hope that Valentines Day falls on a weekday, because clients will order flowers to be sent to friends, sweethears in offices in adjacent buildings.

But it isn’t a celebration limited to the US, France and Hong Kong. Thanks to Chris writing at, we are reminded that this is a global event. I learned form his post that in Denmark people send pressed white flowers called Snowdrops and that in Japan on February 14 women give presents to men. Their day comes on March 14 when it’s expected that men will reciprocate. In Taiwan the number of roses given has special significance (11 means “a favorite, and 108 “marry me") and for South Africa, the holiday brings tourists to the beaches.

Yet not every country celebrates with enthusiasm. In India there may be protests against this Western holiday and in Saudi Arabia celebration is banned. According to the Los Angeles Times writer Meris Lutz ( Valentines Day is “outlawed as a pagan holiday”.

This holiday often seems to be something created by the people who sell us greeting cards, its origins lost in a barrage of commercial messages. Yet, depending on where you are, the meaning is transformed, the celebratory activities varied.

Valentines Day – Global. Local. Sometimes forbidden.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Visitors from Sudan

Until this week my vision of Sudan was strife, death, poverty. My impressions came from the news, images on-line. I’d never met anyone who’d even visited Sudan, much less some who was from Sudan. All that changed Thursday evening. I had dinner with two people from Sudan who were in Los Angeles at the end of their visit to the US. They’d come to study curriculum development for their educational system.

Our dinner was the last activity of the their 10-day, three city (Boston, Washington, DC, Los Angeles) tour arranged by International Visitors Leadership program. The program is a joint effort of the National Council of International Visitors (NCIV) and the US Department of State. As a board member of the Los Angeles chapter of NCIV, the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles ( I was asked to provide hospitality for these visitors. What a great opportunity it was!

The visitors, a man and woman, both with graduate degrees, had traveled to Europe and Asia but never before to the US. By the time I saw them, they had met educators, government representatives, business people across the US.

They told me the trip changed their view of the United States and of Americans. No longer would they believe all Americans carried guns, that fights were everywhere and that all women dressed in a provocative manner. Their original vision was shaped by movies they’d seen. Now, they said, much to their surprise, they knew that wasn’t true.

And in exchange, their visit changed my view of Sudan. We shared stories of families and education, of travels and what we do to make a long flight better (we load our Kindles with books to read.). Suddenly I knew Sudan wasn’t all desolate and impoverished. It was like all countries a mixture of realities.

Thanks to the National Council of International Visitors ( we three have new (maybe expanded even improved) views of the world. We are linked to each other. Planning to exchange more visits, to stay in touch. We’ve changed our worlds and you can change yours too. Join an NCIV group near you. Help shift the view of Americans for visitors and yours of the countries they represent, the world we inhabit.