An App for a New Kind of Holiday

In 2009, while watching the closing credits of Invictus, the film about Nelson Mandela’s first years as South African president, I heard Yollandi Nortjie sing “9000 days were set aside / 9000 days of destiny / 9000 days to thank Gods wherever they may be.”  Mandela spent 9,000 days in prison (about 24.7 years).

For some reason, I started thinking about the power of expressing the passage of time in alternative incremental units, and after playing around on Excel, I figured out that my spouse and I would soon have the opportunity to celebrate our “ten millionth marriage minute” (a little over 19 years). 

It struck my fancy that this was a length of time worthy of observing in some way – even if just as an excuse to share a nice bottle of wine.  For whatever reason, I loved discovering these additional, arbitrary moments of celebration and I decided it would be pretty easy to alert people when an unusual holiday was about to occur. 

Happy Valentine's Day (a Cautionary Tale)

From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, a webcomic by Zach Weinersmith (well done, Zach!).

Christmas in China

I spent 12 days in China with my family over Christmas this year, a whirlwind tour that took us to seven different cities, including the birth-cities of my two adopted daughters.  In a series of blog posts this week, I recount a few observations from the trip.


Last I heard, the Communist Party in China wasn’t that enthusiastic about Christianity.  You never would have known it spending Christmas there with my family a few months back.

We arrived in the Beijing airport to the sounds of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer playing in the background.  Pretty much the only music we heard the whole trip was Christmas music.  This was true not just in places frequented by tourists, but also in shopping malls and restaurants as far-flung as Nanchang and Zhenjiang  -- two cities where we didn’t see a single American in two days.

Have a Very Homo Economicus Christmas (Ep. 105)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called "Have a Very Homo Economicus Christmas." (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.) 

It's the latest in our annual series of explanations about how economists can take all the fun out of the holidays. In the past, we've looked at gift cards, deadweight loss, and gift registries.

This year, we have one simple mission: ask economists how they go about shopping for the holidays.

A Memorial Day Post

It’s a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, marked at the American Military Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands by American and Dutch flags on the graves.  There are many visitors, almost all Dutch, on this solemn occasion, with the only Americans apparently us and the U.S. military personnel here for the occasion. 

The site brought to mind the commonality of culture and purpose that prevailed in America during World War II, and that many Americans seemed to feel again after 9/11.  The role of a common culture and mutual trust in facilitating the operation of markets by lowering transaction costs cannot be overestimated. Their effect on the civility of political discourse is also crucial.  It’s sad that we moved away so rapidly from that commonality so quickly after 9/11.

Portugal's Budget Cut: Public Holidays

The BBC reports that Portugal will be cutting 4 of its 14 public holidays as an "austerity measure":

Two religious festivals and two other public holidays will be suspended for five years from 2013.

The decision over which Catholic festivals to cut was negotiated with the Vatican.

It is hoped the suspension of the public holidays will improve competitiveness and boost economic activity.

Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Economists and Consultants

As long as they have at least a tiny bit of self-awareness, that is.

In Vino Veritas, Sort Of

This week on Freakonomics Radio’s Marketplace segment, we ask a simple question about a simple product: wine. It’s the quintessential holiday party gift, but which one should you buy? One would assume that wine, like most other products, follows basic price theory: you get what you pay for. But according to a growing body of […]

A Great Excuse Not to Hand Out Halloween Candy

An emergency meeting of the Delaware Witches Association.

Are Greeting Cards a Thing of the Past?

This year, we emailed an electronic letter reporting on our family events and offering best wishes to all the friends and relations to whom in the past we had snail-mailed Jewish New Year greeting cards. We felt guilty about switching away from the time-intensive activity of buying, signing and addressing snail-mail cards, and worried that the email would signal others that we viewed our time as too valuable to spend on a card. We don't.