British Intelligence to Wi-Fi Hunters: Keep Nose Out

On family holiday in London, we were riding in a taxi out to the Imperial War Museum. As we passed the riverfront headquarters of MI6, a.k.a. the Secret Intelligence Service, my wife happened to be futzing with her iPhone. A list of Wi-Fi networks popped up. At the top: a network called KeepNoseOut. Coincidence? I’d […]

From a London Bathroom Wall, A Lesson in Complementaries

Am on holiday with the family in London. Pure joy — although my 6-year-old daughter, who’d recently heard that black pepper can force a sneeze, took a handful and somehow mashed it into her eye instead; tears ensued; but it was nothing a trip to Hamleys couldn’t cure. At a very delicious Italian restaurant called […]

Guess Where I Was the Other Day

It is home to this fine monument: And here it is in wider view: Yes, that’s the Parthenon, but no, I was not in Athens, and no, Athens hasn’t rebuilt the thing. I was in “the Athens of the South,” a.k.a. Nashville, Tenn., to give a talk at Vanderbilt University. I have always liked Nashville […]

If Switzerland Would Only Change Its Plugs

A waste of time! After arriving at our hotel in Switzerland at 7 p.m., my wife and I had both hoped to work on our computers — but we couldn’t. Although we had bought universal plug adapters (which convert American plugs to European, Australian, and English outlets), it turns out that Switzerland has its own […]

You Can’t Have Outdoor Bookshelves in Every City

In Bonn, Germany, I noticed a bookcase full of books in the public park where I run, with a young woman removing one book and returning another. These are used books that make up essentially a free voluntary lending library. Would this cabinet last undamaged in a U.S. city one day? I doubt it. Similar […]

Our Toilets Speak for Themselves

Photo: gromgull When I first toured Europe in 1958, I was struck by how foreign the toilets were. They didn’t look at all like ours. (Erica Jong in her book Fear of Flying (1973) has a wonderful discussion of international differences.) My recent travels through Germany and France in particular suggest that there is much […]

I’m Not Cheap Enough for a Six-Hour Laundry Session

One of the most profound ideas in economics is household production: the idea that people can choose how to do things by combining their time and their purchases — and then utilize substitution depending on the prices of each. There is more than one way to take a vacation: it can be short and expensive […]

Rug-Buying Economics

Photo: ccarlstead Shopping for rugs in Istanbul is de rigueur for tourists, and we were no exception. The rug-buying guide advises buying what you fall in love with and then bargaining for it. So we did and obtained what we thought was a very good deal. As I usually do, I offered the seller a […]

Why Would You Waive the A.T.M. Fee?

While traveling through Istanbul, I noticed numerous free-standing kiosks with several (as many as six) A.T.M.’s — each from a different bank. This struck me as being bizarre. A Turkish economist said that some of the banks even let you withdraw from your account using a competitor’s A.T.M. at no extra charge. Why would these […]

Hotels Are So Twentieth Century

From Social networking websites have changed the way we view our reputations, the way we organize protests, and now the way we … couch surf? AirBed&Breakfast lets travelers meet locals in 20 countries and book a few nights in their guest rooms, as an alternative to sleeping in a hotel. They are hoping to […]